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Traversing language barriers

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The ‘Witoto’ people from Northwest Amazonia practised long distance drum communication, used for relaying messages among their villages. The messages were encoded on a pair of hollowed-out wooden drums, and appear to have been ‘drummed codes’, with only some iconic relation to the sound structure of the spoken language. The practice of drum communication appears to be easily diffusible in contact situations. The Caquetá-Putumayo (C-P) cultural area is a case in point, as the Witoto drums were shared with other C-P groups including the Ocaina, Nonuya, Bora, Muinane, Resígaro, and Andoque. Today, the practice of long distance drum communication among the Witoto has been long gone, with just a handful of elders who are still able to recall some of the (once extensive) drummed signal repertoire.

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Keywords: Caquetá-Putumayo; Murui-Muina; People of the Centre; Witoto; drummed messages; hummed messages; manguaré; signal drums

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2019

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