Developing a collaborative research project with the last speaker of Aonekko 'a'ien from Patagonia

Developing a collaborative research project with the last speaker of Aonekko 'a'ien from Patagonia

Language: Tehuelche (Aonekko ‘a’ien) (ISO639-3:teh)
Depositor: Javier Domingo
Location: Argentina
Deposit Id: 0542
Grant id: SG0547
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

Aonekko language is currently only known to be used by a single elderly speaker. This collaborative documentation project intends to add to the existing sparse documentation by creating a repository of common conversational language used in everyday discourse, as well as community and personal histories. Some such histories include legends from life on reservations, familial anecdotes, and common community beliefs. The collected discourse has been documented due to its relevance for the community’s purpose of reclaiming the language and its functional usage in their lives.

Group represented

The collection created within this project is the product of the collaborative interaction between the researchers, the only speaker of this language, and the small Aonekken (Tehuelche) community of Southern Patagonia. Most of the Aonekkenk (Patagonians) who were still alive after the Chilean and Argentinian invasion of Patagonia in the later 19th century switched to Spanish. Only Tehuelche speakers were considered “real Indians”, and semi-speakers or Spanish speakers’ descendants were classified as “mixed”. Patagonians or Tehuelche people have therefore been dismissed as “extinguished”. Their image and their language, though, are still used to evoke a Patagonian imaginary. The language is said to have been spoken in the region compressed between the Magellan Strait to the Santa Cruz River but there is of course no evidence that may support such a clear boundary, and no ethnographic study that may show the representation that speakers had of their own language. Today, there is a persistent group of people who would like to have their language back.

Language information

Aonekko ‘a’ien (TEH) is also known as Tehuelche, Chewelche, Auko, Tsonkek/a. This language was referred to as Patagonian until very recently. It is the language documented by Antonio Pigaffetta and Ferdinand Magellan who gave these people the name of “Patagonians” (after a monster from a popular novel) during their stay in the region in 1520. Many of those words are still used.

The community chooses to call the language aonekko, which means “southern language” (aone = South). It belongs to the Chon family (Chon = people, in aonekko). Other languages from this family are Selk’nam (ONA), from Tierra del Fuego, now extinct, and probably Genakken (from Northern Patagonia), also extinct. Aonekko ‘a’ien may verbalize almost any other phrase components and this is its most salient characteristic, together with its particular phonology with ejective consonants and a very peculiar vocalic system.

Aonekko is currently spoken only by one person living in the extreme south of continental Argentina, but there is a small reclamation program going on and this documentation project is part of it.

The working language included in this material is Spanish (Argentinian, Patagonian dialect).

Special characteristics

The deposit is the result of an ethnographic work and in collaboration with the speaker. The language had been described and formally analyzed, but communicative uses and everyday speech had not been documented. This documentation project was planned after an ethnographic research and carried out together with the collaboration of the community.

The material consists mainly of communicative uses, everyday interactions and expressions. The archive also contains the materials used for the elicitation sessions: drawings, pictures and a report on the Patagonian of the linguistic landscape where the language is displayed.

Deposit contents
The majority of bundles in this collection are audio recordings, together with the pictographic material used for the elicitation sessions.

Deposit history
The data for this collection was collected during the doctoral research of Javier Domingo, the principal investigator, with the collaboration of Maggie Sood, in 2018. The relationship between the PI and the Aonekken people began in 2016 and has developed into the current project. The project was thought as a collaborative action together with the Aonekken community who were interested in reclaiming their language back and Dora Manchado, the only speaker. The community member Paulo Hidalgo contributed to the materials used in the elicitation sessions, illustrated texts resulting from elicited narratives, and created some pedagogical materials for the community youth.

Other information

Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of this collection should acknowledge Dora Manchado, Javier Domingo, Paulo Hidalgo and Maggie Sood as the speaker, data collectors and researchers respectively. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata.

To refer to any data from the corpus, please cite the corpus in this way:

Domingo, Javier, Hidalgo, Paulo, Sood, Maggie, 2018, Developing a collaborative research project with the last speaker of Aonekko 'a'ien (TEH) from Patagonia. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: Accessed on [ insert date here].


Resources yet to be deposited


Javier Domingo
Affiliation: Université de Montréal

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2018 December 18 to 2018 December 18
Deposit hits:1
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