The Intergenerational Perception of the Causes and Effects of Language Loss in the Pijao Community of Natagaima, Colombia

Joshua James Zwisler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The Pijao language was lost sometime during the last half of the 20th century and exactly how the language was lost has yet to be discerned. Using data from an investigation that examined perceptions of the causes and effects of the Pijao
linguicide among focus groups of different ages in the Pijao community at
Natagaima, Tolima, this article examines two themes that came out of the focus
groups – how the language was lost and how the community has suffered since the loss of the Pijao language. The results show how loss of their native language has disadvantaged the Pijao as a result of pervasive linguistic essentialist attitudes pervasive in the country. At the national level, the Pijao have problems in terms of recognition from other indigenous groups, with many refusing to recognize the indigeneity of the Pijao on the grounds of lack of language, and at a local level with mestizos arguing the same. Additionally, the author offers a tentative hypothesis for the loss of the Pijao language in the south of Tolima – that the creation of indigenous reserves may have hastened the loss of the language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-241
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • linguicide
  • Linguistic genocide
  • ethnolinguistic identity
  • indigenous identity
  • Pijao

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