Understanding Language Survival: Theory, Methods, and Action
A presentation from 2022–2023 Hilles Bush Fellow Roberto Zariquiey
Roberto Zariquiey is a Peruvian linguist and a professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú with more than 15 years of fieldwork experience in the Amazon. His current research focuses on language obsolescence, which corresponds to the complete or almost complete cessation of linguistic transmission to newer generations, which often leads to language dormancy. Zariquiey has documented obsolescing languages from Peru (mainly Iskonawa), explored the effects of obsolescence on linguistic structure from a cross-linguistic perspective, and promoted revitalization programs based on computational techniques in collaboration with indigenous organizations.
During his time at Radcliffe, Zariquiey is using data from typological databases, published reference grammars, and his own fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon to investigate, from a sound interdisciplinary perspective, the claim that obsolescing languages lose complexity and become in some ways defective. By focusing on obsolescence scenarios in which languages are no longer used for daily communication, his research will help understand the impact of communicative pressures on linguistic structure while developing innovate analytical tools to describe obsolescing languages as valuable communication systems that must be preserved.