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The Revitalization of Mapuzungun, a South American language of Chile and Argentina

  • Alina Rodenkirchen (Mapuche Coordinator at the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) & Coordinator of the Mapuche Network in Germany)
Friday 21 October 2016
Friday Afternoon Lectures
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


Mapuzungun is an indigenous language of South America, currently spoken in the southern-central states of Chile and parts of Argentina. Recent studies (see Gundermann et al., 2011) have revealed that Mapuzungun is becoming an increasingly endangered language in many parts of this area. Several factors are contributing to this development, for instance migration into cities due to massively reduced access to land.

Nowadays many young Mapuche are growing up in urban areas as the second or third generation, with only limited knowledge of their mother tongue, if any. Reacting to this drop in language knowledge, many Mapuche are implementing new ways to recover Mapuzungun. The turning point was the first Mapuzungun language camp which took place in 2015.

These Mapuche language camps (see http://www.mapuzungun.com/) are educational events that generate learning spaces and contextualize Mapuche knowledge through cultural immersion. Their primary goal is to create speakers of Mapuzungun as a response to the problem that is presented by the loss of the mother tongue. Besides revitalizing the language, another goal of the Mapuzungun language camps is to understand the Mapuche world view and to provide an idea of Mapuche religion. The language camps offer a possibility to actively reconstruct Mapuche history, feelings and understanding of the world that characterizes the Mapuche society.

In this talk I will show a documentary called ‘Zuguleaiñ – we will speak’ by Kelly Baur (trailer: https://vimeo.com/128413590) about the first language camp, which also shows the history and ideas of young Mapuche who wish to reconnect with their linguistic and cultural heritage.



Gundermann, Hans, Canihuan, Jaqueline, Clavería, Alejandro & Faúndez, César. 2011. El Mapuzungun, una lengua en retroceso, Atenae 503: 111-131.

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