Home Institution

Duke University

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


This study analyzes and investigates the current vitality and use of mapudungun, the endangered indigenous language of the Mapuche people, in the small rural community of Chapod in Southern Chile. This research then looks at a particular context within a larger global frame of mass language decline and extinction. With increasing numbers of languages becoming extinct linguists and other invested bodies are examining in more detail the state of the world’s languages and the impact of their decline, particularly in terms of cultural identity. As such this study specifically investigates the level of use and knowledge of the language within the community and well as the impact of the language’s decline on the people of Chapod. It furthermore seeks to understand whether the impact of this loss has a different effect on the women of the community than the men, given women’s vital role in linguistic and cultural transmission. Finally, it analyzes the future of the language both within this specific context and on a broader scale. This research was primarily conducted during a three-week period in the community and is based on results gleaned from participant observations and semi-structured interviews with members of the community from diverse age groups and fluency in mapudungun. This research concludes that mapudungun is indeed in decline in the community of Chapod. The language is rarely used and very few people are fluent with much of the younger generation having little to no knowledge of the language. Although the community holds hope for its future it is uncertain. Despite this the people of Chapod consider it a vital part of their cultural identity and the impact of this loss within the community is clear. Interestingly although women do play a significant cultural role within the community and are the primary child raisers they appear to not be differently affected by the loss of mapudungun though this is worthy of further study. This paper aims to clearly explain the use, impact and future of mapudungun in this community whilst considering the global context of language death.


Civic and Community Engagement | Latin American Languages and Societies | Linguistics | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology of Culture


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