Università degli Studi di Siena
Before the arrival of European missionaries in the Orinoco basin region, the Maipure constituted a small ethnic entity in the area of the upper course of the Orinoco River (Amazonas State, Venezuela), yet their speech—from the Maipuran or Arawakan stock—was also probably employed in this zone as a medium of communication among individuals of different languages. But beginning in the second half of the eighteenth century—when most of the Maipure were already brought together by Jesuits into two missions along the middle course of the Orinoco, together with members of other ethnic groups in order to facilitate conversion—the use of Spanish became predominant among this people and their own language ceased to be spoken.
The author’s intention with this contribution is to present all the knowledge that he has been able to gather from all the surviving material on this little known, extinct language of South America. The present sketch, therefore, contains chapters on phonology and morphosyntax, as well as the two available Maipure texts (with a morpheme-by-morpheme analysis) and also, in the form of an appendix, a word list. The introductory subsections deal with the socio- and geolinguistic situations, the genetic affinities, and issues of languages contact (with neighbouring languages and Spanish). In these subsections, one can also find a discussion on Avane, a closely related language (or, perhaps, a co-dialect) spoken along the banks of the Autana and Sipapo Rivers that went out of use in the same period, and for the same reasons, as Maipure.
ISBN 9783895862328. Languages of the World/Materials 192. 60pp. 2003.