A documentation of historical narratives amongst the Sanapaná (Enlhet-Enenlhet) of the Paragyanan Ch

A documentation of historical narratives amongst the Sanapaná (Enlhet-Enenlhet) of the Paragyanan Ch

Language: Sanapaná (ISO639-3:spn)
Depositor: Jens Van Gysel
Location: Paraguay
Deposit Id: 0570
Grant id: SG0523
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

The Enlhet-Enenlhet language Sanapaná is spoken on a day to day basis in two communities in the Paraguayan department of Presidente Hayes. This collection documents the varieties spoken in one of these two villages, named La Esperanza, which is home to around three hundred people. The documentation will be organised around the topic of Sanapaná history: it will contain narratives by community elders about the founding of the community, testimonials about their youth, and collective reminiscences by groups of elders.

The data in this documentation were collected by Jens Van Gysel, doctoral student in linguistics at the University of New Mexico, together with the community members.

This collection will be made up of a corpus of audio and video recordings, a portion of which will be accompanied by transcriptions and translations. A small part will also be provided with morpheme-by-morpheme glosses. In addition, it will contain a lexicon of terms found in these recordings.

Group represented
This project presents documentary materials in the varieties of Sanapaná spoken in the La Esperanza community, located in the Paraguayan department of Presidente Hayes. This community was founded in 1964, when protestant Canadian missionaries acquired lands in the Paraguayan Chaco, and established a mission post there. In this mission post, small groups of Sanapaná from different areas of the Chaco were brought together. Some still lived a (semi-)nomadic life, a lifestyle that was common amongst the Sanapaná until the late 19th century. Others had lived on ranches of Paraguayan and Mennonite colonisers, mainly as agricultural labourers, and still others had lived in factory towns on the Paraguay river, such as Puerto Pinasco, where they worked in the tannin factories. Nowadays, many Sanapaná still work as labourers in the agriculture and cattle industry dominated by large land-owning Mennonites. Significant numbers of Sanapaná also move to nearby cities such as Loma Plata or Filadelfia, where they seek employment in, for example, motorbike repair shops. Because of this increased mobility, increased contact with non-Sanapaná speakers (Paraguayans, Mennonites, and other indigenous people), and marriages with Sanapaná from communities that have shifted to Paraguayan Guaraní, the Sanapaná language is coming more and more under pressure. Even though it is still spoken in La Esperanza on a daily basis, more and more children of mixed households grow up hearing mainly Guaraní. It is, therefore, necessary to document the various varieties of Sanapaná before the shift to Guaraní completes itself.

Language information

The indigenous Sanapaná group (autodenominated "nenhlet") consists of almost three thousand people, less than a thousand of which speak their ancestral language ("nenhlet apayoma"). This language belongs to the Enlhet-Enenlhet language family (formerly known as Maskoyan or Lengua-Maskoy), together with Enlhet Norte, Enxet Sur, Enenlhet (Toba-Maskoy), Angaité and Guaná. Research on the lower-level family relations is more scarce, at least in part because of the lack of documentation on the languages of the family. Nevertheless, Enlhet Norte and Enlhet Sur are hypothesised to form a Western Enlhet-Enenlhet branch, while Enenlhet, Guaná, Sanapaná and Angaité together form an Eastern Enlhet-Enenlhet branch (Unruh and Kalisch 2003).

The Sanapaná have lived in the semi-arid lowlands of western Paraguay, known as the Paraguayan Chaco region, for generations. All six present-day Sanapaná communities are located in the department of Presidente Hayes, close to the border with the Boquerón department. Most of these communities have largely shifted to Paraguayan Guaraní as their language of daily communication: only in the communities of La Esperanza and Anaconda is it still used as a language of daily communication and are children still brought up mainly hearing Sanapaná in the home.

Other languages which are likely to be heard in this documentation are Spanish and Paraguayan Guaraní.

Special characteristics

Deposit contents

The bulk of this collection will consist of twenty hours of audio-video recordings of (monological and conversational) Sanapaná discourse on the history of the Sanapaná people and the La Esperanza community. Furthermore, there are:

  • Recordings documenting the consent of the participants in the documentation project, either in Spanish or in Sanapaná by means of an interpreter.
  • ELAN transcriptions, translations and interlinearisations which will be added as they are being processed.
  • A PDF and FLEx version of a lexicon containing Sanapaná headwords found in the recordings with translations into Spanish (and where possible Guaraní), example sentences, and photos.

Deposit history

Other information

Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of this collection should acknowledge Jens Van Gysel as the principal investigator and data collector. Any individual speaker whose words and/or images are used or who participated in recording, transcribing, or translating data used should be acknowledged by name if this is the wish of the partiipant concerned. All information on contributors, including their personal desires regarding acknowledgements, are available in the metadata. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project.

To refer to this corpus, please use the following citation: Van Gysel, Jens E. L. 2019. A documentation of historical narratives amongst the Sanapaná (Enlhet-Enenlhet) of the Paraguayan Chaco. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: [insert URL]. Accessed on [insert date].


Resources yet to be deposited


Jens Van Gysel
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Affiliation: The University of New Mexico

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