Claudine Chamoreau is an ELDP grantee studying the Pech language of Honduras (ISO639-3:pay). This highly endangered Chibchan language has around 300 speakers and is no longer spoken by young people. In addition to producing a descriptive grammar, Claudine’s research aims to produce a large digital corpus including transcribed recordings of ceremonial speech and descriptions of cooking and medicinal practices.
Claudine has generously shared some rich snapshots of her work with this language community. First up, a biography of one of her main language consultants, the teacher and language activist Simeon Angel Martínez Torres.
Simeon Angel Martínez Torres was born on October 25, 1980, in the municipality of Culmí, Department of Olancho, in a small hamlet called El Naranjo. His father Don Hernan Martínez Escobar and his beloved mother Juana Hernandez Carolina had eight children, five girls and three boys. Angel learned to work while very young, as an agricultural labourer with his father. He entered primary school in 1990, where he was an outstanding student in all areas. His teachers were always his guides, and aroused his enthusiasm for teaching from his earliest youth; his teacher Roldan Lopez particularly encouraged him to enter that fine profession.
Angel, determined to become a teacher, undertook various work activities in his teens to enter secondary education in 2000 at the “Encuentro” institute in the city of Catacamas Olancho. In 2003, he entered the “Matilde Córdova de Suazo” Mixed Normal School in the municipality of Trujillo, Department of Colón. In 2005, Angel achieved his greatest dream, becoming a primary education teacher. He encountered many difficulties, but his persistence was rewarded. He now has a degree in Basic Education, having graduated from the “Francisco Morazán” National Pedagogical University.
Angel belongs to an indigenous group, the Pesh. He knows a lot about the Pesh culture, and speaks the language of this group. In 2011 he met Dr. Claudine Chamoreau who was interested in working with the Pesh to learn more about their language and culture. In 2013 he began working on the Pesh language documentation project in order to create a body of documentation and information on this language and its culture. This is very important for him, as the Pesh language is in danger of extinction. He saw that the project was a good opportunity to affirm his culture and support the continued existence of his language. We now have positive results: we have recorded questionnaires, stories, and conversations, among other things, to add to the body of information that has been collected by the project over a three-year period.
|Ángel Martínez (April 2012):
“Yes, understand that this is a crisis, a cultural crisis we are experiencing, we Pesh, as an ethnic group. There are many factors that influence the loss of culture, the loss of identity and speech – discrimination, religion, school. Our language is not accepted in public places, there is no government support for it, so parents do not want to speak their language to their children; all this is troubling.”
“This is our identification, 100 percent, because if I say I am Pesh, and I do not speak the language, practically there is no proof to make you believe that I am Pesh, because when I am in Trujillo, like anyone else, people can simply say ‘He is not Pesh.’ So, how am I going to identify myself? Through my tongue, the authentic language.”
To learn more about the Pesh language and community, visit Claudine’s deposit in the elar catalogue at: https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI971076