In the context of increasing pressure on the Chipaya language the DOBES team aims at documenting and describing the language in collaboration with the speakers and taking into account their necessities.

The pilot phase of the DOBES project (2002; in collaboration with the Instituto de Lengua y Cultura Aymara, La Paz) was dedicated to establishing contacts with the different groups on the Lake Titicaca islands, the Urus living on the Southern shore of Lake Titicaca, the Muratos, and the village of Chipaya.

In Chipaya collaboration took place on the alphabet the language committee had elaborated, as it was considered an urgent matter by the Chipayas in order to be able to participate in bilingual education programmes. A workshop was held by the team in Chipaya with participation of delegates from all social sectors of the community in which both sides’ expectations and necessities were presented and discussed. Some linguistic data were collected.

At the end of 2003 the Volkswagen Foundation approved the subproject of the team’s proposal which aims at the documentation and description of the Chipaya language as spoken in the community of Santa Ana de Chipaya. Up to date (beginning of 2006) two fieldwork campaigns have taken place. The collected material includes stories, some items of more spontaneous speech, and minmal pairs, with a number of texts transcribed and translated in collaboration with native speakers. Analysis (translation and glossing) is in progress.

The principle aims of the present project are the following: to document the language, through audio as well as video recording; to give a detailed description of fundamental aspects of the linguistic structure of the language; to collect texts and provide them with transcription, interlinear glossing and translation, accompanied by cultural comments. We are also training native speakers to enable them to elaborate a pedagogical grammar and a dictionary for use in the community.

The data and analyses will be a contribution towards a better comprehension of the interrelationship of the Andean languages among themselves and with other South American languages. We also hope to contribute to a better understanding of language shift processes in contact situations. But above all the team’s work and collaboration with the Chipaya will provide the speakers with the linguistic skills and documentation material to persist in their effort at maintaining their language as a vital part of their community life with its own identity and values.