Pilar M. Valenzuela

Metsá Rama

Metsa Rama

I work at Chapman University, in the heart of Orange County (Southern California) since 2003. In this page I share pictures and information on some of the students that have participated in language documentation activities. Enjoy!









Read this article on Priya Shah (History & Spanish major, class of 2013):

Cuatro Mujeres y un Diccionario

"It’s unrealistic to expect that the dictionary will revive wide use of the language... But it will help preserve a slice of the people’s ancestral identity and perhaps some of its heart and soul, as well as unique and valuable  knowledge, Shah says." 

Fall 2010:  
Linguistics students help in the Spanish-English translation of Shiwilu Dictionary



Class Presentation





Spring 2009: Student Research Fair

Shiwilu texts:  Waking the Voices of the Amazon


Katlin Kane

Departments of English and Languages


Dr. Pilar M. Valenzuela, Department of Languages



The Shiwilu are an indigenous people of Peruvian Amazonia, whose language is on the verge of extinction, mainly due to the pressures of globalization. Despite this, there is a big revival of the Shiwilu identity today, and their ethnic language plays a key role in this process.


The only linguist who studied Shiwilu while it was still widely spoken is John Bendor-Samuel.  Between 1955-1956 he collected several texts in the native language and gave them an incomplete English translation. However, Bendor-Samuel did not return to the Shiwilu territory or published the texts. While the many speakers who collaborated with him are now gone, the invaluable texts remain in handwritten form in the linguist’s notebooks, running the risk of being lost forever.


I am working with Dr. Valenzuela on transcribing these Shiwilu texts and entering them onto computer documents. This is not an easy task due to the age and damage of the notebooks, and the difficulties that come with reading someone else’s personal notes. In the process I have begun to learn the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet and Bendor-Samuel’s ad hoc practical orthography. I am also learning some of the Shiwilu vocabulary as well as the morphological components of Shiwilu words. After transcribing the text, we hope to be able to check the accuracy of our interpretation and complete an English and Spanish translation. Our final goal is to make these texts available to the new Shiwilu generations and to anyone interested in Amazonian cultures.



Summer 2007
Student and Professor travel to Peruvian Amazon

Dr. Pilar Valenzuela and her student Kirsten Svenson, Spanish and Peace Studies major, traveled this past summer to Lima and the village of Jeberos (in the Peruvian Amazon) where they stayed for three weeks as part of an independent study course (Spanish 499, Documentation of Shiwilu). The two were carrying out linguistic fieldwork on Shiwilu, a moribund language from Peruvian Amazon.

In Jeberos they contacted local elders who still speak Shiwilu and videotaped them as they shared the Shiwilu vocabulary and stories in their Native language. Part of the material collected by Dr. Valenzuela and Svenson was transcribed using an ad hoc practical alphabet to represent the sounds of Shiwilu. They also translated the data into Spanish and English. The corpus will be on the basis for subsequent linguistic analysis. In addition, they conducted interviews to assess the vitality of the Shiwilu language and the degree to which it as been replaced by Spanish. They supported local language revitalization efforts by helping community cultural leaders develop materials to teach the Native language to children. Toward the end of their trip, they made a presentation at the headquarters of the Indigenous Amazonian Confederation in the city of Lima to inform them of the sociolinguistic situation and the education needs in the Shiwilu area.





Kirsten Svenson, Meneleo Careajano, Pilar Valenzuela





Mrs. Luz Chota, Kirsten, and Mr. Meneleo.


 Chapman Colleagues

With Lynn Horton and Laura Loustau (LASA Meeting, Montreal 2007)

With Polly Hodge, Heather Ter-Jung and Anita Storck (Big Bear, April 2007)

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