Highlighting and preserving the Mosetén language and culture
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of the West of England, Bristol
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Language Studies, Linguistics
Summary of the impact
Mosetén is an endangered language spoken by approximately 800 indigenous
people in the
foothills of the Bolivian Andes. Many Mosetén children only learn the
majority language, Spanish.
Research at UWE Bristol has resulted in the development of language
materials for the
Mosetenes, bilingual educators and other stakeholders. It has enabled
programmes, and inspired a new generation of Mosetén speakers. It has
therefore had a direct
influence in avoiding linguistic and cultural loss, and has helped the
Mosetenes to preserve the
intrinsic value of their language and culture, also raising the group's
profile in Bolivia and beyond.
Since joining the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, in
2007 as a Senior Lecturer in
Linguistics, Dr Jeanette Sakel, in collaboration with speakers of Mosetén,
has conducted research
leading to the impact presented in this study.
Sakel worked for the first time on a combined grammar of Mosetén and
Chimane — the two
languages forming the small, so far unclassified, language family
Mosetenan. Comparing the basic
aspects of the grammar of both languages, Sakel set out to highlight the
overall similarities and
differences between the languages. These were summarised and presented in
language grammar of the two languages . The intended audiences for this
(a) the speakers of the languages, and
(b) the Bolivian and general Spanish-speaking public.
The grammar was also produced to inform efforts to introduce bilingual
education into Mosetén
schools. For these reasons grammatical terminology was kept to a basic
level with clear
Related to this, Sakel conducted further work on the Mosetén language.
Sakel looked at the way
the argument systems of Mosetén and Chimane are built up , comparing
these to other
languages of the world. The insights from this research were also informed
by the work on the
Spanish-language grammar , as this is a part of the grammar where the
two languages differ.
Additionally, Sakel studied the verbal system of Mosetén in greater
detail, looking at the ways in
which verbs can be classified into different categories .
References to the research
 Sakel, Jeanette (2011) `Mosetén and Chimane argument coding: a
layered system' in Francoise
Rose & Antoine Guillaume (eds.) `Argument coding systems in Bolivian
special issue of International Journal of American Linguistics
 Sakel, Jeanette (2007) `The verbness markers of Mosetén from a
p.315-336 in Wälchli, Bernhard and Matti Miestamo New challenges in
Typology Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter. ISBN 9783110195927
Details of the impact
Sakel's research on Mosetén has benefitted the speakers, as well as the
wider community, in two
a) establishing bilingual education programmes, and;
b) raising awareness and changing attitudes.
Both of these have contributed to the maintenance and long-term
sustainability of the Mosetén
a) Sakel's research made it possible to establish bilingual education
programmes for the
Mosetenes . This was in part facilitated by Sakel's accessible
grammar for the language, as well as Sakel's training of Mosetén speakers
preparation of educational materials. For example, Sakel's main Mosetén
was involved in the preparation of a number of these educational materials
, based on
his status as `bilingual educator' due to his work with Sakel , as well
as his previous
experience in developing a range of teaching materials for Mosetén in
Sakel . Sakel arranged for these materials to be shared online , to
be accessed by the
speakers and educators (as well as found via a simple Google search) .
b) Sakel's work has raised awareness of the Mosetén language and has
contributed to a
change in attitudes towards the language by its speakers as well as by
to the evidence given by a German Aid worker based in Bolivia who wrote
her PhD thesis
about conflicts between Mosetenes and other actors in the region , the
language grammar has given the speakers a way of authenticating the fact
that they speak
a full language, not a mere dialect. It has put Mosetén on the Bolivian
map alongside much
larger and dominant indigenous languages, such as Aymara and Quechua.
Sakel's work on
Mosetén has led to a measurable change in mind-set and identity amongst
the speakers of
Mosetén. While the language can still be considered endangered today, many
have become aware of the value of Mosetén, both as a good among the people
themselves, but also as a marker of ethnic identity that can be exploited
in their newly
developed projects of eco-tourism. This change in attitudes towards the
was documented by the German Aid worker in her study of the conflicts and
between peoples in the region, in which the status of the Mosetén language
central role  (originally in Spanish). She concluded that "a new
awareness of the
importance of the native language" has arisen as a result of Sakel's work.
It is possible to measure the impact of Sakel's research in the following
1) by a prominent Mosetén speaker who became a locally recognised
authority and bilingual
educator through his work with Sakel .
2) by an Austrian neurologist, who worked with the Mosetenes during
2012-13 and who testifies to
the use of Mosetén today, as well as the status of  as an authority in
his language through his
work with Sakel .
3) by a German geographer based in Bolivia, who wrote her PhD thesis
(2010) on conflicts
between Mosetenes and settlers in the Mosetén region and who is now
working as an aid worker
in lowland Bolivia. She testifies to Sakel's influence in changing
attitudes towards the Mosetén
language, which she both encountered through her own research on the
group, as well as by living
in the community and gaining an in-depth knowledge of the people and their
comments that "the current Bolivian Government tries to introduce
bilingual education in the
regional native languages... and this would be impossible without the
provided by Dr Sakel" .
Statistics from Sakel's Academia profile
These show the access to materials made available online by Sakel and
materials provided by Huasna and Sakel , as well as a pre-publication
version of Sakel's
Spanish-language grammar of Mosetén and Chimane . Statistics show that
the latter is
accessed approximately twice a day from Bolivia, usually referred by
Google . The most
common search keywords — all in Spanish — appear to be from the general
including questions about customs of the Mosetenes or the words for
specific cultural goods.
The presence of Mosetén in public discourses inside Bolivia
Sakel's work has facilitated and inspired not only Bolivian academics,
but especially members of
the Bolivian public to be interested in the Mosetén language. This has
involved the development of
language materials for bilingual education and cites Sakel's work in a
blog about language
maintenance in the Amazon .
Sources to corroborate the impact
Sources are given as hyperlinks. Testimonials and further documents are
available from the
University of the West of England upon request.
 Testimonial by a prominent Mosetén speaker who became a locally
recognised authority and
bilingual educator which confirms the influence of UWE research on
programmes and the new status of Mosetén. This testimonial is given in
Spanish. [1 on the REF
 Testimonial by a geographer and now the German Aid worker based in
Bolivia, This testimonial
is given in Spanish. 
 Testimonial by an Austrian neurologist working with the indigenous
group in 2012-13, testifying
to the current status of the language. 
 Booklets in Mosetén published online in 2011, previously distributed
to all Mosetén families as
photocopied booklets: Ojtere'
"The rooster" and Poromasi'
Pheyak'dye'in `Old stories" — Available
 Statistics from Sakel's Academia profile (http://westengland.academia.edu/JeanetteSakel),
statistics showing over 450 separate views of the Spanish-language grammar
Chimane (2009). It is possible to see search terms, and a collation
of these is available on request
— Available through UWE.
 Mention of Sakel's work on Mosetén in a blog about the changes
in language-maintenance —
Available through UWE.