PROFILE OF AN ENDANGERED LANGUAGE: VILELA

Lionbridge onDemand is proud to be bringing you this blog series designed to profile some of the world's thousands of endangered languages. Yes, that's right - some languages are, in fact, in danger of going extinct. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sets forth the criteria for and categorizes languages that may be endangered or extinct.

This week, we will learn about a language that UNESCO currently characterizes as "endangered’: Vilela

The elderly carry generations of culture with them, preserving the last bit of it that they experienced throughout their lifetime. Their knowledge is quite possibly the strongest representation of history. Today, in Argentina, there are only a couple of elders that speak and value the indigenous language of Vilela.

These elders live in the eastern Chaco near the Paraguayan border. The remaining Vilela natives are being absorbed into the surrounding Toba people and other Spanish-speaking townsfolk, making Vilela a nearly an extinct language. It is even considered an isolated language by some linguists. An interesting aspect about Vilela is that the language contains many compartments despite the fact that the language is only indigenous in this particular area. Some of the dialects are known as Ocol, Chinipi, and Sinipi, however only Ocol now survives. The language has also been linked with other Argentinian language, Lule, into a small Lule-Vilela language family. On  the other hand, Vilela has been classified as an isolate language. Which means it is unrelated to any other living language on this Earth. 

Some fun facts on the Indigenous peoples of Argentina:

  • Top Tribes: The Abipon Indians, Aymara Indians, Chulupi Indians, Guarani Indians, Lule INdians, Ona Indians, Vilela Indians, etc. 
  • 35 indigenous groups total.
  • More than 56% of the 320 Argentines surveyed were shown to have at least one indigenous ancestor in one parental lineage.
  • About 11% had indigenous ancestors in both parental lineages.

An overview on the Vilela language and tribes associated with it can be found on the highlighted link. 

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