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ShipiboShipibo of Peru

An 'r' or Not an 'r'

Bilingual Education in Peru requires that Indian language alphabets correspond closely to that of Spanish.

Two hundred years ago Spanish Catholic missionaries set the pattern for Shipibo by writing it according to Spanish usage.

But they did not hear one of the sounds-- a "retroflexed" consonant (tongue-tip-turned-back), because Spanish has no retroflexed sounds.

Some American non-linguists heard it, because English has a retroflexed sound, "r." They wrote this Shipibo sound as the heard it: "shr."

But Spanish readers could not relate the Shipibo sound to "r," because Spanish "r" sounds quite different.

SIL linguist Jim Loriot decided to write the retroflexion with 2 dots rather than with "r".

Now school children have no problem reading both Shipibo and Spanish.

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