a note on the orthography
of nasa yuwe
Nasa Yuwe, the language of the Nasa, has over time been written in various
alphabets, beginning with the 1755 dictionary, grammar, and catechism of Fr.
Eugenio del Castillo y Orozco (1877 [1755]), parish priest of Tálaga, Tierra-
dentro. However, it is only in the last decades of the twentieth century that the
Nasa themselves began to employ various orthographic systems in the educa-
tional sphere. The first of these alphabets (Slocum 1972), based largely on the
Spanish alphabet but also to some degree using borrowings from English, was
created by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (sil), an organization of evan-
gelical missionaries whose objective was to translate the Bible into indigenous
languages and to convert indigenous peoples to evangelical Protestantism.
Until recently, the sil alphabet was employed not only by Nasa Protestants,
but also, in slightly altered form, by Roman Catholic missionaries from the
Apostolic Vicariate of Tierradentro and those Nasa intellectuals engaged in
educational planning within the Vicariate’s schools (García Isaza 1996). As a
result of advanced linguistic training at the Universidad de los Andes received
in the mid-1980s by several Nasas a≈liated with the Consejo Regional Indí-
gena del Cauca (cric), a more rigorous alphabet was developed (cric n.d.c)
to account for the complex phonology of Nasa Yuwe; this alphabet has been
used in most of the cric publications, with the exception of the earliest ones,
which employed a variant of the sil’s orthography.
Beginning in the 1990s, attempts were made to create a unified alphabet for
Nasa Yuwe (Various n.d.), bringing together proponents of the cric alphabet
with advocates of the sil orthography and with representatives of the Apos-
tolic Vicariate in Tierradentro. To some degree, the positions of the three
parties owed to distinct appreciations of how Nasa phonology should be
written, particularly concerning the necessity of following Spanish ortho-
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