Mocoví groups were hunter-gatherer societies, with a social organization based on units formed by two or more extended families whose members were considered kinsmen. These units or "bands" were exogamous, with bilateral linearity and a predominance of matrilocal residence rule. During the time of spring and summer, traditionally allied bands gathered together to perform various ritual activities. One of the most important was the consumption of fermented beverages, which allowed them to consolidate the leadership and partnerships (Braunstein 1983).
The Santa Fe mocovíes early suffered the consequences of Spanish colonization and evangelization. In the seventeenth century they incorporated the horse, which enabled them to control vast territories. Subsequently, from mid-eighteenth century, several Jesuit missions were installed in the region (Paucke 1943). During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the advance of settlers in the territories of the mocovíes ment the gradual incorporation of the locals to the regional job market through the "mills" or forestry, crops and sugar mills (Cordeu and Siffredi 1971).
This process intensified the social and cultural changes and led, in many cases, to a gradual assimilation with the creole population of the area, through marriages and/or strategies of "invisible" ethnic. However, some groups continued with the trend of intra-ethnic unions, as well as a number of practices that our interlocutors now recognize as their own and, therefore, distinctive. These include: subsistence practices such as fishing with the technique of "fix", the preparation of traditional foods, the production of handcrafts for sale, beliefs related to shamanism and the August 30th party, linked to "the time of nature renewal" and then to the Catholic celebration of Santa Rosa (Citro 2004).
Since the mid-eighties, during the process of democratization of Argentina and the achievement of the National Law on Indigenous Policy, the mocovíes formed the Organization of Indigenous Communities of Santa Fe (OCASTAFE), through which they lived a process that, according to the definition of one of its leaders, led to "identify themselves as Aborigin, to the recovery of the Mocoví identity." Currently, there are seventeen mocoví settlements in the province of Santa Fe and family groups in various creole populations.
The Mocoví people inhabit the southern Chaco region, in the provinces of Chaco and Santa Fe (Argentina), where also other tribes live, such as the Toba, Wichí and Vilela.
Currently, in the province of Santa Fe there are approximately seventeen mocoví communities, both rural and peri-urban, settled in the subtropical plains located between the rivers Paraná and Salado.
The Paraná River area with its numerous streams, swamps and ravines that surround it, is known by mocovíes under the name of "The Island." This area became the central habitat for the developement of fishing activities, mainly of shad (Alosa sapidassima) and moncholo (Pimelodus albicans and other species of the genus Pimelodus) - and hunting of capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochoeris), nutria (Myocastor coypus) caiman (Caiman latirostris and Caiman yacare), among others. On the other hand, there are still forests, called "Mount" by mocovíes, with predominantly quebrachos (Schinopsis balansae) and mesquite (Prosopis alba or nigra). However, the constant progress of forestry, agriculture and livestock over the past two centuries has reduced significantly woodlands and wildlife.
Mocoví language (Moqoit la'qaatqa) is part of Guaycurú language family, which also includes languages tuff Pilagá and Caduveo. Extinct languages such as Abipones and possibly Mbaya-Payaguá and GUACHI are attributed also to this language family (Loukotka 1968, Tovar y Tovar 1984, Greenberg 1987).
The sociolinguistic situation among mocovíes is far from uniform. In general terms, two main areas concerning the vitality of the native language can be recognized: the southern province of Chaco, characterized by greater linguistic and cultural preservation, and the province of Santa Fe, where Mocoví people has been undergoing a rapid process of abandonment of their language since the mid-twentieth century. In this province, the area we chose for our documentation, there was a break in the intergenerational transmission of language and, at present, only a few adults and the elderly, especially women, continue to use the native language.
From the linguistic point of view, there are also differences between the two areas. The phonological isogloss that more clearly distinguishes the two varieties, even for the speakers, is the palatalization of coronal segments, which operates regularly and extensively in the Chaco Mocoví contexts and only restrictedly in the Santa Fe variety (more info).
The structure of the Mocoví word is morphologically complex with polysynthesis traits. Grammatical relations are encoded in the nucleus verbal / nominal through pronominal morphology and / or specific marks. The expression of semantic roles in pronominal morphology in terms of participant involvement, allows us to characterize the Mocoví language as a case of “on / off system” (Gualdieri 1998).
The order of syntactic constituents is relatively free, most often in terms of SVO transitive, intransitive and VS in the NA in the noun phrase.
A characteristic feature is the grammatical term recurrent spatial parameters. On one hand, there is a closed set of six elements, normally associated with names which are also characterized by decoding semantic parameters, configurational and indexicals, presenting properties as classifier nouns as well as demonstrative ones and entering morphological processes of derivation from other lexical categories ( Grinevald 2000). On the other hand, distinctions related to the location and directionality are also grammaticalized in the verbal morphology (Gualdieri 2000).
Beatriz Gualdieri (linguist), Silvia Citro (anthropologist), Mary Hellemeyer (assistant anthropologist) and Marta Krasan (assistant linguist).
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