Current Studies on South American Languages



Current Studies on South American Languages
This file is freely available for download at
This book is freely available for download at
Crevels, Mily, Simon van de Kerke, Sérgio Meira & Hein van der Voort (eds.). 2002.
Current Studies on South American Languages, [Indigenous Languages of Latin
America (ILLA), vol. 3], [CNWS publications, vol. 114], Leiden: Research
School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies (CNWS), vi + 344 pp. (ISBN
This series, entitled Indigenous Languages of Latin America, is a result of the
collaboration between the CNWS research group of Amerindian Studies and the
Spinoza research program Lexicon and Syntax, and it will function as an outlet for
publications related to the research program.
La serie Lenguas Indígenas de América Latina es el resultado de la colaboración entre el equipo de investigación CNWS de estudios americanos y el
programa de investigación Spinoza denominado Léxico y Sintaxis. Dicha serie
tiene como objetivo publicar los trabajos que se lleven a cabo dentro de ambos
programas de investigación.
Board of advisors / Consejo asesor:
Willem Adelaar (Universiteit Leiden)
Eithne Carlin (Universiteit Leiden)
Pieter Muysken (Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen)
Leo Wetzels (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)
Series editors / Editores de la serie:
Mily Crevels (Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen)
Simon van de Kerke (Universiteit Leiden)
Hein van der Voort (Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen)
The word illa means ‘amulet’ in Aymara and Quechua.
Contribuciones seleccionadas del 50 Congreso Internacional de
Americanistas en Varsovia y del Taller Spinoza de
Lenguas Amerindias en Leiden, 2000
Selected papers from the 50th International Congress of
Americanists in Warsaw and the Spinoza Workshop on
Amerindian Languages in Leiden, 2000
Edited by
Mily Crevels
Simon van de Kerke
Sérgio Meira
Hein van der Voort
Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies (CNWS)
Universiteit Leiden
The Netherlands
This file is freely available for download at
Vol. 114
Indigenous Languages of Latin America (ILLA), Vol. 3
CNWS PUBLICATIONS is a series produced by the Research School of Asian, African
and Amerindian Studies (CNWS), Leiden University, The Netherlands.
Editorial board: F. Asselbergs; M. Forrer; F. Hüsken; K. Jongeling; H. Maier; P. Silva; B.
All correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. W.J. Vogelsang, CNWS Publications, c/o
Research School CNWS, Leiden University, PO Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The
Tel. +31 (0)71 5272171
Fax. +31 (0)71 5272939
Current studies on South American languages
Current studies on South American languages; edited by Mily Crevels, Simon van de
Kerke, Sérgio Meira and Hein van der Voort - Leiden 2002: Research School of Asian,
African and Amerindian Studies (CNWS), Universiteit Leiden. CNWS Publications, Vol.
114, ISSN 1567-813X)
ISBN: 90-5789-076-3
Printing: Ridderprint, Ridderkerk
Front cover design: Nelleke Oosten. Illustration shows members of the Chono family
from San Juan de Kelekelera, browsing through the primer of the Leko language that was
written and distributed among them by Simon van de Kerke in July 2000. Theodoro
Chono, one of the youngest semi-speakers of Leko, is sitting in the middle.
© Copyright 2002 Research School CNWS, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Copyright reserved. Subject to the exceptions provided for by law, no part of this
publication may be reproduced and/or published in print, by photocopying, on microfilm
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third parties fees in respect of copying and/or take legal or other action for this purpose.
The editors
Sociolinguistics and history of the field
Mily Crevels
Why speakers shift and languages die:
An account of language death in Amazonian Bolivia
Wolf Dietrich
Guaraní criollo y guaraní étnico en Paraguay, Argentina y
Sieglinde Falkinger
Diferencias entre el lenguaje de hombres y mujeres en
Chiquitano (Besiro)
Utta von Gleich
Multilingual literacies in Bolivia
Rotger Michael Snethlage
Leben, Expeditionen, Sammlungen und unveröffentlichte
wissenschaftliche Tagebücher von Dr. Emil Heinrich Snethlage
Life, expeditions, collections and unpublished field notes of
Dr. Emil Heinrich Snethlage
Phonology & phonetics
Astrid Alexander-Bakkerus
Nominal morphophonological processes observed in Pedro
de la Mata’s Arte de la Lengua Cholona (1748)
Esther Herrera Z.
Las estructuras fonéticas de la lengua emberá
Esteban Emilio Mosonyi
La fonología suprasegmental y otras particularidades del
baniva de Maroa, idioma tonal arawak del Río Negro,
Pedro Viegas Barros
Fonología del Proto-Mataguayo: Las fricativas dorsales
Eliane Camargo
Cashinaua personal pronouns in grammatical relations
Alain Fabre
Algunos rasgos tipológicos del Kamsá (Valle de Sibundoy,
Alto Putumayo, sudoeste de Colombia) vistos desde una
perspectiva areal
Elena Filimonova
Person hierarchy and its implication: The case of Aymara
Colette Grinevald
Nominal classification in Movima
Simon van de Kerke
Complex verb formation in Leko
Sérgio Meira
A first comparison of pronominal and demonstrative systems
in the Cariban language family
Odile Renault-Lescure
Le parfait en kali’na
Jeanette Sakel
Gender agreement in Mosetén
Hein van der Voort
The quotative construction in Kwaza and its (de-)
Mary Ruth Wise
Applicative affixes in Peruvian Amazonian languages
The symbols (L) and (W) indicate the articles that originated in the Leiden and
Warsaw symposia, respectively. The languages discussed in the present volume
are indicated on the map at the end of the introductory chapter, on pages 6 and 7.
This book contains a selection of articles based on papers presented at two different
symposia on the indigenous languages of South America. The first of these two
symposia took place July 10–14, 2000, at Warsaw University, during the 50th
International Congress of Americanists in Warsaw, Poland. This symposium was
entitled Lenguas Amazónicas y de las áreas adyacentes: aspectos descriptivos y
comparativos / Languages in the Amazon and its neighbouring areas: descriptive
and comparative aspects and was organised by Marília Facó Soares, José Alvarez
and Hein van der Voort. The second symposium took place two and a half months
later, on September 28–30, 2000, at Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.
This symposium was entitled Workshop on Bolivian and Rondonian indigenous
languages and was organised by Mily Crevels and Simon van de Kerke. It
represented the 3rd Workshop on Amerindian Languages organised at Leiden
University. Because of the high degree of similarity and overlap between the topics
of these symposia, the editors of the planned proceedings decided to collaborate on a
single volume of articles on the indigenous languages of South America.
The indigenous languages of South America form a highly diverse group. This
part of the world boasts of an amazing wealth of genetic linguistic phyla and isolated
languages and stocks. A large part of this wealth has not yet been documented and
studied to any degree of satisfaction. Therefore, many proposals for genetic linguistic
relationships are still completely unproven and, since a thorough attempt at linguistic
classification is also a prerequisite for the label ‘isolated’, most of the so-called
isolated languages are better considered as unclassified so far. Furthermore, many of
the special grammatical and phonological characteristics of these languages will
continue to go unnoticed by general and typological linguistics until serious
fieldwork is conducted and subsequent publications become available. Unfortunately,
the majority of the approximately 375 indigenous languages spoken in South
America are in danger of disappearance under the pressure of national and colonial
languages. This situation is, among other things, directly related to the fact that the
indigenous peoples have been suffering physical, social, cultural and economic
discrimination and genocide at the hands of Western invaders since the sixteenth
century, and that the ecological destruction of their traditional habitat continues
relentlessly until this very day. Therefore, the study of indigenous languages should
not only bring scientific data and insights within the confines of its own discipline,
but it should also provide a scientific basis for language preservation efforts and be
co-instrumental in the emancipation of the indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the
sharing of field experiences in wider circles may result in a higher level of general
awareness of the value of cultural and linguistic diversity. With this collection of
articles, the editors intended to provide an outlet for publication of the results of
ongoing research on South American Indian languages. Hopefully it will inspire
discussion and exchange between colleagues and stimulate others to participate in
carrying out the tasks that lie ahead.
The majority of the contributions to the present volume relate to research that is
the direct result of linguistic fieldwork by the authors. Most of the languages
discussed are spoken in the Amazon basin, some are spoken in the region of the
eastern foothills of the Andes, and a few are from the Andes region itself. One
linguistic family is from the Southern Cone. A fair number of the languages under
discussion are genetic isolates from Bolivia. The major part of the articles are about
morphosyntactic aspects of a specific language, a few deal with phonology and
phonetics, and a few others have a more typological or historical-comparative
orientation. This volume also includes several sociolinguistic articles. According to
these categories, the contributions to this volume are grouped in the following order:
Sociolinguistics and History of the field (Crevels, Dietrich, Falkinger, von Gleich,
and Snethlage); (Morpho-)phonology/Phonetics (Alexander-Bakkerus, Herrera,
Mosonyi, and Viegas Barros); Morphosyntax (Camargo, Fabre, Filimonova,
Grinevald, van de Kerke, Meira, Renault-Lescure, Sakel, van der Voort, and Wise).
MILY CREVELS’ contribution deals with possible causes for language death in
Amazonian Bolivia. The author sketches the historical background against which the
colonization of the region took place, and discusses the events that have led to the
extremely alarming current state of some of the languages in the region.
In his paper, WOLF DIETRICH reports on the development of the Atlas
Lingüístico Guaraní-Románico (ALGR), a linguistic atlas of the areas in which
Guaraní Criollo is in contact with Spanish and Portuguese. After a brief historical
introduction, in which the several varieties of Guaraní are mentioned, and a brief
description of the current sociolinguistic situation in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil,
the author presents several differences between the Guaraní varieties, based on data
obtained in the atlas project.
SIEGLINDE FALKINGER gives an insightful account of the differences between
male and female language use in Chiquitano. Extensively quoting historical
manuscript sources that are little known and even less accessible, the author sketches
the panorama of the specific differences in the speech of males and females.
UTTA VON GLEICH’s article reports on an ongoing research project on the
everyday use of literacy among bilinguals in Bolivia. The aim of the project is to find
out whether literacy in more than one language may become important in the near
future, in everyday life situations beyond the education system and beyond
specialised professional groups. The described research approach is innovative as far
as the indigenous languages of Bolivia are concerned.
The last contribution in the sociolinguistic section is by ROTGER MICHAEL
SNETHLAGE, son of the German ethnographer Emil Heinrich Snethlage, who
travelled in eastern Brazil from 1923 to 1926 and in the Guaporé region from 1933 to
1934. The author gives an overview of the scientific career of his father, whose life
unfortunately came to an end at an early age. Snethlage’s death was a setback for the
scientific study of a region that was still untouched by Western culture at that time.
The incomplete bibliography at the end of the article serves as proof of Snethlage’s
dedication to his field of interest, which was wider than ethnography alone. Because
of the symbolic and historical importance of this article, the original German version
is also included in this volume.
ASTRID ALEXANDER-BAKKERUS discusses morphophonological processes in
Cholón, a probably extinct Cholonan language of the eastern slopes of the Peruvian
Andes. Her work is mainly based on an eighteenth-century manuscript by Pedro de la
Mata. This important manuscript contains a description of Cholón which is thorough
enough to provide the specialist with useful evidence even on a component of
language as volatile as morphophonology.
In her contribution, ESTHER HERRERA Z. examines the phonetic correlates of
some of the most important phonological features in the Chamí dialect of the Emberá
language: those related to the quality of the middle vowels, and to the stop and
approximant series. She then compares the various (and often contradictory)
descriptions in the literature, and, based on her acoustic data, proposes a new analysis
to settle the question.
ESTEBAN EMILIO MOSONYI’s article contains a brief description of the
suprasegmental features of the Baniwa language from the Negro (Xié) river, which
the author analyses as a case of ‘tonal accent’. He proposes three contrasting accents,
which correspond to different tonal melodies. He also describes the current situation
of the few remaining speakers of this language, taking a strong position against the
inevitability of ‘language death’.
PEDRO VIEGAS BARROS presents new data on the reconstruction of ProtoMataguayo dorsal consonants. This part of the consonant system is very problematic
from a diachronic point of view. The author compares two previous reconstructions
and shows that they do not account regularly for the dorsal fricatives. He proposes
the reconstruction of two fricatives — *x (velar) and *X (uvular) — to account for
the correspondences that, in the previous analyses, had remained irregular. Although
a few problems remain (dutifully reported by the author), the author’s proposal
clearly represents progress in the understanding of Proto-Mataguayan phonology.
In her article, ELIANE CAMARGO discusses the personal pronouns and
grammatical relations in Cashinahua (Kashinawa, a Panoan language). Case marking
follows a person-based split ergative pattern. After describing the system, the author
proposes a correction to previous analyses by Bob Dixon and Doris Payne.
ALAIN FABRE discusses some typological features of the Kamsá language from
an areal perspective. Basing himself on published data and studies, the author looks
at noun incorporation and noun classification, which he places in a wider context by
considering a set of eleven neighbouring languages, from the Andean, Amazonian,
and Pacific regions of Colombia. The author shows that Kamsá shares features with
languages of the Andean as well as the Amazonian area, as a consequence of the role
of its speakers as intermediaries between these two worlds.
ELENA FILIMONOVA launches an innovative approach to person hierarchy in Aymara
by claiming that irregularities of person marking in this language are influenced by a
special configuration of the person hierarchy, according to which the person spoken
to overranks the Speaker: A>S>N. The author suggests that this layout of person
hierarchy is determined by a special conception of ego in the Aymara culture.
COLETTE GRINEVALD discusses the productive nominal classification system of
Movima, an unclassified language of the Amazonian lowlands of Bolivia. Her data
reveal that Movima has a mixed system that functions mostly on the basis of
morphophonological characteristics and partly on the basis of semantic organization.
It appears to be fairly typical of the not very grammaticalized kind of noun class
systems found in languages of the Amazon region and, as such, it challenges the
morphosyntactic typologies of nominal classification systems conceived so far on the
basis of data from other parts of the world.
In his article, SIMON VAN DE KERKE presents a semantic characterization of the
different suffixes that are used in Leko, an unclassified language of the Andean
foothills region of Bolivia, to form complex verbal expressions. Since many of these
suffixes also occur in the language as independent verb roots, it remains an
unresolved question whether complex verbs in Leko should be better analyzed as the
result of derivation or of compounding.
SÉRGIO MEIRA’s article compares the pronominal and demonstrative systems of
Cariban languages, attempting to provide a preliminary reconstruction of the ProtoCariban system. With a representative sample of 27 languages, and using previous
preliminary reconstructions of Proto-Cariban phonology as a starting-point, MEIRA
proposes tentative protoforms for the various pronouns, as well as some ideas
concerning their origin and evolution.
ODILE RENAULT-LESCURE describes the semantic values of a specific past tense
in Kali’na (also known as Cariña, Galibi, or Carib), marked by the suffix -i. After
summarising the person- and TAM-marking system for finite verbs, she presents a
number of exemples illustrating the (temporal and aspectual) uses of -i as a perfect
marker, and also some examples of a modal use (‘let me…’, ‘I want to…’). She
concludes that the meaning of this verb form centers around the idea of ‘experience’.
The contribution by JEANETTE SAKEL deals with gender agreement in Mosetén,
which is also an unclassified language of the Andean foothills region of Bolivia. The
richly developed gender agreement system in Mosetén is rather unique among the
indigenous languages of South America and demonstrates once again the necessity of
thorough linguistic investigations in the field on every single language.
In his article, HEIN VAN DER VOORT reports on certain modal derivational
suffixes in Kwaza, an unclassified Amazonian language of Rondônia, Brazil. He
attributes the emergence of these suffixes to a specific grammatical construction that
expresses quoted speech and he hypothesises that processes of degrammaticalisation
were involved in their creation.
MARY RUTH WISE’s article presents an overview of characteristics and functions of
applicative affixes in a number of Amazonian languages spoken in Peru. She deals
among others with the question of whether the involved similarities across these
languages, which belong to six different families, point to genetic relationships or to
the coexistence of these languages in a linguistic area.
The editors thank Eithne Carlin for comments. The edition of this book has been
carried out with the generous support of the Spinoza research program Lexicon and
Syntax, coordinated by Pieter Muysken in The Netherlands.
Amsterdam, December 2001
The editors
Guaraní criollo
Amazonian Bolivian
Upper Madeira
(Pre-Andine Maipure)
(Filimonova, von Gleich)
(Viegas Barros)
(von Gleich)
(van der Voort)
(van de Kerke)
Map of South America indicating the locations of the languages from which data are
presented in the current volume
Mily Crevels
University of Nijmegen
1. Introduction
In recent years the issue of language endangerment and language death in South
America has received quite some attention through linguistic publications (Adelaar
1991, 1998, forthcoming; Crevels & Adelaar 2000-2002, 2001; Grinevald 1998;
Grinevald Craig 1997; Moore forthcoming), and fortunately also through nonlinguistic channels, such as, for instance, James Geary’s article in Time (July 7,
1997), or the VPRO Dutch television documentary Verloren taal2 (May 2001).
In this paper I will try to give some possible factors for the extremely alarming
situation of the native languages of the lowland Department of Beni3 in north-eastern
Amazonian Bolivia. Section 2 sketches the historical background against which the
colonization of the region took place, Section 3 gives an overview of the current
status of the region’s indigenous languages, Section 4 discusses some possible causes
of the deplorable state of some of these languages, and in Section 5, finally, a
tentative conclusion is drawn.
2. Historical background
In the 16th Century, when the Spaniards first arrived in the region, the area was
populated by some 400 groups or tribes with an estimated total of 350,000
individuals who spoke about 39 different languages, most of which belonged to the
Arawakan family (Baptista Morales 1995: 71). Nowadays only three Arawakan
languages are spoken in the Department of Beni: seriously endangered Baure, the
Mojo language4, and Machineri5.
This article is dedicated to Don Desiderio Espíndola, who has done his utmost to help me in my search
for the last traces of the Canichana language, and to my dear consultants Don Ignacio Aulo († 2000), Don
Lauro Chanato, Don Ascensio Cacharana, Don Manuel Guasase, Doña Juanita Volome, and Doña Concha
Gualu († 2001), the last speakers of Itonama. Furthermore, I would like to thank Willem Adelaar, Laércio
Bacelar, Peter Bakker, Simon van de Kerke, and Hein van der Voort for reading a prefinal version of this
paper and commenting on it.
‘Lost language’
The Spaniards called this region Gran Mojos, but it was also known as Gran Paitití, El Dorado, Isla de
la Canela, Tierra de Enín, or Candire. Nowadays it is also known as the Llanos de Moxos (the Moxos
The Mojo language consists of the two subgroups Trinitario and Ignaciano. Although the differences
between the two subgroups are minimal, speakers of Trinitario and Ignaciano claim that they do not understand
each other (Fr. Enrique Jordá, S.J., p.c., San Ignacio de Moxos, June 2000). In this paper both subgroups are
treated as varieties of the same language.
Machineri is spoken by a small group that, due to the negative social pressure with which it had to deal
in Brazil, moved in 1985 from the State of Acre (Brazil) into the Department of Pando (Bolivia).
The first Spaniards who came to the area discovered that it was not the savage and
inhospitable land of their imagination. They encountered many villages and farms,
and even the remains of great hydraulic works, which provided a clear token of the
technical and organizational skills of the indigenous people of the region. Thousands
and thousands of artificial hills with a height up to 60 feet marked the landscape,
along with hundreds of artificial rectangular ponds up to three feet deep, all part of a
system of cultivation and irrigation. The built-up high ground was used for farming
purposes and canals were dug to connect ponds and rivers that caught water in this
flood-prone region (Fr. Enrique Jordá p.c. 2000).6
The colonization process of the Gran Mojos area was not an easy task for the
Spaniards. Protected by its clouds of insects, its extreme climate and its inhabitants’
fierce reputation, it was one of the last regions in South America reached by
Europeans. From 1536-1537 onwards the first expeditions took place from what is
now Cuzco in Peru to the legendary region of Gran Mojos, also known at that time as
Gran Paitití. Many adventurers had long dreamed of conquering this land, because it
was rumored to house the fabulous golden city of El Dorado. Finally, in 1617, a
group of explorers established that El Dorado did not, in fact, exist in the Gran Mojos
2.1. The Jesuit Missions7
In 1569 the Jesuits first arrived in Lima, and in 1587 Governor Lorenzo Suárez de
Figueroa called them to Santa Cruz de la Sierra8 mainly to evangelize the
Chiriguano, a belligerent Tupian group from eastern Bolivia. All the intents to
establish reductions9 among the Chiriguano failed, mainly because of the continuous
war between the Chiriguano and the Spaniards. On the other hand, they were able to
establish flourishing reductions among the inhabitants of the Mojos area, the
Mojeños, and the Chiquitano.
Thus, in 1595, Jerónimo de Andión was the first Jesuit to reach the area with
one of the expeditions organized by Governor Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa. Jesuits
also joined the expeditions of 1602, 1617, and 1624, but it would take almost 74
years until a Jesuit community was founded in Trinidad, today the capital of the
Department of Beni. In 1668 the Mojeños asked the authorities of Santa Cruz de la
William Denevan’s 1961 discovery of the massive prehispanic earthworks over broad areas in the
eastern lowlands of Bolivia, led to a drastic change in perspective regarding cultural development in the
Amazon basin. A traditional archaeological approach of the Amazon points out the environmental
limitations to cultural development, predominance of simple societies (bands and tribes), and subsistence
systems based on hunting, gathering, and fishing with some limited agriculture in the form of slash and
burn (cf. Steward 1963). However, the type of prehispanic raised field agriculture as documented in
Denevan (1966), demonstrates that intensive agriculture was indeed possible and that large, dense
populations were supported in these areas.
See Block (1994), Baptista Morales (1995) and Menacho (1995) for a detailed account of the
establishment of the Jesuit missions in the Mojos area and the subsequent expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767.
The foundation of Santa Cruz de la Sierra by Ñuflo de Chávez in 1561 was initially inspired by the idea
of having a staging post for the conquistadors who came in search for the riches of the empire of Candire.
Congregated settlements in which large numbers of Indians of different ethnic groups were brought
Sierra for protection against the belligerent Cañacuras and subsequently an
expedition of 80 soldiers under the command of Captain Juan de la Hoz y Otalora
was sent into the Mojos area. The Jesuits José Bermudo and Juan de Soto joined this
expedition and once the area had been reached, an encampment called Santísima
Trinidad was established. From here on Pedro Marbán, Cipriano Barace, and José del
Castillo founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de Loreto in 1682, the first Jesuit
reduction of Mojos and the cradle of the Catholic church in Beni. In the following
years the Jesuits founded 26 other settlements along the upper courses of the rivers
Mamoré, Iténez (Guaporé), and Beni, all three tributaries of the Madera River (cf.
Map 1). Eventually, many of these settlements were relocated or simply abandoned
due to floods, epidemics, or attacks by the mamelucos10. In the second half of the 16th
and in the 17th century continuous raids had taken place from the Santa Cruz area into
the territories of the missions, and as a result hundreds of Mojos’ native inhabitants
had been captured and taken away as slaves. The presence of the Jesuits diminished
but in no way made an end to the slavery expeditions. In 1720, the Jesuits were able
to prohibit by royal decree the entrance of Spaniards into the reductions.
Nevertheless, the advance and attacks of inhabitants of Brazil, who were protected by
the Portuguese authorities, proved to be an even major threat. In 1767, when the
expulsion of the Jesuits from all the domains of King Charles III of Spain began, only
15 settlements were left. Table 1 gives an overview of these settlements.
San Ignacio
San F. Javier
San F. Borja
San Pedro
San Lorenzo
San Joaquín
San Reyes
San Martín
Santa Ana
San Simón
Main ethnic group
Maropa (Reyesano)
Linguistic family
Table 1. Jesuit missions in Mojos in 1767
As Block (1994: 179) points out, the Jesuit mission system caused important as well
as painful changes in the lives of the Indians. Possibly, one of the most painful
Brazilian mestizos.
changes was the concentration of formerly dispersed villages into central settlements.
Thus, the native people became not only fully exposed to epidemic disease but also to
cohabitation with their former aboriginal rivals. In the long run, however, mission
populations emerged with a significant resistance to disease.
Map 1. (Re-)locations of the Jesuit Missions in Mojos 1682-1767 (copy of Lehm Ardaya 1999: 29)
At the end of the 17th century, the linguistic policy of the Jesuits was initially aimed
at using only the Spanish and the Mojo language for educational and religious
purposes. Thus, an effort was made to replace all the different languages that were
spoken in the region at that time by a single lengua general11, the Mojo language.
Concentrating members of different ethnic groups in the same settlement supported
this goal.12 Eventually, however, as the Jesuit settlements expanded more to the east,
at least six other lenguas generales were recognized: Canichana, Movima, Cayubaba,
Itonama, Baure, and Sapive. Once the missions had a solid base and were functioning
smoothly, the Jesuits –realizing that their linguistic policy had only succeeded partly–
started focusing on education in the native languages. As a result a number of
grammars and religious tracts were produced in the Mojo language, Baure, Movima,
Cayubaba, Itonama, Canichana and a few other languages. The principle works that
are still accessible today are Pedro Marban’s Arte de la lengua Moxa con su
vocabulario y cathecismo (1701) and Antonio Magio’s Arte de la lengua de los
indios Baures de la provincia de los Moxos (1749).
During the Jesuit era the economic focus in the missions of Mojos was still on
subsistence production. Apart from traditional food crops such as manioc, yams and
maize, new crops were introduced, like rice, cotton, cacao and sugarcane. The biggest
change, however, was brought about in 1682 by the introduction of cattle raising,
which to this day still is one of the major sources of income in the Department of
After their expulsion in 1767, the missions were turned over to civil
administrators and curas13, most of whom were more or less recruited in the streets of
Santa Cruz and other districts of the Audiencia of Charcas14. Generally these curas
had close ties with secular Spanish society and were completely ignorant of the ways
in which the Jesuits used to manage the missions. This led to a turning point in the
history of mission culture in Mojos. Block (1994: 125) describes the situation in the
missions at the time of the expulsion as follows:
“When the Jesuits departed the savanna in 1767, they left behind a resilient
mission culture based on firm foundations. The population was resistant to
European diseases and cohesively organized into small urban communities. A
native political elite, enjoying popular support, had gained valuable experience
during the Jesuit years. By 1767 members of the communities had become
fluent in Spanish and showed remarkable skill in European arts and industries.
The missions also retained a considerable material base. Although deprived of
their access to Jesuit coffers, the Indians inherited the sumptuously appointed
churches, well-equipped workrooms, and, most important, the riverfront lands
and cattle herds amassed during the Jesuit century. But as the Jesuits left their
posts, they were replaced by men of a different stripe.”
‘lingua franca’
On the basis of the data provided by Eguiluz (1884), Métraux (1942: 54-55) points out that, even
though Mojo was becoming the official and compulsory language in all the missions except San Francisco
Borja, Mojo Indians actually were to be found only in Loreto, San F. Javier, and perhaps in Trinidad.
Spanish curates.
Administrative unit for the eastern territories founded in 1559 by King Felipe II of Spain.
Whereas the different missions functioned quite autonomously during the Jesuit era
and, as pointed out above, economic activities were mainly aimed at subsistence
production, this situation changed radically after the Jesuits’ departure. According to
Block (1994: 177), after 1767 commercially viable activities became the order of the
day. Thus, cacao cultivation pushed manioc gardens far from central settlements,
cotton textiles replaced feather weaving, and no more additions were made to the
sumptuary inventories of the mission churches. This economic reorientation
converted the missions into revenue producers of the Spanish Crown, which
inevitably led to the decline of the mission riches.
During his travels in Bolivia the French savant Alcides d’Orbigny visited the
Canichana Mission of San Pedro in 1832. He described the bloom and decline of the
mission, which used to be the most prosperous of all missions, as follows (1958: 77475):
“[…] los jesuitas establecieron la Misión de San Pedro, cuya posición central la
convirtió muy pronto en capital de la provincia. Concentraron en ella todas sus
riquezas, todas sus grandezas y por sus monumentos, por el número de sus
estatuas de santos, por las joyas que adornaban a sus Vírgenes y a sus Niños de
Jesús, por las planchas de plata que decoraban sus altares y, más que nada, por
las hermosas tallas de madera de su iglesia, San Pedro no tardó en rivalizar no
sólo con las catedrales de Europa, sino también con las más ricas iglesias del
Perú. […].
San Pedro fué dilapidada bajo el régimen de los curas, primero, y luego
bajo el de los gobernadores. Lo mismo ocurrió bajo los administradores. […] la
redujeron a la mayor miseria, y no hay duda que hoy es la más pobre de
The new secular and economic orientation made the Indians easy victims to all sorts
of abusive practices, either by the curas or the administrators. D’Orbigny’s travels in
Bolivia also brought him in 1832 to the Mission of El Carmen16, where he was able
to observe the deplorable situation of the native Baure (d’Orbigny 1958: 751):
“[…]. Basta para prueba la paciencia con que soportaron durante largos años la
infame conducta de sus administradores y de su cura, quienes, habiéndose
‘[…] the Jesuits established the Mission of San Pedro, which due to its central position soon became the
capital of the province. They concentrated in the mission all their riches, all their great works and because
of its monuments, because of its number of statues of saints, because of the jewels that adorned its Virgins
and its Christ-childs, because of the silver plates that decorated its altars and, more than anything, because
of the beautiful wooden sculptures of its church, it was not long before San Pedro not only competed with
the cathedrals of Europe, but also with the richest churches of Peru. […].
San Pedro was first wasted under the rule of the curas, and then under that of the governors. The
same happened under the administrators. […] they reduced it to the greatest misery, and there is no doubt
that today it is the poorest of all.’ [Translation MC].
The Mission of El Carmen was founded in the Baure territory with Baure and Guarayo Indians after the
expulsion of the Jesuits.
repartido la Misión como un harén común, se hacían traer sucesivamente a todas
las indiecitas en cuanto habían llegado a la edad de ocho o diez años, bajo la
pena de cincuenta azotes. No reproduciré ni el número de víctimas de esos
monstruos ni otros horrendos detalles que supe de labios mismos de los
intérpretes; hacen estremecer a la Humanidad. […].”17
Sharp conflicts arose between the Indians, the curas and the civil administrators, and
in 1810 the populations of the missions of Trinidad and Loreto revolted against the
Spanish tyranny. When the Bolivian Republic was proclaimed in 1825, mission
culture still existed in Mojos, but in the next fifty years political and economic
changes would end it. In 1842 President José Ballivián formed the new Department
of Beni by combining Mojos with the area of Caupolicán in the Andean rain forest.
2.2. The rubber boom
Halfway the 19th century the new Department of Beni slowly started to open up to
commerce. This implied the settlement of some mestizos and criollos18 in the former
reductions, the progressive creation of farming and cattle raising establishments in
their immediate surroundings and a growing demand for indigenous workforce. Since
the Indians traditionally worked on their own chacos19 and since indigenous
workforce therefore was scarce, new ways of recruiting workforce were thought of.
One of these ways was called el concierto20. It implied that the proprietors of the big
farming and cattle raising establishments provided the Indians with an advance in
goods and/or money for which the Indians committed themselves to work exclusively
for the proprietor who had given the advance (cf. Vaca Diez 1989: 27).
Around 1870, the exploitation of rubber was still limited to some areas on the
upper Beni, the Madera and the lower Mamoré. However, from 1880 onwards –when
the confluence of the Beni and the Mamoré rivers was discovered by the American
physician and explorer Edwin Heath and the fluvial transportation route ReyesMadera-Amazon came into use– rubber activities were expanded more to the north
and started to play an important economic role. The rubber boom resulted in a
massive invasion of the Beni territory by criollos and mestizos. Whereas in 1832
d’Orbigny (1845: 299) recorded 57 white residents in the Mojos settlements, Heath
(1882), who explored the lower Beni River, observed 200 non-indigenous rubber
workers in the region. Only a few months later this number had increased to 1,0002,000. With the expansion of the rubber activities the enganche21 recruiting system of
‘[…]. Proof enough is the patience with which they bore during long years the infamous behaviour of
their administrators and of their priest, who, having divided among themselves the mission as a joint
harem, had brought to them successively all the Indian girls as soon as these reached the age of eight or ten
years, on penalty of fifty lashes. I will neither reproduce the number of victims of those monsters nor other
horrendous details I came to know from the very lips of the interpreters; they make Humanity shudder.’
[Translation MC].
Persons of Spanish extraction
Piece of arable land where consumption goods such as manioc, yams and maize are cultivated.
‘the agreement’
‘bait’, ‘hook’, ‘recruitment’
indigenous workers became common practice in the Department of Beni.
Commercial companies such as Casa Suárez Hnos provided advances in money,
provisions and goods to the so-called enganchadores22 who, in turn, went to the
indigenous villages to deliver the advances and subsequently move the Indians to the
rubber plantations (cf. Lehm Ardaya 1999: 51). Many went by their own free will,
but others were forced. Moreover, uncontacted groups of Indians were taken prisoner
and forced to work in the extraction of rubber sap. Initially young and adult males
from all ethnic groups in the Beni were recruited. This was effectuated to such an
extent that some villages that once had a numerous population were only left with old
men, women and children. Thus, in 1874, the village of El Carmen had 750 female
and 15 male inhabitants (cf. Moreno 1973: 74). With the removal of large numbers of
adult males from the indigenous villages, not only their proper base, but also their
demographic and social structure were deeply affected.
The rubber plantations with their life-threatening malarial fevers, the deadly
rapids that made transportation of the shipments of rubber moulds extremely
complicated, the very harsh regime that only worked in favor of the masters, all this
in combination with the workers’ debts that never got paid off and even passed on
from father to son, turned out to be devastating to the indigenous workforce that had
landed in this maelstrom of exploitation, violence, terror, adventure, fortune, mystery
and alcohol (cf. Lijerón Casanovas 1998: 84). In the years of the rubber boom (18701910) the population of the Department of Beni was decimated. As a member of the
Arvid Hernmarckschen Expedition to Bolivia (1908-1909) the Swedish zoologist and
anthropologist Erland Nordenskiöld visited the Beni. He described the dissolution of
all ethnic and cultural ties of the indigenous groups under the rubber barracks regime
as follows (1922: 123):
“Hier kann man nicht mehr von Indianern verschiedener Stämme sprechen,
sondern nur noch von Kautschukarbeitern. Chiquitanos, Baure, Itonama,
Mestize, alle sind unter ein Dach zusammengebracht. Sie wohnen in Baracken.
Jeden Familienband ist gelöst. Sie haben keinen selbständigen Ackerbau, keinen
selbständigen Haushalt. Nur wenige sind verheiratet. Die meiste haben
ungebundene Frauen, die von einem Arm in den anderen wandern. Dadurch
werden die Geschlechtskrankheiten verbreitet und die Frauen mit Kinder sehr
selten. Die sterblichkeit bei zarten Kindern ist sehr groß. Es wird immer
schwerer neue Arbeiter anzuwerben. Die einzige Möglichkeit ist solche zu
kaufen, zu kaufen die Schuldsklaven von anderen; und ein arbeitstüchtiger
Mensch ist hier mindestens tausend Bolivianos wert. Ein Knabe wird auf
vierhundert Bolivianos geschätzt. Ein Mädchen wird meist nach dem Aussehen
[…] Jede Spur indianischer Kunstfertigkeit und Kultur ist hier verschwunden.
Das Leben bietet diesen Menschen nichts anderes als Arbeit für den Herrn an
‘recruiters’ (= persons who had to hook rubber workers)
Wochentagen, Saufen an Feiertagen und Vielsaufen an den großen christlichen
Festen. In den Dörfern feiert man diese mit Messen und Branntwein. Hier gibt
es keine Messen, hier gibt es nur einen Gott, und dieser Gott ist der Branntwein.”23
Not only the Indians from the former Jesuit settlements fell victim to the rubber
activities. The search for new zones with resinous trees during the rubber boom also
had its genocidal and ethnocidal effects on the Indians who had not been catechized
in the Jesuit missions, such as the Araona, Chácobo, Pacahuara, and Ese Ejja, who at
their turn also had to undergo the effects of epidemic disease, alcohol, debt peonage,
forced labor, etc.
Table 2. Demographic data of some ethnic groups in the Department of Beni24
Table 2 gives an overview of some demographic data that have been roughly
established or estimated by Jesuit priests, explorers, or local censuses between the
‘Here one can no longer speak of Indians of different tribes, but only of rubber workers. Chiquitano,
Baure, Itonama, mestizos, all are brought together under the same roof. They live in barracks. All family
ties have been cut. They do not have independent fields, they do not run an independent home. Only a few
are married. Most have unattached women, who wander from one arm into another. This causes venereal
diseases to spread and women with children to be very scarce. Mortality among newborn infants is very
high. It is steadily becoming more and more difficult to recruit new workers. The only possibility is to buy
them, to buy the debt slaves of others; and here a hard-working person costs at least one thousand
bolivianos. An adolescent boy is estimated at four hundred bolivianos. A girl is usually paid for according
to her looks.
[…] Every trace of Indian craftsmanship and culture has disappeared here. Life offers these people
nothing but work for the master on weekdays, drinking on rest days and getting extremely drunk on the big
Christian holidays. In the villages these are celebrated with masses and brandy. Here there are no masses,
here there is only one God, and this God is the brandy.’ [Translation MC].
Data adapted from Métraux (1942), Plaza Martínez & Carvajal Carvajal (1985), and Crevels & Adelaar
late 17th century and the late 20th century. Although the data may not be very reliable,
being sometimes based on estimations, Table 2 –with the exception of Movima– does
show a sharp decline after 1831 as far as the numbers for the different ethnic groups
are concerned. The relatively high demographic numbers for 1994 will be discussed
in Section 3. All in all the numbers underline the devastating effects of –among other
things– the rubber boom on the inhabitants of the Department of Beni.
Around 1912, when the rubber boom was coming to an end, many people who
worked on the rubber plantations in the north came back to the center and the south
of the department. This implied a new impulse for the farming and cattle raising
establishments and a reinforcement of the coercion practices to recruit Indian
workforce. Once again the Indian population was subjected to debt peonage. This
time la matrícula25 –a term that refers symbolically to the registration of Indians for
the payment of territorial contributions– was applied via the state authorities to
provide the proprietors with labor force (cf. Lehm Ardaya 1999: 70).
2.3. The Chaco War and its consequences
In 1932, the Chaco War broke out between Bolivia and Paraguay. The origin of the
conflict went back to the outcome of the War of the Pacific (1879-84), in which Chile
defeated Bolivia and annexed its entire coastal region. Bolivia attempted to break out
of its landlocked situation by seeking access to the Paraguay River to ship oil to the
sea. On that route lay part of the Gran Chaco, the Chaco Boreal, a rough and deserted
region of about 259,000 square kilometres north of the Pilcomayo river and west of
the Paraguay river. The Chaco Boreal was thought to have large oil preserves. Pushed
by English oil companies and the United States, the two countries started a war to
decide for once and for all on the political status of the region. More than 100,000
lives were lost, and the war ended in 1935 only when both sides were exhausted.
After three years of mediated negotiation following the end of hostilities, Bolivia and
Paraguay signed a treaty in 1938 at the Chaco Peace Conference in Buenos Aires,
which included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States. Three
quarters of the disputed Chaco Boreal went to Paraguay; at the same time Bolivia
was granted a corridor to the Paraguay River, the privilege of using Puerto Casado,
and the right to construct a Bolivian port. Argentina was given the main credit for the
settlement, and Argentinean investors profited greatly from Paraguay’s territorial
gain. Years later, oil companies explored the Chaco region but they were unable to
find significant oil fields.
After the Chaco War, Bolivia’s economy was so seriously disrupted that the
impoverished masses demanded reforms. The defeat marked a turning point: the
enormous loss of life and territory discredited the traditional ruling classes and
service in the army had started to awaken some political awareness among the
indigenous groups. The agricultural sector lacked capital, and by 1950 food imports
had increased to 19% of total imports. Land was unequally distributed –92% of the
‘the registration’
arable land was in hands of owners of estates of 1,000 hectares or more. The
expansion of mining from the end of the 19th century had attracted foreign investors
and led to the establishment of three large foreign mining corporations that became
dominant in Bolivia’s economic and political life. At that point these mining
corporations controlled the country, together with the big landowners and the
military. On April 8, 1952 a popular revolt took place in La Paz and elsewhere. The
Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR), with the support of armed workers,
civilians, and campesinos26 overthrew the ruling military junta and seized control of
the government. Subsequently the MNR introduced universal adult suffrage,
nationalized all the tin mines of the three big mining corporations, implemented an
agrarian reform, by which the large estates were divided among former tenants and
peasants, and promoted rural education, by implementing the Reforma Educativa27.
By the time that the MNR was deposed by the army in 1964, it had introduced farreaching economic and social changes. It also committed many serious violations of
human rights. Over the next 28 years (1964-2002) Bolivia has 20 presidents, of
whom 13 were generals; only two completed a full term in office.
The Revolución Nacional28 of 1952 disregarded the indigenous lowland –and
highland– groups by lumping them together under the label of campesinos.
According to the 1953 Reforma Agraria29, the land that was occupied by Indians was
to be considered fallow, and, therefore, its ownership could be granted to all sorts of
entrepreneurs. The idea was to turn the rural Indian into a campesino who could
make a contribution to economic and consumptive needs. The new agricultural law
only permitted him to work on a single plot of land. This disintegrated the unitary
and integral conception that the indigenous inhabitant had of his territory, and in the
long run it would turn out to have disastrous consequences for the indigenous
cultures and day-to-day life in the communities. From the perspective of the
indigenous groups in the Department of Beni, not only the agrarian reform but also
the educational reform had devastating effects on the rural communities, in which –
up till that point– important features of the authentic indigenous cultures and
traditions had been conserved to a certain degree. Even though the rural schools that
were established during this period were the first ones to which most of the
indigenous communities had access, the extremely hispanicizing education had
genocidal effects on all the indigenous groups implied, insofar that it provoked the
progressive loss of indigenous languages and other forms of cultural heritage. The
rural teacher and his guava whip, which was used to punish the children that spoke in
their native language, soon became decisive factors of a progressive acculturation
process (cf. Lijerón Casanovas 1998: 119).
‘Educational Reform’
‘National Revolution’
‘Agrarian Reform’
3. Current status of the languages
To this day some 20 indigenous languages are still spoken in Amazonian Bolivia.
They represent five language families and a total of seven language isolates or
unclassified languages. Of these languages 15 are spoken in the Department of Beni:
Reyesano, Cavineña, Ese Ejja, Chácobo, Pacahuara, Moré, Baure, Trinitario/Ignaciano (Mojo), Sirionó, Yuracaré, Chimane, Canichana, Movima, Cayubaba, and
Map 2. Location of the indigenous languages of Amazonian Bolivia.
Table 3 gives an overview of the indigenous languages of Amazonian Bolivia, their
affiliation, speakers’ and demographic numbers, and state of endangerment. The
general location of the languages is indicated on Map 2 as numbered in Table 3.
1 Reyesano
2 Tacana
3 Araona
4 Cavineña
5 Ese Ejja
6 Yaminahua
7 Chácobo
8 Pacahuara
9 Moré
10 Machineri
11 Baure
12 Trinitario
13 Ignaciano
14 Jorá
15 Sirionó
16 Yuki
17 Yuracaré
18 Leko
19 Mosetén33
20 Chimane
21 Canichana
22 Movima
23 Cayubaba
24 Itonama
Number of
Number of
Degree of
ethnic group
± 40
Seriously endangered
Potentially endangered
Seriously endangered
Seriously endangered
Seriously endangered
Seriously endangered
Possibly extinct
Seriously endangered
Potentially endangered
Possibly extinct
Seriously endangered
Table 3. Indigenous languages of Amazonian Bolivia35
When establishing the estimated number of speakers of each language, the biggest
problem usually is the continuous mix-up of the number of the ethnic group with the
actual number of speakers. Yet another problem involves establishing the proper number
for the ethnic groups. A striking example is provided by Itonama, for which the 1994
Censo Indígena Rural de las Tierras Bajas (CIRTB)36 gives a total of 5,090 for the
ethnic group. This high number is due to the fact that anyone who is born in Magdalena
Number applies to both subgroups of the Mojo language.
Number applies to the whole Mojo group.
Although Grimes (1996) reports that Jorá has become extinct since 1963, data collected by the German
anthropologist Jürgen Riester in 1974 mention the existence of 5 speakers. In the literature Jorá is often stated to
be a subgroup of Sirionó.
Although Mosetén and Chimane are often mentioned as separate languages, they form, together with
Mosetén de Santa Ana, the small linguistic family Mosetenan (cf. Sakel this volume).
These speakers only remember a few words and one or two phrases.
Data adapted from Crevels & Adelaar (2000-2002).
‘Rural Indigenous Census of the Lowlands’
–or anywhere in the Province of Iténez for that matter– is considered to be, or considers
himself to be Itonama. Since the majority of the population consists of whites, mestizos
and criollos it is practically impossible to decide on the exact number of ethnic Itonama.
The same problem occurs with the other ethnic groups mentioned in Table 2. The degree
of endangerment depends on many factors, such as the percentage of speakers, the mean
age of the speakers, whether the language is still spoken by children, etc. Thus,
Yuracaré, with 2,675 speakers, is classified in Table 3 as ‘endangered’, while Cavineña,
with 1,180 speakers is classified as ‘potentially endangered’. The difference lies in the
fact that in the Yuracaré communities children no longer speak the language, while they
still do in the Cavineña communities. The viability of Ese Ejja is quite good, but the
language is classified as ‘endangered’ because the ethnic group is relatively small. On
the other hand, Movima, with 1,452 speakers, has been classified as ‘seriously
endangered’ due to the fact that all speakers are over 50 years old. Likewise, Araona, a
language that is spoken by practically the whole community, is classified as ‘seriously
endangered’, because the ethnic group is very small.37
A closer look at the languages that are spoken in the Department of Beni shows
the possibility of making a subdivision in three sociolinguistic scenarios: a)
predominant Spanish monolingualism, b) co-occurrence of bilingualism and Spanish
mono-lingualism, and c) predominant native monolingualism.
Itonama, Cayubaba, Baure, Reyesano
More Spanish monolingualism than bilingualism:
Movima, Mojo (Ignaciano & Trinitario), Moré
More bilingualism than Spanish monolingualism:
Yuracaré, Cavineña, Chácobo, Ese Ejja, Sirionó, Pacahuara
Table 4. Current sociolinguistic situation in the Department of Beni38
Recent research39 has led to the belief that the Canichana language is no longer
spoken and that within the next few years the same might apply to Itonama,
Cayubaba, Reyesano, and even Baure. This would mean that three language isolates,
According to the demographic data, there exists a small tendency towards population growth: 39 (1963),
43 (1969), 50 (1975), 90 (1994), and finally 94 (1996).
Data adapted from the 1994 CIRTB.
In the period 1999-2001 I visited the Canichana of San Pedro on several occasions. The community
would very much like to revive its language, but unfortunately all my attempts to track down speakers of
Canichana have proved in vain. It now looks as though the language might be extinct.
one of the in total four Tacanan languages, and one of the three Arawakan languages
that are still spoken in Bolivia would disappear.
The scenario in which there is a combination of bilingualism and Spanish monolingualism shows that Mojo, Movima, and Moré are on the way to be replaced completely by Spanish. Even though Mojo still has a considerable number of speakers, an alarmingly rapid loss of language is reported among the youth. Yuracaré, Cavineña, Chácobo,
Ese Ejja, Sirionó, and Pacahuara show a higher percentage of bilingualism than Spanish
monolingualism, but even in the case of these languages there is a growing percentage of
children who no longer acquire the language.
Finally, Chimane, one of the dialects of the Mosetenan family, is by far the most
viable language spoken ìn the Department of Beni. Generally the Chimane, especially
the women and elders, speak very little Spanish. Children do not acquire Spanish until
they are 15, unless they attend a school in one of the so-called colla40 communities.
For many years economic development on the one hand, and preservation of the
indigenous ethnic, cultural and social identity on the other hand, were considered to
be two conflicting issues: working on the first would inevitably mean sacrificing the
second. Moreover, it was often argued that the very culture of indigenous peoples
stands in the way of their development. Consequently, programs to help indigenous
peoples aimed at substituting their language, culture, and productive and agricultural
practices. However, in the early 1990s the relationship between the indigenous
groups and the Bolivian government changed. Whereas up to this point the
relationship was based on exclusion, and even extermination, the State started to take
the demands of the native groups into account. This change of attitude towards the
Indians was not only triggered by the impulse of the newly arisen indigenous
movement, but also by the growing awareness that the needs of the native population
of Bolivia should be attended as well. Thus, in 1993, a state institution for the
management of indigenous affairs was created, the Subsecretaría de Asuntos Étnicos
(SAE)41. In 1997, this institution was converted into the Vice Ministerio de Asuntos
Indígenas y Pueblos Originarios (VAIPO)42. Currently the Programa Amazónico de
Educación43 –a program that is aiming at the implementation of intercultural
bilingual education in the Bolivian lowlands– is being financed with the help of the
Danish government. The 1990 and 1996 Indian marches held in support of territorial
claims have led to the recognition of the fact that the struggle for territory lies at the
base of all of the indigenous demands and should, therefore, be treated with priority.
A consequence of this recognition has been the ratification in 1996 of the so-called
Ley INRA44 (Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria45). This new agrarian reform law
permits community land ownership and legalizes the creation of TCO’s (Tierra
Word used for referring to highland Indians.
‘Bureau of the Assistant Secretary of Native Affairs’
‘Vice-Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and Native Peoples’
‘Amazonian Program of Education’
‘INRA Law’
‘National Institute for Agrarian Reform’
Comunitaria de Origin46). Furthermore it allots land that is not fulfilling its economic
and social function.
As Lema Garrett (1998: 27) points out, by 1997, Amazonian Bolivia had not
only captured the attention of the State but also that of the civilian society. Within the
context of the decentralization of the administration on the one hand, and the growing
interest of NGO’s on the other hand, the attention for regional and local indigenous
problems has grown considerably. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen what will be
the real impact of these development in the long run.
4. Discussion
It is not possible to attribute the sometimes more than alarming state of some of the
indigenous languages spoken in the Department of Beni –or in the whole of
Amazonian Bolivia for that matter– to a single factor, or even to a few factors. In the
previous sections I have tried to sketch some possible causes for language loss and
language death in this region. It all started in the 16th century when the first Spanish
expeditions with explorers and conquistadors entered Mojos in search of El Dorado’s
gold. They were immediately followed by the slavery expeditions from the Santa
Cruz area that came in search of human workforce. Although these expeditions
usually did not stay on for a prolonged period in the Mojos area, they lasted long
enough to contaminate the native populations with epidemic diseases and unbalance
them by taking away young and strong men. By the end of the 17th century, the
Jesuits, in search of souls, formed the third group to enter Mojos.
The Jesuit missionaries were strongly opposed against slavery, an institution
long condemned by Rome. Even though the missions in Mojos bloomed and brought
important economic advantages to the area, it should be stressed that since the early
days of the conquest of America Christian mission activity has been a salient
component of the European aim to transform and assimilate the native inhabitants of
America. The missions were run in a remarkably democratic way. Land, tools and
workshops were the property of the community and work was obligatory for all ablebodied members. Nevertheless, the Jesuits’ prime concern was to “save the Indians'
souls”, and, therefore, the indigenous customs and beliefs were discouraged.
Christian values and moral were imposed on the people in such an effective way that
today very little is known about the pre-Columbian indigenous cultures of this region.
Furthermore, Block (1994: 58-59) points out that there is evidence that the demands
of mission culture strained Mojos’ natural resources. Settling thousands of people
into single communities led to changed cultivation patterns, which gradually
diminished the fertility of the soil. Historical records show that the activities
developed during the Jesuit era reduced the available food resources for gathering.
The often more than inhumane ways, in which the local clergy and
administrators who ruled the missions after the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767
treated the indigenous inhabitants of the missions, has been sufficiently illustrated in,
‘Indigenous Community Territory’
among others, d’Orbigny’s descriptions of his travels in Bolivia. Mission culture
came to an end when the rubber boom of the late 19th century brought white, criollo
and mestizo settlers in sufficient numbers to overwhelm the indigenous culture –in so
far as it still existed. Although the natives remained, they became marginalized to the
Westernized society that had developed in the core regions, in which fluency in
Spanish, affluence, and light skin were highly valued.
As discussed in Section 2.2, the rubber boom formed one of the most disruptive
factors in the progressive destruction of indigenous cultures and languages. After
visiting the rubber barracks on the Iténez River, Nordenskiöld (1922: 124) could not
but conclude the following:
“Eines aber steht fest, eine kunstfertige, freie indianische Bevölkerung ist
ausgerottet oder in ein elendes branntweindurstiges Proletariat verwandelt
worden. Um den Bedarf der Industrie in Europa und Nordamerika zu
befriedigen, werden diese Gegenden vernichtet. Mit welchem Recht?
Der Zivilisation wegen müssen die Schwachen untergehen. Nicht so sehr
die Grausamkeit einzelner Personen gegen die Indianer regt mich auf, sondern
die Versklavung einer ganzen Rasse.”47
When the Chaco War broke out, most Bolivians had very little if any interest in the
remote Chaco region. Nevertheless, the authorities drafted all young men into the
Bolivian army to fight against the Paraguayans in this terrible war, in which Bolivia
lost 50,000 lives. The Department of Beni sent many young natives who were noted
for their courage and endurance under the most difficult circumstances. After the war
those that had survived returned home bitterly disappointed because of all the
sacrifices that had been made more or less in vain for a cause that was physically and
conceptionally so remote from their own world.
The educational reform that was carried through after the 1952 revolution may
have been the decisive factor in the endangerment –and sometimes even extinction–
of the languages of the Beni. The majority of the teachers of the newly established
rural schools came from outside the region, did not know the local indigenous
languages and were trained to severely punish the use of these languages within
school settings. It did not take most of the pupils very long to shift to Spanish, thus
causing their own native mother tongue to lose even more prestige. This process
started almost half a century ago and by now the few speakers that are left in the case
of some of the languages have to overcome a deep-rooted feeling of shame in order
to be able to speak their native tongue.48
‘But there is no doubt about one thing, a skillful, free Indian population has been extirpated, or changed
into a miserable alcoholic proletariat. In order to satisfy the need of the industry in Europe and North
America these areas are being destroyed. With which right?
For the sake of civilization, the weak have to go down. It is not so much the cruelty of individuals
against Indians that makes me angry, but the enslavement of an entire race.’ [Translation MC].
Enrique Jordá (p.c. 2000) reports that in San Ignacio de Moxos the elderly women, who used to greet
him and speak to him in Ignaciano, lately have stopped doing so. When asked why, the answer was that
In 1954, the Bolivian government invited the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) to
Bolivia with the objective to establish the integration of the indigenous peoples in
national society. SIL stayed on until 1980 and worked on 18 indigenous, mostly
Amazonian, languages. The institute played a pioneering role as far as bilingual
education in the Amazonian lowlands is concerned, but once again missionaries
imposed their Western norms and moral on the indigenous inhabitants of the
Department of Beni by using bilingual education as a tool to launch their cultural and
religious philosophy (cf. Castro Mantilla 1997: 80). Other missionary groups that are
closely related to the SIL and that are still active in Bolivia today are the New Tribes
Mission and the Swiss Mission.
In 1951, the anthropologist François-Xavier Beghin stayed for two months with
the last group of 14 surviving Jorá (Tupian) at the Bolsón de Oro Lagoon, to the east
of Magdalena and the San Joaquín River. During his stay he found traces of a
massacre in an abandoned Jorá village49. According to the surviving Jorá, the major
part of the village’s inhabitants had been exterminated a year and a half before during
one of the “punitive” expeditions undertaken by whites, criollos and mestizos in
order to “reduce” and “domesticate” one of the last tribes that had the audacity to
defend its hunting grounds and crops (cf. Beghin 1976: 130). In 1955 only five Jorá
were left, and today the group, and therefore the language, is most probably extinct.
On November 9, 2001, 10 landless campesinos50 were massacred and more than
20 injured, about 40 km from Yacuiba, the capital of the Province of Gran Chaco,
Department of Tarija, in the south of Bolivia near the Argentinean border. Today in
Bolivia 4,5% of the landowners still possess 70% of the total disposable land.
Confronted with the unjust land distribution and having lost hope that the Ley INRA
will allot them land, campesino families decided in May 2000 to organize Núcleos de
Campesinos Sin Tierra51 and started to occupy land of big estates that did not fulfil
any economic or social function52 in the Province of Gran Chaco. On June 23, 2000,
180 families occupied the first big estate, the Pananti estate of 3,000 hectares near
Yacuiba. Today more than 18 Núcleos de Campesinos Sin Tierra exist. The 180
families of the Núcleo de Campesinos Sin Tierra de Pananti were attacked by
landowners and paramilitary groups with the help of police and army. These attacks
have been systematically repeated since the families first occupied the Pananti estate
in June 2000, and the persecution of the landless campesinos has not stopped after the
massacre at the Pananti estate. The Bolivian authorities have not taken any measures
to curb the violence against the campesinos. The 1996 INRA Law was meant to put a
stop to the illegitimate assignment and unequal distribution of land, but up till now
the land distribution problems still have not been solved. The Instituto Nacional de
they had gotten used to Spanish, that their grandchildren always spoke to them in Spanish and did not
understand Ignaciano.
Whenever one of the Jorá died, the other members of the group abandoned the village.
See Section 2.3, 3rd paragraph.
‘Centers of Landless Peasants’
See Section 3, penultimate paragraph.
Reforma Agraria has not succeeded in reverting to the State the abandoned, idle or
illegal estates, which preferably should be allotted to indigenous peoples and
communities without land. This is partly due to the ambiguity of the INRA Law, but
more than anything to the fact that the State keeps giving in to the pressure of the
influential class of large landowners that is opposed to the planned changes in the
structure of agrarian landownership.53
Exactly 50 years have gone by since Beghin’s visit to the Jorá in 1951 and the
massacre at the Pananti estate –which in view of the tension built up around the land
allotment question could just as easily have taken place in the Department of Beni–.
Unfortunately very little seems to have changed in this time span. As long as the
indigenous inhabitants of the Department of Beni get exterminated over conflicts
about land or other economic matters, as long as they keep on living in a form of debt
servitude in which they get paid less than what the landowners charge them for food,
clothing and other goods, as long as they are completely dependent on the
landowners for cash money54, and as long as they are treated as some kind of thirdrate population group, there will be very little chance that the dissolution of the ethnic
groups and the disappearance of their languages will come to an end.
5. Conclusion
The pending loss of languages, such as Itonama, Cayubaba, and Reyesano55, will have
serious consequences for the transfer of knowledge to a younger generation concerning
the surroundings and cultural traditions of the ethnic groups in question. After all,
language reflects the unique world-view and culture complex of its speech community.
Wurm (1999: 33-34) points out that with the disappearance of each language, an
irreplaceable unit in our knowledge and understanding of human thought and worldview gets lost for ever. This results in a reduction of the human knowledge base as it
may be expressed through language. Every language is a symbol of the ethnic identity of
its speakers, and its documentation tends to keep it alive. However, the mere
documentation of (seriously) endangered or moribund languages is not enough. As
stressed by Grinevald Craig (1997: 270), linguists should combine salvage
linguistics56 and archiving efforts with efforts of revitalizing or maintaining
endangered languages. In the case of the indigenous languages of the Beni, this is not
an easy task, since generally numbers of speakers are very low and, moreover,
speakers are not convinced of the need to maintain the indigenous language.
However, there is hope that the growing ethnic self-consciousness and pride of many
groups in the Department of Beni in the past decade may lead to a resurgent interest
of the speakers in their own native languages.
Full report at
Especially for health issues cash is needed to pay a doctor or to buy medicine.
See Section 3.
Label that is sometimes used for the linguistic documentation of dying languages.
Adelaar, Willem F.H.
1991 ‘The endangered languages problem: South America’, in: R.H. Robins and E.H.
Uhlenbeck (eds.) Endangered Languages, Oxford/New York: Berg, pp. 45-91.
1998 ‘The endangered situation of native languages in South America’, in: Kazuto
Matsumura (ed.) Studies in endangered languages (Papers from the International Symposium on Endangered Languages, Tokyo, 18-20 November
1995), Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo, pp. 1-15.
‘Threatened languages in Hispanic South America’, in: Matthias Brenzinger
Baptista Morales, Javier
1995 ‘Los Misioneros Jesuitas de Mojos’, Yachay 21: 71-90, Cochabamba:
Universidad Católica Boliviana.
Beghin, François-Xavier
1976 ‘Exacciones a las poblaciones indias de Amazonia’, in: Robert Jaulin (ed.) El
etnocidio a través de las Américas, México D.F.: Siglo Veintiuno Editores
S.A., pp. 127-67, [Spanish translation of Jaulin (ed.) [1972] Le livre blanc de
l’ethnocide en Amérique, Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard].
Block, David
1994 Mission culture on the upper Amazon: native tradition, Jesuit enterprise, &
secular policy in Moxos, 1660-1880, Lincoln/London: University of Nebraska
Brenzinger, Matthias (ed.)
Language Diversity Endangered, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Castro Mantilla, María Dolores
1997 La viva voz de las tribus. El trabajo del ILV en Bolivia 1954-1980, La Paz:
Crevels, Mily and Willem F.H. Adelaar
2000- UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages: South America, on-line ver2002 sion:
2001 ‘South America’, in: Stephen A. Wurm (ed.) Atlas of the World’s Languages
in Danger of Disappearing (Second edition, revised, enlarged and updated),
Paris: UNESCO Publishing, pp. 80-81.
Denevan, William M.
1966 The aboriginal cultural geography of the Llanos de Mojos of Bolivia,
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Eguiluz, Diego de
1884 Historia de la Misión de Mojos [1696] Lima: Imprenta del Universo de C.
Geary, James
1997 ‘Speaking in tongues’, Time 150/1: 38-44.
Grimes, Barbara E. (ed.)
1996 Ethnologue. Languages of the World, 13th edition, Dallas (TX): Summer
Institute of Linguistics.
Grinevald Craig, Colette
1997 ‘Language contact and language degeneration’, in: Florian Coulmas (ed.) The
Handbook of Sociolinguistics, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., pp. 257-70.
Grinevald, Colette
1998 ‘Language endangerment in South America: a programmatic approach’, in:
Lenore A. Grenoble and Lindsay I. Whaley (eds.) Endangered languages:
current issues and future prospects, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
pp. 124-59.
Heath, Edwin R.
1882 ‘Exploration of the Beni river’, Journal of the American Geographical
Society of New York 14: 116-65.
Lehm Ardaya, Zulema
1999 Milenarismo y movimientos sociales en la Amazonía boliviana. La búsqueda
de la Loma Santa y la marcha indígena por el territorio y la dignidad, Santa
Cruz de la Sierra: APCOB-CIDDEBENI-OXFAM América.
Lema Garrett, Ana María (ed.)
1998 Pueblos indígenas de la Amazonía boliviana, La Paz: AIP/FIDA/CAF/
Lijerón Casanovas, Arnaldo
1998 Mojos-Beni: Introducción a la historia amazónica, Trinidad, Bolivia:
Editorial RB.
Magio, Antonio
1880 Arte de la lengua de los indios baures de la Provincia de los Moxos conforme
al manuscrito original del P. Antonio Magio de la Compañía de Jesús,
[1749], edited by Lucien Adam and C. Leclerc, Paris: Maisonneuve & Cia.
Marbán, Pedro
1894 Arte de la lengua moxa con su vocabulario y cathecismo [1701], published by
Julio Platzmann, Leipzig: B.G. Teubner.
Menacho, Antonio
1995 ‘Crónica de una expulsión’, Yachay 21: 93-118, Cochabamba: Universidad
Católica Boliviana.
Métraux, Alfred
1942 The native tribes of Eastern Bolivia and Western Matto Grosso, Smithsonian
Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 134, Washington.
Moore, Denny
‘Endangered Languages of Lowland Tropical South America’, in: Matthias
Brenzinger (ed.).
Moreno, Gabriel René
1973 Catálogo del archivo de Mojos y Chiquitos, La Paz: Editorial Juventud.
Nordenskiöld, Erland
1922 Indianer und Weisse in Nordostbolivien, Stuttgart: Strecker und Schröder,
[German translation of Nordenskiöld [1911] Indianer och hvita i nordöstra
Bolivia. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag].
Orbigny, Alcide d’
1958 Viajes por América del Sur, edición con estudio y notas, de los textos de
d’Orbigny [Viajes y viajeros. Biblioteca indiana. Colección de textos
anotados 3], edited by Charles Wiener and Carlos M. de la Condamine,
Madrid: Aguilar.
Plaza Martínez, Pedro and Juan Carvajal Carvajal
1985 Etnias y Lenguas de Bolivia, La Paz: Instituto Boliviano de Cultura.
Steward, Julian H. (ed.)
1963 Handbook of South American Indians, vol. 3, The tropical forest tribes,
Copper Square Publishers.
Vaca Diez, Antonio
1989 De Santa Cruz a Reyes: Crónica de un viaje, Serie Biblioteca Médica
Boliviano, vol. 1, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Wurm, Stephen A.
1999 ‘Languages in danger: The life and death of the world’s languages’.
Multiethnica 24-25: 28-35, Uppsala: University of Uppsala.
Wolf Dietrich
Universität Münster
1.1. Objetivos
En esta comunicación quisiera dar información sobre el proyecto de un atlas lingüístico que abarca la zona del contacto de dos lenguas de origen europeo, el castellano y
el portugués, y del guaraní, hablado por más del 90% de la población del Paraguay y
de regiones adyacentes de la Argentina y del Brasil. En otra ocasión (Dietrich 1994)
ya presenté algunos primeros resultados de las encuestas que hicimos en el curso de
este proyecto. Este guaraní, que aquí llamamos “guaraní criollo” porque no coincide
simplemente con el guaraní paraguayo en el sentido estricto, es hablado por cerca de
5 millones de hablantes, todos no indígenas, sino nacionales de los respectivos países.
Uno de los objetivos del futuro atlas lingüístico es saber hasta dónde se extiende el
guaraní criollo en los tres países mencionados y cuál es el grado de competencia de
los hablantes en guaraní, cuántos monolingües hay y, en el caso de los bilingües, con
qué destreza manejan cada una de las dos lenguas. Para esto, se están haciendo encuestas en un mínimo de ochenta lugares de la zona, de los cuales más de cincuenta
ya han sido explorados. Presentaremos a continuación algunos detalles del método y
del cuestionario empleado.
1.2. La situación histórica
Aparte de las lenguas europeas y del guaraní criollo, fruto de las condiciones muy
particulares de la misión jesuítica de la época colonial, hay tres lenguas guaraníes
étnicas existentes hasta hoy en la zona mencionada: son el mbyá, el chiripá (así llamado en Paraguay) o nhandeva (nombre dado en Brasil) y el kaiwá o kaiová (nombre
usual en Paraguay) o paĩ (denominación usual en Paraguay). Si el guaraní criollo se
caracteriza por un mayor o menor grado de influencia del castellano, las lenguas étnicas mencionadas representan algo como el punto de referencia de un guaraní puro,
original. No sabemos exactamente cuál fue el origen dialectal del guaraní paraguayo
de hoy ni tampoco sabemos en qué medida este guaraní se relaciona con el de la misión jesuítica, el llamado guaraní antiguo o clásico. Sin embargo, queda claro que, en
el momento de la expulsión de los jesuitas en 1768, los indios guaraníes que habían
vivido en las reducciones, en parte volvieron a la selva y se juntaron con sus compatriotas que no habían entrado en dichas reducciones. El chiripá y el kaiwá son lenguas
étnicas que, en su fonética, su morfología, sintaxis y léxico, se distinguen muy poco
del guaraní criollo literario, auténtico, con la diferencia de que desconocen el gran
número de hispanismos léxicos y sintácticos. Lamentablemente hasta hoy no existe
ninguna gramática de las tres lenguas y sólo del mbyá tenemos dos diccio-narios,
bastante incompletos (Dooley 1982, Cadogan 1992). El mbyá, aunque difiera del
chiripá y del kaiwá tanto en su sistema fonológico como en su morfología y sintaxis,
se puede, con lo todo, considerar como un pariente muy cercano del conjunto guaraní
para que sirva igualmente de lengua de comparación en nuestro proyecto.
1.3. La situación actual en el Paraguay y la Argentina
Desde 1992 se está elaborando el Atlas Lingüístico Guaraní-Románico (ALGR) en un
proyecto común que el colega Harald Thun, de la Universidad de Kiel (Alemania), y
yo estamos realizando junto con la Facultad de Lenguas Vivas de la Universidad
Evangélica del Paraguay, institución que se dedica también a la formación de profesores de guaraní en la enseñanza bilingüe del Paraguay. El objetivo del proyecto es
registrar la variación lingüística en las regiones que corresponden a la antigua zona
guaranítica del Paraguay y del Río de la Plata, es decir a la parte oriental del Paraguay moderno, situada al este del Río Paraguay, y las regiones limítrofes de la Argentina y del Brasil. Incluimos, sin embargo, todas las regiones a las que el gua-raní
criollo se ha extendido en el curso de los siglos XIX y XX, es decir, el Chaco paraguayo, las Provincias argentinas de Corrientes, Misiones, Formosa, Chaco y el Norte
de Santa Fe, así como el Sur del Estado brasileño de Mato Grosso do Sul y el Oeste
del Estado de Paraná. Todavía no sabemos nada concreto sobre la situación del noroeste de Río Grande do Sul y del oeste de Santa Catarina.
La situación lingüística del Paraguay actual está caracterizada por una presencia
fuerte del guaraní, en cuanto lengua materna de la mayoría de la población, sobre
todo rural, y de la comunicación solidaria, que se da normalmente entre personas que
se conocen. Esta presencia es apoyada hoy en día por la oficialización del guaraní,
que fue realizada en 1991 y que desencadenó una serie de medidas en la enseñanza
del guaraní en las escuelas del país. Frente a esto, la situación de las regiones limítrofes de la Argentina es bastante diferente ya que falta no sólo el apoyo político, sino
también el prestigio del que goza el guaraní en el Paraguay. Se trata de las Provincias
de Corrientes, con un guaraní muy auténtico y vivo en el noroeste de la Provincia, de
Formosa, Chaco, norte de Santa Fe y Misiones. En muchas partes, el guaraní está en
una situación de fuerte decadencia, con fenómenos de pérdida lingüís-tica de la que
vamos a dar ejemplos concretos a continuación.
1.4. La situación actual en el Brasil
En el Brasil, en el oeste de los Estados de Paraná y Mato Grosso del Sur, la situación
es muy diferente según las regiones y se basa principalmente en la imigración reciente de paraguayos. La población de la región occidental del Estado de Paraná se
compone mayormente de imigrantes de polacos, ucranianos, italianos, alemanes y
"gauchos", es decir brasileños del extremo sur del país, del Estado de Río Grande del
Sur, que han llegado allá a partir de finales del siglo pasado. De este modo el guaraní
es inexistente allí, con la excepción de los lugares de frontera, Foz do Iguaçu y Guaí-
ra, donde se manifiestan contactos tradicionales con el Paraguay desde los años
ochenta del siglo pasado. En esa zona no queda, sin embargo, ningún vestigio de la
presencia de los españoles ni de la misión jesuítica de principios del siglo XVII. En
Mato Grosso do Sul, la zona del guaraní minoritario se extiende desde la frontera con
el Paraguay hasta la capital, Campo Grande, con un centro alrededor de Dourados,
pero la extensión exacta queda todavía por definir.
2.1. Metodología de las encuestas
Las encuestas, en cada lugar de exploración, se hacen en guaraní y a partir del guaraní, con un hablante nativo paraguayo. Se hacen con un mínimo de cuatro personas o
grupos diferentes, según el grado de instrucción (clase alta y clase baja, Ca/Cb) y
según la edad (oponemos la generación de los ancianos, a partir de 50 años (GI), a la
de los jóvenes (entre 18 y 36 años, GII). Así, en cada lugar, tendremos una información pluridimensional, representada por una cruz, símbolo que permite dar cuatro
informaciones. Arriba se colocan las respuestas de la clase sociocultural alta, abajo
las de la clase baja (parámetro diastrático); a la izquierda colocamos las de la GII, a la
derecha las de la GI: CaGII/CaGI
El cuestionario consta de unas 400 preguntas que se refieren a datos sociolingüísticos
y a la actitud del hablante ante la lengua guaraní, a la fonética y fonología del guaraní
y al léxico. Preguntamos, en esta sección, por las partes del cuerpo, actividades corporales, como ‘roncar’, ‘eructar’ o ‘regoldar’, defectos corporales, como ‘bizco’, ‘jorobado’, o ‘legaña’, ‘orzuelo’ y denominaciones humorísticas de la cabeza, de la orejas, de la nariz, de personas sordas etc., tanto en guaraní como en castellano.
Otra parte léxica se refiere al parentesco, donde, por ejemplo, se observa, por un lado,
la conservación de la estructura tradicional de la familia y de los térmi-nos reservados
a la designación de las hermanas y hermanos mayores y menores, tanto desde el punto de vista de la mujer como del varón:
che ryk’y ‘mi hermano mayor’ (dice el varón), che ryvy ‘mi hermano menor’ (dice el varón), che reindy ‘mi hermana’ (dice el varón), che kyvy ‘mi
hermano’ (dice la mujer), che ryke ‘mi hermana mayor’ (dice la mujer), che
kypy’y ‘mi hermana menor’ (dice la mujer).
Esta terminología, que hace la subcategorización cada vez en el propio sexo, pero no
en el ajeno, está conocida y usada sólo en las lenguas étnicas; en el guaraní criollo del
Paraguay, los términos son conocidos por una parte de los informantes ancianos, sobre todo en el campo, pero generalmente no se usan, sino que se usa el sistema del
castellano adaptado simplemente a la morfología del guaraní: che ermáno ‘mi hermano’, che ermána ‘mi hermana’, ne ermáno/ermána ‘tu hermano/ -a’, iñermáno/
iñermána ‘su hermano/,-a’. Al mismo tiempo, se observa la desagregación parcial o
total del sistema y la sustitución por el sistema castellano, tanto en lo que se refiere al
conocimiento pasivo como, y tanto más, en lo que concierne el uso. Se ha abandonado la subcategorización en el propio sexo, que antes era usual en el guaraní. En la
Argentina, donde la desagregación está casi completa en este campo semántico, algunos informantes ancianos de las regiones donde el guaraní está todavía muy vivo conocen algunos términos, pero no todos. Si se mantiene un par de términos son siempre el de che ryke’y ‘hermano mayor’ (del varón), y che reindy ‘hermana’ (del varón). Entre los jóvenes argentinos de la región, sobre todo de la clase de poca instrucción escolar, se registra un desconocimiento casi total de los términos específicos.Siguen en el cuestionario otras secciones, que se refieren a la orientación en el
espacio, a la denominación de los colores y partes que miden el grado del dominio de
la sintaxis castellana o portuguesa, respectivamente. Se pide una traducción castellana o portuguesa de frases del guaraní que se refieren a la valencia sintáctica, al
uso de los pronombres personales de objeto, a la expresión de conceptos locales, etc.
Al final, hay una sección de conversación dirigida sobre temas etnográficos y una de
lectura. Se pide la lectura de un texto altamente literario, en este caso bíblico, tanto
en guaraní como en castellano o portugués. Salvo en el caso de analfabetos, la lectura
en guaraní no causa problemas fundamentales en el Paraguay, donde la gente, en gran
parte, tiene una escolarización por lo menos parcial en guaraní, lo que no es el caso
en absoluto en la Argentina y el Brasil, donde los hablantes del guaraní, que, en general, nunca tuvieron la ocasión de ver un texto escrito en guaraní, se niegan al principio a tratar de leer. Sin embargo, la lectura del texto de la parábola del hijo pródigo
(NT, Mt 15, 11-32), con sus arcaísmos y sus construcciones sintácticas desacostumbradas, sí presenta, en general, grandes difi-cultades para los informantes, tanto en
guaraní como en castellano o, respectiva-mente, en portugués. La lectura, parámetro
diafásico en nuestra exploración pluri-dimensional, es altamente reveladora con respecto a la familiaridad del informante con ciertos lexemas, ciertas formas gramaticales, ciertas construcciones sintácticas. Los errores cometidos dejan entrever las costumbres lingüísticas del informante respectivo.
2.2. Arcaísmos en Corrientes frente a neologismos en Paraguay
En el campo de la fonogía y fonética no hay grandes diferencias entre el guaraní étnico y el criollo en aquellas zonas en las que el guaraní está vivo y no en vía de desaparición. La africada /č/ tradicional, que se ha vuelto fricativa, [], en Paraguay, se mantiene en las lenguas étnicas salvo en el caso, bastante frecuente, de los indios aculturados. Muchos de ellos son trilingües, es decir que hablan su propio idioma, el guaraní paraguayo y, aunque imperfectamente, el castellano. El guaraní criollo, para ellos,
no tiene ningún prestigio frente a su propia lengua, pero lo saben hablar para adaptarse a los nacionales y demonstrar que no son inferiores a ellos. La [č] se man-tiene,
en forma de la realización arcaizante [č] también en el guaraní muy particular de la
provincia argentina de Corrientes, que no es simplemente una extensión del guaraní
paraguayo, sino un guaraní independiente que se ha formado desde finales del siglo
XVIII. Parece que en aquella zona, al sur del Río Paraná, hubo guaraníes ya antes de
la creación de las reducciones jesuíticas. Después de la abolición de las reducciones,
una parte de los habitantes de ellas huyó al sur, se juntó con los guara-níes libres y
los colonos españoles, gauchos en su mayoría, y, en la época de las guerras de independencia, se escondieron en los esteros del Iberá (de y vera ‘aguas brillantes’). Sobrevivieron y, en el nuevo Estado de la Argentina, se desarrollaron de manera completamente independiente de sus antiguos connacionales del Paraguay.
En ambos estados, hay una diglosia en el sentido de que, tradicionalmente, el
guaraní es la lengua de la intimidad y solidaridad, el castellano la lengua de la vida
pública y de la oficialidad. En el Paraguay, desde 1992, año de la oficialización del
guaraní, esta lengua se está enseñando en muchas escuelas y la enseñanza se está desarrollando en guaraní en siempre más materias. Esto crea varios problemas prácticos
y teóricos: hay que formar docentes para la enseñanza y decidir cuál será el nivel del
guaraní enseñado. ¿Se enseñará el jopara, esa mezcla de guaraní con muchos términos y muchas construcciones tomadas del castellano, que es el guaraní hablado en las
calles y en las casas, o un guaraní más puro, menos popular, pero más auténtico, más
literario? Pero, ¿cómo crear, en el segundo caso, una terminología propia para conceptos modernos como ‘teléfono’, ‘pagamiento’, ‘democracia’, ‘universidad’, etc.,
necesidad inevitable si se quiere que el guaraní no sea sólo la lengua de la tradición y
del folclore. Sobre estas problemáticas hay dicusiones muy vivas en la actualidad, es
decir sobre el problema de saber si son aceptables neologismos descriptivos como los
que siguen (cf. Krivoshein de Canese/Acosta Alcaraz 1997):
porokua pavê reko
mbo’eha guasu
‘sonido lejano’ para designar ‘teléfono’
‘REFL/NOM-precio-dar’, ‘lo que se da’ para designar
el ‘paga-miento’
‘modo de gobernar todos a la gente’ para designar el
concepto ‘democracia’
‘enseñar-NOM loc-AUGM’, ‘casa grande de la enseñanza’ para designar ‘universidad’.1
2.3. Evolución fonológica en Corrientes
Para dar más información sobre la desagregación del guaraní criollo en la provincia
argentina de Corrientes, diremos que, en la fonética, se observa la frecuente debilitación de las vocales nasales, que puede ir hasta la desnasalización total. Este fenómeno se observa sólo en el habla de personas que ya no hablan con fluidez y no tienen
muchas ocasiones de hablar guaraní. Así, parece que es un fenómeno de la lenta pérdida de la lengua. En regiones rurales del noroeste de la Provincia, donde la lengua
está viva, y en el habla de informantes que hablan fluentemente, no se observó ni
siquiera la mínima huella de este fenómeno. La desnasalización parece producirse
sobre todo en la sílaba fonológicamente decisiva, en la final, por ejemplo, en:
REFL ‘reflexivo, NOM ‘nominalizador’, NOM loc ‘nominalizador locativo’, AUGM ‘augmentativo’,
ELAT ‘grado elativo’.
porá [po’ra] en lugar de porã [põ’rã] ‘lindo, bueno’
En la mayoría de los casos, la nasalidad de la palabra fonética o del sintagma, que en
guaraní se extiende a partir de la sílaba tóncia, se mantiene en la sílaba precedente, de
modo que no hay problema de orden fonológico, por ejemplo:
chẽ tí ‘mi nariz’ en lugar de chẽ tĩ
iñãký [iã’kĩ] ‘está mojado’ en lugar de iñã’kỹ [iã’k]
õké [õ’ke] ‘puerta’
Pero se escucha también oké [o’ke] en lugar de õkẽ [õ’kẽ] ‘puerta’. En el caso de oké,
el signo sería homófono con la forma verbal
oké ‘durmió’
pero tendremos que analizar con métodos más sofisticados si en la conciencia de los
locutores hay oposición u homofonía sólo para nuestros oídos inadaptados al dialecto
o si hay realmente homofonía. Además, la nasalidad se mantiene en muchas palabras
en el habla de ciertas personas, sobre todo de la clase baja, pero irregularmente. El
abandono, por lo menos parcial de la oposición ‘nasal’ – ‘oral’ parece ser evidente si
se tiene en cuenta que muchas de las parejas mínimas tradicionales no se dan en el
guaraní correntino ya que uno de los elementos léxicos no se usa, como, por ejemplo:
apu’a ‘redondo’ frente a apu’ã ‘levantamiento, levantarse’
En el guaraní correntino existe sólo [apua] o [ãpua], sin oposición semántica, con
el sentido de ‘levantarse’ y ‘(vientre) levantado’, es decir ‘(mujer) embarazada’,
mientras que el concepto ‘redondo’ se expresa por el hispanismo i-redóndo‘es redondo’.
2.4. La nasalidad en el guaraní correntino
La nasalidad no se extiende progresivamente en el sintagma, de modo que no funciona ni la prenasalización de las oclusivas sordas: /p/ > [mb], /t/ > [nd], /k/ > [g], como en el pasaje morfofonológico de una base como
oký ‘llovió’ a la forma causativa omongý ‘hizo llover’
pero, en el guaraní correntino, omboký, ni la nasalización de /p/ > [m], /t/ > [n], /k/ >
[] con las consecuencias morfonológicas previsibles:
(guaraní correntino)
nde tí ‘tu nariz’ en lugar de ne tĩ
ñũpe ‘en el campo’ en lugar de ñũme
guaranípe ‘en guaraní’ en lugar de guaraníme (véase también Adelaar
1994: 128-133)
Este fenómeno, que existe también en lenguas étnicas, como, por ejemplo, en mbyá,
debe considerarse como un arcaísmo lingüístico en el guaraní correntino, y no como
un elemento de decadencia. El guaraní correntino, en este como en otros casos, no ha
sufrido la normalización lingüística ejercida por parte de las instituciones paraguayas.
2.5. La vocal central cerrada en el guaraní correntino
La vocal central //, en el habla imperfecta de muchos hablantes, se realiza de otra
manera que en el guaraní paraguayo: es menos labializada y, sobre todo, más palatal.
A veces parece confundirse con la /i/ aunque sea quizás incorrecto decir que la oposición //-/i/ se haya suprimido. Hasta en casos como [aiki’ti] en lugar de [aik’tĩ] ‘yo
[lo] corté’ la vocal respectiva parece ser algo distinta de la /i/ final. Los jóvenes muchas veces la realizan como una velar labializada y más abierta delante de una sílaba
acentuada del tipo:
C + /u/: [pun’tu], [p’tú] en lugar de [p’tũ] ‘oscuridad, noche’
El fenómeno aparece también en el habla de jóvenes de las regiones brasileñas ya
visitadas y está todavía por analizar más detalladamente. Eventualmente podría interpretarse como un fenómeno más general de la inseguridad fónica de ciertos hablantes.
2.6. Reducciones en el léxico del guaraní correntino
Además, se observan reducciones gramaticales y léxicas en el guaraní correntino de
todos los lugares explorados. Esto se refiere a la perdida de la numeración de más de
‘dos’, a veces ya a partir de ‘uno’, es decir, de peteĩ ‘uno’, mokõi ‘dos’, mbohapy
‘tres’, irundy ‘cuatro’ y a la pérdida de los términos de parentesco tradicionales (no
sólo de la designación de hermanos mayores y menores del varón y de hermanas
mayores y menores de la mujer, términos sustituidos por che ermáno ‘mi hermano’ y
che ermána ‘mi hermana’, sino también la frecuente sustitución de:
che ména ‘mi esposo’ por che espóso, y de
che rembireko ‘mi esposa’ por che kuña ‘mi mujer’
t-amõi, che r-amõi ‘antepasado’ y ‘abuelo’
La palabra t-amõi, che r-amõi (13), que en lenguas étnicas como el mbyá significa
‘antepasado’ y ‘abuelo’, ha perdido el segundo significado en el guaraní paraguayo y
se usa sólo para ‘antepasados’. El ‘abuelo’ se llama che taitá guasú o, más comúnmente, por che abuelo. En el guaraní correntino, sin embargo, che r-amõi se ha perdido como tal y se sustituye por el hispanismo respectivo.
che jarýi ‘mi abuela’
Che jarýi ‘mi abuela’ es un lexema vivo en mbyá como en el guaraní paraguayo, pero
muy poco conocido en el guaraní correntino. Igualmente desconocidas en el guaraní
correntino son las designaciones del ‘nieto’ y de la ‘nieta con respecto al abuelo’
(15a), y del ‘nieto’ y de la ‘nieta con respecto a la abuela’ (15b), palabras completamente vivas en mbyá.
(15) a
che r-emimenõ
che r-emiarirõ
En el guaraní paraguayo, se observan una reducción del sistema guaraní de los términos del parentesco y un cambio semántico: La distinción guaraní entre la referencia al
abuelo o a la abuela ha sido abandonada y sustituida por un término único, che remiarirõ ‘mi nieto, -a’. De este modo, el sistema está entre el guaraní puro, que no
distingue el sexo de la persona designada, pero sí el de la persona de referencia, y el
castellano, que preve distinciones contrarias. Un elemento de semi-romanización. El
viejo término che remimeno, así en la ortografía oficial paraguaya, es un arcaísmo
inusitado en Paraguay y una palabra completamente perdida en el guaraní correntino.
Thun y Aquino (1998: 12-14) han descrito los resultados obtenidos, en el Paraguay, con respecto a (16):
che uke’i ‘mi cuñada (dice la mujer)’, y
che r-ovaja ‘mi cuñado/cuñada (dice el varón)’
La distinción que tradicionalmente se hace con respecto al varón, y que refleja la posición social de la esposa en la familia del marido, está completamente viva en las
sociedades tradicionales de las etnias guaraníes, pero ya no en las de los nacionales
paraguayos y argentinos. Sin embargo, mientras que uke’i se usa muy poco en Paraguay, pero se conoce bastante como arcaísmo, la palabra está completamente desconocida entre los guaranihablantes de la Provincia de Corrientes. Allí, che r-ovaja es
el término único para ‘cuñada, cuñado’ en todos los respectos, como también en el
habla moderna de muchos paraguayos.
En el guaraní correntino se observa además:
la pérdida de la orientación local. Ejemplos de este fenómeno son:
che akatúa ‘mi derecha’ sustituido por che derecha, che asúa ‘mi izquierda’ por che iskjérda, palabras vivas y usuales tanto en mbyá como en el
guaraní paraguayo;
la pérdidad de la terminología del cuerpo humano en casos como:
che kwã ‘mi dedo’ sustituido por che dédo;
iii) la pérdida de términos para colores básicos como:
hový ‘azul y verde oscuro’ sustituido por el hispanismo;
iv) la pérdidad de conceptos fundamentales como:
kuimba’é ‘varón’, sustituido por ómbre, etc.
3. Morfología, categorías gramaticales y sintaxis
En la morfología y sintaxis no hay grandes diferencias entre el guaraní étnico y el
criollo. Es verdad que el mbyá no conoce el doble futuro del kaiwá, del chiripá y del
guaraní criollo. De los sufijos ’-ta ‘futuro con respecto al presente’ y ’-ne ‘futuro
absoluto’ sólo usa ’-ta. En este caso es una de las lenguas étnicas que no ha aceptado
la innovación ’-ta en la historia relativamente reciente de las lenguas tupí-guaraníes.
Pero es verdad también que el futuro absoluto, en el guaraní paraguayo y en el correntino, hoy en día más bien tiene el valor de un modo de la probabilidad epistémica
que el de un tiempo:
‘probablemente irán’
Todas las lenguas mencionadas mantienen la diátesis reflexiva en je-, ñe, la recíproca
en jo-, ño-, la factitiva en mbo-, mo-, la factitivo-comitativa en ro- y la causativa en
-uka y toda la demás morfología que las lenguas guaraníes tienen en común. El guaraní criollo hace un uso excesivo de la voz reflexiva para expresar acciones que ocurren sin agente, por ejemplo:
o-je-he’i upéicha
3-REFL-decir como esto
‘así se dice’, según el modelo castellano.
‘futuro absolutivo’.
Esta construcción, que sigue el modelo del castellano, es sólo un abuso normativo,
no una desviación sistemática. Con respecto a la gramática y sintaxis, en las grandes
líneas, hasta el guaraní criollo forma parte del conjunto de las lenguas indígenas.
4. Conclusión
En resumen, se puede constatar un orden gradual que toma su punto de partida en las
lenguas étnicas, más o menos “puras”, aunque ellas también sufren el influjo de las
lenguas nacionales que las rodean, el castellano y el portugués, y que pasa por el guaraní criollo del Paraguay, cuya forma culta, el llamado guarani-eté ‘guaraní-ELAT’,
está muy cerca de las lenguas étnicas, para llegar al jopará ‘mezcla’, ‘lengua mixta’,
caracterizado por muchas influencias léxicas y sintácticas del castellano (cf. Lustig
1996). Éstas pueden ser préstamos tanto directos como indirectos. Frente a este orden, el guaraní correntino presenta características arcaizantes, por una parte, y, por
otra parte, rasgos de una lengua ya reducida en varios aspectos de la fonética y del
Adelaar, Willem F.H.
1994 ‘The nasal/oral distinction in Paraguayan Guaraní suffixes’, en: Mary Ruth
Wise (coord.), Lingüística tupí-guaraní/caribe. Etudios presentados en el 47º
Congreso Internacional de Americanistas, 7-11 de julio de 1991, Nueva Orleans, Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Etnolingüísticos (Lima, Perú),
VIII: 125-133.
Cadogan, León
1992 Diccionario Mbyá-Guaraní – Castellano, Edición preparada por Friedl Grünberg bajo la dirección de Bartomeu Melià, Asunción: CEADUC – CEPAG.
Dietrich, Wolf
1994 ‘Mbyá, guaraní criollo y castellano: El contacto de las tres lenguas estudiado
en un grupo mbyá de Misiones’, Signo & Seña. Revista del Instituto de
Lingüística (Buenos Aires) 3: 55-71.
2001 ‘Zum historischen Sprachkontakt in Paraguay: Spanische Einflüsse im
Guaraní, Guaraní-Einflüsse im regionalen Spanisch’, en: Gerda Hassler (dir.),
Sprachkontakt und Sprachwandel, Münster: Nodus (im Druck).
Dooley, Robert A.
1982 Vocabulário do Guaraní. Vocabulário Básico do Guaraní Contemprâneo
(Dialeto Mbüá do Brasil), Brasília: SIL.
Krivoshein de Canese, Natalia y Acosta Alcaraz, Feliciano
1997 Ñe’ẽryru avañe’ẽ - karaiñe’ẽ, karaiñe’ẽ - avañe’ẽ, Diccionario guaraníespañol, español-guaraní, Asunción: Universidad Nacional (Colección
Lustig, Wolf
1996 ‘Mba’éichapa oiko la guarani? Guaraní y jopará en el Paraguay’, Papia 4,2:
Thun, Harald y Aquino, Almidio
1998 ‘El Atlas Lingüístico Guaraní-Románico (ALGR), un trabajo necesario para
actualizar informaciones lingüísticas sobre el español y el guaraní del Paraguay’, Ñemitỹ, Asunción, 36, págs. 8-14. Trad. portuguesa: ‘O Atlas
Lingüístico Guaraní-Românico (ALGR). Um trabalho necessário para atualizar informações lingüísticas sobre o guarani e o espanhol do Paraguai’, Cadernos de Tradução (Porto Alegre) 5, 1999, págs. 53-66.
Sieglinde Falkinger
Österreichisches Lateinamerika Institut
1. Introducción
En el siglo pasado el fenómeno de diferencias en el hablar debido al sexo se juzgó algo
muy exótico y fue localizado primero en pueblos exóticos.
En la literatura lingüística, la diferencia en el lenguaje hablado por mujeres fue vista
como desviada de la norma. Jespersen (1998), presentando ejemplos en chiquitano, habla
de la “debilidad femenina” y Sapir (1990, 1991), quien encuentra ese fenómeno en la
lengua Yana, lo pone entre “abnormal types of speech”. En general se pensaba que el
vocabulario de mujeres era reducido. El lenguaje femenino tenía que ser simple y
emocional. El hablar de los hombres por el contrario se consideraba como constructivo,
práctico, abstracto y más complejo (vea Key 1975: 15). Basándose en esto se tomó por
supuesto la variante mas-culina como norma.
2. Descripción del fenómeno por los jesuitas
El fenómeno de un lenguaje diferente entre hombres y mujeres en el chiquitano fue
mencionado primero en los relatos y gramáticas de los jesuitas en el siglo XVIII.
En ese entonces los jesuitas fueron a tierras lejanas para convertir los indígenas a la
religión católica. Para ese fin aprendieron lenguas indígenas usándolas en la catequesis
para que los paganos entendieran bien la religión cristiana (vea Furlong 1946).
Escribieron muchas gramáticas y vocabularios para poder traducir a esas lenguas los
textos mas importantes del catecismo, los sermones etc. Así también para el
“chiquitano”, o la “lengua chiquita” como la llamaron entonces. Los jesuitas fundaron
en Chiquitos 10 reducciones1 en las cuales se hablaba como lengua general el
chiquitano, la lengua de un grupo de los indígenas de la zona, probablemente de San
Javier o San Rafael, porque esas fueron las primeras fundaciones en las tierras bajas de
En muchas cartas se quejan los jesuitas de las dificultades extraordinarias y las
complicaciones que causaban en el chiquitano las diferencias al hablar entre el hombre y
la mujer:
“... la dificultad que mas ponderan en la Chiquita comunmente diciendo, que las
mugeres hablan lengua distinta dela de los hombres. (...) Para entenderlo supongase
que todos los nombres, pronombres, verbos, preposiciones, y de adverbios, declinables ó
conjugables, tienen (para quando se haya de hablar de tercera persona) una inflexion,
De la palabra latina reductio = reducción: “Ad ecclesiam et vitam cvilem essent reducti”
que podemos llamar varonil, y otra mugeril, en singular, y lo mismo en plural, como se
verá en las tablas de Declinacones y Conjugaciones. Ahora pues, las mugeres jamas
pueden usar dela inflexion varonil; sino es solo quando refieren el dicho, ò clausula que
habló un hombre. Al contario los hombres usan de ambas inflexiones asi en singular,
como en plural, pero con esta diferencia: que de la varonil usan solo quando hablan de
Dios, ò de las divinas Personas, ò de Angeles, Demonios, Hombres, Dioses falsos, y en
suma de todo lo que los Pintores pintan en figura de varon: mas quando hablan de
muger, ò mugeres, o qualquier otra cosa, que no sean las dichas, usan dela inflexion
mugeril, como queda dicho (Ms-Camaño: 4).”2
Los jesuitas encontraron en Chiquitos, una lengua que tenia variación debido al sexo, la
cual constituía una forma ideal para su tarea misional porque los hombres distinguían en
forma gramatical cuando hablaban de “Dios, Angeles, demonios u otros hombres”. ¡Las
mujeres no debian pronunciar esas palabras!
La meta de los jesuitas era la conversión al catolicismo. Sus métodos eran generalmente pragmáticos y no tenían escrúpulos para introducir nuevos conceptos, pero en el
caso del chiquitano tenían que someterse a las exigencias de esa lengua porque como
“hombres que hablaban de Dios” tuvieron que usar la lengua adecuada, y eso no les fue
“No hai duda que tal diferencia de lenguage causa a los principios no pequeño
embarazo; y que un misionero aún despues de practicar por algun tiempo el
confesionario de los hombres, suele todavia rehusar el sentarse a oir confesiones de
mugeres: porque no teniendo aun (por falta de trato) acostumbrado el oido al lenguage
de ellas, temen y con razon, que no las entenderan (Ms-Camaño: 6).”
En los confesionarios se hacian entre otras, las siguientes preguntas:
Hombre hablando con hombre sobre mujer:
“Unchunca nPais naxiñatimo?
Axiñaca apaezo imo?
Taizoo3 atacu aemo?
Aenza4 nemozoe5?
Aapi emotozo naquipoci6?”
Has deseado alga muger?
La deseaste mucho?
Era tu pariente?
Era pariente de tu muger?
Las descripciones históricas que presento, vienen en su mayoría de la “gramatica de la lengua Chiquita”
escrita por el Padre Joaquin Camaño jesuita de La Rioja Argentina, quien después de la expulsión llegó a Italia
y escribió bosquejos gramaticales para el Abate Lorenzo Hervás. El Manuscrito hizo una gran peregrinación
antes de llegar a las manos de Guillermo de Humboldt. Hoy se encuentra entre su herencia en Kracovia. Uso
aquí la ortografía original y también la terminología, las abreviaciones, subrayados y símbolos tal como se
encuentran en los diversos manuscritos.
Ichaiçoca. 1a. 3.o / r. po. Consentir permitir. Con ichacu, atacu & 1a. (= Präp. “por”) (MsM-V: 166)
Aenza . Parta. Interroga. Item “antes bien, quanto mas” (MsP-21)
Consanguinidad, emozoequis: ñemozoequi. Consanguineo, emozoez, zemozoe, emozoe, emozotostii, Pl.
oñemozoe, zomemozoe, amemozoe, +, omemozoez (MsM-V: 165)
Hombre hablando con mujer sobre hombre:
“Axiñaqu imo naqui ñoñeis?
Axiñaca apaezo ymotij?
Taizotij itacu aemo?
Aenza naqui nemozoe?
Aenza emotozo naqui ycan‘7?
(Ms Paris 19: 209f).”
Has deseado â algun he.? (hombre)
Le deseaste mucho?
Es tu pariente?
Es pariente de tu marido?
En este ejemplo se ve que el pronombre masculino naqui y el sufijo -tii caracterizan el
lenguaje del hombre en la tercera persona singular (vea tabla 2 y 4 y 5 en el appendix).
De hombre a hombre, hablando de mujer se usa la versión femenina : objeto [+ fem]
De hombre a mujer, hablando de hombre se usa la versión masculina : objeto [+ masc]
El objeto define el género si el hablante es masculino.
Un detalle que llama la atención es el hecho de que las preguntas en los confesionarios
se hicieron en ambas variantes, pero oraciones elementales como el “Padre nuestro” y el
“Ave Maria” no. Estas solamente se encuentran en la versión masculina en los manuscritos.
Los jesuitas eran monjes que vivían el celibato. Evitaron en lo posible el trato con
mujeres. Se dice por ejemplo del padre Esmid que él nunca entró solo en una casa
particular de indígenas, ni daba la mano a una mujer. Tampoco enseñó a las mujeres
ninguna labor. Este mismo Padre Esmid instruyó a los sacristanes para corregir a los
sacerdotes cuando dijeran alguna “barbaridad”. Eso ilustra que han sido hombres los
informantes y colaboradores de los padres jesuitas en cuanto a la lengua.
Con eso se entiende la perspectiva que tenían. La versión masculina la establecieron
como norma. Eso se ve en la construcción de las tablas de las declinaciones y conjugaciones. Lógico que la forma masculina ocupa el primer lugar (vea las tablas 1, 2 y 3 en el
appendix). La forma femenina se explica al comienzo y no se menciona más.
“Quarto. La tercera persona del plural de varones en qualquiera declinacion es la
misma, que la tercera persona del singular, mudando el tii, en ma, ò en o segun algunas
parsialidades de indios. Y assi de la tercera persona singular ipoostii mudando tii en ma
sale la tercera plural de varones ipoosma, y asi por todos los demas nombres. Item la
tercera singular de mugeres, o de cosa que no sea Dios, Angel, varon, o Demonio, es
la tercera singular de varon, quitado el tii; V:g: ipoostii, quitando el tii, queda ipoos su
casa de ella, de muger, perro, gallina &, y esto en todos los nombres; Por tanto en
adelante se omitiran la tercera singular de muger, y la tercera plural de varones, por
ser cosa tan clara (MsM-G: 7f).”
quipocis esposa, muger casada (MsP-21) Esposa, izipoci, aquipoci, & 1a./ (MsM-V:219)
marido naqui icana (MsM-V:430) Esposo, n‘icana ñy dice la muger (MsM-V: 290)
Lo mismo vale para el verbo (vea el esquema en la tabla 1en el appendix).
femenino vs mugeril
masculino vs varonil
En este ejemplo se ve que la versión femenina es vista como diferente de la masculina y
además incompleta. A los hombres los consideraron más inteligentes y con capacidad de
distinguir algo como ‘género’ - porque el fenómeno de la diferencia en el hablar fue
considerado un tipo de género.
Si definimos género según Hockett “Gender are classes of nouns reflected in the
behaviour of associated words” (Hockett 1958: 231, cit. según Corbett, 1991: 1),
entonces los jesuitas tenían cierta razón. Pero en el chiquitano el ‘género’ no se limita al
nombre, sino que aparece con la misma morfología en verbos y otras clases de palabras.
Las terminaciones del posesivo en la declinación son casi idénticas a las que indican la
persona en la conjugación.
“No tiene la Lengua Chiquita, hablando propriamente, aquella accion de generos,
masculino, femenino, neutro & que tiene la Lengua Latina en sus nombres; pero tiene
una cosa mui semejante; como di á entender hablando (dela) diferencia que hai entre el
parlar varonil, y mugeril. (...) Supuesto esto, se puede mui bien decir que los hombres en
lengua Chiquita, quando no hablan (en) persona de alguna muger, ò como muger, hacen
distincion de genero; consideando como masculinos todos los nombres proprios y
apelativos de Dios, Angeles, Demonios & y como femenino todos los de mugeres,
bestias, y cosas inanimadas; y que usando dela inflexion varonil ò masculina delas
voces declinables quando se refieren en la oracion a alguno de aquellos nombres, y dela
mugeril ò femenina, quando se refieren á alguno de estos otros, vienen hacer una
especie de conordancia en genero semejante àla que se hace (en) la lengua Latina
(Ms-Camaño: 45).”
Sorprendente es que la diferencia solamente se da en la tercera persona en singular y
plural. Vea las listas de las declinaciones y conjugaciones (vea las tablas 1, 2 y 3 en el
“Al contrario en Chiquito no hai concordancia, quando (se) habla en primera ò segunda
persona, ò en primero y segundo posesivo; Porque nombres y verbos & no tienen en
estas mas que una inflexion. La concordancia es solo en las terceras personas, ò
terceras posesivos, donde hai dos inflexiones una: varonil, y otra mugeril. (...) el
Articulo concuerda con el nombre, y el pronombre con el objeto; y hablo de pronombre
indeclinable; porque aunque este y ... articulo no tienen inflexiones, con todo eso como
hai pronombres y articulos varoniles ò masculinos, que no puede usar la mujer, y el
varon usa so(la)mte quando habla de Dios, Angeles, Demonios, hombres & y otros
pronombres (ar)ticulos equivalentes femeninos, que usa siempre la muger, y usa tambien
el varon quando habla de mugeres, bestias &. Este usar el hombre un articulo
(pro)nombre quando habla de cosas que considera como femeninas, y otro qdo habla de
entes que considera como masculinos, viene à ser una especie de concordancia en
genero (Ms-Camaño: 45).”
Más notable es esa diferencia en el plural.
mandole el mi padre á él,
que fuese otra vez en pos de aquel Padre
hombre: baquipuco8ty naqui iyai moty, m‘airoty9 t‘ato isiuty manuqui Pais
mujer: baquipuco n’ixup‘ imo,
m‘airo t‘ato isiu manu Pais
hombre: baquipucoma unama oñeica moma, m‘airoma t‘ato isiu manuma Paica
mujer: upaquipuco n‘oñeica ñome,
m‘ameno t‘auto yosiu man‘iño Paica.
les mandaron los hombres à ellos, que fuesen otra vez en pos de aquellos Padres
(Ms-Camaño: 4).”
Mirando el paradigma de la conjugación y declinación según Camaño (tablas 1 y 3 en el
appendix) se puede ver que la partícula que indica persona o posesión se antepone: es un
prefijo. Las mujeres usan la 3. siguiendo al paradigma de los prefijos, mientras los
hombres usan ambas formas y rompen con esta regla haciendo uso del sufijo –tii en la 3a
persona singular y -ma en la 3a persona plural, hablando de Dios, Angeles, hombres, etc.
Camaño nos da un ejemplo bien detallado:
“Despues de sabido todo esto, enque hai increible multitud de minudisimas reglas, resta
todavia gran peso de dificultad en la practica: porque, como arriva dixe, hai que
atender a concordar adjetivos, sustantivos, verbos, advervios, preposiciones, articulos,
pronombres, relativos; finalmte. todo lo declinable y conjugable, y mucha parte de lo
indeclinable, cada voz, ó cada palabra con el ente à quien se refiere. De modo que
muchas veces en una oracion, o periodo, se van alternando las voces, una en inflexion
mugeril, la siguiente en varonil de singular, la otra en mugeril de plural & el adjetivo en
inflexion mugeril y su sustantivo en varonil, ò al contrario. El verbo en varonil y su
preposicion ò caso en mugeril, ò al reves. La preposicion en mugeril y su caso en
varonil && Cosa tan extraordinaria, y de tanta algarabia bien digna es de algun
exemplo: y asi pongo aqui el primero que me ocurre con su romance literal debajo: y
paraq mejor se note la variedad de concordancias, pongo sobre cada voz una ò dos
Mandar, iquipuca, 2a, 3 co, r. to (MsM-V.425)
Mandato, mandamiento, Baquipucus. Yaquipucu, & 1a./ Niyaquipuco obi, con iñemo, aemo, &. 3a./ Pl.
Niyaquipucu oboi iñemo, & (MsM-V: 425)
Sg: yicaty, aiquity, zirotiity, Pl. oicati o oiquity, zomecaty, amenoty, ziromaty, omenoty – ellas (MsM-G:
letras, que notan la inflexion en que dha voz está. La m. significa inflexion mugeril. La v.
signifca varonil. Si alguna de ellas se añade s. quiere decir que es de singular. Si se
añade p. quiere decir que es de plural.
fueron perdidos
oi-ty Pedro
por Pedro
m.p. m
maniño ni
escritos de
m.s. m. v.p.
yai-taiki-ty omixima12 au n’asarus-ma13
Paica, ni ñaquichonisus atentatos, bellos segun el juicio del los Padres, los quales leyó
m. v.s.
ma-ta-ty yocuu14 aetama-ty, mta ito isucari15 n’ipaqui-tos-ty atoñe
á solas, y también delante de su madre propria
omeenzoro es inflexion mugeril de plur. del verbo ñe‘nzoca; porque la persona paciente,
que son los Escritos, es femenina. Si fuera mascula. diria e‘nzoroma. Por la misma
causa se pone el pronombre mugeril de plural maniño; y no manu de singular; ni
manuma, ni maniqui varoniles, aquel de plural, y este de singular. Por lo mismo se pone
el articulo mugeril ni, que es de ambos numeros; y la inflexion mugeril de plural
omixima del adjetivo oxima; y finalmte. la inflexion tambien mugeril del plural yocuu,
dela preposicion icuu; que es caso del verbo Absoluto ñaquichonimaca, leer, y por tanto
debe concordar con los escritos leidos.
Oity es inflexion varonil singr. dela preposicion zobi; porque su caso es Pedro masculino
= y por lo mismo se pone yaitaiquity inflexion varonil del tercer posesivo de singular del
sustantivo plural yaitaiqui, mis antenatos: porque siendo los antenatos de Pedro, Pedro
es el genitivo de posesion, con quien hade concordar ese sustantivo. Al contrario,
aunque yaitaiqui es el genitivo de posesion de los escritos, está en inflexion varonil de
singular, con todo, como el nombre en si mismo es plural por la particula taiqui, y los
antenatos son muchos, se pone el sustantivo macunumococa (escritos) en su inflexion
varonil de plural ñacunomoco, que debia decir ñacunomocosma: si no sig(....) el varonil
de plural unama, que suple, y entra en lugar dela particula final (...) un à todas las
inflexiones varoniles de plural de todas las Declinaciones. Aetamaty es inflexion varonil
de singular del adverbio ñetama, yo á solas aetama tu a solas: aetamaty, el á solas & y
está en esa inflexion, porque debe concordar con Pedro, que es el que leyó a solas.
Eêzoro. 3a. De ñeêzoca. perderse (..) 5a pl. Omeêzoro. deto. aêzo. Pl. ameêzo (MsP-V)
Escribir, icunomococa, 2a. 3. no, r. to (MsM-V: 284)
Beldad, belleza: coñocos. Oximacas. Izoñoco; acoñoco, icoñocostii. Pl. Ocoñoco, zoizoñoco, & 1a./
ñoximaca, oximaca, oximacastii, &. masc.: oxima, fem.: omixima 5a. / coñotus. Oximatus (MsM-V:82)
Opinion, au niyaçaru, n‘açaru (MsM-G)
Sobre, de cosa llana, icuu. Pl. yocuu. V.g. icuu messas: sobre la mesa (MsM-V: 632)
Isucari = Adv. del lugar “delante de mi”, “en mi presencia” 1. Decl. (MsM-G: 184)
ipaquitosty es tambien inflexion var. de sing. del sustantivo ipaqui, mi madre; que debe
concertar con Pedro masculino, porque este es su genitvo de posesion, que la madre es
de Pedro. Fuera de esta dela inflexion, hai en el mismo nombre otras dos concordancias
tambien masculinas: una que consiste en la sustancia misma del nombre, y otra que
consiste en su incremento, que es la particula to. Por que si Pedro fuera muger, ò si en
lugar de Pedro se pusiera Maria, entonces para decir delante de su madre, se habia de
decir isucari n‘ipapas, con el nombre ipapa, que significa madre de la muger; y sin el
incremento to, ni ta, que no se añaden á los nombres de parentezco, quando se refieren
a muger, si esta no se nombra imediatamente. Quando la muger se nombra despues del
nombre de parentezco, sela añade à este el incremento que le corresponde; y asi se dice
ipapata Maria, madre de Maria: aito Francisca, hijo de Francisca, hijo de Franca.,- que
es de zai, mi hijo.
ñaquichonimataty es inflexion var. de sing. del modo respectivo del verbo absoluto
ñaquichonimaca, que se pone en esa inflexion; porque la persona que hace o que lee es
Pedro. Ni ñaquichonimataty yocuu. En esta frase, ó expresion, el ni que precede al
verbo, junto con el ta inserto en él, y con la preposicion yocuu, forman un relativo de
caso obliquo y de plural mugeril, que todo ello equivale al relativo Latino qua dela
oracion qua legit Petrus. Y así el verbo que está en inflexion varonil, ò masculina, viene
à estar precedido de articulo, seguido de preposicion, y aún penetrado de particula,
todo femenino. El ni, como ya dixe, es articulo mugeril y quando precede à verbo, es
articulo relativo, que aqui se refiere a los escritos leidos: mas de suyo es indiferente
para singular ó plural y para ser relativo de caso recto, (hoc est Nominativo) ò de caso
obliquo. El ta es la particula que forma el modo Respectivo de este verbo, por el qual
modo se hade hablar siempre que la oracion es de relativo de caso obliquo, ó de relativo
que en Latin debe estar en Genitivo, Dativo, ò en otro caso que no sea Nominativo. Y
por esto dho ta determina al ni à ser relativo obliquo. Del yocuu ya dixe al principo, que
es el caso que rige el verbo absoluto ñaquichonimaca, y que es inflexion de plural
mugeril de la preposicion icuu; y por tanto ese yocuu es lo que determina al ni, y al ta à
que siendo relativo mugeril obliquo, lo sean de plural mugeril y de tal determinado
caso, que alli es Ablativo; porque icuu es preposicion de ablativo; y asi ñaquichonimaca
icuu, vel yocuu, quiere decir propria, y verbalmente leo por sobre esos escritos: y ni
ñaquichonimataty yocuu, quiere decir por sobre los cuales leyó. La razon de esto, y la
explicacion se dará hablando de los verbos absolutos.
au n‘asarusma Paica à juicio de los Padres = Aqui el au es preposicion mugeril de
singular; porque su caso es el juicio femenino. La n es el articulo femenino ni con
elicion de la i. El asaruma es inflexion varonil de plural del sustantivo yasaru, (..) juicio:
y se pone en esa inflexion porque los Padres cuyo es el juicio son masculinos.
isucari n‘ipaquitosty atoñe. De ipaquitosty ya dixe arriba que es inflexion varonil, y tres
veces varonil; porque es en su inflexion, en su moremento, y en su sustancia. Con todo
eso, como su significado que es la madre, es femenino; por eso le precede el articulo ni
femenino, y la preposicion isucari en su inflexion mugeril de singular, y se le sigue atoñe
inflexion tambien mugeril de adjetivo ñatoñe, yo mismo, vel yo proprio.
Este es todo el artificio dela clausula, ó periodo arriba puesto, en el qual se puede haber
observado la algarabia de concordancias tan varias; la alternativa, conque en fuerza
dela precisa colocacion delas palabras se van entreverando inflexiones, ò voces
varoniles y mugeriles, masculinas, y femeninas, de singular y plual; segun pide el
romance: y finalmente aquella (a nuestro modo de concebir) extravagancia de estar v.g.
ñacunomoco vel ñacunumoc‘ unama, los escritos de los, en inflexion varonil; y el verbo
omeezoro, que concuerde con ese nominativo, en mugeril: y en mugeril tambien el
pronombre maniño, y el articulo ni, de ese nombre: y el adjetivo omixima de ese
sustantivo: y la preposision yocuu de ese que es su caso: y el relativo ni.....ta....yocuu de
ese que es su antecedente. Lo mismo digo del estar unama, que el articulo varonil de
plural acompañando al nombre yaitaiquity, que está en inflexion de singular: y la
preposicion mugeril de singular au rigiendo à su caso n‘asarusma, que es inflexion de
plural varonil &. Ahora pues que comparacion tienen en dificultad las concordancias
Latinas con estas? Quanto sudarian desnudos en tiempo de nieves para hacerse cargo, y
à entrar en este laberinto, los que sudaron algo en tiempo de caniculares para entender
y acertar las concordancias en genero dela lengua Latina? Quanto trabajaria un
maestro de niños para labrar su entendimiento y acomodarlo à las escabrosidades de
esta alternativa de concordancias (Ms-Camaño:46f).”
Como se ve en la tabla 6, se establece un sistema de referencias a dos niveles entre el
hablante y el protagonista Pedro, ambos hombres, y las personas ó cosas relacionadas a
Pedro. Era un dolor de cabeza
“aquel estar el hombre mezclando inflexiones varoniles y mugeriles segun las personas
de quien habla, y la muger ò diciendo, ó negando, aquello mismo con inflexiones todas
mugeriles. Estan resonando aún en el oido las voces varoniles, quando entran por el
otro las mugeriles, y como las siento diversos me parecen de diverso significado, siendo
del mismo; (Ms-Camaño:48)”
La dificultad para los jesuitas al escuchar por ejemplo a una pareja, era distinguir las dos
formas que aún refiriéndose al mismo tema sonaban diferentes.
Su conclusión:
“Tiene pues la Lengua Chiquita como peculiar suya la dificultad grande que consiste en
la diversidad de lenguages; pues aún sabiendo un hombre hab(lar) y aún porque sabe, le
cuesta entender à la muger..... (Ms-Camaño:48).”
3. Comentario final
Con lo que yo he podido entender hasta ahora a través de textos chiquitanos actuales,
pienso que las observaciones de los jesuitas acerca de la diferencia en el manejo de la
lengua entre mujeres y hombres, siguen válidas aún hoy en día en cuanto al uso de los
artículos, pronombres y relativos en el lenguaje de los hombres y también en el manejo
de los nombres posesivos y de los verbos en la 3a persona singular y plural, como se
puede ver en textos actuales.
Hombres distinguen obligatoriamente una parte de los nombres, semánticamente
definidos “Dios, ángeles, hombres y demonios” como categoría aparte. En esta categoría
entran también préstamos del español como “apóstoles, santos, cristianos”. Esta
categoría se distingue por la morfología de lo que llamo “género común”. En si no se
justifica hablar de un “género femenino”, porque en boca de mujer está incluido todo,
también hombres y Dios.
Dios, hombre, demonio
masculino, divino
tupax, noñeix
Dios, hombre
↓ Mujeres, bestias
cosas inanimadas
femenino, animado
paix, tamokox
mujer, perro, piedra
Parece que el hablante masculino establece alguna relación entre él y sus semejantes.
Aquí entraría también el tema de los nombres de parentesco y los nombres de animales y
árboles y otros más, que los hombres distinguen fonológicamente. No se tratan aquí
porque no exigen concordancia morfosintáctica.
• El sexo del hablante, si es masculino, le da dos opciones gramaticales. El hombre usa
ambas formas entreveradas, depende de la categoría del objeto.
• El sexo y/o la pertenencia a una clase semántica del objeto determina la variación
lingüística, si el sexo del hablante es masculino. Como hombre obligadamente debe
usarse la variación masculina distinguiendo las formas gramaticales al hablar de Dios,
hombres y demonios.
• Si el sexo del hablante es femenino se usa una sola forma gramatical, sin distinción.
Podemos decir que se trata de un ‘género común’ ó de ningún género. La versión
femenina singular es la mas corta y no marcada. La tercera persona singular es la base de
la forma masculina y sirve como raíz para la derivación.
Considerando estas observaciones propongo un cambio en la perspectiva: La versión
femenina debería tomarse como forma básica en la gramática de esta lengua y la versión
masculina como desviación de la misma.
2.Conj. ego tu varonil
ille mugeril
illa incl.
nos excl.
2. pl. Vos
3. pl.mugeril
Ex.2 ñ
ba....=ty ma..=ty au....=ty
ma...= au...=
upa...= upa...= opu...=
Tabla 1: Las cinco conjugaciones de los verbos. Sirve para toda especie de ellos. (Ms-Camaño:33). Nota: que
en el lugar, que ocupan en cada casilla los puntitos, se pone el radical del verbo simple, y el radical junto con
las particulas de composicion del verbo compuesto: y en el lugar notado con dos rayitas en esta forma (=) se
pone la nota, ó particula de tercera persona, que al verbo segun su qualidad le corresponde.
2 pl
3 pl
y/ hy
para mi
para nosotros
para ti
para vosotros
para el
para ellos
para ella
ñome / noe
para ellas
por mi
por nosotros
por ti
2 pl
por vosotros
por el
3 pl
oima / oisma
por ellos
por ella
oboi / oboix
por ellas
Tabla 2: Los pronombres y relativos. Los pronombres primitivos. Los pronombres primitivos son los que se
siguen. Todos tienen solos tres casos distintos: Nominativo, Dativo, y Ablativo. Los demas casos no se
distinguen del Nominativo. (MsM-G:30ff).
3. Declinacion
4. Declinacion
1. mio i2. tuyo a3. suyo i-sty
de el
3. suyo i-s
1. o-u-
1. pl.ex. zoi-
2. pl.
au3. suyo i-sma
ñuixuauauau-styu- yu-sty
ñ-ixo- y-ñ-sty
zupa- zopuzoixaapiapaapaapaapui-sma yas-ma ñas-ma yas-ma ausmayusmausma
yopi-s upañupa- yupa- yopusyupa-s supa-s
ozuzzopu- zobzubapuabyu-sma -sma
ñopuu- yopu-s obomub-s
3. suyo yosopuu-s
sub-s sum-s
ellas snosñu-s
Tabla 3: Las declinaciones de la lengua chiquita. Pos. sg. / que inflecten los Nombres, y se incluyen en
sus inflexiones (Ms-Camaño:5/6).
usado por hombre y mujer
na, manu, manio
baa, maniño
usado por hombre
naqui, manuqui, maniqui,
bama, unama, manuma
Tabla 4: Articulos - demostrativos – relativos (MsP-21).
usado por hombre y mujer
n‘ / ni
Tabla 5: Articulo invariable en numero (MsP-21).
Tabla 6
Manuscritos inéditos
Gramatica de la lengua De los Yndios Chiquitos pertenecientes al Govierno de
Chuquisaca En el Reyno Del Perù Doctrinados por los PP de la Extinta Compañia
de Jesus De la Provincia Del Paraguay. Ms. Modena (Microfilm) (MsM-G).
Bocavulario De la Lengua de los Yndios Llamados Chiquitos. Escrita por un
Misionero De la Compañia De Jesus. Ms. Modena (Microfilm) (MsMV).
1718 Arte de la Lengua Chiquita. San Javier. Ms. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale,
Département des Manuscrits. Americain 19 (Microfilm) (MsP-19).
1718? Bocabulario de la Lengua de los Chiquitos. San Javier. Ms. Paris, Bibliothèque
Nationale, Département des Manuscrits. Americain 20 (Microfilm) (MsP-20).
Vocabulario De La Lengua chiquita Parte 2a. Chiquito-Español Del Pueblo San
Xavier. Parte 3.a de los Raizes. Ms. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Département
des Manuscrits. Americain 21 (Microfilm) (MsP-21).
Camaño, Joaquin, SJ
De la lengua Chiquita. Ms. Biblioteca Jagiellonska, Krakovia.
Referencias bibliográficas
Corbett, Greville
1991 Gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Furlong, Guillermo
1946 Los Jesuitas y la Cultura Rioplatense, Buenos Aires.
Hockett, C.F.
1958 A Course in modern Linguistics, New York: Macmillan.
Jespersen, Otto
1998 ‘The Woman’, [1922], en: Deborah Cameron (ed.), The Feminist Critique of
Language: A Reader, London/New York: Routledge.
Key, Mary Ritchie
1975 Male/female language: With a comprehensive bibliography, Metuchen, N.J.:
Scarecrow, [2nd edn. 1996 Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press].
Sapir, Edward
1990 ‘Male and Female Forms of Speech in Yana’, [1929], en: William Bright (ed.),
The collected Works of Edward Sapir V. American Indian Languages 1,
Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
1991 ‘Abnormal types of speech in Nootka’, [1915], en: Victor Golla (ed.), The
collected Works of Edward Sapir VI. American Indian Languages 2. Berlin/New
York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Utta von Gleich
University of Hamburg
1. Introduction
This paper offers some insights in our project “Multilingual literacies from a crosscultural perspective”1, the everyday uses of literacy among bilinguals in Bolivia and
Uganda focused from the perspective of the user. Due to the limited space available
and the focus of the Seminar on Indigenous Bolivian and Rondónian Languages, held
in Leiden, September 2000, we will concentrate on Bolivia.
Our main interest is neither the acquisition of literacy in school settings nor the
historical development of predominantly oral languages into written languages, but
the importance and impact of literacy for the regular bi- or multilingual indigenous
citizen in Bolivia. Literacy is seen not as a set of independent skills associated with
reading and writing, but as the application of those particular skills for specific purposes in specific contexts, a socio-cultural practice.
We should also emphasise that the analysis of multimedia communication
events (oral and written) are gaining importance due to the cultural changes produced
by global communication flows. Tannen (1987: 85) already stressed this fact in her
seminal contribution “The Orality of Literature and the Literacy of Conversation”
when she stated that “orality and literacy, speaking and writing, are not dichotomous
but rather complex, overlapping and intertwined”. Von Gleich (2000) has elaborated
on this medial development in the Aimara-Spanish social communication and called
this type of literacy the ‘literacidad oculta’ (hidden or covert literacy) in the so-called
new global orality.
In what follows we will briefly present the outline of the project, the methodology developed for the empirical work and some evaluation procedures as well as
some preliminary results obtained in Bolivia, concentrating on the Quechua-Spanish
bilinguals in the department of Cochabamba.
1.1. Design of the project
The project analyses literacy practices, i.e. “the social practices associated with the
written word” (Barton 1994: 37) in multilingual contexts. In its first phase, the project focuses on those multilingual communities where languages differ significantly
with regard to their social and functional recognition, their degree of standardisation
and their literary tradition, as it is the case in large areas of Africa and Latin America.
The project was designed between 1998 and 1999, submitted for evaluation in January 1999 to the DFG
(German Science Foundation) and approved in July 1999 as one of the projects in the package of the Sonderforschungsbereich 538, granted to the University of Hamburg under the direction of Prof. J. Meisel.
Due to the increased promotion of literacy in indigenous languages in countries of
these two continents during the last two decades, these languages are expected to
compete with European languages as written media.
Our explorative study tries to find out whether literacy in more than one language might achieve importance in the near future in everyday life situations beyond
the education system and beyond specialised professional groups such as interpreters,
and to explore the nature of such new functions.
On the basis and against the background of the “New Literacy Studies” approach (e.g. Street 1982; Barton 1994; Prinsloo & Breier 1996; Hamel 1996; Hornberger 1997; Hornberger & Skilton Sylvester 2000) the project analyses the use of
literacy in various multilingual regions of Africa (first phase: Uganda) and in Latin
America (first phase: Bolivia) applying qualitative and quantitative methods (observation, interviews, questionnaires, biographical narration) in various communicative
settings, family, work, church, public life, and administration among multilingual
individuals and groups. The leading questions focus on:
Forms and ways of multilingual practices;
Factors that enhance or restrict the expansion and diffusion of specific literacy
Costs and benefits of multilingual literacy for individuals, groups and societies.
The present and changing ecology (cf. Haugen 1972) of multilingual literacy will be
investigated in case studies of communities selected according to their specific linguistic constellations including varying degrees of dominance in written and oral use.
This user-oriented design will be complemented by studies of the selected population (groups and individuals), elaborating on attitudes towards literacy per se, own
biographical experiences, and opinions about people who can be considered model
speakers, always taking into account the reality of the respective setting, i.e. access to
printed material, language policy, linguistic distribution, number of speakers, types of
multilingualism, literacy tradition of the languages involved, etc.
The sampling in Bolivia is based on the principles of the community profile
method (Wölck 1975; von Gleich 1982; Moelleken 1997), in Uganda preferably on
subsequent clustering as well as on elements of the communicative network approach.
2. Methodology
As already mentioned a package of different methods for the collection of the data is
being used. Before going into the details it should be pointed out that the common
methodology serves as a linking tool, a medium of comparison (tertium comparationis) between the two selected countries.
Let us begin with some explanations about the selection of the two countries or continents. The two main researchers, Mechthild Reh and Utta von Gleich, have been
working during the last twenty years in different sociolinguistic contexts of Africa
and Latin America, not only as descriptive or contact linguists, but both being involved on various occasions in counseling governments on how to standardise local
languages for schooling purposes, especially the introduction of mother tongue education in the framework of bilingual intercultural education and also in informal education system and in development projects. Moreover, our personal commitment to
the protection and maintenance of vulnerable languages made us curious to find out
what situations vernacular languages are facing when competing with the major written languages of the ex-colonial world, English, French and Spanish.
Despite their geographic distance and many obvious differences Bolivia and
Uganda share some socio-historical features:
colonial administration
imported educational systems from Europe
high degree of illiteracy (Bolivia 1999: 20%, Uganda 47%)
a great variety, (number, size and linguistic properties) in up to forty indigenous languages concentrated in different regions
an exogenous official language: Spanish and English
a sporadic experience of mother tongue literacy during the last 25 years in
form of pilot projects
a high degree of poverty, both countries belong to the poorest of the respective
continent (60-70% of the population below poverty line)
a very young population (more than 50% under the age of 20)
a big interest in development and modernisation along with a high degree of
ethnic and linguistic loyalty claiming mother tongue education and civil rights
educational reforms are under way starting in the nineties and promoting bilingual education
economies based on primary sectors, mining, agriculture and trade in Bolivia,
agriculture and trade in Uganda
rapidly growing urbanisation
Summarising, we can state that the everyday living conditions, on the micro and
meso level and the socio-linguistic features look quite similar.
However, comparing the societies of the two countries as a whole we find significant differences: Uganda’s population is almost 90% of African origin and only
up to 10% are immigrants from Europe or other countries, whereas Bolivia is split up
roughly into three different ethnic groups: the descendants of the original populations
42% (los pueblos originarios), the mixed Mestizo population, almost 30% and the so
called white population 15%, descendants of the Spanish colonialists and the rest are
diverse smaller immigrants groups.
The significance of bi- or multilingualism is similar at least in some regions, but there
is an important difference in the language profile between the two countries: while in
Bolivia only about 11% (Albó 1995: 23, on the basis of the census of 1992) are
monolingual mother tongue speakers of American indigenous languages and 40%
monolingual speakers of Spanish (first language = L1), the majority of speakers of an
indigenous languages, almost 60%, are bilingual (indigenous mother tongue and
Spanish, but increasingly Spanish as first language (L1) and an indigenous language
as second language (L2)2; in Uganda almost 90% have an indigenous language as
their mother tongue, being at the same time bilingual in another African language,
and/or trilingual in English. Only a small portion shows English as a first language.
The overall degree of individual multilingualism with normally three languages is
higher in Uganda than in Bolivia where Spanish appears as a second language in addition to a language of indigenous origin.
In the case of Bolivia our selection of sub-samples according to certain characteristics of school level and individual multilingualism was facilitated by the excellent study of Albó (1995), a combined demographic-administrative and multi-lingual
census prepared for the implementation of the Education Reform that is expected to
extend intercultural bilingual primary education for all.
The addressees of our study on reading and writing habits in literacy events are
bilingual persons (indigenous languages + Spanish) with sufficient schooling (primary completed). Monolingual illiterates are of course not in the centre of our interest; nevertheless their way of dealing with written elements in everyday life situations will be observed in order to complete the study. Socially our informants belong
to low-income groups and most of them have to be considered as poor.
Up to the present only very few members of the indigenous population have
obtained higher university degrees (there are some professionals in agriculture, some
lawyers and mainly teachers). Therefore our study is limited to the socially underprivileged lower and middle class. An outstanding exception is the former vicepresident of Bolivia, a former teacher and lawyer, Victor Hugo Cárdenas, who enforced the concept of interculturalism as a democratic attitude in a multiethnic society.
Thanks to the help of our Bolivian colleagues in preparing the selection of our
samples, we decided to work in three comparable smaller cities that show representative situations for the three chosen languages:
Aimara in Viacha (close to El Alto with 500,000 inhabitants the large satellite community next to the capital of La Paz),
Quechua in Sacaba near Cochabamba, and
The new national census of 2001 to be carried out in September will specify this question by more
precise questions. The first question remains “¿ Qué idiomas o lenguas habla? (Which languages do you
speak?), but will be complemented by ¿ En cuál de estas lenguas aprendió a hablar? (In which language
did you learn to speak?).
Guarani with permanent residents in Camiri in the Cordillera, and in various
migrant settlements in Santa Cruz.
The original idea to work in El Alto or respectively in Cochabamba was given up due
to the personal and financial limitations of the project to cover a representative portion of these huge populations and also because it was not easy to define a coherent
social communication network that is needed for the application of an anthropologically orientated community profile. In Viacha, Sacaba and Camiri, however, these
conditions can be found, as will be shown later.
As to the three main questions that guided the first phase of our joint research, it
has to be emphasised that the first question: forms and ways of multilingual practices
has received priority treatment in the first year.
For the purpose of documentation of multilingual literacies we use two basic
concepts: literacy practices and literacy events as defined by Barton (1994: 36-37)
within the context of literacy:
“Literacy is a social activity and can be described in terms of people’s literacy
practices which they draw upon in literacy events; the latter are all sorts of activities in everyday life where the written word has a role. The second term that is useful is that of literacy practices. There are common patterns in using reading and
writing in any situation and people bring their cultural knowledge to an activity.
We refer to their ways of using literacy as literacy practices.”
Applying anthropological criteria for the selection of the mayor communicative situations, we developed a common profile of potential everyday communicative lite-racy
events structured in so-called domains (Annex 1). This type of communicative profile
has been widely applied over the last 25 years in studies about language use in bilingual communities (Wölck 1975; von Gleich 1982; Moelleken 1997; and others)
where full fledged data collection was either not possible or recommendable, as well
as in literacy studies (Wagner 1993) in order to compartmentalise the universe in
smaller relevant social units.
The tentative list of domains in which to look for literacy events was discussed
with our local colleagues. In the case of Uganda some minor adjustments were introduced later which albeit will not diminish the comparability with the Bolivian case.
In order to systematise our data we developed observation sheets; one for the
description of the visual environment (Annex 2) as we assume cultural differences in
this field and impacts on the reading motivation; a second one for the recording and
the categorisation of the literacy events (Annex 3) and a third (Annex 4) showing
some essential data about the most active participants in the event that might be interviewed afterwards. This means that, wherever it was possible we added an informal oral or tape-recorded interview with at least one participant of the event and the
provider of the information in order to develop a coherent impression of the literacy
A guideline containing a list of key questions was given to the interviewers to
help them structure the interviews (von Gleich, Reh, and Glanz 2000). In addition to
this systematic collection of information we had conversations with key persons
about the values of writing and reading and observed carefully the ongoing public
discussion on multilingualism and interculturalism in both countries. Key or focus
persons were personalities who have some influence on the reading and writing culture in the respective country (writers, politicians, professional, academics and especially ethnic authorities). In the case of Bolivia we organised with the help of the
local Goethe Institut a public roundtable discussion on ‘Aimara en la comunicación
social’ where the local Aimara leadership as well as the professional academics expressed and discussed their points of view.
The second mayor question concerning factors that enhance or restrict the expansion and diffusion of specific literacy practices as well as respective attitudes,
beliefs, that have an impact on the peoples literacy practices will be studied and systematised at a further stage of the project, complemented by tests to determine vernacular criteria of the so called perfect bilingual.
Finally we want to mention that we made some videotapes about specific literacy events. For the sub-sample of Quechua bilinguals in Cochabamba we were fortunate to videotape a comprehensive interview (approx. 60 minutes) about the editing
procedures of a bilingual newspaper that has a tradition of 15 years, and secondly we
videotaped a working session with Quechua monolingual writers (also 60 minutes).
For the Aimara sub-sample we have a video on the distribution of certificates by the
Mallku (highest authority) as well as a video on a seminar about literacy among Aimara-Spanish bilinguals (60 minutes), and a wide range of snapshots of literacy
3. Biliteracy among Quechua-Spanish bilinguals
3.1. Short socio-economic profile of Sacaba
Sacaba is a middle-sized town of about 36,000 inhabitants. It is situated at an altitude
of 2,600m in a very fertile, well-irrigated valley with a mild climate, at 10 km from
Cochabamba, the capital of the Department of Cochabamba. The administrative
status as municipality, according to the new Constitution of 1994, has given considerable autonomy to the Council and the mayor of the town and it has been rated as
one of the priority regions by the general developmental plan of the Republic
The educational level is still modest but improving: 30% of the population have
accomplished basic education, 20% secondary school, only 2% teacher training
seminars, 4% have some sort of University degree, and a medium of 10% are illiterate, a percentage which of course is higher in the local rural hinterland.
The linguistic composition is the following: of the population above 6 years 77%
speak Spanish, 61% speak Quechua, and 4% Aimara, which indicates the high degree
of bilingual Quechua speakers. More than half of the population is under 20 years.
In the last years Sacaba has begun to benefit from the decentralisation law and the
law of social participation. A major number of development projects for basic needs
were established in order to attend the rural hinterland. In the urban areas the basic
supply of water, electricity, health service, and schools is guaranteed but there is still
a considerable deficit in rural areas.
Cash incomes are modest, most people still supplement their budgets by agricultural and cattle raising activities. There is no predominant economic activity; instead
we find people working in small commerce, administration, transportation and all
kinds of handicraft activities. The three mayor markets, the Central market, the potato
market (papa qancha) and the cereals market, which operate mostly during weekends, are important elements for the local economy. Summarising, we could say the
city of Sacaba is economically self-maintaining, although it is into-grated in the bigger network of Cochabamba. This applies especially to the information and education
network; newspapers come from Cochabamba, TV channels and also radio emissions, especially in Quechua for the farmers, are produced in Cochabamba. Due to
the proximity, secondary and higher education is attended in Cochabamba.
This diversity of local urban activities tied to agricultural activities in the rural
districts nearby allowed us to identify a rather complex scenario of communications
domains with pertinent literacy events. The pilot study was presented to the local
authorities and welcomed.
3.2. Some results and conclusions
3.2.1. First question: visual environment, forms and ways of multilingual events and
According to the notes in the observation sheets (Annex 2), the visual environment is
almost monolingual in Spanish and includes commercial and professional propaganda, posters and slogans in all domains. Nevertheless, some elements such as
proper names, names of streets, menus in restaurants, etc., integrate Quechua terms;
in many cases they are completely hispanizised so that the normal user is not aware
of the loan character. The written elements are stickers, flyers, price lists, selling advertisements, professional propaganda, newspapers, books, postcards, and pur-chase
conditions in shops and banks.
Forms and ways of multilingual events have been observed according to a
community profile of Sacaba and recorded in the observation sheets (Annex 3).
The predominant configuration pattern of a literacy event is a medium-sized
group in public and private institutions; this implies different clients waiting in line or
sitting around, in general more users than providers, which induces automatically
different flows of conversation. In the case of medical attention the groups are
smaller and the central conversations are not public; one patient and two-three rela-
tives vis-à-vis the doctor, accompanied by a nurse or other personal assistant. Almost
all literacy transactions in private and public institutions are semi-public.
The written elements used in the performance of the literacy event are letters of
complaint, forms, documents, instructions, prescriptions, protocols, notes, bills, receipts, etc., typical for the respective activity. Culturally they all belong to the written
communication practices of the dominant Hispanic society. The language used in
these written documents is mostly Spanish. The culturally different back-ground and
the individual educational level are the main reasons for communication difficulties
and not only the linguistic barrier as commonly suggested. We will illustrate this
phenomenon on page 10 on the basis of the conversation between a doctor and a patient. The domains that differ from this pattern are domain 5 (churches and ceremonies), domain 12 (mass media), and domain 9 (educational sector).
In the religious domain, especially in protestant churches, the bible is available
and read and explained in Quechua during the ceremony; books for the prayer and
singing books, and the religious education recommendations are also in Quechua, but
very few books are bilingual.
In domain 12, the mass media, messages for the radio are, for instance, delivered
in Quechua (afterwards promulgated in Spanish or Quechua according to the wish of
the client). This also applies to the bilingual magazine Nawpaqman, in which half of
the texts are in Quechua, some originally edited in Quechua, some translations or
short versions of information relevant to the readers (clients). In the case of Nawpaqman we clearly see a symbiosis of the indigenous cultural contents shaped into a
written form according to occidental norms (letters, protocols of meeting, list of topics of an discussion agenda, list of participants etc.).
Since July 2000, Presencia a leading daily, privately financed newspaper (daily
edition of 500,000), includes every day one full page with news in Quechua and Aimara. This is a surprisingly positive and very rare initiative. It is a clear proof for the
linguistic flexibility and creative innovative capacity of indigenous languages, which
means new cultural concepts and everyday events, political, societal, cultural and
private topics that can be communicated in Quechua and also be written down and
understood by the readers. Thus the story of the sunken Russian submarine or the law
suit against general Pinochet in Chile and many other international as well as national
topics were dealt with in this section. We still do not have a systematic analysis of the
new readers but the fact that since July 2000 the journal is practically sold out one
hour after its delivery, as well as many comments of the vendors support the speculation that the supplement in indigenous languages is attractive.
In the educational sector (domain 9), all primary schools that belong to the transformation plan of the Educational Reform have sufficient teaching material in
Quechua, in the classrooms, in the reading corner, in the library, as well as in the
recreation areas. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that in the city of Cochabamba
we find some secondary schools where Quechua is systematically taught as a second
or foreign language, such as, for instance, at the schools of ‘Fe y Alegría’, at El Co-
legio San Rafael, or as a foreign language, at the Instituto Maryknoll, IDELCO, and
other schools. Even at the local university Quechua is obligatory in the respective
curricula for medicine, law, agricultural studies and linguistics, but the implementation should be handled more strictly.
For the first time, since August 2000, the School of Education of the University
San Simon offers during weekends and holidays a ‘Licenciatura especial en Educación Bilingüe Intercultural’ for teachers in service. The informal education institutions offered mostly by the non-governmental organisations (domain 14) are more
inclined to communicate bilingually, in the oral and written mode, especially in adult
literacy and professional training. The above mentioned domains (religion and education) tend to offer literacy events to a larger audience, open to everyone as in the case
of churches, but in pre-established groups or on invitation (parents-teacher meeting,
members of a club and so on) in the case of training and schooling.
Summarising, we can state that the oral use of Quechua in private and public
institutions is still alive, but that bilingual oral communication of course is predominant. The written elements are mostly Spanish so that we could speak in terms
of Fishman (1975) of a diglossia between written and oral modes of communication.
But we should be aware that such a type of conflictive diglossia is still widely tolerated as people in the street still take for granted the functional division: you talk in
Quechua but you read and write (study) in Spanish.
In some experimental interviews of on-air callers to radio stations in La Paz and
Cochabamba we found out that most people still believe in this stereotyped prejudice.
As a consequence of the educational reform only recently a process of awareness and
questioning of these stereotyped beliefs is taking place publicly, initiated by the indigenous speakers and their leading personalities. The Hispanic society’s intercultural behaviour, therefore, is increasingly challenged to change.
3.2.2. Communication flows in Sacaba
If we look closer at a sequence of communicative acts among the local population in
different situations –public and private institutions–, we can isolate six major linguistic communication patterns3 that may easily co-occur or intertwine in a single literacy
event. As an illustration we present the following example: a medical consultation of
a pregnant woman.
The consultation of a bilingual family in a health centre, which I (Interviewer/
Observer 2: German/Spanish, Quechua) observed together with my local research
assistant, a Quechua-Spanish bilingual teacher-trainer (=interviewer1), showed a
rather complex communication configuration). The medical staff consisted of one
administrative female assistant, a nurse (Quechua+Spanish) serving as a translator,
one doctor and one assistant doctor (Spanish only), one technical assistant
Among our speakers we can find different types of bilingualism, those who have
Quechua as a first language (L1) and Spanish as a second language (L2) or Spanish as first language and
Quechua as L2. Therefore we indicate the sequence of acquisition in brackets. Simultaneous bilinguals are
very rare among indigenous speakers in the Andean countries.
(Quechua+Spanish). The clients were the young mother (Quechua+Spanish), her
husband (Quechua+Spanish) served as a translator and knowledge-mediator, and two
children, 4 and 6 years old, respectively (Quechua only).
The six major communication patterns are the following:
Spanish among Spanish monolinguals (doctor and assistant doctor);
Spanish between bilingual Spanish speakers and monolingual Spanish
speakers (doctors and nurse);
Spanish among bilinguals with obvious linguistic variations, style variation
or register according to the social class, e.g. the nurse talking to a bilingual
peasant as compared to her colleague;
Bilinguals speaking with monolinguals in indigenous languages (nurse with
Speakers of the same indigenous language (children with mother, but also
bilingual mother with our bilingual observer);
Foreign Spanish bilingual with local mono- and bilinguals (foreign observer
in Spanish to the clinic staff and Quechua with the woman and children).
On this basis the development of a complex multilingual communicative event could
be observed, which we will split up in episodes representing typical activity units,
some with a written element.
Communicative bilingual episodes (E) in a routine medical consultancy:
Interviewer 1
Interviewer 2
Introduction of visitors
to administration
1b Int.1 and Int.2
Client family
With administration
1d Interviewers + clients
Female client +
Nurse to children
Male client to Interv.2
Written element
Language used
Personal card
Off. letter of
orally used
Introduction to the
Registration for
Sequence coupon
Self-introduction to the
client family
Int.1 to female client
Int.2 to male client
Explanation of the visit
Providing confidence
Explanation of the visit
Clients, doctors, nurses Routine consultation Folder (in Spanish)
and interviewers
Part 1 Diagnosis
with data about
Doctor to client
Short interpretation of the patient
Nurse to female client Translates
Female client to doctor doctor’s Spanish talk
Husband to doctor
Doctor to client
Husband translates
Nurse to client
More questions
Female client
Translates questions
Gives further information
Nurse to Doctor
Translates answers
Doctor to female client
Nurse to female client
Doctor to client
Nurse to client
Doctor to clients
Part 2
Suggestion for treat- Demonstration
cards (Spanish)
(Caesarean section)
translates into
into Quechua
Quechua and
into Quechua
into Quechua
into Spanish
Part 3
Physical exam
Ultrasound pictures Spanish
Translates during exam
into Quechua
Nurse to clients
Part. 4
Appointment for the
last medical check
Results of the exam
Translation of results
3a Clients to doctors and Thanks and goodbye
3b Clients to administraAppointment for the
Writing down in
last exam
the calendar &
little note to the
client (Sp.)
4 Conversation between Additional information
doctors & interviewers
5 Interviewers to nurse
Thanks and new
Leaving a note
with the telephone
number of Int.1
into Quechua
Spanish and
E1: Presentation between the actors
1a The presentation of the observers to the clinic administration starts with two written elements personal card and a recommendation letter from a professor of the Faculty of Education of the University (in Spanish).
1b Followed by a brief presentation to the doctor (he reads the letter and the card and
then talks to us in Spanish).
1c Registration. A family enters the waiting room and picks up a numbered coupon
for the consultation. The local observer uses this opportunity to start a conversation
in Spanish and Quechua with the family waiting for attendance (presentation of our
research about multilingual language usage).
1d Self-introduction. Female patient explains her case in Quechua to the Quechua
speaking interviewer; parallel to this the man talks in Spanish to the foreign observer/interviewer.
1e Instruction of the mother to the children in Quechua; the nurse also talks to them
in Quechua, because she identifies them as Quechua mother tongue speakers (how:
the pregnant woman wears traditional clothes and the children speak to each other in
1f The husband is demonstrating his communicative competence in Spanish, speaking in a local variety to the foreign observer.
E2: Consultancy with the doctor
Conversation with the doctors in the presence of the personal assistant and the interviewers/observers.
Part 1: The doctor asks for the reason of the visit, reading silently in the folder the
notes of previous visits and immediately asks the bilingual nurse to repeat what he
had said (information) in Quechua to the woman for better and safer understanding.
Then he asks again in Spanish for further information, the kind of problems she has
or feels. The woman starts in Spanish, then switches into Quechua, looks at her husband who starts to translate and sometimes the nurse intervenes repeating with additional explanations the information given by the woman and her husband (completing
the previous knowledge about the patient’s condition).
Part 2: The doctor tries to explain to the woman that they might have to perform a
caesarean section due to overtime of the pregnancy. In this context he uses a set of
demonstration cards and explains how the baby will be born/freed. Understandably
this frightens the woman. She reacts shocked and silenced, a big susto, while the
nurse is trying to give her confidence by giving a long explanation in Quechua.
Part 3: Medical exam. Next step: the doctor tries to explain that he wants to make an
ultrasound diagnosis in order to know the exact position and size of the baby. He
shows two different ultrasound pictures and tries to explain to the woman that the
baby has to turn head down for a normal birth. Again a long repetition follows in
Quechua while the doctor also tries to calm the husband in Spanish.
Part 4: The medical check is done in another room. We stay with the husband and the
E3a They comes back and the conversation ends with a long explanation to the husband in Quechua by the nurse and in Spanish by the doctor. The family leaves with
respectful thanks to the doctor and an appointment for a last check within five days.
During the whole consultation the doctor talks also to the foreign observer mentioning the problem of translation into Quechua, but with no negative attitude. He regrets
not to be able to speak Quechua, but fortunately he always finds a bilingual nurse.
E3b The family expresses the gratitude for the good attendance and leaves.
E4 We continue the conversation with the doctor who preferred not to be taped. He
admits the necessity of written bilingual instruction material but points also to the
fact of the high rate of illiterates and rather recommends visually understandable instructions as he was using.
E5 The interviewers express their gratitude to the nurse and administrative assistant
and leave also.
The evolution of this conversation fits with some modification easily into the institutional pattern analysis of doctors and patients conversation, observed by Bührig, Durlanik and Meyer (2000), the so-called praxeogramm. It is culturally very similar due
to the fact that both observations have their roots in an occidentalized classical clinic
treatment. Compared to the clearly structured obligatory medical explanation talk in
Germany (Meyer 2000), the Bolivian communicative practice of the doctor focuses
directly on co-operation with the patient, overcoming fear and consolidating confidence. The explanations given by the doctor are therefore integrated in the part diagnose and therapy proposal. The linguistic situation differs also: in Bolivia the bilingual nurse is the major communicative actor whereas in the German situation a family member or friend has to fulfil the interpretative job, i.e. in the case of the Bolivia
the institution takes care of the interpretation and linguistic mediation, whereas in
Germany the foreign client is on its own.
In the case of Bolivia we can of course also identify an ethnic midwife model
that is still in use in the countryside with a predominant oral communication in the
local indigenous language, but in the case of feared complications bilingual clients
nowadays approach with more confidence the institutions of the Hispanic culture.
Interesting in our case is the continuous usage of both languages in changing
speakers’ constellations and the interference of written elements in Spanish that are
the origin of the vast explanation and translation procedures. Seen quantitatively the
reduced amount of written elements in Spanish provokes a time consuming procedure
of interpretation. But we have to be aware that the reason behind that is not just the
lack of the translated instruction but the unfamiliarity with different cultural medical
procedures and their understanding.
4. Conclusions
Literacy practices among Quechua Spanish bilingual speakers in everyday communication are highly dominated by the Spanish language. All written elements, as shown
in the example of medical routine consultation, are in Spanish. This is also the case in
almost all other private and public institutions (cf. list of domains). The asymmetric
relationship between Spanish and indigenous languages is obvious and confirms the
assumption of a diglossic situation in terms of Fishman. Non-Spanish mother tongue
speakers in Bolivia have to learn not only to speak but also to read and write in Spanish if they want to have access to minimal basic services and civic rights. Although
Art. 1 of the Constitution reads “Bolivia, libre, independiente, soberana, multiétnica
y pluricultural, constituida en República unitaria, adopta para su gobierno la forma
democrática representativa, fundada en la unión y la solidaridad de todos los bolivianos”, we miss the solidarity on the linguistic level.
The educational sector is the only domain of the state where we can recognize
serious efforts to democratise the unequal linguistic situation through the implementation of the bilingual intercultural education model for all Bolivians.
If we review the different oral monolingual and bilingual communication flows
presented above, we can easily verify their combined and rich appearance in everyday multilingual literacy events and practices. This means that as long as Bolivia has
such great numbers of bilingual speakers, biliteracy in the community and the society
in general should be given a broader chance to become reality.
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ANNEX 1 List of domains
Corresponding to a tentative community profile of literacy events, discussed with
colleagues in Bolivia, October-November 1999
Domain 1:
Domain 2:
Domain 3:
Domain 4
Domain 5:
Domain 6:
Domain 7:
Domain 8:
Domain 9:
Domain 10:
Domain 11:
Domain 12:
Domain 13:
Domain 14:
Domain 15:
Outdoor, (in the street, places, daily and weekly markets etc)
Private transportation: taxis, (colectivos, micros, buses and trains)
Health Centres
Small shops, retailers and supermarkets
Churches, religious and cultural centres
Leisure-activities (sports, music, dancing, cinema and theatre)
Cultural Ceremonies (birth, marriages, burials, funeral services, celebrations, festivities)
At home
Education Sector (primary schools, non formal Education institutions,
Public Education Administration dependencies)
Public institutions and relevant basic services (registration and counseling, energy and housing supply)
Private institutions (credit and finance, working place)
Mass media (radio, films, TV, Newspapers + magazines, books,
Professional associations or organisations (taxi drivers, teachers +
workers’ unions, etc.)
Non-governmental social institutions and organisations (NGO’s)
International organisations, UN-Dependencies, UNESCO, UNICEF,
Human rights organisations, ILO etc.)
ANNEX 2 (example)
Observation sheet for the documentation of Multilingual Literacy in the “Visual Environment”:
Observer: Julieta
Date: 17/12 1999 in Sacaba
DOMAIN 3: Health Centres (clinic, doctors...)
(Give details of type of location, signs and languages used)
Location: in the eastern area on the main road, Cochabamba to Santa Cruz
On the building (outside): Hospital Mexico
From far away a big visible announcement at the entrance of the building
In the building (inside) waiting area:
Specifiers on the doors: Laboratory, x-rays, vaccinations
A list of all doctors and their services, attendance hours
A list of prices for the different services
(birth attendance: free!)
Walls full of information about health campaigns, preventive health programs, vaccination campaigns
Some newspapers
A television corner
An altar for the local saint: San Juan de Dios
Reception desk:
Distribution of numbered vouchers for attention
Folders, entries in the cardex system
Doctor's room:
Illustrative posters and instructive material for different health problems. Diplomas
and awards, as for example for the first “vesícula extraction” in May 1999
All written elements in Spanish
3. DATE:_____________ 4. TIME:__________
5. OBSERVATION TYPE: natural ð experimental ð
6. Participatory: no ð or
yes ð if YES introduced by:_______________________________
7. Observer known to participants: No ð, yes to some ð, yes to all ð
8.PROPERTIES OF LOCALITY:____________________
9. TOPIC of the literacy event____________________________________
10. EVENT is: Spontaneous ð or organised ð 11. Type of Event: Irregular ð or
regular ð, frequency:______________________________
12. PURPOSE/S of the event
13. TARGET AUDIENCE:________________________________________
14. Meeting ð, person-to-person ð 19. Type of written element (book, flyer...):
15. Estimated no. of participants: ____ 20. Already produced ð or product of the
event ð
16. Audience: invited ð, public ðor both ð 21. Physically present: yesð or no ð
17. Frontal ð, roundtable ð
22. Language/s: ________
or informal grouping 18. Relationship: formal ð or informal ð
23. Function_____________
24. Language/s of mediation in the event__________________________
ANNEX 4: observation sheet for active participants during literacy events
(F)em / (M)asc.
Role or function in the event:
Participant: behaviour during the event
Activities during the event (type and with whom?)
Languages of mediation during the event:
Written languages during the event:
Nonverbal communication (gestures, mimics):
Dr. Rotger Michael Snethlage
1. Einleitung
Ich bitte um Nachsicht, daß ich als Jurist keine spezifischen ethnologischen Kenntnisse
habe. Vielleicht erzähle ich Ihnen Dinge, die Ihnen selbstverständlich erscheinen. Ich
werde kurz das Leben meines Vaters skizzieren, dann seine beiden Forschungsreisen
vorstellen, dann die von ihm 1933/35 besuchten Indianerstämme vorstellen, berichten,
was ich über den Verbleib seiner Sammlungen weiß, und kurz auf das eingehen was
noch in seinem Nachlaß in meinem Besitz vorhanden ist.
Mein Vater, Dr. Emil-Heinrich Snethlage, ist 1897 in Bremerhaven geboren und
bereits 1939 mit 42 Jahren gestorben, an den Folgen einer im Kriegsmarinedienst erlittener Verletzung.1 Ich selbst war damals drei Jahre alt. Ich kann also nicht aus erster
Hand über ihn berichten.
Er war promovierter Ornithologe. Nach seiner ersten Forschungsreise 1923/26
wandte er sich aber aus Passion der Ethnologie zu. Zuletzt war er stellvertretender Leiter der südamerikanischen Abteilung am Völkerkunde-Museum in Berlin.
Albert Snethlage (1982:87 ff).
2. Schul- und Studienzeit
Seine Schulzeit war recht unruhig durch die verschiedenen Dienstorte seines Vaters in
Pommern, in der Neumark, in Schleswig-Holstein und in Westfalen. 1917 wurde er
zum Kriegsdienst bei der Kriegsmarine in Wilhelmshaven eingezogen. Nach seiner
Entlassung 1919 und anschließendem Abitur studierte er Botanik, Zoologie und als
Hauptfach Ornithologie. Vorbild war ihm seine Tante, die Ornithologin Dr. Emilie
Snethlage. Sie war in Belém do Pará, Brasilien um Museum Goeldi tätig. Studienorte
waren Freiburg, Kiel, zuletzt Berlin. Er promovierte dort 1923 zum Dr. phil. über ein
zoologisches Thema aus dem südamerikanischen Bereich (‘Beiträge zur Kenntnis der
Gattung Cecropia und ihrer Beziehungen zu den übrigen Conocephaloideen’, FriedrichWilhelms-Universität Berlin).
3. Forschungsreise Nordostbrasilien 1923-1926
Sofort nach seiner Promotion reiste er im März 1923 nach Brasilien ab, um dort auf
einer ersten Forschungsreise mit seiner Tante Dr. Emilie Snethlage, gemeinsame ornithologische Forschungen zu betreiben. Vom Februar 1924 an war er während seines
Aufenthaltes in Nordostbrasilien auf sich alleine angewiesen und kam bald in nähere
Berührung mit den Guajajara und den Krân-Stämmen, über die er später publizierte.2
4. Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin
Im Sommer 1926 traf Emil Heinrich Snethlage wieder in Deutschland ein und wurde
im Frühjahr 1927 mit der Betreuung der südamerikanischen Sammlungen des Berliner
Museums für Völkerkunde beauftragt. Überraschend schnell fand er sich in die Völkerkunde hinein. Passioniert widmete er dieser damals noch jungen Wissenschaft bis zu
seinem vorzeitigen Tode seine Arbeit.3
5. 1933-1935: 2. Expedition nach Bolivien/Brasilien
1933/35 ging er mit Mitteln der Baeßler-Stiftung für das Berliner Museum auf seine
zweite Expedition. Sie führte ihn in das brasilianisch-bolivianische Grenzgebiet am Rio
Guaporé. Hier besuchte er nacheinander die Moré, die sich bis dahin allen Annäherungsversuchen unzugänglich erwiesen hatten, die Kumana, Abitana-Huanyam, Amniapä und Guaratägaja, Makurap, Jabuti, Arikapu, Wayoro und andere Stämme. Von
allen brachte er reiches Material in Gestalt von Sammlungen und Aufzeichnungen nach
Hause. Zitat: “Diese Expedition wurde mit den einfachsten Hilfsmitteln ausgeführt und
verdankte ihren vollen Erfolg vor allem der persönlichen Anspruchslosigkeit Emil
Heinrich Snethlages und seiner menschlichen Güte, die ihm die Herzen der Indianer
gewann”.4 Zitat Ende.
Nevermann (o.d.).
Nevermann (o.d.).
Nevermann (o.d.).
6. Veröffentlichungen
Über seine Reise veröffentlichte er außer einigen kleineren Arbeiten 1937 sein populärwissenschaftliches Buch “Atiko y” und in 1939 eine wissenschaftliche Studie über
die Musikinstrumente im Guaporégebiete. Es sollten Monographien über die einzelnen
Stämme folgen. Die über die Moré hatte er bereits in Angriff genommen. Ebenso war
die Herausgabe seiner Wörterverzeichnisse geplant. Sein vorzeitiger Tod vereitelte diese Arbeiten.5 In der Museumsarbeit beschäftigte er sich eingehend mit den altperuanischen Sammlungen des Museums, für dessen Webereien er eine neue praktische
Systematik fand.6 Er veröffentlichte Studien über ein Ikat-Gewebe aus Peru sowie über
Form und Ornamentik alt-peruanischer Spindeln.
7. Pläne
Kurz vor seinem Tode wurde er noch am 5. Oktober 1939 mit der stellvertretenden
Leitung der Amerikanischen Sammlungen des Museums für Völkerkunde betraut7. Zitat: “Vor seiner Einberufung war er auf dem Höhepunkt seines Schaffens angelangt und
wandte sich weitergefaßten Themen zu: einer Arbeit über südamerikanische Symbolik,
[...], einer Untersuchung über den Kulturwandel in Südamerika unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Mischlingsfrage und Abhandlungen über das Wesen des Medizinmannes und des Mana- und Seelenbegriffes der südamerikanischen Indianer. Noch auf
seinem schweren Krankenlager sprach er immer wieder von diesen Arbeiten, unter denen ihm die letzten besonders am Herzen lagen, und hoffte auf die Zeit, in der er sich
ganz der Ausarbeitung seiner vielen Pläne hingeben konnte.”8 Zitat Ende.
8. Forschungsreise 1923-1926
8.1. Mit der Ornithologin Dr. Emilie Snethlage nach S. Luiz
Anfang 1923 reiste Dr. E.H. Snethlage nach Brasilien zu seiner Tante Dr. Emilie
Snethlage, die am Museum Goeldi in Belém do Pará tätig war. Mit ihr zusammen
unternahm er von Juli 1923 bis Februar 1924 eine ornithologische Forschungsreise
nach Maranhão in Nordostbrasilien, das bis dahin ornithologisch noch kaum erforscht war.9 Stationen waren San Luiz, San Bento, Tury-assú (damals noch Überfälle zivilisations-feindlicher Urubú-Indianer)10, Alto de Alegria, Insel Mangunça.
8.2. Als Ornithologe für das Field-Museum, Chicago, unterwegs
Allein, mit Aufträgen des Field-Museums in Chicago versehen, bereiste er von März
1924 bis April 1926 das Landesinnere: von San Luiz, wegen Hochwassers unter er5
Nevermann (o.d.).
Nevermann (o.d.).
Der Generaldirektor der Staatlichen Museen (1939): “Für die Dauer der Abwesenheit des Kustos und
Professors Dr. Krickeberg beauftrage ich Sie hiermit mit der stellvertretenden Leitung der Amerikanischen
Sammlungen des Museums für Völkerkunde. (Unterschrift: Kummel [?]) An Herrn Dr. Snethlage hier.”
Nevermann (o.d.).
Snethlage (1927:482).
Snethlage (1927:456).
heblichen Schwierigkeiten abwechselnd mit der Eisenbahn und zu Schiff über Rosario den Rio Itapicurú hinauf bis Codó und Cocos, damals nur eine Bahnstation mit
einigen Hütten.
Mit Maultieren weiter über Pedreiras am Mearim nach Barra do Corda. Zu den
in der Umgebung wohnenden “zahmen”, aber noch wenig erforschten Indianern
nahm er Kontakt auf, es waren die zum Sprachstamm der Gê gehörenden KrânStämme der Remkokamekrã und der Aponyekrã,11 beide Canellas, und die zu den
Tupi gehörenden Guajajáras.12
8.3. Canellas
Bei den Canellas im Remkokamekrã-Dorf Ponto, etwa 120 km südlich von Barra do
Corda im Quellgebiet des Rio Corda gelegen, verbrachte er einige Zeit und gewann
das Vertrauen der Indianer. Er berichtet von einer belustigenden Ansinnen der Indianer: Zitat: “Ich sollte bei Ihnen bleiben und ihr Häuptling werden. Hauptantrieb war
wohl der Gedanke, sich mit Hilfe eines kriegerischen Deutschen und dessen Waffen
an den verhassten, umwohnenden brasilianischen Ansiedlern rächen zu wollen. Ich
nahm das zuerst nicht ernst. Als ich aber die Absicht zu erkennen gab, aufzubrechen,
wurden mir Vorstellungen gemacht und zur Bekräftigung ein hübsches Indianermädchen, das höchstens 11 Jahre zählte, zugeführt. Meine Proteste halfen nichts. Ich saß
richtig in der Klemme, da ich meinen Diener und meine Lasttiere nach Baara do
Corda zurückgeschickt hatte. Erst als ich den Indianern den Wunsch aussprach, meine Eltern doch noch einmal wiedersehen zu wollen, verstanden sie sich dazu mich
fort zu bringen.” Zitat Ende.
8.4. Guajajára
Von Barra do Corda ritt mein Vater im Oktober 1924 nach Grajahú und lernte dort
die versteckt im Monsunwald gelegenen Dörfer der der Guajajára (Tupi), (damals
noch ca 1.500 Seelen)13 kennen sowie später auf der Bootsfahrt den Rio Grajahú hinunter die der unmittelbar benachbart siedelnden Kreapimkataye14 (Krân-Stamm15 der
Tymbiras, Sprachstamm der Gê)16
8.5. Apinaye
Anfang Dezember 1924 war er zurück in San Luiz, reiste aber unmittelbar anschließend weiter in den Staat Ceará um auftragsgemäß ornithologisch zu sammeln. Über
Ipiapaba, Ceará und Arára zurück nach Parnaiba und von dort, nach einem Abstecher
ins Landesinnere nach Deserto, den Rio Parnaiba ca 540 km flußaufwärts über Teresina, der damaligen ca 20.000 Einwohner zählenden Hauptstadt des Staates Piauí
Snethlage (1930:185).
Snethlage (1927:463).
Snethlage (1930:185).
Snethlage (1930:185).
Snethlage (1930:188).
Snethlage (1927:472).
nach Amarante/São Francisco auf der Grenze zwischen Piauí und Maranhão und
nach kurzem Sammelaufenthalt weiter nach Floriano, Urussuhy, Inhumas und Tranqueira. Über Goiás und Certeza ging es dann im Oktober 1925 zunächst auf einem
eigenen kleinen Floß, später auf größerem Handelsfloß den Rio Tocantins hinunter
über Pedro Afonso nach Carolina, das kurze Zeit später von Revolutionären, aufständischen brasilianischen Soldaten, besetzt wurde, die sich aber als sehr diszipliniert erwiesen. Nach Abzug der Soldaten Ende November 1925 reiste er weiter in
den Bereich der São Antonio-Fälle und kam dort in Kontakt mit den Apinagés17
(auch Apinaye)18, ein Krân-Stamm aber mit dem “g” statt des bei den Maranheser
Horden gesprochenen “k”19, zur Sprachfamilie der Gês gehörend. Über die damals
am Rio Gurupi noch wild lebenden Gaviões konnte er gute Auskünfte einziehen.20
Sich wiederholenden Malariaanfälle behinderten und unterbrachen hier seine Arbeit.
2 Monate mußte er auf den nächsten Dampfer warten bei schwer verdaulicher Kost
ohne Chinin, ohne Pflege in einer Negerhütte, die durch Lagerung von Salzsäcken
stets feucht war. Erst im März 1926 konnte er nach Carolina zurückgebracht werden,
wo er von einem dort ansässigen Deutschen gesund gepflegt wurde. Mitte April 1926
kehrte er nach Parà zurück.
9. Forschungsreise 1933-1935
Die zweite Forschungsreise führte ihn 1933/35 in das Gebiet des Itenes/Rio Guaporé.
Seine Nebenflüsse und teilweise auch seine Ufer boten damals ethnographisch noch
vieles Neue. Denn weder der schwedische Forscher Erland Nordenskiöld noch der
brasilianische General Rondon, noch die älteren Reisenden, Missionare und Wissenschaftler haben alle Winkel dieses Landes durchstreifen können. So ist es erkärlich,
daß mein Vater zahlreiche der Wissenschaft bis dahin noch unbekannte Stämme antraf.
Mitte Juli 1933 kam mein Vater in Pará an und war am 10. August in Porto
Velho, damals Ausgangspunkt der Madeira-Mamoré-Eisenbahn. Mitte August besichtigte er die Steinzeichnungen bei Kilometer 151 dieser Eisenbahn. Anfang September 1933 kam er am Ausgangspunkt seiner Expedition, im Campamento Komarek.21 Zur Begrüßung brannten die damals noch “wild” lebenden Moré in der Nacht
seiner Ankunft das Werkstattgebäude der Farm nieder, aus Wut darüber, daß ein
neuer Weißer angekommen war. Entsprechend zögerlich war die Kontaktaufnahme.
Nach 4 Monaten Feldforschungen bei den Moré und Itoreauhip (inzwischen war
endlich die immer wieder in Aussicht gestellte und dann doch wieder verzögerte Erlaubnis der brasilianischen Regierung zur Forschungsarbeit eingetroffen) brach er
Weihnachten 1933 (am Tag des Todes seines in seiner Abwesenheit geborenen
Töchterchens, von dem er aber erst drei Monate später etwas erfuhr) zum Rio Cauta17
Snethlage (1927:481).
Snethlage (1930:185).
Snethlage (1930:188).
Snethlage (1927:481).
Chronologischer Verlauf der Reise: Snethlage (1937b:8).
rio und den dort ansässigen Kumaná auf. Im Februar 1934 besuchte er die Pauserna
in Bella Vista, machte Ausgrabungen im Cafétal (Piso firme) und war Anfang März
bei den schon akkulturierten Tschikitano in Pernambuco.
Mitte März 1934 Aufbruch in die Dörfer der Makurap-Häuptlinge Uaikuri und
Guata. Anfang April Weiterreise zur Serra de Allianza mit Ausgrabungen, Mitte
April den Mequens aufwärts, zu den Amniapä im Dorfe Tapuawas. (Die Reisen
meist allein im Canu, manchmal mit indianischen Ruderern und Wegweisern)
Anfang Mai zu den Guaratägaja, dann zurück den Mequens abwärts und Mitte
Juni den Rio Branco aufwärts zu den Arua in San Luiz.
Ende Juni bis Anfang August Fußreise durch den Urwald mit Besuch der Makurap, Jabuti, Wayoro, Arikapu, und Tupari.
Mitte August den Rio Branco abwärts und zurück zum Cautario, im Oktober
wieder bei den Moré und Itoreauhip. Ende November Abreise vom Campamento
Komarek aus heimwärts.
9.1. Moré und Itoreauhip (Tschapakura)
Auf der bolivianischen Seite des unteren Itenes (Guaporé) haben die sprachlich den
Tschapakura angehörenden Moré und Itoreauhip ihre Wohnsitze. Beide Stämme unterschieden sich damals nur durch ihre Dialekte und durch die Haartracht: die Moré
trugen ihre Haare offen auf die Schulter herabfallend, die Itoreauhip binden sie zu
einem Knoten zusammen. Ihre Kleidung bestand aus meist gestreiften Rindenstoffhemden, doch liefen die Männer gewöhnlich nackt herum. Zu Festen wurde Lippenund Ohrschmuck, Reife und Federkronen, Federbänder in manigfachen Farben an
Armen und Beinen getragen. Zahllos waren bemalte oder bastverzierte Bänder und
Gürtel. Körperbemalung war selten, aber die Frauen rieben sich und die Angehörigen
gern mit Urucu ein, einer in Palmöl gelösten roten Pflanzenfarbe.22
9.1.1. Wohnen
In Großfamilien, etwa 15-70 Köpfe umfassend, lebten die Moré und Itoreauhip in
mit Palmstroh bedeckten Giebelhütten. In der mückenreichen Zeit bezogen sie mit
Patohu-Blättern völlig geschlossene Schlafhütten, die nur durch ein kleines, durch
eine geflochtene Tür verschließbares Loch zugänglich waren. Ihre mit Bananen,
Mais, Maiok, Inyame, Bataten, Ananas, Baumwolle und Urucu bepflanzen Rodungen und der Fischfang (Schießen mit Pfeilen von ihren Einbäumen aus, Reusen im
Palisadenzaun, Giftliane) lieferten den Lebensunterhalt. Die Jagd mit Pfeil auf Säugetiere und Vögel, bisweilen von bienenkorbartigen Jagdhütten aus, hatte nur Bedeutung, wenn die Moré zur Zeit der Fruchtreife ein Nomadenleben führten. Dann befestigten sie ihre baumwollenen Hängematten an die Stützen ihrer mit Patohu-Blätter
bedeckten Unterschlupfe, die ihnen Schutz vor Regenschauern boten.
Auch für das Folgende: Snethlage (1937b:2 ff.).
9.1.2. Männerarbeit
Als Angehörige eines Kriegervolkes legten die Männer großen Wert auf die Ausgestaltung der Rundbögen und Pfeile. Bögen wurden durch Bast- und Baumwollumwicklung verstärkt. Die etwas mehr als meterhohen Pfeile waren mit zwei, drei oder
vier Federhälften befiedert und trugen je nach Verwendungszweck für Krieg oder
Jagd, Bambusmesser- Holzsäge-, Knochen- oder Rochenstachelspitzen.
Außer Jagd und Fischfang besorgten die Männer die Hauptarbeit beim Hüttenbau und auf den Feldern. Sie holten den richtigen Bast aus dem Wald, klopften ihn
weich, nähten die Rindenhemden, sie fertigten aus Holz die Boote, die Tröge, die
Sitze, das Spielzeug für die Kinder. Sie fegen ihren Arbeitsplatz selbst sauber, oder
halfen gelegentlich ihren Frauen, etwas Maniokmehl für die Chichabereitung zu zerkauen.
9.1.3. Frauenarbeit
Aufgabe der Frauen war in erster Linie die Hausarbeit: Mais zerstampfen in länglichen Trögen mit Mahlstein oder Mahlholz, Maniokwurzeln mit einem Holzmesser
schälen, an einem dornigen Stelzwurzelstück der Paxiubapalme zerreiben, die gewässerte Reibemasse durch die Stäbchenmatte drücken und dann auf dem Tonteller
zu Farinha rösten, daraus wie auch aus Maismehl Fladen backen. Natürlich ist es ihre
ständige Aufgabe für die Kinder zu sorgen, aber auch zu töpfern, Baumwolle zu zupfen und zu verspinnen, und daraus Hängematten zu knüpfen, aus feineren Fäden
auch Arm- und Beinschnüre auf einem einfachen Webrahmen zu flechten.
9.1.4. Spiele, Musik und Tanz
Unter den Spielen sind das Maisballblattschlagen, das Drehen der Surrscheibe und
die Fadenspiele besonders bermerkenswert. Die Moré und Itoreauhip besitzen eine
Menge Musikinstrumente. Mit einem Pfiff auf einem einfachen Rohr hatte man sich
schon vor jeder Wohnung bemerkbar zu machen. Diese “Pfeife” wurde in mannigfacher Weise ausgestaltet bis zur einfachen Längsflöte und Querpfeife. Wollte der Moré verschiedene Töne vereinigen, nahm er zwei Flöten in den Mund, oder baute sich
aus beliebig vielen Rohren eine Panflöte auf. Kürbistrompeten waren sehr beliebt,
ebenso Rasseln aus mit Samen gefüllten Kalebassen oder aneinandergereihten kleinen Kürbissen. Trommelschlag auf eine Palmblattscheide gab den Rhytmus eines
Galopptanzes an; der “taran” Taktschläger. ein an einem Stab gleitender, aus einer
Kalebasse bestehender Schallkörper de langsamen Rhytmus eines andern Tanzes.
Andere Tänze wurden mit einer Heulkuye23, mit Flötenspiel oder Gesang begleitete.
Alle Tänze stellten augenscheinlich Vorgänge aus legenden dar.
Snethlage (1937a:4, “Reib-Idiophon” in 1939:12). Wohl ein übersetzter portugiesischer Ausdruck.
9.2. Tschapakura-Sprache
Zur Sprachfamilie der Tschapakura (Chapakura) schrieb mein Vater:24 “CréquiMontfort und Rivet haben 1913 im Journal Soc. Americ. Paris auf Grund des damals
vorhandenen Materials die Sprachfamilie der Chapakura aufgestellt. Sie umfaßte
damals die Stämme: Chapakura oder Huaci, die Kitemoka, die Pavumva (Huanyam),
die Napeka, die Iten und mit Vorbehalten, Rokorona und Muré (oder Murä [Nimuendaju]). Zu Grunde lagen vor allem die damals noch unveröffentlichten Vokabularien von d’Orbigny in der Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris und die bis dahin veröffentlichten Worte und Sätze von d’Orbigny, Cardús und Hasemann. Es war genügend, um die Aufstellung dieser Sprachfamilie zu rechtfertigen.
Später brachte Nimuendaju noch Wortlisten heraus, die diese Gruppe um 3
Stämme vermehrte: die Tora, Jain und Urupá (Nimuendajú 1925). Das Gebiet wird
also weithin nach Norden ausgedehnt. Nordenskiöld veröffentlichte leider nur einzelne Ausdrücke (Forschungen und Abenteuer), doch dürfte weiteres Material mitgebracht worden sein.
Die auf meiner Reise in das Guaporégebiet gemachte sprachliche Ausbeute erlaubt, noch die Kumaná und Kabixi-Huanyam hinzuzufügen. Gleichzeitig wurden
die Wortlisten der Abitana-Huanyam am Miguel und die der Iten (in Wirklichkeit
mindestens 2 Stämme: Moré und Itoreauhip) vergrößert, so daß es möglich ist, das
von Créqui-Montfort und Rivet zusammengebrachte Material kritisch zu betrachten.
Konnte ich auch nicht zusammenhängende Texte mitbringen, so dürfte doch das Typische der Chapakura - oder wie ich sie nennen möchte - Huanyam- Sprachen schärfer hervortreten.”
9.3. Kumaná
Auch die Kumaná zwischen dem mittleren Cautario und dem Rio S. Domingos sind
Tschapakura. In Kultureller Beziehung wichen sie aber damals beträchtlich von den
Moré und Itoreauhip ab. Die Kumaná wohnen in großen ovalen Hütten. Nackt liefen
bei ihnen nur die Frauen, bei Besuch und Festlichkiten zogen sie ihre mit bemerkenswert schönen Mustern bemalten Rindenhemden an. Die Männer hatten ausgesprochenes Schamgefühl. Sie zeigten sich nur in ihrem über der Hüfte hochgegürteten Bastkleid. Auch Bastjacken wurden angefertigt. Die einschnürenden Bänder an
Armen und Beinen waren breit und mit Fransen versehen, der Schmuck war sorgfältiger gemacht. Die Pfeile waren größer als bei den Moré, der Vogelpfeil hatte eine
Spitze aus mit Wachs verbundenen Tapirzähnen. Die Bastklopfer waren rund statt
kantig, die Sindeln hatten Wirtel aus Kalebassenschale, anstatt aus Früchten oder
korkigem Holz, die Frauen zermahlten den Mais auf breiten Platten aus der Brettwurzel eines Urwaldriesen anstatt in einem Mörser. Der Tanz ist ein Gänsemarsch im
Kreise nach Gesang, Geräusch von Rassel und den tiefen Tönen einer Kürbistrompete.
Handschriftliche Notiz aus dem Nachlaß, im Besitz von Dr. Rotger Michael Snethlage Aachen.
9.4. Abitana-Huanyam
Die Kumaná bilden kulturell schon den Übergang zu den ebenfalls Tschapakura
sprechenden Abitana-Huanyam am Rio S. Miguel. Aber der Besitz von Giftpfeilen
und Blasrohren unterscheidet diese doch wesentlich von jenen, zumal dazu noch
zahlreiche Merkmale untergeordneter Art kommen. Jede Huanyamfrau trug damals
noch trotz europäischer Kleidung den schweren Lippenpflock aus Quarz, der ihre
Würde als verheiratete Frau anzeigte. Unter den Musikinstrumenten ist die aus den
Oberschenkelknochen erschlagener Feinde gefertigte Trompete besonders zu erwähnen. Der Tanz bewegte sich auch bei den Huanyam im Kreise.
9.5. Makurap
Im Gebiet des Rio Branco gab es keine Tschapakura mehr. Aber in sehr vielen Sprachen traten Tupi-Elemente auf, doch so, daß diese Sprachen nach Auffassung meines
Vaters nicht als miteinander nahe verwandt bezeichnet werden konnten. Unter ihnen
beherrschste der tupoide Stamm der Makurap kulturell alle seine Nachbarn. Er war in
vaterrechtliche Sippen aufgespalten, die sich nach Tieren oder Pflanzen nannten. Sie
glaubten an zwei gute Götter und an einen schlechten, Tschoari, den Herrn der Geister und Totenseelen. Dem Kult diente ein meist bemalter Mattenaltar, der in der Mitte des hohen Kelhauses stand, der Eingangstür gerade gegenüber. Der Zauberer bedienste sich bei verschiedenen Zeremonien und Krankenheilungen der Zauberrassel,
des Zauberbrettes, verschiedener Heilpflanzen, des Schnupfrohres, der Zauberfeder
und bisweilen auch anderer Geräte.
Die Angehörigen beider Geschlechter gingen damals noch nackt bis auf den aus
Samen bestehenden Hüftgürtel und Schmuck: breite auf einem runden Holz in passender Größe gewebte, urucurot gefärbte Armbänder, aus Sämereien oder zurechtgeschliffenen Muscheln bestehendem Halsschmuck, dem aus Rohr oder einem mit Federn beklebten und dann mit hellem Harz überzogenem Stäbchen bestehenden Nasenschmuck und dem aus Muschelschalen geschliffenen Ohrgehänge. Der Mann
trägt außerdem immer den Penisstulp.
Korb- und Mattenflechterei ist Männerarbeit, Frauen fertigen Kalebassen und
Tragnetze aus Tukumfasern. Baumwolle wird auf Bakairiweise versponnen, spielt
aber keine große Rolle.
Bogen und Pfeilen entsprechen denen der von Nordenskiöld beschriebenen
Huari. Der Tanz besteht aus schnellen Schritten hin und her nach dem Takt von
Bambustrompeten oder einem Instrument, das aus 9 durch Wachs miteinander verbundenen Flöten besteht. Die Hand liegt dabei meist auf der Schulter des Vordermannes.
9.6. Arua
Die Arua sind ebenfalls ein tupoider Stamm. Eine ihrer Horden war damals schon
auf einer Indianerstation gesammelt worden und trug deshalb europäische Kleider.
Ihre ursprünglich abweichende Kultur war von der der Makurap bereits überdeckt.
9.7. Wayoro
Auch die damals schon geringen Überreste der Wayoro, die sprachlich eine Mischung zwischen Makurap und anderen tupoiden Stämmen sind, hatten die Makurapkultur völlig übernommen.
9.8. Jabuti und Arikapu
Sogar die Jabuti und Arikapu, deren völlig andere Sprachen zahlreiche Elemente der
Oststämme Brasiliens, der Gê, enthalten, waren damals stark von den Makurap beeinflußt.
9.9. Tupari
Ziemlich unabhängig waren damals noch die tupoiden Tupari. Sie besaßen keinen
Mattenaltar, Dafür spielte das Schnupfen bei Zauberzeremonien eine viel größere
Rolle als bei den übrigen Rio Branco-Stämmen.
Von den Gegenständen der materiellen Kultur unterscheiden sich viele in ihrem
Aussehen von denen der anderen Indianer: der Bogen, die Pfeile, der Sitz, die
Schambekleidung, der größte Teil des Schmuckes, die Spindeln, die Musikinstrumente. Hier gab es eine viergriffige Längsflöte aus Bambus. Auf den Rodungen
wurden mehrere den übrigen Brancostämmen unbekannte Gemüsepflanzen gezogen,
Käfer wurden in den dicken Rückständen der Chicha gezüchtet, um in den Larven
einen wohlschmeckenden Leckerbissen und eine Beigabe zum Maniokbrot zu erhalten. Steinäxte waren noch im Gebrauch.
Von den Tänzen ähnelt der Chichatanz dem der übrigen Brancobewohner. Der
Flötentanz wurde dagegen nur von zwei sogenannten Häuptlingen, die ständig in
gleicher Entfernung voneinander blieben, vorgeführt.
9.10. Amniapä und Guaratägaja
Die Tupari nähern sich in ihrer materiellen und sozialen Kultur bereits den Amniapä
(Mampiapä) und Guaratägaja im Gebiete des oberen Mequens und der auf demselben
Höhenzug entspringenden Zuflüsse des Pimenta Bueno. Wie die Tupari aßen diese
Indianer jedenfalls damals noch von Zeit zu Zeit Feinde und ungetreue Angehörige
des eigenen Stammes. Das ganze Leben der Amniapä und Guaratägaja war von Zeremonien ausgefüllt. Mit dem Pfeil im Bogen marschieren Gäste in ein immer aus
mehreren bienenkorbartig aussehenden und um einen sauber gehaltenen Platz gruppierten Kegelhütten bestehendes Dorf. Erst nach gemessenen Reden und dem Austrinken einer großen Kalebasse Chicha ist freierer Verkehr möglich. Groß ist dann
auch die gewährte Gastfreundschaft. In einem Spiel mit einem aus Kautschuk bestehenden Ball, der nur mit dem Kopf berührt werden darf, wir die Geschicklichkeit
erprobt. Pfeile oder Schmuck sind der Einsatz jeden Mitspielers; ausgezählt werden
die einzelnen Spiele mit Maiskörnern.
Kultisches Schnupfen im Männerkreis schließt sich an.; die Frauen haben während dieser Zeit im Hintergrund der Hütte zu verbleiben. Erst wenn die Speisen ge-
segnet werden und die Krankenheilungen beginnen, dürfen sie wieder hervorkommen. Der Tanz beginnt aber erst in den Abendstunden und dauert die Nacht hindurch
an. Er endet bei Aufgang der Sonne. Kurze Zeit danach verabschieden sich die Gäste
mit traurigen Reden und Tränen in den Augen.
Während im Rio Branco-Gebiet Männer und Frauen fast den gleichen Schmuck
tragen, ist er am Mequens bei beiden Geschlechtern sehr verschieden. Die Männer
der Guaratägaja tragen außer dem Stulp, der nach seiner Machart die einzelnen
Gruppen unterscheidet (die Amniapä tragen keinen) noch einen Schurz aus Buritipalmfasern, dazu reichen Schmuck an Schulter- und Halsketten, Armbändern, Gesichtsschmuck. Die Frauen sind mit zahllosen Halsketten behangen, meist solchen
aus Samen. Besonders charakteristisch sind Ketten aus ganzen Muschelschalen, dazu
Nasen- und Ohrschmuck abweichend von denen der Männer.
Bis auf die gewirkten Bänder machen sich die Männer ihre Sachen selber. Sie
ritzen oder bemalen die Behälter ihres Schnupftabaks, von denen einige Muster aufweisen, die denen des Xingu-Quelgebietes ähnlich sind. Sie fertigen auch die Maskenaufsätze, an denen die aus Palmfiedern geschnittenen Zähne auffallen. Als Instrumente dienen Piranhakiefer, Agutizahnmesser, Kieselsteine. Auch die Palmfiederröcke werden von den Männern hergestellt, von ihnen werden auch die Körbe
geflochten. Musikinstrumente sind Kürbistrompete, Panflöte, viergriffige Flöte,
Knochenflöte, Rassel.
9.11. Pauserna-Guarayu
Die Pauserna-Guarayu hatten ihre urprüngliche Kultur bis auf wenige Sachen völlig
eingebüßt. Einige Gegenstände der Hauswirtschaft und des Mobiliars hatten sich
erhalten. Die Hängematte z.B. wurde damals für den Verkauf hergestellt. Auch die
Tongefäße wurden, wenn auch in sehr vereinfachter Form von den Frauen noch getöpfert. Die Pauserna mischen den durch Srampfen alter Tonscherben erhaltenen
Staub mit frischer Tonerde, um widerstandsfähige Keramik zu erzielen. Der alte
Schmuck war damals schon fast völlig verschwunden.
9.12. Tschikitano
Die von den Jesuiten schon christianisierten Tschikitano hatten ihre ursprüngliche
Kultur damals schon völlig verloren. Nur in wenigen Überlieferungen, vielleicht in
einigen Tänzen lebte noch der alte Geist.
10. Sammlungen
Die Hauptsammlung blieb in Brasilien, Ihr heutiger Verbleib ist mir nicht bekannt,
vielleicht Rio de Janeiro. Ein erhaltenes Übergabeverzeichnis vom 22. Februar 1935
nennt rund 130 Objekte und aus Ausgrabungen stammende Keramikscherben, die
dem Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro übergeben wurden:25
Dr. E. Heinrich Snethlage: Relação dos objectos e cacos de ceramica do Rio Guaporé ofericidos ao Museu
Nacional. (1935); Mit handschriftlicher Notiz: “Recebi o material ethnografico, constante da relaçõ acima,
8 Objekte der Kumaná und 79 cacos de ceramica aus Canindé
21 Objekte der Abitana-Huanyam
19 Objekte der Arua
13 Objekte der Makurap
4 Objekte der Jabuti
11 Objekte der Wayoro
15 Objekte der Tupari
33 Objekte der Amnipä und Guaratägaja
Die Duplikat-Sammlung ging an das Völkerkunde Museum in Berlin
11. Wissenschaftliches Tagebuch und Wortlisten
Die Durchschriften des wissenschaftlichen Tagebuchs meines Vaters von der Forschungsreise 1933/35 in das Guaporégebiet konnte meine Mutter mit Hilfe Professor
Rivets, Paris und Professor Gusindes, Wien, über den Krieg hinweg retten, ebenso
die Wortlisten.
Erhalten sind mit geringen Lücken etwa 1000 Seiten Durchschriften des Tagebuchs, und die Wortlisten der Pauserna, Kumana, Abitana-Huanyam und Moré.
Von den Filmen sind Abzüge nur erhalten von einen Filmen.
12. Veröffentlichungen (unvollständige Zusammenstellung)26
12.1. Dissertation
1923 Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Gattung Cecropia und ihrer Beziehungen zu den
übrigen Conocephaloideen. Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin.
12.2. Wissenschaftliche Zeitschriftenaufsätze
o.d. ‘Neue Arten der Gattung Cecropia nebst Beiträgen zu ihrer Synonymik’.
1924 ‘Neue Cecropien aus Nordbrasilien’, in: Notizbl. Bot. Gart. u. Museum Dahlem, Bd. IX (30.12.1924).
1927 ‘Meine Reise durch Nordostbrasilien’, in: Journal für Ornithologie, LXXV,
Heft 3, S. 456 ff.
1930 Form und Ornamentik alt-peruanischer Spindeln, Baeßler-Archiv, Berlin:
Dietrich Reimer/Andrews & Steiner.
1930 ‘Unter nordostbrasilianischen Indianern’, in: Ethnologischer Anzeiger, Bd. II,
Heft 4, S. 185-188.
1931 ‘Unter nordostbrasilianischen Indianern (1924)’, in: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, LXII, S. 111-205.
1931 ‘Ein figürliches Ikat-Gewebe aus Peru’, in: Weltkreis.
que me foi entregue, para as coleções do Museu Nacional - Rio de Janeiro. Heloisa Alberto Tones Prof.-Chefe
de Lecçad Rio, 22 de Fevereio de 1935”
Basiert auf Nevermann (o.d.).
1932 ‘Emilie Snethlage: Chipaya- und Curuaya-Wörter. Aus dem literarischen
Nachlaß herausgegeben von E.H. Snethlage’, in: Anthropos, Bd 27, S. 65-93.
1932 ‘Worte und Texte der Tembé-Indianer’, Tucuman.
1936 ‘Nachrichten über die Pauserna-Guarayú, die Sirionó am Rio Baures und die
S. Simonianes in der Nähe der Serra S. Simon’, in: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie,
LXVII, S. 278-293.
1937 ‘Übersicht über die Indianerstämme des Guaporégebietes’, Tagungsberichte
der Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde, (Bericht über die II. Tagung in Leipzig
1936), Leipzig, S. 172-180.
1937 Indianerkulturen aus dem Grenzgebiet Bolivien-Brasilien. Ergebnisse der
Forschungsreise 1933-1935, Veröffentlichung der Reichsstelle für den unterrichtsfilm zu dem Archivfilm Nr. B 25. (ca. 1936/38), Berlin.
1939 Musikinstrumente der Indianer des Guaporégebietes, Baessler-Archiv, Beiheft 10, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer/Andrews & Steiner.
1939 ‘Untersuchung über das Pferdchen-Spiel auf Java und Bali’, Berlin.
12.3. Populärwissenschaftliche Schriften und Zeitungs-Artikel
1927 ‘Bei den Indianern des nordostbrasilianischen Hochlandes’, in: Illustrierte
Zeitung, Leipzig: Verlag J.J. Heber, 169. Band, Nr. 4298, 28.7.1927, S. 144.
1929 ‘Im Indianerdorf’, (Einführung zur Kinderstunde der Deutschen Welle, Reisen und Abenteuer, am Do. 10.1.1929, 14.30 Uhr), in: Deutsche WlleJgg, Nr.
1 (4.1.1929), S. 11.
1935 ‘Zwei Jahre in ewigen Wäldern’, in: Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten, Nr. 155,
Di, 4.6.1935, 1. Beilage, S. 5.
1935 ‘Zwei Jahre in ewigen Wäldern’, in: Hannoverscher Kurier, Nr. 252 53, So.
2.Juni 1935.
1935 Indianerkulturen aus dem Grenzgebiet Bolivien-Brasilien. Ergebnisse der
Forschungsreise Dr. E. Heinrich Snethlage 1933-1934, Führer durch die
Ausstellung im Staatlichen Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin.
1937 Atiko Y. Meine Erlebnisse bei den Indianern des Guaporé, Berlin: Klinkhardt
& Biermann. [Rezension: Stig Rydén in: American Anthropologist, Vol. 40,
No. 1, January-March 1938]
12.4. Nachrufe
1930 ‘Dr. Emilie Snethlage zum Gedächtnis’, in: Journal für Ornithologie,
LXXVIII, Heft 1, S. 122-134. (mit Bild).
1932 ‘Erland Nordenskiöld (+ 5.7.1932)’, in: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 64. Jgg. S.
1932 ‘Theodor Koch-Grünberg (+ 9.4.1932)’, in: Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung,
Do. 7.4.1932.
o.d. ‘Robert Lehmann-Nitsche’, in: Archiv für Anthropologie, N.F. Bd. 24, Heft 34, S. 275-278.
‘Konrad Theodor Preuss’, in: Archiv für Anthropologie, N.F. Bd. 24, Heft 34, S. 278-280.
12.5. Rezensionen
o.d. Schauinsland, H.: Fragen und Rätsel, Bremen, 1931.
o.d. Wassén, Henry: Original Documents from the Cuna Indians of San Blas, Panama.
o.d. Baldus, Herbert: Ensaios de Etnologia Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, 1937
o.d. Rydén, Stig: Archaeological Researches in the Department of La Candelaria.
Göteborg 1936.
[o.d. zahlreiche weitere Besprechungen im Archiv für Anthropologie, N.F. und Ethnologischer Anzeiger.]
13. Literaturverzeichnis
Generaldirektor der Staatlichen Museen
1939 Tagungsberichte Nr. I 2114/39, Berlin C2, Am Lustgarten, den 5. Oktober
Nevermann, H.
o.d. ‘Emil Heinrich Snethlage zum Gedächtnis’, in: Archiv für Anthropologie. N.F.
Bd. XXVI, Heft 1/2 (Sonderdruck ohne Seitenangabe).
Nimuendaju, Curt
1925 ‘As tribus do Alto Madeira’, in: Journal de la Société des Américanistes, n.s.t.
17, S. 137-172.
Nordenskiöld, Erland
1924 Forschungen und Abenteuer in Südamerika, Stuttgardt [Stockholm 1915].
Snethlage, Albert
1982 ‘[Genealogie van de familie] Snethlage [Duitse tak]’, in: De Nederlandsche
Leeuw, XCIXe, S. 77-111.
Snethlage, Emil Heinrich
1927 ‘Meine Reise durch Nordostbrasilien’, in: Journal für Ornithologie, LXXV,
Heft 3, S. 456 ff.
1930 ‘Unter nordostbrasilianischen Indianern’, in: Ethnologischer Anzeiger, Bd. II,
Heft 4, S. 185-188.
1937a Indianerkulturen aus dem Grenzgebiet Bolivien-Brasilien. Ergebnisse der
Forschungsreise 1933-1935, Veröffentlichung der Reichsstelle für den unterrichtsfilm zu dem Archivfilm Nr. B 25. (ca. 1936/38), Berlin.
1937b Atiko Y. Meine Erlebnisse bei den Indianern des Guaporé, Berlin: Klinkhardt &
1939 Musikinstrumente der Indianer des Guaporégebietes, Baessler-Archiv, Beiheft 10, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer/Andrews & Steiner.
Dr. Rotger Michael Snethlage
1. Introduction
Let me first point out to the reader that I do not have any specialised ethnological
knowledge, since I have been trained principally in Law. Maybe I will speak about
things that are obvious to the specialist. Furthermore, I’m afraid that my own command
of English is very limited and I’m very grateful to my wife for translating the original
German text and to my cousin Andrew Galitzine for proof reading the final draft.
In this article, I will shortly outline the course of my father’s life. Then I will introduce his two expeditions to South America. Thereafter, I will give a short overview
of those Indian tribes that he visited during his last journey from 1933 to 1935. Finally,
I’ll mention the whereabouts of his collections, and indicate which manuscripts are still
in my possession.
2. Youth and studies
My father, Dr. Emil Heinrich Snethlage, was born in Bremerhaven in 1897 on the
31st of August, and died in Potsdam in 1939 on the 25th of November at the early
age of 42.1 He was injured whilst serving in the German Navy. I was only 3 years old
at the time, and, therefore, I have no immediate recollection of his life, and only
know him through all the stories told by my mother.
My grandfather was a teacher who often changed towns because of his work.
Therefore my father saw many schools between Pomerania and Westphalia in ancient Prussia. During World War I in the years 1917 - 1919, he had to go to the
Navy. After this he was discharged and when he had graduated from school in 1919,
he started his university studies in botany, zoology and, as his main subject, ornithology. His aunt, Dr. Emilie Snethlage, also an ornithologist, inspired him. She worked
in Belém, Pará, Brazil, at the Goeldi Museum. My father studied in Freiburg, Kiel
and Berlin where he obtained in 1923 a doctorate in philosophy on a zoologicalbotanical theme.
3. Brazil and the passion for ethnology
Immediately after his graduation my father went to Brazil in order to do his first ornithological research, in cooperation with his aunt. From February 1924 onwards he continued his investigations alone in the northeastern region of Brazil. Soon he came in
contact with the Guajajára and the Krân-tribes, on whom he published later on. In the
summer of 1926, he returned to Germany. In 1927 he was employed at the Völk1
See Mr. Albert Snethlage (1982), and H. Nevermann (n.d.).
erkunde Museum in Berlin, the Berlin Museum of Ethnology, in order to administer the
South American collections. With passion he devoted himself to the then young science
of ethnology. In 1933 he departed for his second exclusively ethnological expedition. It
was sponsored by the Baessler-foundation in Berlin. The location of his research was
the frontier region of Bolivia and Brazil, formed by the Itenez or Guaporé river. There
he visited 13 unknown tribes and collected many of their cultural objects. Back in Germany, he published several small essays as well as his popular-scientific book “Atiko y”
and the scientific study on the “Musical instruments of the Indians in the Guaporéregion”, the latter of which was done in association with his friend Mario Schneider.
My father planned monographic studies about the different tribes, and had already
started on a monograph of the Moré. He planned the publication of his vocabularies,
started on essays on South American symbolism and on themes from the indigenous
religions. World War II halted all of these plans in 1939. Shortly before his death he
became vice-director of the South American collections of the Berlin Museum of Ethnology.2
See Der Generaldirektor der Staatlichen Museen (1939).
4. The expedition of 1923-1926
Now a few words about the first expedition in 1923/26.3 In 1923 my father went together with his aunt Dr. Emilie Snethlage on an ornithological expedition to Maranhão,
north Brazil, a region which was at that time mainly terra incognita for ornithologists.
They paused at São Luiz, São Bento, Tury-assú (where the Urubú-Indians attacked the
non-indigenous people), Alto de Alegria and Mangunça Island.
After his aunt had to return to Belém do Pará, he travelled alone in Brazil from
March 1924 to April 1926, by order of the Field Museum in Chicago. He travelled from
São Luiz, both by railway and by boat, with many difficulties caused by the floods, via
Rosario up the Rio Itapicurú until Codó and Cocos, which at that time consisted of just
a railway-station and a few huts of black people.
With mules he travelled on via Pedreiras (close to Mearim) to Barra do Corda.
There he contacted the so-called “tame” Indians, who had not been extensively investigated. They were the Remkokamekrã and Aponyekrã tribes that formed part of the Canella peoples who spoke languages of the Gê family, and the Guajajáras, who spoke a
Tupi language.
4.1. Canellas
My father spent some time with the Canellas in Ponto, a village of the Remkokamekrãs,
situated about 120 km south of Barra do Corda in the source region of the Rio Corda.
There he gained the confidence of the Indians. He reports about an amusing idea of the
Indians: “They wanted me to stay with them and become their chief. The main reason
must have been the thought, that they could have their revenge on the hated Brazilian
settlers, with the help of a strong German and his weapons. In the beginning, I didn’t
think they were serious. But when I started to leave, they wouldn’t allow it, and, to enforce their arguments, they brought me a pretty Indian girl who couldn’t have been
more than 11 years old. They took no notice of my objections. I was in a real fix, because I already had sent my servant and my beasts of burden back to Barra do Corda.
Only when I told them about my wish to see my old parents just one more time, they
agreed to let me go.”4
4.2. Guajajára
In October 1924, my father went from Barra do Corda by horse to Grajahú and got to
know the villages of the Guajajára Indians, a Tupi tribe of about 1.500 souls at that
time, deep in the rainforest. Later, he sailed down the Rio Grajahú to the nearby
Kreapimkataye, a Krãn-tribe of the Tymbiras, who spoke a language that belongs to the
Gê linguistic family.
See Snethlage (1927).
See Snethlage (1930).
4.2. Apinaye
In early December 1924, he was back in São Luiz, only to travel on to the state of Ceará
immediately to continue his work. Via Ipiapába, Ceará, and Arára he came back to Parnaíba. From there, after having made a short trip to Deserto, up the Rio Parnaíba - about
540 km – he went via Teresina, capital of the state of Piauí, which had about 20.000
inhabitants, to Amarante/São Francisco, situated on the border between Piauí and Maranhão. Then, after a short stop to collect ornithological objects again, he went on to
Floriano, Urrusuhy, Inhumas and Tranqueira. In October 1925, he went via Goiás and
Certeza down the Rio Tocantins. Initially, he used a raft he had built himself, but later
on he hitched a ride from some merchants who had a much bigger one. He passed
Pedro Afonso and Carolina, which was occupied by revolutionary Brazilian soldiers
soon after his arrival. They were, however, disciplined and well behaved towards him
and after their departure, in November 1925, my father travelled on into the region of
the São Antonio falls. There he came into contact with the Apinaye (or Apinagés), a
Krãn-tribe of the Gê linguistic family, who used to pronounce a “g” instead of the “k”
as pronounced by the Maranhese tribes.
Because of a series of malarial attacks his work got interrupted. He had to wait two
months for the next steam ship, with indigestible food and no quinine, no medical care,
lying in an always humid native cabin between sacks filled with salt. Finally in March
1926, he was brought back to Carolina, where a German settler looked after him until
he was healthy enough to return. In the middle of April 1926 he arrived again in Pará.
5. The expedition of 1933-1935
On his second expedition, from 1933 until 19355, my father travelled to the region of
the Itenes/Guaporé river. Its tributaries and surrounding region still offered many opportunities to obtain new ethnographical information. Neither the Swedish explorer
Erland Nordenskiöld nor the Brazilian General Rondon, nor the very first travellers,
missionaries and explorers had been able to visit every corner of this region. This was
the reason that my father met many tribes who were not yet known to Western civilisation.
In the middle of July 1933, my father arrived in Pará and on the 10th of August he
was in Porto Velho, which is the starting point of the Madeira-Mamoré railway. At km
151 of this railway he visited the stone drawings. In early September he reached the
starting point of his expedition, called Campamento Komarek. The so-called “savage”
Indians of the Moré tribe were so angry about the arrival of yet another white man, that
they burnt down the farm workshop during the following night. Thereafter relationships
were difficult, and my father needed an additional four weeks to contact the Moré.
5.1. Rio Cautario, Bella Vista, Rio Mequens
From that time onwards my father spent three more months of exploration among the
Moré and the Itoreauhip peoples on the Bolivian side of the border. When finally the
See Snethlage (1937b).
research permission from the Brazilian Government reached him, he was allowed to
enter Brazilian territory. On Christmas day of 1933 he started off for the Rio Cautario to
visit the Kumaná-Indians living on its headwaters. It was the day, - as he heard three
months later -, that his baby daughter, who was born one day before, had died.
In February 1934 he met the Pauserna in Bella Vista and conducted excavations in
Caféthal (Piso firme). In early March he arrived at the Chiquitano-tribe in Pernambuco,
an already westernised tribe.
In the middle of March 1934 he set out for the villages of two chiefs of the Makurap, called Uaikuri and Guata. About two weeks later he continued to Serra de Allianza, where he did excavations again. Thereafter he went up the Rio Mequens to the
Amniapä tribe in the village of Tapuawa. He travelled mainly alone by canoe, sometimes with Indian rowers and guides. In May 1934 he reached the tribe of the
Guaratägaja and went back down the Rio Mequens. In the middle of June he travelled
up the Rio Branco to visit the tribe of the Arua at São Luiz.
5.2. Walking-tour across the rainforest
In July my father set out on a walking tour across the rainforest and visited the Makurap, Jabuti, Wayoro, Arikapu and Tupari tribes. In the middle of August he travelled
down the Rio Branco and back to the Rio Cautario. In October, he was with the Moré
and Itoreauhip Indians again. Finally, at the end of November, he left the Campamento
Komarek in order to return home. In the following sections, something will be said
about each of the different tribes6 mentioned here.
5.3. Moré and Itoreauhip
The lower part of the Itenez or Guaporé river separates Brazil and Bolivia. The Moré
and Itoreauhip lived on the Bolivian banks. Both tribes speak languages that belong to
the Chapakura language family. In my father’s time they were distinguishable only by
their different languages and different ways to wear their hair: the Moré let their hair
hang down to their shoulders, the Itoreauhip bound it in a knot. They wore shirts made
of bark, often striped, but the men were usually naked. In festive times they wore lip
and ear ornaments, tiaras and feather-crowns, and feather ribbons in many colours on
the arms and legs. They had innumerable ribbons and belts, which were painted or
decorated with bark. They seldom painted their bodies, but the women loved to massage themselves and their relatives with urucu, a red vegetable dye dissolved in palm
5.3.1. Dwelling
The Moré and Itoreauhip used to live in clans of 15 to 70 people in huts with gabled
roofs, covered with palm straw. During the times when there were many mosquitos
they went to sleep in special cabins which were completely shut off by leaves of patohu
and which had an entry that was shut by an interwoven door.
They planted bananas, corn, manioc, yams, batatas, pineapples, cotton and urucu.
They fished by different methods: arrows, weir-baskets and poison vines. In the season
when fruits were ripening and the Moré lived nomadically, they hunted for birds and
other animals with arrows, which they sometimes shot from small hunting cabins that
resembled beehives. They would attach their cotton hammocks to the supporters of
their small huts. These huts were covered with patohu-leaves.
5.3.2. Men’s work
As members of a warlike people, the Moré men attached great importance to the decoration of their round bows and arrows. Bows were strengthened with inner bark and
cotton. The arrows of more than one metre length were trimmed with two, three or four
half feathers. Depending on their function, the war or the hunt, the arrows had heads
made of bamboo knives, wooden saws, bones and pricks taken from stingrays.
Hunting and fishing, building the cabins and working in the fields was also mainly
men’s work. Men had to look for the best inner bark from the forest, which had to be
See Snethlage (1937a).
softened by beating before it could be sewn into bark shirts. They made wooden boats,
troughs, seats, and wooden toys for the children. They tidied their working place themselves, and from time to time they helped the women to chew manioc flour for the production of chicha.
5.3.3. Women’s work
The women’s first and foremost task was to work in the household. This included for
example the pounding of corn using longish troughs and millstones or mill sticks, the
peeling of manioc roots with wooden knives, grinding them down by rubbing with a
thorny piece of a paxiúba palm root, washing the mash, filtering it through a stick mat,
roasting it on an earthenware dish until it becomes “farinha”, and baking flat cakes out
of it. Of course the women always had to take care of the children, as well as to make
pottery, to pluck cotton, to spin and to knot hammocks. Thinner fibres were used to
braid arm or leg ribbons on simple weaving frames.
5.3.4. Games, music, dance
Some noteworthy games were: beating a shuttle made of corn leaf; playing a buzzing
disk; string games. The Moré and Itoreauhip had many musical instruments. It was customary to blow on a simple reed whistle when passing by someone’s house. There were
many different types of whistles and flutes: a simple long flute or a traverse flute, and a
unit of two or more reeds for playing different notes. Trumpets made of calabash were
quite popular, as well as rattles made of bottle gourds, filled with seeds or several small
calabashes. Dances were accompanied by beating on palm leaves or (with a stick) on
bottle gourds. Other dances were accompanied by a certain rubbing instrument7, flute
music or singing. All dances seemed to represent events from legends.
5.4. Chapakura-language
About the Chapakura language family my father wrote:8 “In 1913 Créqui-Montfort and
Rivet posited in the Journal de la Société des Americanistes the existence of the Chapakura language family on the basis of the available material. At that time the languages
of the following tribes belonged to it: Chapakura or Huaci, Kitemoka, Pavumva (Huanyam), Napeka, Iten, and, with reservation, perhaps the Rokorona and Muré (or Murä
[Nimuendaju 1925]). This was based on the (in my father’s time, R.S.) not yet published
vocabularies by d’Orbigny at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the already published vocabularies by Cardús and Hasemann. It was enough to hypothesise the existence of this language family.
Later on Nimuendaju published more vocabularies, which expanded this group
with 3 more tribes: the Tora, Jain and Urupá (Nimundaju 1925). Consequently, the region of this language family was extended far into the north. Erland Nordenskiöld, un7
Heulkuye, in Snethlage (1937a:4), which is probably based on a Portuguese expression. Also Reib-Idiophon
in Snethlage (1939:12).
Handwritten note from the legacy of E.H. Snethlage, in the possession of Dr. Rotger Snethlage, Aachen.
fortunately, published only isolated expressions9, but it may be that he has collected
more material.
The linguistic knowledge gained on my voyage to the Guaporé region allows me
to add the Kumaná and the Kabixi-Huanyam. At the same time, the vocabularies from
the Abitana-Huanyam (on the Miguel) and from the Iten (who in reality represent at
least 2 tribes: Moré and Itoreauhip) were enlarged. Therefore, it is now possible to
evaluate critically the material collected by Créqui-Montfort and Rivet. Even though I
didn’t obtain coherent texts, the typical character of the Chapakura languages - I would
prefer to call them Huanyam languages – has become more clear.”
5.5. Kumaná
Also the Kumaná, who live between the middle part of the Cautario river and Rio São
Domingos, belong to the Chapakura tribes. However, culturally they were very different from the Moré and Itoreauhip. The Kumaná lived in big oval-shaped huts. Only the
women were naked, but when they had visitors or festivities, they wore their bark shirts
that were painted with remarkably beautiful patterns. The men were very shy and let
themselves be seen only in their bark shirt wearing a belt. Even bark jackets were made.
Broad ribbons of bark with fringes were worn around the arms and legs, and decorations of the face and head were very carefully applied. The arrows were longer than the
arrows of the Moré. The heads of the bird arrows consisted of tapir teeth attached with
wax. The bark beaters were round, without edges. The spindle’s flywheel was made of
bottle-gourd skin instead of fruits or cork. The women did not use a mortar for pounding flour but used broad planks of wood cut from the root of a big tree from the rainforest. When they danced, they marched one behind the other in a circle, accompanied by
singing, rattling sounds and the deep sound of a gourd trumpet.
5.6. Abitana-Huanyam
In the cultural sense, the Kumaná were somewhat different from the Abitana-Huanyam,
who lived close to the Rio São Miguel and who also spoke a Chapakura language. One
of the main differences is the possession of poisoned arrows and blowguns, but there
were also many differences of less importance. None of the Huanyam women in those
days wore European clothing. A woman would wear a big lip-pin of quartz, which lent
her the dignity of married status.
About musical instruments I should mention especially the trumpet made out of
the thighbones of enemies. The dance of the Huanyam was also the circle-dance.
5.7. Makurap
In the Rio Branco region, there were no Chapakura-speaking tribes, but rather many
tribes with Tupi-elements in their languages. According to my father, these were not
closely related to one another. The Makurap, a tupoid tribe, dominated all its
neighbours in a cultural sense. They were divided into clans of patriarchal law, and they
See E. Nordenskiöld (1924).
gave themselves the names of plants or animals. They believed in the existence of two
good gods and a bad one, Choari, master of the ghosts and of the souls of the dead. For
their cult, they used an altar of mats that were usually painted. The altar stood opposite
the entrance in the big cone-shaped house. During the different ceremonies and healing
sessions, the magician used a magic rattle, a magic plank, several medicinal herbs, a
snuffing-reed, a magic feather, and from time to time other things.
Both sexes used to be naked except for the hip belt made out of seeds. Other body
ornaments were: bracelets painted red with urucu, woven in the appropriate size on a
round piece of wood; necklaces made of seeds or polished shells; nose ornaments made
of reed or of a feather-trimmed stick; and eardrops made of polished shells. Men always
wore a penis-cover.
Men had to weave baskets and mats, women had to manufacture calabashes and
carrying nets of tucum fibres. Cotton was spun in a Bakairi manner, but it did not play a
very important role in the material culture.
Bows and arrows resembled those of the Huari, about which Erland Nordenskiöld
reported. Dancing consisted of fast steps to and fro, in accord with the rhythm indicated
by bamboo trumpets or by an instrument that consisted of nine different flutes in a row,
attached to one another with wax. While dancing, the Indians often used to put a hand
on the shoulder of the man ahead.
5.8. Arua
The Arua are also a tupoid tribe. A number of them had already been rallied on an Indian post and wore European clothes. Their original culture had already been overwhelmed by Makurap culture.
5.9. Wayoro
The Wayoro, who were already then few in number, had also adopted the Makurap
culture. Their language was a mixture of Makurap and other Tupi languages.
5.10. Jabuti and Arikapu
Also the Jabuti and Arikapu were under strong cultural influence of the Makurap. Their
completely different languages contain many elements from the languages of the Gê
tribes of eastern Brazil.
5.11. Tupari
At that time, the Tupari, also a tupoid tribe, were rather independent. They did not have
a mat altar like the Makurap, but instead used snuff that played a much bigger part in
their magic ceremonies than it did among the other Rio Branco tribes. In their material
culture many things looked very different from those of the other Indians: bows, arrows, stools, the way to cover the genitals, most of the objects for personal decoration,
the spindles and the musical instruments. Here there was a long bamboo flute with four
finger holes. In the rainforest there were clearings where they cultivated several types of
vegetables unknown to other Rio Branco tribes. Beetles were bred in the pulp-mash of
chicha, for their larvae were a well-appreciated delicacy and a welcome addition to the
manioc-bread. Flint axes were used.
The chicha dance was quite similar to the dances of the other Rio Branco inhabitants. The flute dance, however, was only done by two so-called chiefs who were always at the same distance from each other.
5.12. Amniapä and Guaratägaja
In their material and social culture, the Tupari were closer to the Amniapä (or Mampiapä) and Guaratägaja from the upper Mequens region and the region of the Pimenta Bueno tributaries, which have their sources on the same plateau. At least in
my father’s time these Indians, like the Tupari, were cannibals from time to time and
used to eat their enemies or disloyal members of their own tribe. The Amniapä’s and
Guaratägaja’s whole life was filled with ceremonies. Guests walked into the village
with their bows and arrows at the ready. The village consisted of several conically
shaped huts resembling beehives that stood around a cleared yard. After ceremonial
speeches and after having drunk a big calabash of chicha, the guests and the hosts
were able to get together in a less formal way. The hosts were generous in their hospitality and competitive games were played. A game that required great skill involved a rubber ball that could only be touched with the head. Every participant contributed arrows or decorations. The games were counted with grains of corn.
After the games, the men would use ceremonial snuff, while women had to stay in
the back of the huts. Women were only allowed to appear again after the blessing of the
food and at the beginning of healing ceremonies. Dancing, however, only began in the
evening, lasted the whole night and ended at dawn. Soon thereafter, the guests would
take their leave with sad speeches and tears in their eyes.
In the Mequens region, men and women wore very different ornaments, in complete contrast to the people of the Rio Branco region. The Guaratägaja, but not the Amniapä, wore a genital cover that was different among the diverse groups. In addition,
they wore a loincloth of buriti palm fibres, as well as rich body ornaments consisting of
shoulder chains, necklaces, bracelets, and facial ornaments. The women wore numerous
necklaces, made mainly of seeds. Their chains made of entire shells were characteristic,
and they wore nose and ear ornaments that were quite different from those of the men.
Men used to manufacture their ornaments themselves, except for the ribbons. They
scratched or painted on their snuffboxes - some of them had patterns like those in the
region of the Xingu headwaters. They also produced mask tops provided with remarkable teeth cut out of palm fibre. The jawbones of piranhas, knives of agouti teeth, and
pebbles were used as tools. Palm fibre skirts and baskets were also made by men. Their
musical instruments were calabash trumpets, pan flutes, four-hole flutes, bone flutes
and rattles.
5.13. Pauserna-Guarayu
The Pauserna-Guarayu had completely lost their original culture, with the exception of
a few of its aspects, such as certain pieces of household and furniture. Hammocks, for
example, were made to sell. Also pottery, although in a much simplified form, was still
made by the women. The Pauserna mixed pulverised pottery fragments with fresh clay
for creating hard ceramics. The old ornaments were nearly all lost.
5.14. Chiquitano
The Chiquitanos, christianised already by Jesuits, had completely lost their original
culture. Only in a few traditions and maybe in some dances did the old spirit still persist.
6. Collections
My father’s principal collection with all its unique objects was left behind in Brazil. Its
present whereabouts are unknown to me, perhaps in Rio de Janeiro. An old register,
which was dated February 1935 during the second expedition, counted about 130 objects and ceramic fragments, which were given to the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro. The register mentions objects from all the tribes discussed above and includes 79
ceramic pieces from Canindé. The duplicate collection was given to the Berlin Völkerkunde Museum. Nearly 90% of it survived the Second World War intact. Only the
objects from the excavations were completely lost to science. Of the 36 objects listed in
1928, which had been brought back to Berlin, only 8 examples are still in existence, all
of which belong to the Canella tribe. The collection from the expedition of 1933 to
1935 consisted of 2.353 objects. Of these, 216 were lost during the war, 100 of which
were objects from the excavations. The biggest part of the collection, with more than
800 objects, is from the Moré and Itoreauhip Indians.
The Abitana-Huanyam are represented with 215 objects. Also the Makurap, Aruá,
Amniapä, Wayoro and the Jabuti, are each represented with over a 100 objects.
A further 80 objects belong to the Guaratägaja. More than 30 each are attributed to
the Pauserna, Kumaná and Arikapu and about 20 each to the Chiquitano and Papamiän.
The entire collection is in storage at Berlin-Dahlem. There is no complete exhibition of
my father’s South American collections.
7. Scientific diary and word-list
During the war, my mother, Dr. Anneliese Snethlage, saved the carbon copies of my
father’s scientific diary kept during the expedition from 1933 to 1935 in the Guaporé
region, and the vocabularies. After the war professor Rivet of Paris, and professor Gusinde of Vienna assisted her.
In my possession are 1.000 pages from the diary-copy and a few vocabularies with
about 500 words each from the Pauserna, Kumaná and Abitana-Huanyam, and about
200 words from the Moré. The other lists are lost.
8. Acknowledgements
I would like to express thanks to the University of Leiden, professor Adelaar and Mrs.
Brijnen, who encouraged my wife and me to present this talk in Warsaw. Perhaps it will
be possible during my lifetime to publish the saved vocabularies and - if there is any
interest - also the diary.
9. Publications of E.H. Snethlage (incomplete list partially based on Nevermann, n.d.)
9.1. Doctoral dissertation
1923 Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Gattung Cecropia und ihrer Beziehungen zu den
übrigen Conocephaloideen. Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin.
9.2. Scientific articles in journals
n.d. ‘Neue Arten der Gattung Cecropia nebst Beiträgen zu ihrer Synonymik’.
1924 ‘Neue Cecropien aus Nordbrasilien’, in: Notizbl. Bot. Gart. u. Museum
Dahlem, Bd. IX (30.12.1924).
1927 ‘Meine Reise durch Nordostbrasilien’, in: Journal für Ornithologie, LXXV,
Heft 3, pp. 456 ff.
1930 Form und Ornamentik alt-peruanischer Spindeln, Baeßler-Archiv, Berlin:
Dietrich Reimer/Andrews & Steiner.
1930 ‘Unter nordostbrasilianischen Indianern’, in: Ethnologischer Anzeiger, Bd. II,
Heft 4, pp. 185-188.
1931 ‘Unter nordostbrasilianischen Indianern (1924)’, in: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, LXII, pp. 111-205.
1931 ‘Ein figürliches Ikat-Gewebe aus Peru’, in: Weltkreis.
1932 ‘Emilie Snethlage: Chipaya- und Curuaya-Wörter. Aus dem literarischen
Nachlaß herausgegeben von E.H. Snethlage’, in: Anthropos, Bd 27, pp. 65-93.
1932 ‘Worte und Texte der Tembé-Indianer’, Tucuman.
1936 ‘Nachrichten über die Pauserna-Guarayú, die Sirionó am Rio Baures und die
S. Simonianes in der Nähe der Serra S. Simon’, in: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie,
LXVII, pp. 278-293.
1937 ‘Übersicht über die Indianerstämme des Guaporégebietes’, Tagungsberichte
der Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde, (Bericht über die II. Tagung in Leipzig
1936), Leipzig, pp. 172-180.
1937 Indianerkulturen aus dem Grenzgebiet Bolivien-Brasilien. Ergebnisse der
Forschungsreise 1933-1935, Veröffentlichung der Reichsstelle für den unterrichtsfilm zu dem Archivfilm Nr. B 25. (ca. 1936/38), Berlin.
1939 Musikinstrumente der Indianer des Guaporégebietes, Baessler-Archiv, Beiheft 10, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer/Andrews & Steiner.
1939 ‘Untersuchung über das Pferdchen-Spiel auf Java und Bali’, Berlin.
9.3. Popular scientific writings and journal articles
1927 ‘Bei den Indianern des nordostbrasilianischen Hochlandes’, in: Illustrierte
Zeitung, Leipzig: Verlag J.J. Heber, 169. Band, Nr. 4298, 28.7.1927, p. 144.
1929 ‘Im Indianerdorf’, (Einführung zur Kinderstunde der Deutschen Welle, Reisen und Abenteuer, am Do. 10.1.1929, 14.30 Uhr), in: Deutsche WlleJgg, Nr.
1 (4.1.1929), p. 11.
1935 ‘Zwei Jahre in ewigen Wäldern’, in: Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten, Nr. 155,
Di, 4.6.1935, 1. Beilage, p. 5.
1935 ‘Zwei Jahre in ewigen Wäldern’, in: Hannoverscher Kurier, Nr. 252 53, So.
2.Juni 1935.
1935 Indianerkulturen aus dem Grenzgebiet Bolivien-Brasilien. Ergebnisse der
Forschungsreise Dr. E. Heinrich Snethlage 1933-1934, Führer durch die Ausstellung im Staatlichen Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin.
1937 Atiko Y. Meine Erlebnisse bei den Indianern des Guaporé, Berlin: Klinkhardt
& Biermann. [review by Stig Rydén in: American Anthropologist, Vol. 40,
No. 1, January-March 1938]
9.4. Obituaries
1930 ‘Dr. Emilie Snethlage zum Gedächtnis’, in: Journal für Ornithologie,
LXXVIII, Heft 1, pp. 122-134. (with photo).
1932 ‘Erland Nordenskiöld (+ 5.7.1932)’, in: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 64. Jgg. p.
1932 ‘Theodor Koch-Grünberg (+ 9.4.1932)’, in: Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung,
Do. 7.4.1932.
n.d. ‘Robert Lehmann-Nitsche’, in: Archiv für Anthropologie, N.F. Bd. 24, Heft
3-4, p. 275-278.
n.d. ‘Konrad Theodor Preuss’, in: Archiv für Anthropologie, N.F. Bd. 24, Heft 34, p. 278-280.
9.5. Reviews
n.d. Schauinsland, H.: Fragen und Rätsel, Bremen, 1931.
n.d. Wassén, Henry: Original Documents from the Cuna Indians of San Blas, Panama.
n.d. Baldus, Herbert: Ensaios de Etnologia Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, 1937
n.d. Rydén, Stig: Archaeological Researches in the Department of La Candelaria.
Göteborg 1936.
[n.d. numerous other reviews in Archiv für Anthropologie, N.F. and Ethnologischer
10. References
Generaldirektor der Staatlichen Museen
1939 Tagungsberichte Nr. I 2114/39, Berlin C2, Am Lustgarten, den 5. Oktober
Nevermann, H.
n.d. ‘Emil Heinrich Snethlage zum Gedächtnis’, in: Archiv für Anthropologie. N.F.
Bd. XXVI, Heft 1/2 (offprint without page numbers).
Nimuendaju, Curt
1925 ‘As tribus do Alto Madeira’, in: Journal de la Société des Américanistes, n.s.t.
17, pp. 137-172.
Nordenskiöld, Erland
1924 Forschungen und Abenteuer in Südamerika, Stuttgardt [Stockholm 1915].
Snethlage, Albert
1982 ‘[Genealogie van de familie] Snethlage [Duitse tak]’, in: De Nederlandsche
Leeuw, XCIXe, pp. 77-111.
Snethlage, Emil Heinrich
1927 ‘Meine Reise durch Nordostbrasilien’, in: Journal für Ornithologie, LXXV,
Heft 3, pp. 456 ff.
1930 ‘Unter nordostbrasilianischen Indianern’, in: Ethnologischer Anzeiger, Bd. II,
Heft 4, p. 185-188.
1937a Indianerkulturen aus dem Grenzgebiet Bolivien-Brasilien. Ergebnisse der
Forschungsreise 1933-1935, Veröffentlichung der Reichsstelle für den unterrichtsfilm zu dem Archivfilm Nr. B 25. (ca. 1936/38), Berlin.
1937b Atiko Y. Meine Erlebnisse bei den Indianern des Guaporé, Berlin: Klinkhardt
& Biermann.
1939 Musikinstrumente der Indianer des Guaporégebietes, Baessler-Archiv, Beiheft 10, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer/Andrews & Steiner.
Astrid Alexander - Bakkerus
Leiden University
1. Introduction
The Cholón language is an indigenous North-Peruvian language. The area in which
this language was spoken is vast. It reached from the Huallaga River, a tributary of
the Marañón River, until the eastern slopes of the Andes, and from Juanjui in the
north until Tingo Maria in the south. Cholón formed one language family (Cholonan)
together with Híbito. Both languages now seem to be extinct.
Fortunately, there is a description of Cholón, the Arte de la Lengua Cholona,
written by Fray Pedro de la Mata. Pedro de la Mata belonged to the Order of the
Franciscans. He finished his Arte in 1748 in Truxillo, a city located on the north
coast of Peru. In 1772, the grammar was copied by another friar, Fray Gerónimo
Clota. Clota wrote the copy in San Buenaventura del Valle, a mission on the Huallaga River. This manuscript can nowadays be consulted in the British Library (Department Manuscripts, Shelfmark Additional 25322) in London. Pedro de la Mata’s
grammar gives us an overall picture of Cholón. Structurally, Cholón is an agglutinative SOV language, and nominal and verbal forms can be composed of a stem and
several affixes. Person markers are usually prefixed, and case markers, numeral classifiers, aspect markers and auxiliaries are suffixed.
In this paper we shall focus on the nominal prefixes (section 2) and on nominal
morphophonological phenomena, such as vowel assimilation (section 3), vowel suppression (section 4) and stem alternation (section 5).
The grammatical data in this article are taken from Pedro de la Mata’s Arte de la
Lengua Cholona. These data - the Cholón vowels, consonants and lexical items transcribed - is represented in bold characters. The original spelling, however, is not always maintained. The symbols c, ch, g, i, j, ll, ng̃, qu, u, v, z have been replaced as
c; qu
c/_i, e; z
g/_e; j
i/$_V$, $V_$
u/$_V$, $V_$; v
> ts
2. Nominal person markers
The Cholón language has the following nominal affixes that mark possession:
kimi- ... -ha
i-, či-
‘his’, ‘her, ‘its’
These nominal person markers are prefixed to nouns, except for the plural marker ha, which is suffixed. The forms which end in i are the neutral forms. This final i can
assimilate with a stem vowel and change into e and u, as we shall see in section 3.
Consequently, mi-, pi-, ki-, i- and či- can also appear as me-/mu-, pe-/pu-, ke-/ku-, e/u- and ču- respectively. The form če- has not been found in nominal forms (cf. section 3).
The second person singular presents an interesting case, because it makes a distinction in gender. The form mi-/me-/mu- is used to indicate a male person, and the
form pi-/pe-/pu- is used to designate a female person. This distinction in gender is
restricted to the second person singular.
The second person plural possessive marker is a discontinuous morpheme that
consists of two elements: a second person marker mi-/me-/mu- and a plural marker ha. This plural marker is suffixed to the stem of the noun.
The third person plural has two forms: a vocalic form i-/e-/u- and a consonantal
form či-/ču-. The former is used, if the stem begins with an alveolar t, s, n, l or with a
palatal č, š, ñ, . The latter is employed before an initial p, k, m.
In the examples below, the nouns pa ‘father’, kot ‘water’, pana ‘way’, taka
‘bone’ and šaš ‘armadillo’ are employed to illustrate the use of the person marker čibefore p, k, m, and the use of the person marker i- before an alveolar, such as t, and
before a palatal, such as š. The paradigms below will also show that the nouns pa,
kot, and pana have a relational form1 which begins with a nasal. In the paradigms of
pa and kot only the third person singular has a relational form. This form begins with
the nasal η. The other persons keep the absolute form2 with the stem-initial p and k
respectively. The third person singular form of pa is ηuč ‘his father’ (a irregular
form), the third person singular form of kot is ηot ‘his water’. The relational form of
pana is mana. This form can be reduced to mna. mana appears in the third person
singular form, mna occurs in the other forms.
Relational form: the form which appears in the possessive paradigm of the noun, where it occurs after a
prefixed person marker of after the zero-marked third person singular.
Absolute form: the citation form that could appear as a lemma in a dictionary.
Absolute forms, relational forms and the irregular third person form ηuč, which is a
case of stem suppletion, will be discussed in section 5. In the following table all possessive forms of the Cholon nouns discussed above are listed:
3. Vowel assimilation
From a structural point of view, a possessive person marker can be composed of a
vowel (a-, i-, e-, u-), a consonant + a vowel: (mi-, pi-, ki-, či-) or is marked zero: Ø.
Person markers composed of a consonant + a vowel (2s, 1p, 2p, 3p, including the
third person plural which consists of a vowel only) have a neutral form in i (mi-/pi(2s), ki- (1p), mi- ... -ha (2p), či- (3p), i- (3p)). This vowel can assimilate with the
first vowel of a subsequent stem, provided that the first vowel of that stem is e or u.
The neutral i does not harmonize with a and o. The first vowel of a stem can be suppressed (see section 4). If vowel elision occurs in a nominal stem, i can assimilate
with a second stem vowel e or u.
Assimilation of the vowel of a possessive person prefix with a stem vowel, however, is not a compelling process. For instance, instead of the form *me-nen ‘your
hand’, we find mi-nen in the Arte. Furthermore, assimilation does not take place in
nominal forms, if the stem has an initial p, k and m followed by e, i.e. if the stem of a
noun begins with one of the sequences pe, ke and me. Therefore, the third person
plural marker či-, which only occurs before an initial p, k and m, cannot harmonize
with an e-stem. As a consequence, či- cannot manifest itself as če- in nominal forms,
like it does in verbal forms. It can, however, harmonize with a u-stem, and can thus
appear as ču- as well.
Since the vowel of a possessive marker assimilates with the vowel of a following stem, vowel harmonization is regressive in Cholón. Furthermore, it is also a
“non-contact” harmonization. The vowel that harmonizes (the vowel of the person
marker) is generally separated by a consonant from the vowel harmonized (the stem
vowel), as a result of which there is no contact between (i.e. immediate adjacency of)
both vowels. Even if the noun begins with a vowel, the vowel of person prefixes will
not be adjacent to it. This is because both vowels are then separated through insertion
of an epenthetic consonant n. In the case of el ‘yucca’ this n emerges even in the
(zero-marked) third person (see below and see section 5).
The nouns el ‘yucca’, ¥u ‘peacock’ and pul ‘son’ below will serve as examples for
vowel assimilation of the person prefixes with an e- and a u-stem. The paradigm of
the noun kešum ‘chin’ shows that a possessive prefix does not harmonize with a noun
that has a ke-sequence in initial position, but that it keeps its neutral form in i. The
examples also give evidence that in Cholón assimilation is regressive and that it is a
non-contact phenomenon.
The possessive prefixes thus maintain their neutral form before a noun that begins
with pe, ke and me; and before a noun that has an a- and an o-stem. This we have
been seen in section 2. The neutral form is obviously also maintained before an istem, as can be seen in the paradigm of the noun ¥iš ‘ape’ below.
4. Vowel suppression
Cholón nouns which consist of more than one syllable can be reduced by vowel suppression or elision (cf. the paradigm of the word pana ‘way’ in section 2). Vowel
suppression can take place, if a multi-syllabic noun is preceded by a person marker.
In such nominal structures, the vowel of the first syllable of the noun, i.e. the second
syllable in the possessive nominal structure, can be elided. According to the data in
the Arte, suppression generally occurs if the relational forms of the noun have m in
initial position, and if the absolute form of the noun begins with the consonant n.
Obviously, the vowel is not suppressed in a third person singular form, because
this form is not preceded by an overt possessive marker. The first vowel of a multisyllabic noun is not elided either, if the prefixed person marker only consists of one
vowel, such as the third person plural marker i-/e-/u. Since this possessive marker
occurs before an initial t, č, s, š, ts, n, ñ, l, (cf. section 2), the third person plural forms
of nouns that have these consonants in initial position are not submitted to vowel
Like vowel assimilation, vowel suppression is not compulsory. In the paradigm
of the noun pangala ‘turkey (species)’ the first vowel of the relational form mangala
is not suppressed, notwithstanding the fact that the stem has m in initial position. The
reason why the vowel is not elided could be that, in this case, vowel elision would
produce a form with three contiguous consonants: *mngala, which is presumably not
allowed in Cholón.
Vowel elision can be found in the paradigms of the nouns pakup¥ew ‘passion
fruit’ (relational form makup¥ew), puyup ‘bridge’ (relational form muyup), na¥o
‘pupil’ and sala ‘married woman’. The forms below represent evidence that the first
vowel of a stem is suppressed, if the stem has m or n in initial position. They also
show that the vowel is not suppressed after a mono-vocalic prefix, such as i-. The
paradigm of the noun sala is remarkable, because vowel elision does usually not take
place in a stem that begins with s, and because the form of the third person plural is
irregular. The irregular form i-tala ‘their married woman/women’, instead of a regular *i-sala, could suggest that the noun sala ‘married woman’ could be a relational
form derived from an absolute form *yala ‘woman’. The fact is that nouns of which
the absolute form begins with the semi-vowel y generally present a stem-initial s and
ts in their relational or possessive forms (see section 5). *yala ‘woman’ would then
become sala and tsala ‘somebody’s woman’, i.e. a ‘married woman’.
‘passion fruit’
5. Stem alternation
A number of nouns make a distinction between an absolute form - the pure, free form
that can for instance occur as a lemma in a dictionary - and a relational form. The
relational form is the form that appears in the possessive paradigm of the noun,
where it occurs after a prefixed person marker or after the zero-marked third person
Nouns that distinguish between an absolute form and a relational form are those
of which the stem of the absolute form begins with a vowel or with one of the following consonants: p, k, y, h. The former, the vowel-initial nouns, take an epenthetic
n in their relational forms: #V > n-V/$_ , as we have seen in section 3. The latter, the
p-initial, k-initial, y-initial and h-initial nouns alter the beginning of their stem. This
alternation occurs as follows:
#p > m/$_ : nouns with a stem-initial p change p into the nasal m in their relational
forms. The nouns pa ‘father’, pan ‘mother’, pul ‘son’ and puluč ‘husband’ are
an exception. They keep the initial p in all forms, except in that of the third person singular. However, the third person singular form of pa and pan is ηuč ‘his
father’ instead of *ma and ηeč ‘his mother’ instead of *man respectively. The
third person singular forms of pul and puluč - mul ‘his son’(cf. section 3) and
muluč ‘her husband’ respectively - have a regular relational form with m in initial position.
#k > η/$_ : nouns that have k in initial position also have only one relational form,
and this is also the third person singular form. In this form, k is also changed
into a nasal, the nasal η (see kot ‘water’ > ηot ‘his water’, section 2). This k > η
alternation in the third person singular form could explain the deviant forms ηuč
‘his father’ and ηeč ‘his mother’ in the paradigm of pa ‘father’ and pan ‘mother’
respectively. The fact is, Cholón could have borrowed the deviant forms from
Híbito, because in Híbito the words for ‘father’ and ‘mother’ are Cotc and
Queec respectively (Martínez Compañón, 1783). These words - transcribed as
kotk and keek respectively by Adelaar & Muysken (to appear) - do have a steminitial k which in Cholón could regularly change into η in the third person singular form. The relational form of kotk would then be *ηotk, and that of keek
would be *ηeek. Subsequently, while adopting these forms, Cholón could have
changed the stem vowel o of kotk into u, and the final k of both kotk and keek
into a palatal č.
#y > ts, s/$_ : nouns which have y- in initial position alter this consonant into s and ts
in their relational forms. Note the paradigm of yuč ‘alfalfa’ below:
#h > s, /$_ : nouns with a stem-initial h change h into s in the third person singular
form. Example: hil ‘word’ > sil ‘his word’.
These consonant alternations show that a modifying stem can present different
grades: a continuant grade (y, h), a stop grade (k) and a nasal grade (η) (Anderson,
1985: 168). I would like to add a fricative (s) and an affricate (ts) grade to this classification. In Cholón, the continuant grade of the absolute form changes into a fricative
and an affricate grade in the relational forms. Furthermore, the stop grade changes
into a nasal grade in at least the relational possessive third person form.
Note that Guarani also has nouns that distinguish an absolute form from relational forms. These nouns also have a stem-initial alternation or oscillation. They
generally have t- in initial position in the absolute form, r- in a relational form (a
form preceded by a determiner), and h- in the relational third person form. Note the
following examples from (Adelaar & Silva Lôpez, 1986: 25):
‘my name’
‘his name’, ‘her name’
6. Person markers and morphophonological processes tabled
In conclusion, the following table will show the occurrence of the third person plural
prefixes i-/e-/u-, či-/ču-, and of vowel suppression and stem alternation in relation
with the consonants p, t, č, s, š, m, n, ñ, l, ¥, y. According to the data in the Arte,
these are the consonants that can appear in initial position in nouns. Furthermore,
these consonants can be preceded by a person marker or appear in a relational form,
with the exception of the consonant y. This consonant does not appear stem-initially
in a relational form, but it is relevant for the occurence of stem alternation.
Table 1: stem-initial consonants and the occurrence of the person markers i-/e-/u, či-/ču-, and of the
phenomena of vowel suppression (VS) and stem alternation (SA).
Adelaar, W.F.H. and P.C. Muysken
The Languages of the Andes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Adelaar, W.F.H. and L. Silva Lôpez
1986 ‘Grammaticaal overzicht van het Guarani’, in: Wampum 7:11-59, Leiden.
Anderson, S.R.
1985 ‘Inflectional Morphology’, in: T. Shopen (ed.), Language Typology and Syntactic Description, Volume III, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.
Martínez Compañón, B.J.
1978 Truxillo del Peru, facsimile [1783], Volume 11. Madrid: Ediciones Cultura
Hispánica del Centro Iberoamericano de Cooperación.
Mata, P. de la
1748 Arte de la Lengua Cholona, London, British Library, Ms. Additional 25322,
Transcription: A. Alexander-Bakkerus, Leiden University, 1996.
Abbreviations and symbols
first person
second person
third person
stem alternation
vowel suppression
noun boundary
syllable boundary
morpheme boundary
reconstructed form
after, before
in the neighbourhood of
Esther Herrera Z.
El Colegio de México
1. Introducción
En este trabajo presento un estudio instrumental de la lengua embera; los datos
provienen de la variante Chamí, hablada en Cristianía, y fueron proporcionados por
Dálila Yagarí, a quien mucho agradezco1. El presente estudio tiene como objetivo
indagar las pistas acústicas de las oposiciones fonológicas más notorias de la lengua;
en particular, se centra en el análisis de las oclusivas y de las aproximantes, y en la
determinación del timbre vocálico. El estudio instrumental de estos segmentos no
resulta de una elección azarosa; la bibliografía sobre la lengua, consultada directa e
indirectamente, presenta un panorama confuso al respecto. En las descripciones
proporcionadas por autores como Loewen (1969b), Gralow (1987), Pardo (1988), o
los tres estudios contenidos en Llerena (1995), la discrepancia no sólo tiene que ver
con el número de segmentos, sino con parámetros como la sonoridad, la corriente de
aire y la tensión, entre otros. Si bien la mayoría de los autores coinciden en distinguir
tres series de oclusivas, Loewen (1969b), quien estudia el habla del Sambú,
perteneciente al embera del Norte, propone, para el embera en general, una triple
división que consta de oclusivas fortis, oclusivas lenis y sonoras (/p t k p t k b d /);
Gralow (1987) [Apaud. Constenla y Margery (1991:142)] postula, para el Chamí,
dos series: sorda-sonora (/p t k b d/); Aguirre Licht (1995), quien también estudia la
variante Chamí, divide las oclusivas en sordas, sonoras e inyectivas (/p t k b d  /);
Rito Llerena (1995) propone, para la variante occidental de Cristianía, una división
que consta de oclusivas aspiradas, oclusivas no aspiradas y oclusivas glotalizadas (/ph
th kh p t k b d /). Por último, mencionaré lo que propone Edgar Hoyos (1995) para
quien la triple distinción que encuentra en la variante de Quío consta de oclusivas
tensas sordas, oclusivas tensas sonoras y oclusivas laxas (/p t k b d b’d’’/),
mientras que la variante Chamí de Risaralda, según el mismo autor, tendría un
contraste sordo-sonoro (/p t k b d/).
Las divergencias que se desprenden de lo anterior, podrían interpretarse como
un simple reflejo de la realidad lingüística de la lengua, esto es, las diferentes
variantes del embera tienen distintos inventarios de segmentos oclusivos, situación
perfectamente posible en algunas lenguas. Sin embargo, como más adelante veremos,
en algunos casos los criterios proporcionados para las divisiones propuestas no
La recolección de los datos se realizó durante 1999-2000 en colaboración con Dálila Yagarí, hablante del
embera y estudiante de la Maestría en Lingüística Indoamerica del Centro de Investigación y Estudios
Superiores en Antropología Social de la ciudad de México.
resultan del todo convincentes, y la discrepancia persiste para una misma variante,
como la Chamí.
En relación con los segmentos [-consonánticos], el panorama es igualmente
incierto. A excepción de Pardo (1988), ninguno de los autores citados reconoce la
vocal /ø/, ni a // como segmentos del inventario. En todos ellos, el inventario de
vocales consta de /i e a o  u/ y la serie nasalizada respectiva.
La presente investigación arroja, para la variante Chamí, resultados distintos. La
evidencia fonológica, aunada al hecho acústico, muestra que en las oclusivas, la
distinción pertinente es la de sordo, sonoro e ingresivo; tal distinción tiene que ver
con el mecanismo de corriente de aire. Así mismo, permite postular que además de
/w /, la lengua distingue la labiodental //, segmento que por su comportamiento
fonológico, forma junto con // el grupo de aproximantes. Asimismo, el resultado del
análisis acústico de las vocales, revela que el embera tiene dos vocales medias, pero
contrariamente a lo que se ha propuesto, esas dos vocales son, la una [+anterior, redondeada], y la otra [+ central, + redondeada]. Esto da como resultado que el
espacio vocálico del embera presente un hueco en la posición media posterior.
El presente trabajo está organizado como sigue: en el apartado 2 presento una
breve descripción fonológica de la lengua, en el apartado 3 desarrollo el análisis
acústico de la oclusivas, las aproximantes y la estructura acústica de las vocales,
incluyo una posible explicación del hueco que presenta el inventario de vocales,
mediante la teoría de la dispersión debida a Lindblom (1990).
Para el análisis acústico se utilizó el programa CSL (Computer Speech Lab)
fabricado por Kay Elemetrics Corp; los datos se digitalizaron a 11.025 Hz., con el fin
de extraer información acústica hasta alrededor de los 5.000 Hz., y con ello poder
calcular el LPC (Coeficiente de Predicción Lineal), y conocer la estructura
formántica de las vocales, así como examinar los espectrogramas. La recolección de
los datos se hizo en el laboratorio de El Colegio de México; los datos se grabaron
directamente en el CSL usando un micrófono Shure.
2. Características generales del embera
Siguiendo la clasificación de Loewen (1969b) y la que recientemente proporciona
Mortensen (1999), la lengua embera pertenece a la familia lingüística del Chocó.
Esta familia se localiza a lo largo del litoral pacífico, desde Panamá hasta Ecuador;
consta de dos lenguas: el waunana, conocida también como noanama, y el embera. El
embera a su vez se ha dividido en dos grupos: el del Norte y el del Sur, cada uno con
sus dialectos respectivos; así el embera catío o dabeida y el embera del norte
conforman el embera norte; el embera catío está en Colombia (en la cuenca del río
Sinú, al sur del Departamento de Córdoba y en la cuenca del río Sucio, al norte del
Departamento de Antioquia); mientras que el embera norte se localiza en Panamá y
en el Norte de Colombia. Según datos de Mortensen (1999:2), el embera del norte
cuenta con 25.000 hablantes aproximadamente; 10.000 viven en Panamá y el resto en
Colombia. El embera catío cuenta con un número no mayor de 20.000 hablantes. El
embera del Sur incluye al saija (con 3.500 hablantes aproximadamente)2, al baudó
(con 5.000), al tadó (con alrededor de 1.000) y al embera chamí (con 3.500), variante
esta objeto del presente estudio3.
En su fonología, los procesos segmentales más notorios incluyen un profuso
proceso de armonía nasal desencadenado por la serie de vocales nasales. Este
proceso ocurre en distribución complementaria en dos direcciones: de izquierda a
derecha, una vocal nasal desarrolla una consonante nasal homorgánica cuando está
antes de cualquier consonante [obstruyente]; de derecha a izquierda, cualquier vocal
nasal nasaliza los segmentos que no son consonantes plenas, es decir, las vocales las
semi-consonantes y las dos aproximantes / /. Presenta también un proceso de
posteriorización en el cual /k h/ Æ [q ] desencadenado por las vocales /a ø/, y una
armonía vocálica en ciertos sufijos. El sistema fonológico que propongo es el que
aparece en 1.
Velar Laringea
(j )
Vocales orales y nasales
Como se desprende de 1, con base en el mecanismo de corriente de aire, el embera
establece una doble distinción en las oclusivas, esto es, oclusivas producidas con una
Las cifras para el embera del sur provienen del Leading Global Language Portal (http://www.your
Una de las cuestiones que se han discutido es la posible relación de los grupos de la familia Chocó con
las tribus brasileñas; así lo sugirió Nordenskiöld (1929). Tal suposición se motivó en la existencia de
préstamos del español para referirse a ciertos animales marinos como el delfín y la ballena; en el hecho de
que las canoas de los Chocó son para río y no para mar y en un parecido en motivos mitológicos. (Apaud.
Loewen 1969a:239). Recientemente, Constenla y Margery (1991:172) proponen una relación con los
Chibchas con base en un conjunto de cognados.
corriente de aire pulmonar egresiva (plosivas), y sonidos oclusivos producidos con
una corriente de aire glotálica ingresiva (implosivas). Asimismo, presenta una doble
distinción respecto a la sonoridad. Las oclusivas sordas se distinguen en tres puntos
de articulación; en el caso de las oclusivas sonoras e implosivas, en esta variante, el
sistema no incluye segmentos con punto de articulación velar. En la serie de
fricativas la lengua no opone sordas y sonoras. El sistema vocálico presenta una
distinción oral-nasal con igual número de vocales en las dos series. Una de sus
características es la notable ausencia de la vocal media posterior redondeada.
Los segmentos que aparecen entre paréntesis en 1 tienen un estatus fonológico
dudoso, ya que es posible derivar las dos semiconsonantes de las vocales
correspondientes, cuando éstas no ocupan la posición nuclear de la sílaba tónica; la
nasal palatal no contrasta y se puede interpretar como resultado de la nasalización de
la vocal /i/. Respecto a los segmentos / / mostraré que se trata de aproximantes. Tal
afirmación se apoya en el comportamiento que tienen en varios procesos fonológicos
que veremos más adelante, así como en su estructura acústica.
En 2 se dan ejemplos que ilustran los distintos contrastes4.
(2) Consonantes:
pana ‘puente’
bana ‘varios’
kea ‘tipo de árbol’
pea ‘en diagonal’
‘carne con nervio
‘apuntar con algo’
atau ‘cargado en la espalda’
adau ‘tomado con la mano’
ii ‘nuevo’
aaa ‘maduro’
ekar ‘espalda’
ban ‘agua’
apis ‘¡estate quieto!’
‘golpear con la mano’
‘hacer el amor’
‘sacar, extraer’
‘salir, irse’
Las realizaciónes de las palabras con vocales nasales como /kiu/ ‘carne con nervio’, /tiu/ ‘apuntar con
algo’ y /a-/ ‘salir, irse’ son [kiu ], [tiu], y [a] respectivamente. Véase en 3.1 el patrón que presenta la
e ‘canasto’
t ‘piojo’
 ‘tos ferina’
De los datos anteriores podemos hacer algunas observaciones adicionales. El ítem de
‘oro’ y el de ‘llegar’ muestran que la distinción oral-nasal en las vocales se conserva
después de consonante nasal; en la distribución de las vocales, en la secuencia CV,
las vocales nasales no ocurren después de ninguna consonante implosiva; el contraste
entre vibrantes sólo se da entre vocales, además no hay palabras que se inicien o se
terminen con la vibrante simple (aproximante). Asimismo, los únicos segmentos
consonánticos que pueden aparecer en coda son las coronales /r n s/. A final de
palabra, esas consonantes ocupan la posición de coda debido a la elisión de uno o
más segmentos. Así, [ekara] ‘espalda’ alterna con [ekar]; [ban] ‘agua’ alterna con
[banja]; [apis] ‘¡estate quieto!’ alterna con [apise]...
3. Las consonantes oclusivas e implosivas
Desde un punto de vista articulatorio una oclusiva como /p t k/ consiste en un
momento de cierre, seguido por la soltura de ese cierre; en términos acústicos, la fase
de oclusión, cuya energía es de cero, se traduce por un silencio, la soltura por una
pequeña pero abrupta explosión. En una oclusiva sonora como /b d g/ la parte que
corresponde al cierre presenta un número pequeño de componentes armónicos de
baja frecuencia, mismos que conforman la llamada barra de sonoridad.
A diferencia de las plosivas, los sonidos implosivos no abundan en las lenguas
del mundo, aunque son comunes en algunas áreas geográficas como en África
Occidental, particularmente en las lenguas de Nigeria, como el degema y el hausa, y
el dahalo de la familia Cushitica (Costa Norte de Kenya). Según Maddieson (1984),
estos sonidos se encuentran sólo en el 13% de las lenguas del mundo.
Articulatoriamente, se producen gracias a la corriente de aire que se crea por un
movimiento hacia abajo de la glotis. Comparando los factores aerodinámicos durante
la producción de una oclusiva sonora y una implosiva, se observa que en las
oclusivas sonoras la amplitud de la vibración de las cuerdas decrece o permanece
estable durante la fase de cierre; mientras que en una implosiva sucede lo contrario:
hay un incremento gradual de la amplitud. Este aumento es el correlato acústico del
tipo de corriente de aire involucrado durante la producción de una implosiva. Lo
anterior se observa claramente en el oscilograma del par de palabras emberas /aa/
‘amigo’ y /aba/ ‘uno’ que aparecen en la figura 1.
Figura 1. Oscilograma de /aa/ “amigo” (izquierda) y de /aba/ “uno” (derecha).
Como se muestra en la zona marcada con las pequeñas flechas, la fase de cierre de la
implosiva de “amigo” presenta un notorio aumento en su amplitud, mientras que en
la oclusiva sonora de “uno” la amplitud decrece al final del cierre, justo antes del
momento de la liberación del aire y el inicio de la vocal siguiente. Este aumento de
amplitud durante la fase del cierre es una de las pistas acústicas que acompañan los
sonidos implosivos. Así ocurre en la lengua degema analizada en Lindau (1984), y
también en la lengua tsou reportada en Wright y Ladefoged (1994).
La disminución de la amplitud en la oclusiva sonora es resultado de la
disminución de la corriente de aire que pasa por la glotis. La corriente de aire
disminuye debido a que al estar cerrada la salida de aire por la oclusión, la presión
supralaríngea se incrementa. En las implosivas, el aumento de amplitud se debe al
aumento de tamaño del tracto vocálico ya que al bajarse la laringe, se baja también el
cuerpo de la lengua. Esta mayor cavidad impide que aumente el volumen de la
presión y por ello es posible incrementar la amplitud a lo largo del cierre.
El estudio acústico de las consonantes del embera revela tres situaciones de
manera constante: para las oclusivas sordas hay cero amplitud; disminución o
mantenimiento de la amplitud para las sonoras y aumento notorio en las implosivas.
En la figura 2 tenemos un ejemplo con la bilabial de /sipe/ ‘cuchara’ que completa la
caracterización acústica de la tres series.
A la luz de esta evidencia, veamos más de cerca las distintas propuestas que se
han hecho. Si la distinción fortis-lenis-sonora fuera aplicable para la variante Chamí,
como lo plantea Loewen (1969), se esperaría encontrar algún correlato acústico
relacionado con la tensión, como por ejemplo, una retención empecinada del cierre
Figura 2. Oscilograma que muestra la [p] en /sipe/ “cuchara”.
específica en la producción de las fortis, o bien algún tipo de proceso como la
sonorización de las lenis en contexto intervocálico, así sucede, por ejemplo en el
coreano (Kagaya 1974, Arellanes 2001), en el danés (Fisher-Jørgensen 1969) y la
lengua australiana jawon (Jaeger 1983) que han sido analizadas como lenguas con la
distinción fortis-lenis en su sistema. Los datos de 2 revelan que en embera la
distinción sordo-sonoro se presenta a principio de palabra y entre vocales. Aún más,
una comparación somera entre las palabras que da Loewen y las de mi corpus, indica
una correspondencia sistemática: los segmentos que él considera sonoros, corresponden a segmentos implosivos en mi corpus; los que transcribe como lenis,
corresponden a sonoros y los fortis corresponden a sordos. Esta regularidad se
observa en los datos de la siguiente tabla.
Loewen (1969b)
Tabla 1
p ak a
Loewen (1969b) argumenta su distinción en el hecho de que en waunana las fortis se
distinguen de las lenis en que tienen una soltura aspirada, mientras que las lenis
nunca se aspiran; las sonoras contrastan con las lenis en la “fuerza de la sonoridad”,
nos dice este autor. En la variante de estudio, efectivamente las sordas se realizan con
un componente de fricción en su soltura, pero se trata de un proceso que ocurre a
principio de palabra y en sílaba tónica y es particularmente notorio ante vocales [altas]. Se podría suponer que en la variante de estudio hay fonemas oclusivos sordos
y sordos aspirados, sin embargo no se encontró ningún par de palabras que
contrasten en este rasgo. Como vemos en la figura 3, la oclusiva bilabial se realiza
sin ningún componente de aspiración en su soltura debido a que en esa palabra el
acento recae en la sílaba anterior. Por el contrario en una forma como /øpøa/
‘iguana’, la oclusiva forma parte de la sílaba tónica. En la figura 3 tenemos el
oscilograma y el espectrograma correspondiente a la realización de ‘iguana’ y
podemos apreciar claramente la aspiración de la bilabial.
Figura 3. Oscilograma y espectrograma de /øpøa/ ‘iguana’
Respecto a la sonoridad de las implosivas, los estudios tipológicos muestran que son
normalmente sonoras (Greenberg 1970; Maddieson 1984). Por otro lado, si bien
Aguirre Licht (1995:30) tiene el mérito de identificar que la corriente de aire es
ingresiva, su descripción confunde: “Los sonidos inyectivos pueden ser
preglotalizados, laringealizados e implosivos”. Efectivamente, Greenberg, de quien se
inspira, aclara que las inyectivas pueden tener tres posibilidades fonéticas:
implosivas, preglotalizadas y laringealizadas. Esto quiere decir que en las lenguas
dichos segmentos pueden tener una de estas tres realizaciones, pero no por ello son,
fonológicamente hablando, ni preglotalizados, ni laringealizados. Por fortuna para la
fonología, el término implosivo ganó terreno sobre inyectivo, éste último usado
inicialmente por Catford (1939).
Por su parte, Llerena (1995:210) da una caracterización por demás caprichosa
de estos segmentos: “Aunque se ha interpretado que la corriente de aire en las [que él
denomina - EH] oclusivas glotalizadas es ‘ingresiva’ en las distintas lenguas y
variantes “epera”, la interpretación que aquí se hace es la de su caracter egresivo”. El
problema esencial, más allá de usar un símbolo que indica preglotalización, mismo
que usa Greenberg, es que no se conocen muchas lenguas que sólo tengan sonoras
glotalizadas sin que a la vez tengan la serie de sordas correspondientes, y estas
últimas no existen en la lengua. El componente de laringealización mencionado en
Greenberg que acompaña la realización de las implosivas efectivamente lo
encontramos en la lengua. En la figura 4 se da el espectrograma de la realización de
/kua/ ‘cama’. En él se puede ver la laringealización que provoca la implosiva //
sobre el inicio de la vocal siguiente; dicha laringealización aparece esporádicamente,
la pista acústica constante es, como ya vimos, el aumento en la amplitud.
Figura 4. Espectrograma de /kua/ ‘cama’
Tengo la impresión de que la distinción de Hoyos (tensa sorda, tensa sonora y laxa)
está fuertemente inspirada en algún aspecto de la descripción de Loewen; como se
sabe, la oposición tenso-laxo es equivalente a fortis-lenis.
3.1. Las aproximantes
En las descripciones de la lengua, se ha reconocido la vibrante simple //, aunque no
se ha discutido su estatus en el sistema; respecto a la labiodental //, a excepción de
Pardo (1988), quien distinguió un segmento distinto, la mayoría de los autores han
interpretado este último segmento como /w/. Así lo señalan Constenla y Margery
(1991:147) en su acuciosa recopilación y comparación de materiales: “Pardo (1988)
suele transcribir [v], en Chamí, Catío y Sambú, en la mayor parte de los casos en que
los otros autores escriben /w/”.
En este apartado, mostraré que / / son segmentos distintos a las demás
consonantes de la lengua; para ello me apoyo en la evidencia instrumental y en la
fonológica, en particular en su estructura acústica y su comportamiento en dos
procesos: la nasalización y la geminación. La nasalización es sin duda uno de los
procesos más notorio. En los datos de 5a se ejemplifica uno de sus lados; en ellos las
formas fonológicas de la izquierda muestran que una vocal nasal se realiza
desarrollando una transición consonántica nasal homorgánica con la consonante siguiente5.
(5) a
‘húmedo, para café’
‘agua sucia’
‘en la nariz’
Los ejemplos de ‘anciana’ y ‘anciano’ revelan que la vibrante múltiple y la simple
tienen un comportamiento asimétrico respecto al proceso de nasalización: la múltiple
provoca la aparición de la consonante nasal de transición, mientras que la vibrante
simple se nasaliza; el caso de “ají” no dice que las consonantes nasales no permiten
que se desarrolle la transición nasal.
Los datos de 5b muestran la otra dirección del proceso de nasalización, consiste
en la propagación, de derecha a izquierda, del rasgo nasal de la vocal sobre un
conjunto de segmentos específicos. Al mismo tiempo nos dicen qué segmentos
bloquean esa propagación y la extensión que tiene el proceso.
(5) b
øa 
karaa 
‘horcón de la casa’
Como sabemos, durante la producción de una vocal nasal el velo se baja para permitir el paso del aire por
la cavidad nasal; mientras que para una consonante se requiere una obstrucción oral y el velo levantado. En
las secuencias de vocal nasal más consonante, el tiempo para efectuar dicho cambio de postura en los
articuladores puede provocar que la obstrucción oral se realice antes de levantar el velo y con ello se genera
una consonante de transición entre estos dos estados articulatorios. Véase Ohala (1983).
dua- esa
‘perros’ (sujeto)
‘centro del patio’
Como indican las formas después de las flechas, el conjunto de segmentos que se
nasaliza incluye vocales, semivocales, la vibrante simple y la aproximante
labiodental. Los segmentos que bloquean el proceso son los que a su vez permiten la
creación la nasal de transición que vimos en 5a. Asimismo, la formas ‘horcón de la
casa’ y ‘centro del patio’ ejemplifican las dos direcciones del proceso. La extensión
no va más allá de la sílaba, ya a la derecha, ya a la izquierda.
La evidencia anterior muestra que / / son segmentos que tienen un
comportamiento diferente de los otros segmentos [-silábico]. Una prueba adicional
de ello son los datos que aparecen en 6 en los que ilustra un proceso morfológico
regular, en el cual se prolonga la consonante que está más a la derecha de la base
adjetival. El morfema, que consiste en un rasgo [-continuo], agrega el significado de
‘muy’ a las bases.
Formas base
Formas sufijadas
‘recto, derecho’
‘reseco’ (piel)
Nuevamente vemos un comportamiento similar de / /, es decir su resistencia a
geminarse, particularmente en los tres últimos ejemplos.
Por otro lado, la comparación de la estructura acústica de // y de /w/ sugiere
que se trata de segmentos distintos. En la figura 5a el espectrograma de
[kukwara] ‘medio amarillo’ revela que se trata de un diptongo; uno de los indicios es
la transición negativa y rápida que la [w] provoca sobre el el F2 de [a]; mientras que
en [tiii] ‘nuevo’ la aproximante labiodental presenta zonas de resonancia bien
definidas revelando una constricción menor a de una consonante y mayor a la de una
vocal; además, como se observa en la parte marcada, el segmento presenta mayor
estabilidad; la transición negativa que provoca en el F2 de las dos vocales altas que lo
circundan revela que su punto de articulación es labiodental.
Figura 5a. Oscilograma y espectrograma de [kukwara]‘medio amarillo’
Figura 5b.Oscilograma y espectrograma de [tiii] ‘nuevo’.
3.2. Estructura formántica de las vocales.
Si bien en el caso de las consonantes hay discrepancia entre los autores, para las
vocales del embera parece haber consenso: en todas las descripciones está ausente la
vocal central redondeada, en su lugar se menciona una /o/. Sin embargo, el estudio
instrumental nos dice que la lengua tiene /ø/. Al igual que las demás vocales de la
lengua, esta vocal se determinó con base en el estudio de su estructura acústica. Para
ello, se calculó el LPC de los dos primeros formantes de cada vocal en su parte
estable; se tomaron 30 casos de cada una de ellas en posición tónica; posteriormente
se calculó la media de F1 y la de F2-F1 (Ladefoged y Maddieson 1990). Las medidas
de F1 proporcionan información respecto a la altura; el resultado de F2-F1 nos indica
anterioridad y posterioridad. Los resultados de esas mediciones se trasladaron a la
carta de formantes de la gráfica 1. Las elipses indican la desviación estándar de cada
Gráfica 1. Valores promedio de F1 (en la abscisa) y de F2-F1 (en la ordenada) y desviación estándar
Los sistemas como el anterior que presentan un hueco en la zona posterior media no
son raros, se encuentran en noruego, wolof, y en otras lenguas documentadas por
Maddieson (1984) que tienen /e/ sin tener la posterior correspondiente. Para una
teoría como la de Lindblom (1990) que intenta predecir los sistemas vocálicos con
base en la dispersión, el criterio importante es el máximo contraste perceptual en los
sistemas. Un sistema con máxima dispersión acústica es el que ocupa los puntos más
alejados del espacio vocálico. Esto da como resultado tres vocales periféricas /i u a/.
A partir de esta máxima dispersión, si hay un número diferente de vocales anteriores
que de posteriores, la tendencia es que haya más vocales anteriores que posteriores,
como sucede en el embera. Según la base de datos de UPSID (Maddieson 1980), en
que se retoman 317 lenguas de 20 familias, el 30% de los sistemas asimétricos tienen
preferencia por las vocales anteriores. La teoría de Lindblom también predice que
entre las vocales altas, por constituir una zona de máxima dispersión, es donde puede
aparece una vocal adicional. Cuando se considera el espacio vocálico hacia abajo, se
reduce la dispersión, por ello, las lenguas reducen las distinciones de las vocales no
periféricas en la medida en que se va de las zonas altas a las bajas. El embera tiene
una vocal baja, dos medias y tres altas. En la base de datos del UPSID, en el 50% de
los casos con una vocal no periférica alta, hay una vocal alta central, el otro 50 % se
reparte entre la /ü/ y la //. En este sentido, al tener la vocal central, el embera
conserva sus zonas de dispersión bien diferenciadas. Las vocales centrales del
embera reflejan una tendencia en las lenguas por privilegiar, para los contrastes, la
zona media antes que la de los extremos.
4. Conclusión
La evidencia fonológica, entrelazada con la evidencia acústica, ha permitido
identificar las distinciones pertinentes de la lengua embera. Como se demostró, éstas
tienen que ver con la corriente de aire y la sonoridad. El sistema vocálico presenta un
hueco que encuentra una explicación con base en las tendencias acústicas hacia un
aprovechamiento del espacio vocálico. Asimismo, la evidencia instrumental, aunada
a la fonológica, ha permitido identificar una aproximante labiodental que no había
sido identificada en la lengua. A partir de estos resultados, es posible abordar la
riqueza fonológica que tiene en términos de las tendencia universales y los modelos
teóricos actuales.
* Esta investigacíon se realizó con el apoyo de CONACyT Proyecto 27598 H.
Aguirre Licht, Daniel
1995 ‘Fonología del ebera-Chamí de Cristianía’, en: Rito Llerena Villalobos
(Coord.), pp. 9-84.
Arellanes, Arellanes Francisco
2001 ‘La Oposición fortis-lenis aspirado en las Consonantes obstruyentes del
coreano’, en: Herrera Z. Esther (ed.), Temas de Fonética instrumental, El
Colegio de México.
Catford, J.C.
1939 ‘On the Classification of Stop Consonants’, Le Maître phonétique 65:2-5.
Constenla, Umaña Adolfo y Enrique Margery
1991 ‘Elementos de Fonología comparada Chocó’, Filología y Lingüística,
Universidad de Costa Rica, XVII:137-191.
Fischer Jørgensen, E.
1969 ‘Voicing, Tenseness and Aspiration in Stop Consonants, with Special
Reference to French and Danish’, ARIPUC 3:63-114.
Gralow, Frances L.
1987 ‘Fonología del Chamí’, Sistemas fonológicos de Idiomas Colombianos III:2942, ILV, Ministerio de Gobierno, Townsend, Lomalinda, Colombia.
Greenberg, Joseph H.
1970 ‘Some Genaralizations Concerning Glottalic Consonants, Specially
Implosives’, IJAL 36 :123-145.
Hoyos, Edgar
1995 ‘Estudio embera: en Torno a la Comparación de algunas Variantes’, en: Rito
Llerena Villalobos (Coord.), pp. 87-207.
Jaeger, Jeri J.
1983 ‘The Fortis/Lenis Question, Evidence from Zapotec and Jawon’, Journal of
Phonetics 11:177-189.
Kagaya, Ryohei
1974 ‘A Fiberscopi and Acoustic Study of the Corean Stops, Affricates and
Fricatives’, Journal of Phonetics 2: 161-180.
Ladefoged, Peter y Ian Maddieson
1990 ‘Vowels of the World’s Languages’, Journal of Phonetics 18 : 93-122.
Lindau, Mona
1984 ‘Phonetic Differences in Glottalic Consonants’, Journal of Phonetics 12: 147155.
Lindblom, B.
1990 ‘Models of Phonetic Variation and Selection’, Phonetic Experimental
Research, Institute of Linguistics, University of Stockholm, XI, 65-100.
Llerena Villalobos, Rito
1995 ‘Fonología Comparada de las Lenguas epera de Occidente (Jaidukama) y
Oriente (Cristianía Alto Andágueda)’, en: Rito Llerena Villalobos (Coord.),
pp. 209-322.
Llerena Villalobos, Rito (Coord.)
1995 Lenguas Aborígenes de Colombia Estudios Fonológicos del Grupo Chocó,
CCELA-Uniades, Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia.
Loewen, Jacob
1969a ‘Choco I: Introduction and Bibliography’, IJAL 29: 239-263.
1969b ‘Choco II: Phonological Problems’, IJAL 29: 357-371.
Maddieson, Ian
1980 PSID: The UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database, Los Angeles:
1984 Patterns of Sounds, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mortensen, Charles A.
1999 A Reference Grammar of the Northern Embera Languages, Studies in
Languages of Colombia 7, SIL International and the University of Texas at
Nordenskiöld, E.
1929 ‘Les rapports entre l’art, la religion et la magie Chez les Indiens Cuna et
Chocó’, Journal de la societé des Americanistes de Paris, Vol. XXI: 141-158.
Ohala, John J.
1983 ‘The Origin of Sound Patterns in Vocal Tract Constraints’, en: Peter F.
MacNeilage (ed.), The Production of Speech, Berlin/Heidelberg/Nueva York:
Springer Verlag.
Pardo, Mauricio
1988 ‘Indígenas del Chocó’, en: Correa, F. y X. Pachon, Introducción a la
Colombia amerindia, Instituto Colombiano de Antropología, Bogotá, pp. 251262.
Wright, Richard y Peter Ladefoged
1994 ‘A Phonetic Study of Tsou’, en: Fieldwork Studies of Targeted Languages
II,UCLA Working Papers Phonetics 87: 67-92.
Esteban Emilio Mosonyi
Universidad Central de Venezuela
Dada nuestra defensa irrestricta de la sociodiversidad —y de sus componentes, la
diversidad cultural y lingüística— hemos sido extremadamente críticos frente a
planteamientos como la inevitabilidad e irreversibilidad de la llamada “muerte
lingüística” (languague death) a partir de Nancy Dorian en adelante (1981). He sido
muy cauteloso a la hora de lanzar una afirmación tan contundente. Me consta que ni
esta autora ni otros que siguen sus lineamientos se pronuncian abiertamente a favor
de la desaparición de los idiomas vulnerables del mundo. Me parece mucho más
llamativo su modo impasible de hacer el diagnóstico correspondiente, sin asumir
posición alguna ni sentirse tentados a formular una crítica siquiera tímida frente a la
expansión, casi lineal, de las lenguas dominantes: ello se aprecia con bastante
transparencia en el caso de Dorian ante la imposición del inglés sobre el gaélico.
Parecieran sentirse a gusto en su papel de albaceas del fenómeno en cuestión.
Debemos aquí conformarnos con una cita breve pero característica:
Such a shift is an aspect of sociocultural change, intimately
linked to phenomena like urbanization, industrialization,
and secularization, though —interestingly— not predictable
from any of them. Increasingly, studies of linguistic
persistence or replacement have focused on contexts of
modernization and nationalization (Dorian, 1981: 4).
Nadie ignora que los idiomas minoritarios y minorizados —es decir, no tan
minoritarios pero sí tratados con discriminación y cierto desprecio— son vulnerables
y de hecho dejan de practicarse, con frecuencia acelerada, en sus respectivas
comunidades. Lo que no quiero asumir es ver este fenómeno como algo natural y tal
vez benéfico, ya que para mí y por fortuna para muchos, el valor irremplazable de
una lengua —tanto intrínseco como extrínseco, vale decir, expresivo y
comunicativo— constituye un dato axiomático.
Ahora bien, si no puedo pensar en la extinción de una cultura sino como un caso
de etnocidio, tampoco admito que la supresión de una lengua sea algo distinto de un
lingüicidio, y como tal enormemente perverso; sobre todo, dada la frecuencia sin
precedentes con que se viene dando el fenómeno bajo el manto de una globalización
aplastante. Uno no puede ser conservacionista en lo ambiental y homogeneizante en
lo humano, sin presentar grandes contradicciones y fisuras en su personalidad.
Igualmente, aceptar de manera aparentemente pasiva la supuesta fatalidad que va
corroyendo los idiomas oprimidos es muestra —si no de irresponsabilidad y
cinismo— de un cientificismo que sacrifica toda posición ética y política en aras de
conocer y describir un determinado “objeto” de estudio. Involucra también cierto
menosprecio hacia la creatividad y el conocimiento en cualquiera de sus formas, ya
que todas pasan por el lenguaje, es decir, las lenguas del mundo.
Además, frente a los representantes connotados de esta línea de investigación,
aquellos que apuestan a la inevitabilidad del “language death”, sostengo que el
proceso de erosión lingüística no es en modo alguno indetenible, salvo quizá en su
fase final, y aun allí caben algunas alternativas de acción. Piénsese por ejemplo en los
esfuerzos, si bien a menudo asistemáticos, que despliegan los movimientos y
comunidades indígenas por conservar de manera dinámica su lengua y cultura, sin
desligarse del contexto mundial contemporáneo.
Sin embargo, mi condición de activista de los derechos lingüísticos y humanos
en general no me ciega ante el hecho de que en la práctica estas lenguas, honrando
excepciones, no solamente pierden fuerza sino que en su interior sufren procesos
desestructurantes y desintegradores —bajo la presión de bilingüismos y
multilingüismos orientados hacia la transición a los idiomas más poderosos— que las
van empobreciendo y deteriorando gradualmente o incluso con cierta violencia. En
tal sentido, sí es preciso reconocerles méritos a los investigadores mencionados, ya
que ellos han diseñado esquemas descriptivos que diagnostican a cabalidad los
fenómenos concretos que ocurren cuando una lengua comienza a dejar de utilizarse,
ante todo en las generaciones jóvenes.
Una experiencia de esta naturaleza me ha ocurrido con el idioma arawak baniva
del Río Negro, también conocido en el Río Xié con el nombre de warekena o
werekena, muy diferente por cierto del warekena hablado en Guzmán Blanco, estado
Amazonas, Venezuela, estudiado y vivencialmente asumido por el lingüista
venezolano Omar González Ñáñez (1997). En otros términos, el baniva del Río
Negro —estudiado por nosotros— forma un sistema lingüístico o idioma único junto
con el warekena o werekena hablado en el Xié, Brasil; vale decir, son dos variantes
de una misma lengua. En cambio, el llamado warekena de Guzmán Blanco es bien
diferente aunque pertenece a la misma familia (arawak); la distancia puede ser como
la que media entre el lituano y el ruso.
Tengo que confesar que no poseo datos de primera mano sobre la variedad
baniva del Río Xié, si bien percibo —por los importantes trabajos de Alexandra
Aikhenvald— que la diferencia es mínima, casi desestimable (cf. Aikhenvald, 1998).
He permanecido en contacto con este baniva —no con el baniva-kurripako de
Colombia (cf. Gómez-Imbert, 1996: 458 y ss)— desde los años sesenta (cf. Mosonyi,
1968a y b), aun cuando durante la mayor parte de este período no pude,
lamentablemente, dedicarme a su estudio detallado y menos aún a su revitalización.
En efecto, el retroceso del baniva de Maroa empezó en la primera mitad del siglo
XX, por motivo de la aculturación rápida e impetuosa de sus hablantes (cf. Mosonyi
y Mosonyi, 2000: 184), mas también a consecuencia de una fuerte presión procedente
de la escuela castellanizante, las instituciones de la República y la población criolla
en general. El epicentro de esta etnia es el pueblo de Maroa, que ni siquiera en sus
mejores días pudo llegar a los mil habitantes, pero que inclusive en el momento de la
visita del sabio Humboldt (1950 [1799], IV: 202) presentaba ya ciertos visos de
urbanización y un alto grado de aculturación: en el siglo XIX llegó inclusive a poseer
una imprenta. Actualmente podría hablarse más bien de una suerte de vuelta a la
ruralidad, pues en el presente su población está emigrando a Puerto Ayacucho y otras
ciudades, aparentemente por falta de viabilidad económica, aunque hay muchas
razones que no cabe aquí examinar.
Cuando conocí al señor Hernán Camico, ya fallecido y probablemente el mejor
hablante de baniva en los últimos tiempos, esta lengua se encontraba sumida en un
deterioro muy profundo. Pero todavía muchos de los adultos maroeños lo utilizaban
corrientemente y lo conocía relativamente bien un sector de la juventud. Hoy día la
mayoría de los buenos hablantes —sería difícil cuantificarlos para la presente fecha,
aunque el Censo Indígena (Oficina Central de Estadística e Informática, 1992)
registra 418 conocedores del baniva de un total de 976, es decir, 43% entre hablantes
y semihablantes— son ancianos y, sobre todo, ancianas. Aun así, justo es decirlo, hay
en las últimas décadas un interés creciente por revitalizarlo y es probable que esto se
logre algo tardíamente, dada la factibilidad institucional y financiera de inaugurar a
fines del presente año al menos un nicho lingüístico baniva en Puerto Ayacucho y
paulatinamente otros en Maroa y distintas poblaciones del estado Amazonas.
La figura del nicho lingüístico (language nest) es una suerte de micro-institución
revitalizadora, ya muy popular en Nueva Zelanda y el país de Gales, entre otros. Se
trata, en principio, de hogares ampliados de índole preescolar donde los mejores
hablantes —generalmente señoras ancianas— transmiten a los infantes de la
comunidad, a menudo familiares suyos, el uso activo y coloquial de la lengua en
peligro, con inclusión de contenidos discursivos y culturales concomitantes. Su
informalidad y estructura flexible —moldeada sobre la familia tradiconal—
constituyen sendas garantías de su éxito y difusión creciente. En el caso concreto de
Nueva Zelanda, los resultados alcanzados pueden catalogarse de brillantes, por
cuanto han logrado situar al idioma maorí —hace poco casi moribundo— en un
estatus de lengua co-oficial con el inglés, eficazmente utilizado en muchas
situaciones sociolingüísticas. Los mejores nichos lingüísticos son aquellos
motorizados por las propias comunidades, y en ningún momento se oponen a otras
estrategias didácticas como la enseñaza escolar y académica de las mismas lenguas.
Ahora bien, sin renunciar al supuesto de que se forme y consolide una nueva
generación de baniva-hablantes, hay una característica del idioma que difícilmente
podrá retomarse: su sistema suprasegmental caracterizado por acentos tonales y la
presencia de longitud vocálica. Después de la breve exploración que hiciéramos en
fecha reciente entre las familias banivas de Puerto Ayacucho, se corre el albur de que
el señor Camico haya sido uno de los últimos “hablantes tonales” de este idioma,
puesto que las mujeres de cierta edad que entrevistamos en esa oportunidad sólo
presentan vestigios de tonos en el mejor de los casos. Para mayor precisión, ello
significa una capacidad limitada de articular las alturas musicales fonológicamente
pertinentes, a veces únicamente en un número reducido de palabras; mientras que en
el resto del vocabulario tales hablantes solo pronuncian claramente los acentos de
intensidad en una frecuencia tonal perfectamente predecible, al igual que en español,
inglés o ruso. Para ellos ya no tiene validez el sistema tonal que propondremos en los
párrafos siguientes.
Debido a avatares inexplicables, no conservamos grabaciones del habla de
Hernán Camico, por lo cual mi único referente se materializa en las notas de campo,
mis recuerdos y publicaciones (cf. Mosonyi y Mosonyi, 2000: 184-223). En una
conversación reciente que sostuve con el lingüista venezolano José Álvarez, éste me
dio testimonio de su experiencia con otra hablante tonal, quien incluso presenta
patrones melódicos muy similares si no coincidentes con los de Camico, ahora
perpetuados mediante grabaciones de calidad profesional. Sería también prematuro
descartar la accesibilidad de otros hablantes con las virtudes y el nivel de
competencia de Hernán Camico, quienes servirían de colaboradores para un estudio
pormenorizado de fonética instrumental sobre el sistema sonoro del idioma baniva.
Dado que ya hemos descrito la mencionada tonalidad en otros contextos (cf.
Mosonyi y Mosonyi, 2000: 188-189), esta vez tenemos que limitarnos a un breve
resumen que enfatice solamente sus particularidades más distintivas. Existen tres
acentos tonales fundamentales (conocemos por lo menos dos más, de poca
ocurrencia), en cierta forma análogos a los que presentan el sueco y el noruego (del
grupo germánico-escandinavo), así como distintas variedades del serbio-croata y el
esloveno (grupo eslavo meridional). Sin entrar en una larga teorización, ciertamente
muy delicada, trataremos de consignar lo más relevante de este tipo de sistemas
suprasegmentales. Ello es particularmente importante, pues existen lingüistas que
sienten cierta incomodidad —a mi modo de ver poco justificada— en relación con la
categoría de acentos tonales, por cuanto creen se trataría de un cajón de sastre o de la
no asunción plena de los tonos fonémicos como tales. Por el contrario, considero que
esta categoría es pertinente y necesaria.
Si preferimos un lenguaje puramente fonológico antes que fonético, pudiéramos
hasta decir que en el fondo estamos frente a varios tipos cualitativamente distintos de
acentos de intensidad en los idiomas citados y otros suprasegmentalmente análogos.
En español, portugués, inglés, alemán, entre otros muchos, solo tenemos acentos de
intensidad primarios y secundarios, ninguno de los cuales presenta especificaciones
tonales —es decir de altura musical— que sean relevantes para su caracterización
fonémica exhaustiva. En cambio, otros idiomas —incluido el baniva— comportan
dos o más acentos fonémicos de intensidad, en la medida en que sus particularidades
fonéticas son sistemáticamente diferenciables, pudiendo dar lugar a numerosos pares
mínimos y análogos. El sueco, por ejemplo, comporta —según la mayoría de sus
gramáticos— dos acentos de intensidad diferentes. El primero se articula mediante el
refuerzo y elevación melódica de la sílaba más dinámica, mientras que la sílaba
siguiente, no acentuada, se pronuncia mucho más débil y melódicamente más baja: el
resto de las sílabas no cuenta para el análisis. Por otra parte, el segundo acento
conlleva no tan solo un refuerzo de la intensidad sino también la emisión de un
descenso melódico en unos cinco o más semitonos, en tanto que la sílaba siguiente,
no acentuada, se pronuncia a una altura musical algo superior a la parte final de la
inflexión descrita. Esto genera cierto número de pares mínimos, una cantidad mucho
mayor de pares análogos y una infinitud de pares potenciales no utilizados por la
economía del idioma.
Este ejemplo nos aclara que el llamado acento tonal constituye, ante todo, un
acento de intensidad, en el cual los rasgos musicales son apenas marcas diacríticas
para distinguirlo de otro u otros acentos de intensidad. La melodía, aun siendo
relevante, está totalmente subordinada a la fuerza espiratoria. Vamos a terminar de
comprobar este aserto acudiendo al idioma danés, pariente próximo del sueco. Esta
lengua comporta también dos tipos de acentos de intensidad, pero la diferencia no
radica en sus respectivas líneas melódicas, sino en el hecho de que el primer acento
termina en saltillo u oclusión glotal, mientras que el segundo —fonémicamente
diferente— no lleva esa coda glotalizada.
Considero que valió la pena hacer esta digresión teórica para comprender
cabalmente a qué nos queremos referir al tratar de describir los acentos tonales del
idioma baniva. Tal como empezamos a desglosar más arriba, hay en esta lengua al
menos tres acentos de intensidad que difieren fonéticamente entre sí por sus
peculiares características musicales, de una forma muy análoga al ejemplo del sueco
e incluso del danés. Es conveniente agregar de inmediato que muchos lexemas baniva
contienen dos y a veces tres acentos tonales —en secuencia continua o discontinua—,
si bien para efectos del presente artículo nos limitaremos mayormente a palabras que
exhiban uno solo de estos acentos.
El agudo (´) indica que la sílaba acentuada se pronuncia en un nivel alto y con
bastante fuerza espiratoria, al tiempo que las inacentuadas que siguen, siempre
débiles, mantienen exactamente el mismo nivel musical, e.g.: né:yawa (mujer),
yáatsina (arena), yáatsipe (tierra). Las sílabas inacentuadas anteriores, si las hubiere,
serían extramétricas, vale decir, inexistentes para este patrón, y para cualquiera de los
patrones que se explicarán a continuación.
Con el acento grave (`) la sílaba acentuada se pronuncia fuerte y en un nivel
bajo, en tanto que las inacentuadas subsiguientes mantienen la misma altura o incluso
descienden, e.g: wabù:pi (caño), numà (yo digo o hago), kerumài (es o está dulce).
Las sílabas inacentuadas anteriores al acento grave son débiles y de altura musical
media; aunque ya se señaló su naturaleza extramétrica.
El tercer acento, llamado circunflejo (^), indica que la sílaba acentuada, siempre
intensa, es alta y las inacentuadas, débiles, se desplazan al nivel medio o incluso bajo,
e.g:. ê:nami (hombre), abîda (báquiro), marîri (chamán). Para mayor transparencia
fonética reiteramos que tanto las sílabas anteriores como las posteriores a la
acentuada se pronuncian al menos cinco semitonos más bajos. Queremos precisar, de
paso, que las consonantes “b”, “d” y “g” se pronuncian en baniva tensas, totalmente
oclusivas y hasta alargadas.
Es importantísimo señalar que el acento tonal desempeña papeles
morfofonológicos muy precisos y perfectamente estructurados, como el marcaje de la
tercera persona singular masculina, tanto en la morfología nominal como verbal, e.g:
nunûma (mi boca), núma (su boca); nuyà:tsipere (mi tierra), yâ:tsipere (su tierra);
numì:watà (yo juego), mí:watà (él juega); nutámà (yo bailo), támá (él baila);
nú:runià (yo espero), ú:runiá (él espera). Sin entrar en detalles, en estos ejemplos la
tercera persona singular masculina presenta siempre un patrón de mayor altura
musical que la primera del singular y todas las demás personas en general.
Recuérdese que el baniva permite la ocurrencia de dos o más acentos tonales en una
misma palabra.
En algunos casos la altura tonal constituye la única marca diferencial de
persona: ú:nitá (él nada), ú:nità (nosotros nadamos); al igual que en el ejemplo
señalado más arriba, ú:runiá (él espera), ú:runià (nosotros esperamos): se trata de
verdaderos pares mínimos. Hay razones para suponer que en esta función la altura
musical reemplaza una antigua vocal “i”, es decir, *iu:nita (él nada), *iu:runia (él
espera), como ocurre en otras lenguas arawak, entre ellas el warekena de Guzmán
Blanco y el piapoko. Tal hipótesis es razonable, dada la alta frecuencia acústica de la
vocal “i”, la cual —mediante un proceso de cambio fonético— pudo haber
desaparecido para ser compensada por una mayor altura musical en la configuración
fónica adyacente. Inclusive, en algunas palabras del propio baniva, como en
nú:tawapà (yo camino), í:tawapà (él camina), persiste la vocal “i” también el el
plano sincrónico, con la interesante concomitancia de que al menos en estos casos la
tercera persona del masculino singular no es musicalmente más alta que las demás
personas. Nos parece que este hecho tiende a corroborar nuestro planteamiento en
forma bastante significativa.
Existen varios otros usos claramente establecidos del acento tonal como
indicador —o más bien coindicador— de algunas categorías, por ejemplo el relativo:
nutérukà (yo corto), terûkali (el que corta); nupú:liùtà (yo pienso), puliû:tali (el que
piensa). Aclaramos de paso que en baniva la “l” es una ele-ere lateral vibrante,
fonética y fonémicamente diferente de la “r” vibrante simple. Es también muy
llamativo el contraste entre lo que nosotros denominamos verbos fuertes, es decir, los
que conservan sus acentos tonales, y los verbos débiles, que los modifican
notablemente (Mosonyi y Mosonyi, 2000: 199). Por ejemplo, la forma perfectiva del
verbo nuwè (yo dejo) es nuwèmià (ya dejé), que conserva inalterado el acento grave
en la sílaba -wè; en cambio el perfectivo de nubè (yo puedo) se forma cambiando el
acento grave de -bè por uno agudo, y la palabra se cierra con el mismo morfo -mià
del ejemplo anterior: nubémià (ya pude).
Aunque los ejemplos señalados corroboran el rol que juega el acento tonal en la
estrategia morfofonológica del baniva, existen patrones mucho más complejos,
igualmente consistentes, de esta índole; sospechamos que ya ni siquiera el habla de
Hernán Camico reflejaba todas las oposiciones melódicas que estarían presentes en el
baniva cuando éste se hallaba en pleno florecimiento.
Otro rasgo fonológico, igualmente pertinente, que parece haberse perdido para
siempre, es la longitud vocálica. Ya el señor Camico vacilaba algunas veces y su
distinción fonética no revelaba propiamente vocales cortas acentuadas y largas
acentuadas sino que establecía la oposición entre acentuadas largas y semi-largas,
mientras que las no acentuadas siempre las articulaba cortas. Hacía muy pocos pares
mínimos, siendo uno de los más conspicuos el que establecía bajo el contraste,
claramente presente y consciente para el hablante Camico, entre ê:li (tabaco) y êli
(tábano); el número de pares cuasi-mínimos es por supuesto mucho mayor. Ejemplos:
yá:pa (cerro) y yâpa (lapa); á:srì (yuca) y ásri (fuego); amùsr:i (cadáver) y amûsri
(sol). Observamos de paso que la grafía “sr” se pronuncia como una “s” retrofleja
modificada por una brevísima vibración linguo-alveolar sorda. Las hablantes, de
cierta edad, con quienes tuve contacto recientemente ya no hacen esta distinción
relativa a la longitud vocálica, aun cuando hablen su lengua con mucha fluidez. Sin
embargo, al llamárseles la atención expresamente sobre dicha oposición ellas la
recuerdan en el habla de generaciones anteriores, al igual que los contrastes tonales.
En consecuencia, lo que subsiste invariablemente del sistema suprasegmental
baniva es la clara presencia de uno o más acentos de intensidad por palabra, vale
decir acento sin características melódicas relevantes, en forma similar al español,
portugués o inglés. El idioma yavitero, descrito por Jorge Mosonyi (1987), es el más
semejante al baniva; curiosamente tal vez, éste también presenta un acento fonémico
de intensidad, incluso uno solo por palabra, en labios de la señora Águeda Largo,
colaboradora de dicho estudio y en ese momento la única hablante conocida de la
lengua. Con todo, es probable que anteriormente el yavitero poseyera acentos tonales
distintivos como el baniva.
Para completar el panorama referente al colapsado sistema suprasegmental de
este idioma, queremos añadir que en dos ocasiones logramos reunir grupos de
baniva-hablantes, en Maroa (Venezuela) y Puerto Inírida (Colombia)
respectivamente, cuyos miembros reconocían, asumían y corroboraban —aunque
fuese por anuencia pasiva— los acentos, tonos y longitudes vocálicas realizados en la
muy clara y firme articulación de Hernán Camico, quien para ello utilizó largas listas
de palabras pertenecientes a diferentes categorías gramaticales. Todo confluye para
atestiguar que el sistema suprasegmental de esta lengua sobrevive mucho más en la
competencia pasiva que en la activa de sus hablantes y aun de sus semi-hablantes.
Hemos revisado con admiración e interés el largo trabajo de Alexandra
Aikhenvald (1998) sobre el warekena del Xié, prácticamente idéntico al baniva de
Maroa, porque sus hablantes descienden de migrantes venezolanos llegados al Brasil
a principios del siglo XX; pero nos resulta imposible establecer comparaciones entre
las dos variedades en lo atañente a las características suprasegmentales. Aikhenvald
no marca en sus textos ninguno de los tres componentes del sistema: acento, tono y
longitud vocálica.
Presumimos la inexistencia o quizá la muy escasa perceptibilidad de los dos
últimos factores, ya que para la presente fecha ni siquiera en Maroa están vigentes el
tono y la longitud vocálica. Mas tenemos la impresión de que el acento de intensidad,
sin las marcas tonales, tiene mucha más importancia de la que le asigna la
mencionada autora. Ella, en efecto, trata el punto, pero en términos muy generales,
más bien accesorios; y como señalamos arriba, en su larga colección de textos no
marca ni un sólo acento. Ignoramos si posteriormente la autora ha publicado algún
material de la misma lengua donde se evidencie un tratamiento más profundo de la
fonología suprasegmental. Todo esto nos lleva a una reflexión que consideramos
pertinente para la lingüística amerindia en general y las lenguas arawak en particular.
Vemos con verdadera preocupación que durante estos últimos años, como
ocurría a principios del siglo XX, la mayoría de los lingüistas —inclusive los más
capaces y productivos— prestan cada vez menos atención a los sistemas fonológicos
de las lenguas amerindias; a tal punto que realizan sus análisis gramaticales y
semánticos, además de reunir textos a veces muy extensos, sin tomar en
consideración, por ejemplo, los rasgos suprasegmentales, aun cuando tengan
pertinencia fonológica. A veces la transcripción se ve sustituida por una mera
aproximación, que utiliza signos alfabéticos de un idioma particular como el español
o el inglés, tal como ocurría con los viajeros y cronistas en tiempos de Humboldt o
antes. Pareciera haber cierto apresuramiento en recoger la mayor cantidad posible de
material léxico y morfosintáctico, sobre todo al estar en presencia de lenguas
seriamente amenazadas o al borde de la extinción. Tal vez se piense que sacrificando
en cierto modo la fonología puedan documentarse otros aspectos de las lenguas
señaladas, no sé si más relevantes para determinados tipos de estudios. Pensamos que
tal forma de proceder es errónea, a más de manifiestamente superespecializada, y
debe corregirse desde ahora y para el futuro, por múltiples razones.
Hoy más que nunca, habida cuenta del valor intrínseco y patrimonial de las
lenguas e incluso del deseo de conservarlas y recuperarlas, compartido por propios y
extraños, estos sistemas lingüísticos minorizados deberían transcribirse y
representarse con la mayor fidelidad posible. No nos resulta satisfactorio un análisis
morfosintáctico, por más que parezca exacto, detallado y profundo, si éste se lleva a
cabo sobre una base fonológica un tanto endeble y hasta insuficiente. Los idiomas
adquieren su densidad y prestancia por la interacción de sus distintos niveles
sistémicos, sin lo cual su configuración se desdibuja y pierde nitidez. Además, la
fonología y la morfofonología suelen influir en la morfosintaxis de manera decisiva,
como lo tratamos de comprobar más arriba con la descripción de algunos roles
atribuibles a los acentos tonales del baniva. No existe ninguna razón para preferir los
indicadores morfosintácticos a los morfofonológicos. Esto es válido tanto para la
lingüística sincrónica como para la diacrónica, ya que la recuperación de las formas
históricamente anteriores pasa por la reconstrucción de los cambios fonológicos
segmentales y suprasegmentales.
No querría ser demasiado severo en mis críticas y apreciaciones, por cuanto me
consta que han aparecido y siguen saliendo muchas publicaciones caracterizadas por
excelentes transcripciones y un esmerado tratamiento de los niveles fonológico y
morfofonológico. Por otra parte, es innegable y hasta obvio que un alto porcentaje de
los trabajos descriptivos de lenguas amerindias fallan no solamente en lo fonológico
sino que son deficitarios —igualmente o tal vez en mayor medida— en lo
morfosintáctico, lexicosemántico y pragmático-discursivo. No obstante, en este
artículo me siento en la obligación de conferirle un énfasis especial a la transcripción
y al análisis fonológico en general. Considero que hay buenas razones para
permitirme un sesgo de tal índole.
Observemos tan solo lo siguiente. Cuando manipulamos un texto bien transcrito,
como consecuencia de un estudio fonológico adecuado, invariablemente nos servirá
de mucho, ya sea como insumo para otro tipo de investigaciones o para fines
educativos o de lectura destinada a los hablantes nativos. En tal caso, ni siquiera
parece demasiado grave si ese texto está deficientemente traducido o si el análisis
gramatical es erróneo o simplemente inexistente. En cierta manera, todo esto se
puede suplir en la medida en que nuevos investigadores contacten hablantes nativos
dispuestos a colaborar y a perfeccionar esfuerzos anteriores. Sin embargo, ante la
evidencia de un texto mal transcrito, la utilización ulterior de dicho material resultará
siempre riesgoso, extremadamente complicado, a veces imposible como a menudo
nos ha sucedido. Posiblemente estemos en presencia de esfuerzos irrecuperablemente
perdidos. Por lo cual nuestro argumento no estriba en la mayor o menor importancia
intrínseca de uno u otro subsistema lingüístico —discusión que nos parece además
subjetiva e irrelevante— sino en cierta precedencia lógica que a nuestro modo de ver
le corresponde al conjunto sonoro del idioma, al análisis fonológico en sus vertientes
segmentales y suprasegmentales, antes de emprender el estudio pormenorizado de los
demás niveles igualmente importantes y sustantivos.
Los movimientos indígenas claman por estudios lingüísticos que les permitan la
codificación y transmisión exacta de sus idiomas, sobre todo si se trata de revertir un
proceso de erosión aún detenible. Y la docencia de cualquier lengua comienza por su
recta escritura y pronunciación. Si la representación del habla ocurre mediante
fórmulas cuasi-telegráficas, vale decir, grafías que sólo parcialmente reflejan la
articulación sistémica, simplemente se paraliza la gestión educativa, con las
gravísimas consecuencias que es innecesario detallar. Respetamos todas las
prioridades investigativas, pero a estas alturas de la lucha por la sociodiversidad —y
por la revitalización de las lenguas en particular— son las aspiraciones y metas de los
pueblos en recuperación las que revisten mayor relevancia histórica.
Referencias Bibliográficas
Aikhenvald, A.
1998 ‘Warekena’, en: D. Derbyshire y G. Pullum (eds.), Handbook of Amazonian
Languages, Volumen IV, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 225-433.
Dorian, N.
1981 Language death, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Gómez-Imbert, E.
1996 ‘When animals become ‘rounded’ and ‘feminine’: conceptual categories and
linguistic classification in a multilingual setting’, en: J. Gumperz y S.
Levinson (eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, pp. 438-469.
González Ñáñez, O.
1997 Gramática de la lengua warekena (maipure-arawak): una aproximación
tipológica-relacional, Tesis Doctoral, Caracas: Facultad de Ciencias
Económicas y Sociales, Universidad Central de Venezuela.
Humboldt, A.
1950[1799] Viaje a las regiones equinocciales del nuevo continente, Caracas:
Dirección de Cultura y Bellas Artes, Ediciones del Ministerio de Educación.
Mosonyi, E.
1968a ‘Elementos de lingüística arahuaca’, en: Economía y ciencias sociales, Año X,
Nº 3, Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, pp. 77-85.
Mosonyi, E.
1968b ‘Introducción al análisis intraestructural del idioma baniva’, en: Economía y
ciencias sociales, Año X, Nº 3, Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela,
pp. 65-75.
Mosonyi, J.
1987 El idioma yavitero: ensayo de gramática y diccionario, Tesis Doctoral,
Caracas: Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Sociales, Universidad Central de
Mosonyi, E. y J. Mosonyi
2000 Manual de lenguas indígenas de Venezuela, II Tomos, Caracas: Fundación
Oficina Central de Estadística e Informática
1992 Censo indígena de Venezuela 1992, Tomo I, Caracas: Presidencia de la
J. Pedro Viegas Barros
CONICET-Universidad de Buenos Aires
0. Introducción
La familia lingüística Mataguayo (también llamada Mataco, Mataco-Mataguayo,
Mataco-Maká) incluye cuatro lenguas de la región chaqueña: Wichi (o Mataco), con
unos 35.000 hablantes, en Argentina (provincias de Chaco, Formosa, Salta) y Bolivia
(departamento Tarija), Chorote, con unos 2.000 hablantes en Argentina (provincia de
Salta) y Paraguay (departamento Boquerón), Nivaklé (o Chulupí, o Ajlujlay), con
entre 6.000 y 14.000 hablantes según distintas fuentes, también hablado en Paraguay
(departamentos Boquerón y Presidente Hayes) y Argentina (provincia de Salta), y
Maká, con unos 1.000 hablantes, de Paraguay (departamento Presidente Hayes).
En este trabajo se analiza un aspecto de la fonología de la lengua originaria
reconstruida para la familia lingüística Mataguaya las fricativas dorsales. Por
“dorsales” me refiero aquí a aquellas consonantes en las que articulador es el dorso
de la lengua, que incluyen a los puntos de articulación velar (incluyendo velar
palatalizada) y posteriores (postvelar, uvular, laríngeo, etc.). Esta parte del sistema
fonológico de las lenguas Mataguayas ha resultado una de las más problemáticas
desde el punto de vista histórico-comparativo.
En la reconstrucción de Najlis (1984) no se postulaba ninguna fricativa dorsal
para el Proto-Mataguayo. En mi primera propuesta (Viegas Barros 1993) incluí una
fricativa dorsal *h. En el presente trabajo discuto las reconstrucciones anteriores y
presento evidencia de que el sistema consonántico del Proto-Mataguayo incluía no
menos de dos fonemas fricativos dorsales no labializados.
1. Primera reconstruccción (Najlis 1984)
En su reconstrucción de la fonología del Proto-Mataguayo, y trabajando sólo con tres
de las cuatro lenguas Mataguayas, ya que no tuvo a su disposición materiales del
Maká, Najlis (1984) propuso la siguiente reconstrucción de la consonantes del ProtoMataguayo (remplazo algunas de las letras usadas por la autora), que no incluía
ninguna fricativa dorsal:
* kj
Los fonemas h del Wichi, x del Chorote y x del Nivaklé eran interpretadas por esta
autora como desarrollos secundarios, a partir del desplazamiento y fonologización de
la aspiración que originariamente habría acompañado a ciertas oclusivas, africadas,
“continuas” (fricativas, laterales, semivocales), y nasales del Proto-Mataguayo. Las
“continuas” *hw y *hl habrían dado como resultado fricativas en casos esporádicos,
por pérdida de su parte no aspirada1, como en:
*-hwum (Najlis 1984: 10), Chorote -xum, Nivaklé -xum ‘estar borracho’,
*hl- (cf. Najlis 1984: 15 *hl-jae > Chorote xi-jaxe ‘tú bebes’), Chorote xi‘pre-fijo de segunda persona sujeto’.
Las demás aspiradas habrían producido fricativas dorsales por separación y
fonologización de su porción aspirada, en una o en varias lenguas, de manera mucho
más regular:
*iphatha (Najlis 1984: 9), Wichi ihpat ~ sipot, Chorote ipjatax ‘maíz’,
*-itho (cf. Najlis 1984: 10, 40), Wichi -wit’oh, Nivaklé -t’ox ‘tía’,
*-lutshe ‘arco’, véase infra serie (34),
*-Ahse (Najlis 1984: 11), Wichi -øse, Chorote -axse, Nivaklé -øse ‘hija’,
*-hmi (Najlis 1984: 10), Wichi humin, Chorote emi ‘amar’,
*hnahn (Najlis 1984: 10), Wichi honah, Chorote axnax ‘noche’.
Además, Najlis supuso como reflejo de Proto-Mataguayo *q en posición
intervocálica la secuencia bifonémica kx en Nivaklé.
*snaqaj > Nivaklé snakxaj ‘niebla’, cf. infra, serie (82),
*slAqaj > Nivaklé sløkxaj ‘gato montés’, cf. infra serie (83).
En posición final, de acuerdo a esta reconstrucción, el mismo protofonema daba
irregularmente en Wichi y en Nivaklé unas veces una oclusiva dorsal, otras veces una
fricativa dorsal como resultado:
*k’ataq > Wichi k’atak, Nivaklé …afkatax ‘mosca’, cf. infra serie (86),
*hnakotaq > Wichi nakwotak, Nivaklé šnakotax ‘abeja’, cf. infra serie (87),
*hwatsuq ~ *patsuq > Wichi xwatsuh, Nivaklé fatsuk ‘ciempiés’, cf. infra
serie (88).
Finalmente, siempre según la citada autora, una fricativa posterior podía haberse
originado de una oclusiva glotal automática antes de vocal inicial o tras vocal final
El origen de ciertas fricativas x del Chorote por deslabialización a partir de *xw, y por deslateralización
a partir de *… , ya habia sido propuesto por Gerzenstein (1983: 27-9, 1987).
*jewu [*/jewu], Wichi hajewu ‘chamán’, véase infra, serie (47).
*kju [*kju/] (Najlis 1984: 12), Wichi c&uh ‘tener calor’.
2. Segunda reconstrucción (Viegas Barros 1993)
Una primera dificultad para aceptar las explicaciones de Najlis provino de la
descripción del Maká, lengua que, como mostró Gerzenstein (1989), posee en su
inventario fonológico no uno sino tres fonemas fricativos dorsales distintos: velar x,
uvular X, y laríngeo h. Suponiendo que uno de ellos realmente proviniera del
desplazamiento de la aspiración de consonantes aspiradas originales, ¿cuál era el
origen de los otros dos? Por otra parte, tanto en Maká como en Nivaklé las
secuencias de oclusiva + fricativa dorsal en posición intervocálica son siempre
heterosilábicas, es decir, claramente son grupos de dos fonemas. Y con respecto a las
“continuas” y nasales no había mayor razón para la reconstrucción de aspiradas –
salvo la simetría del sistema propuesto por Najlis–. La postulación para el ProtoMataguayo de oclusivas y africadas aspiradas no parecía tener, por lo tanto,
justificación en las lenguas Mataguayas históricamente documentadas. Todo esto me
llevó (Viegas Barros 1993) a incluir un fonema fricativo dorsal no labializado *h en
el sistema fonológico que entonces postulé para el Proto-Mataguayo,
consecuentemente con la eliminación de las consonantes aspiradas (también aquí
cambio algunas de las letras utilizadas originalmente):
En ese entonces me parecía decisivo –para la reconstrucción de un solo proto-fonema
fricativo dorsal no labializado– el hecho de que tres de las cuatro lenguas Mataguayas
tenían cada una un solo fonema de este tipo, según las descripciones disponibles para
mí en ese entonces: Wichi h (Viñas Urquiza 1974)2, Chorote x (Gerzenstein 1978,
En la mayor parte de los dialectos Wichi, el fonema /h/ se realiza como fricativa laríngea [h]
(generalmente nasalizada) en posición inicial de sílaba, y como fricativa velar [x] en final de sílaba. Pero
en el dialecto Nocten, de Bolivia (Alvarsson 1984, Claesson 1994), existen algunas [h] en el postmargen
silábico y algunas [x] en posición intervocálica (aunque solamente en limite de morfemas), de manera que
/h/ y /x/ en estas posiciones se oponen y son -por lo tanto- fonemas distintos. Cf. en esta variedad:
‘tu alegría’,
‘este (tocado)’,
frente a
/ekhahjah ‘tu fe’,
‘cuando (quien, que) reciente’.
Claesson (1994: 22) sugiere que uno de los orígenes (quizás el principal) de h en final de sílaba en esta
1983), Nivaklé x (Stell 1972, [1989]). Aunque no lo explicité en ese momento,
supuse que la situación “anormal” en cuanto al número de fonemas fricativos
dorsales del Maká no debía ser originaria, y se explicaría, en parte, como resultado
del presunto contacto del Maká con otras lenguas, a las que yo no podía identificar en
ese momento, en parte –posiblemente– como resultado de la fonologización de
presuntos alófonos originales de la fricativa dorsal originaria al fusionarse en un solo
fonema vocales distintas en determinados contextos, como p. ej.:
*hele [*xele] > Ma xili ‘suciedad’, cf. infra, serie (18),
*him [*him] > Ma him ‘coatí’, cf. infra, serie (50)3.
3. Una nueva reconstrucción
La postulación de una fricativa dorsal para el Proto-Mataguayo parecía solucionar
algunos problemas. Pero, al mismo tiempo, surgían otros. El principal, para el que yo
no ofrecía respuesta en mi trabajo de 1993, consistía en la existencia de tres grupos
importantes de “irregularidades” en las correspondencias de las fricativas dorsales:
(a) en posición inicial, *h daba como resultado en Wichi en ciertas ocasiones h, en
otras O.
(b) en posición final tras a, el resultado de *h en Chorote era unas veces x, otras O.
(c) en contacto con las vocales *e, *i el Nivaklé tenía como reflejo de *h a veces x, a
veces š.
Como ejemplos de (a), cf.:
*hino/ > Wichi hino/ ‘hombre’, cf. infra serie (51),
*hupel > Wichi hupel ‘sombra’, cf. infra serie (53),
frente a
*hinawøp > Wichi (i)nawop ‘primavera’, cf. infra serie (22),
*huwela > Wichi iwela ‘luna’, cf. infra serie (27).
variedad Wichi, es la síncopa vocálica, como se ve en:
‘alguien se lo permite (hacer)’
< /no-wahin
< /no-jahin
< /o…a-/ikjuju-hat
‘alguien lo permite’.
‘alguien lo mira’.
‘yo ayuno’.
Es decir que en Proto-Wichi habría existido un solo fonema */h/ que en Nocten se habría escindido en dos
/h/ y /x/.
De manera independiente, Campbell (1997: 405, nota 22) ha manifestado sus dudas con respecto a que
*hw, *hl, *hs, *hm y *hn de Najlis fuesen es realidad monofonemáticos, es decir, que también según este
autor *h debía ser un fonema ya en Proto-Mataguayo.
Como ejemplos de (b), cf.:
*hweh > Chorote fwax ‘hachar’, cf. infra serie (36),
*øtah > Chorote atax ‘ser gordo’, cf. infra serie (31),
frente a
*tøtsinah > Chorote taxsina ‘sapo’, cf. infra serie (61),
*/øh > Chorote -aa ‘voz’, cf. infra serie (68).
Como ejemplos de (c), cf.:
*him > Nivaklé xim ‘coatí’, cf. infra serie (50),
*hokhajeh > Nivaklé xokxajex (cf. Najlis 1984: 44; Viegas Barros 1993,
202, item no. 107: Wichi xwokjah, Chorote kaje, Maká xokhejaX) ‘pato
frente a
*hitV- > Nivaklé šta- ‘1a. p. pl. inclusivo sujeto’, cf. infra serie (24),
*lutseh > Nivaklé k•lutseš ‘arco’, cf. infra serie (34).
A fin de dar cuenta de estas “irregularidades”, propongo ahora –en remplazo de *h de
Viegas Barros (1993)– dos fricativas dorsales no labializadas para el ProtoMataguayo: una fricativa velar *x y una fricativa uvular *X. Los reflejos de ambos
fonemas serían distintos siempre en Maká; en Chorote lo serían solamente en
posición final tras a; en Nivaklé en contacto con las vocales *e, *i ; en Wichi, en
posición inicial. En los demás contextos del Wichi, Chorote y Nivaklé, ambos protofonemas se habrían fusionado, dando un mismo resultado.
final tras i final tras i contex-
Junto a demás
i, e
vocales -tos
Como resultado de ello, ahora postulo el siguiente sistema consonántico para el
3.1. Proto-Mataguayo */x/
Proto-Mataguayo *x ha dado en Wichi O en posición inicial, h en los demás contextos
(en Nocten, x en posición final); en Chorote, O en posición inicial y tras i y e en
posición final, x en los demás contextos; en Nivaklé, š en contacto con e, i; en los
demás contextos x; en Maká, siempre x La evidencia para la reconstrucción de ProtoMataguayo *x incluye entre otras a las siguientes series cognadas (reformulo aquí
varias de las reconstrucciones presentadas en Viegas Barros 1993):
*xele, Ni4 šek•le, Ma xili ‘suciedad’.
*-xe(ne) (cf. Najlis 1984: 42), Wi -hen, Cho -xa, Ni -šane ‘plural del sujeto
(sufijo verbal)’.
*-xetik (cf. Najlis 1984: 23, 34, 47), Wi -…etek, (con incorporación del prefijo
…- posesivo 3a. p.’) Cho -xetek ~ -xitek, Ni -šatic& ‘cabeza’ (Ma -exkiti…a ~
-ixkiti…a ‘cerebro, seso’, con metátesis de t y k y composición con xi…a
‘cabeza’ como segundo miembro).
*(V)xejø/, Cho axeje, Ni šejø, Ma xaja/ ‘murciélago’.
*xinawøp (cf. Najlis 1984: 33; Viegas Barros 1993: 200, item no. 71),
Wi(i)nawop, Cho nawop, Ni šnøwøp, Ma xinawap ‘primavera’.
*xina-, Wi (Nocten) /ina- ‘1a. p. inclusivo’, Ni šna-, Ma xinV- ‘3 p. sujeto /
1a. p. inclusivo objeto’.
*xita-, Ni šta-, Ma xitV- ‘1a. p. pl. inclusivo sujeto’.
*-xop (cf. Viegas Barros 1993: 198, item no. 30), Ni -xop, Ma -xup ‘al lado,
*xoxewuk, Ni xoxijuk (*wu > ju por disimilación), Ma xoxewuk ‘palo cruz’
(una planta).
*xuwe/la (cf. Najlis 1984: 35), Wi iwela, Cho we/la, Ni xiwe/k•la (Wichi y
Nivaklé con disimilación *uw > iw5), Ma xuwel ‘luna’.
*xunxetek (cf. Najlis 1984: 47), Wi natek, Cho ixnjetak, Ni xunšatac&, Ma
xunxetek ‘tusca’ (una planta).
*axa/, Cho axa ‘garza’, Ma exe/ ‘cigüeña’.
*…axi, Cho …axi, Ni …aši, Ma …exi ‘puerta’.
Utilizo las abreviaturas Cho = Chorote, Ma = Maká, Ni = Nivaklé, Wi = Wichi. Las formas citadas para
cada lengua particular están extraídas de las fuentes mencionadas en las Referencias, p. ej.: Gerzenstein
(1992, 1994, 1999), Messineo y Braunstein (1990), Seelwische (1975, 1979), Tovar (1981), Viñas Urquiza
Disimulación que habría ocurrido, obviamente, antes del cambio *x > š ante vocal anterior.
*-øtax (cf. Najlis 1984: 44; Viegas Barros 1993, 201, item no. 81), Wi -atah,
Cho -atax, Ni -øtex ‘ser gordo’.
*pøjtsax (Najlis 1984: 28, 49), Wi patsah, Cho pitsax, Ni pøtsex ‘cigüeña’.
*-/øx (cf. Najlis 1984: 10, 19, 31; Viegas Barros 1993, 200, item no. 69), Wi
-t’øh, Cho -ax ~ -ex, Ni -øx, Ma -/ax ‘piel’.
*-lutsex (cf. Najlis 1984: 11, 26), Wi -lutseh, Cho -luxsje, Ni -k•lutseš ‘arco’.
*sex, Ni sa/š, Ma …esex (con incorporación de …V- ‘3a. p. posesivo’) ‘hoja de
*-xwex (cf. Najlis 1984: 29), Wi -xwah, Cho -fwax, Ni -faš ‘hachar’, Ma
-fexinetki/ ‘hacha’.
*towex (cf. Najlis 1984: 27, 45), Wi toweh (Nocten towex) ‘agujero’, ‘olla’,
Cho tjowe ‘agujero’, Ni tawaš ‘vagina’ (con asimilación regresiva de las
vocales), Ma towxe-naX ‘aguja’.
*nøjix (cf. Najlis 1984: 10, 31, 48), Wi nøjih (Nocten /nøjix), Cho naji, Ni
øjiš ‘camino’.
*(V)nix (cf. Najlis 1984: 31; Viegas Barros 1993, 199, item no. 60), Wi nih,
Cho ni, Ni ni/š, Ma enjix ‘olor’.
*tix, Wi -tih-c&o, -tih-pa, Cho -tex-ej ~ -tix-i, Ni -tiš, Ma -tix-xu/ ~ -…ix-xu/
*-xwejix, Cho -fweje, Ni -fajiš ‘izquierda’, Ma -fejix ‘derecha’.
*-tux (cf. Najlis 1984: 39), Wi -tuh ~ -tuxw, Cho -tux, Ma -tux ‘comer’.
Parece que Chorote -x se mantiene tras e en monosílabos, como muestra la forma de
los dialectos Yowuwa y Manjuy nex “olor” frente a la correspondiente de la variedad
Yofwaja ni (serie 39). También se mantiene sin caer h inicial en Wichi en un caso
como el siguiente, donde el o los factores condicionantes pueden haber sido el
monosilabismo y/o la glotalización de la última consonante :
*xup’ (cf. Najlis 1984: 33), Wi hup’, Cho xupaj, Ma xup’el (Chorote y Maká
con incorporación de sufijos de plural) ‘pasto’.
En Nivaklé, el cambio de *x a š en contacto con vocal anterior se ve bloqueado si
coocurre un contacto con vocal posterior, cf. (26) y:
*-xij, Wi -hi, Ni -ši (tras vocal no posterior), -xi (tras vocal posterior), Ma -xii
‘sufijo que indica lugar donde se realiza la acción’,
*ixø, Cho ixje-ti, Ni -jixø/-ši, Ma ixa ‘verdadero’.
3.2.Proto-Mataguayo */X/
Proto-Mataguayo*X se refleja como h en todos los contextos (incluso en posición
inicial) en Wichi (en el dialecto Nocten, x en posición final, h en los demás
contextos), en Chorote da O en posiciones inicial y final (en este caso sólo tras i y a),
x en los demás contextos; en Nivaklé siempre x; en Maká, h en posición inicial e
intervocálica, X en los demás contextos. La evidencia para la reconstrucción de
Proto-Mataguayo *X incluye entre otras a las siguientes series cognadas:
*Xa- (cf. Viegas Barros 1993, 196, item no. 1), Cho a-, Ni xa-, Ma hV- ‘1a. p.
*Xaj- (cf. Viegas Barros 1993, 196, item no. 1), Ni xaj-, Ma hVj- ‘1a. p.
*Xan-, (cf. Viegas Barros 1993, 196, item no. 1) Ni xan-, Ma hVn- ‘1a. p.
*Xajawu (cf. Najlis 1984: 41, 43, 47), Wi hajawu (Nocten hijawu/), Cho
ajewu ‘chamán’.
*Xim, Ni xim, Ma him ‘coatí’.
*Xino/ (cf. Najlis 1984: 13, 16), Wi hino/ (Nocten hi/no/) ‘hombre’, Cho
ixnjo/ ‘persona’.
*Xolo (cf. Najlis 1984: 33, 35), Wi holo, Cho xolo, Ni xo-søx ‘arena’.
*Xupel (cf. Najlis 1984: 10, 25, 28, 36), Wi hupel, Cho -peluk ~ -piluk, Ni
-xpek ‘sombra’.
*tsøXøq, Wi tsøhøk (Nocten tsahaq), Cho saxak, Ma tsahaq ‘chajá’ (un ave).
*saXets, Ni saxec& (c& final irregular), Ma sehets ‘pescado (genérico); sábalo’.
*wiXelø, Ni wixak•lø, Ma wihil ‘nutria’.
*isøX, Cho isje, Ni xo-søx, Ma isaX arena’.
*itøX (cf. Najlis 1984: 16), Wi itøh (Nocten itøx), Cho (dialectos Yowuwa y
Manjuy) ejtje, Ni itøx ‘fuego’.
*kine…itsaX (cf. Najlis 1984: 46), Cho kinjelisa, Ni c&in…itsex ‘garza rosada’.
*seulaX (cf. Najlis 1984: 50), Wi sulah (Nocten sulax), Cho seolje, Ni suk•lax
‘oso hormiguero’.
*tøtsinaX, Wi tøtnah (Nocten tatnax), Cho taxsina ‘sapo’.
*-taX, Wi -tah (Nocten -tax), Cho -tje, Ni -tax, Ma -taX ‘sufijo nominal’.
*tutsaX (cf. Najlis 1984: 43), Wi tutsah (Nocten tucax), Cho toxsa ‘humo’, Ni
štutax ‘hollín’.
*xwetenaX (cf. Najlis 1984: 42), Wi xwitanah, Cho fwetina ‘luciérnaga’.
*xwoqotsaX (cf. Najlis 1984: 13), Wi xwokotsah (Nocten xwoqatsax), Ni
fokotsex ‘mulita’ (esp. de armadillo).
*-ti…øX, Wi -ti…øh, Cho -texlje ~ -tixlje, Ni -ti…øx, Ma -ti…oX ~ -…i…oX ‘cavar’.
*wam(xa)…øX (cf. Najlis 1984: 42), Wi wøm…øh (Nocten wan…ax), Cho wan…a,
Ni wanxa…øx, Ma waa…aX ‘ñandú’.
*-/øX, Cho -aa ~ -ee, Ni -øxøx (las formas Chorote y Nivaklé con reduplicación), Ma -/aX ‘voz’.
4. Algunos problemas remanentes
La postulación de dos fricativas dorsales no labializadas para el Proto-Mataguayo
parece ser un avance, ya que resuelve una serie de problemas. La mayor parte de las
correspondencias pueden explicarse perfectamente a partir de estas dos fricativas.
Sin embargo, quedan todavía algunos puntos oscuros en la reconstrucción de la
fonología de esta protolengua, y no pocos de ellos se relacionan con las fricativas
dorsales. Los principales problemas al respecto son los cuatro siguientes.
4.1. Maká X en posición intervocálica
No ha sido aclarada la existencia de Maká X en posición intervocálica, que en la
mayor parte de los casos no tiene correspondencia en las otras lenguas Mataguayas,
como en los siguientes ejemplos:
Ma qanaXa ‘charata’,
Ma tsiXaXa ‘tijereta (un pájaro)’,
Ma seXeXeX ‘maní’,
Ma aXem ‘no sé’,
Ma aXit ‘adulto’,
Ma -ajaXix ‘heredar algo’.
Sin embargo, Maká X intervocálica también ocurre en algunas formas con posibles
cognados en las otras lenguas de la familia, como:
Ma meXe ‘todavía’ : Wi (Nocten) mhe/ ‘reciente/visto/habitual’,
Ma seXesinaX, Cho esiniki ‘serpiente de cascabel’,
Ma tseeXe : Ni tsaxax ‘áspero’,
Ma (i)toXii : Wi tohwe, Cho tjofwe/, Ni toxej ‘lejos’,
Ma peXejek ‘batata’ : Ni pexaja ‘papa, batata’, quizás también Wichi
(Nocten) pi/jok ‘mandioca’.
Por lo menos en el caso de (79) podemos decir que es muy probablemente un
préstamo, ya que se trata de un verdadero “pan-chaqueñismo” léxico, cf. formas
similares en lenguas de las familias Mascoy (Angaité pija ~ pihija, Lengua
meridional piheji ‘batata’), Zamuco (Ayoré peheei ‘mandioca’) y Guaicurú (Pilagá
pijok ‘mandioca’)6.
4.2. Correspondencias irregulares entre fricativas dorsales
Ciertas correspondencias irregulares posiblemente puedan explicarse o como
resultado de asimilaciones o disimilaciones de una fricativa dorsal con respecto al
punto de articulación de otra consonante dorsal existente en el mismo término, o
como préstamos, p. ej.:
Las formas de las lenguas de las familias Mascoy, Zamuco y Guaicurú están tomadas de Key (1997).
Ni -køjiš, Ma -qaweX ‘garganta’ (se esperaría o bien Nivaklé *-x, o bien Maká
Wi (Bazanero) hip’ehi, Ni kxopxi, Ma exupuj ‘tibio, cálido’ (aún explicando la
segunda x del Nivaklé por influencia de una vocal posterior presuntamente
caída, se esperaría Maká *exupuhi).
4.3. Correspondencia Maká /x/ : otras lenguas /s/
Existen también algunas correspondencias aun no bien establecidas de fricativas
dorsales, como la que ocurre entre fricativas dorsales y dentales en los siguientes
ejemplos (a los que hay que agregar la alternancia Wichi h ~ s en (3)):
Cho injexkaj (pero en Najlis 1984 sinjaka), Ni snakxaj (variedad oriental
šnakxaj), Ma xunkhaj ‘niebla’ (cf. Najlis 1984: 25, 38),
Wi silokaj, Cho siljaka, Ni sløkxaj (variedad oriental šløkxaj), Ma xunkhaj
‘gato montés’ (cf. Najlis 1984: 11, 37, 54),
De confirmarse esta correspondencia con otros ejemplos, habría que postular
posiblemente un fonema Proto-Mataguayo fricativo palatal o dorsal palatalizado *xj.
4.4. Relación entre fricativas y oclusivas dorsales
No se han esclarecido todavía las relaciones entre oclusivas y fricativas dorsales, que
se manifiestan en correspondencias irregulares tanto en posición inicial, p. ej. en:
Wi kalatu, Cho alatju, Ni xala/tu ‘granizo’ (posiblemente Proto-Mataguayo
*qala/tu ~ *Xala/tu [o *xala/tu], cf. Najlis 1984: 16, Viegas Barros 1993:
200, item n° 73),
Wi hotoni, Ma k’ateni ‘especie de mono’ (posiblemente ProtoMataguayo*k’øtøni ~ *Xøtøni),
como en posición final, p. ej. en:
Wi k’atak, Cho kataki, Ni …afkatax ‘mosca’ (cf. Najlis 1984: 23; Viegas
Barros 1993, 202, item no. 115),
Wi nakwotak, Ni šnakotax ‘abeja’ (cf. Najlis 1984: 34, 42),
Wi xwatsuh, Cho impesjuk, Ni fatsuk ‘ciempiés’ (cf. Najlis 1984: 26, 46),
Cho siwalak, Ni siwøk•løk, Ma siwalaX ‘araña’ (cf. Najlis 1984: 41).
5. Conclusiones
Todas las lenguas Mataguayas tienen por lo menos una fricativa dorsal, y la
reconstrucción de la fonología del Proto-Mataguayo debe incluir también por lo
menos una fricativa dorsal. Sin embargo, la reconstrucción de una sola fricativa
dorsal en Proto-Mataguayo no es suficiente para dar cuenta de las correspondencias
documentadas en las lenguas Mataguayas. Dos fricativas dorsales originarias pueden
explicarlas mucho mejor, aunque siempre parece quedar un residuo de
correspondencias sin explicación. La solución satisfactoria de estos problemas se irá
alcanzando, sin duda, a medida que vaya avanzando la investigación tanto descriptiva
como comparativa de las lenguas Mataguayas
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Centro de Estudios Lingüísticos.
1989 Gramática descriptiva de la lengua niwaklé (chulupí), Tesis para aspirar al
título de Doctora en Filosofía y Letras, orientación Letras, Presentada al
Departamento de Graduados de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de
Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2 vol, Ms.
Tovar, A.
1981 Relatos y diálogos de los matacos, seguidos de una gramática de su lengua,
Madrid: Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana.
Viegas Barros, J. P.
1993 ‘¿Existe una relación genética entre las lenguas mataguayas y guaycurúes?’,
en: J. Braunstein (ed.), Hacia una nueva carta étnica del Gran Chaco IV, Las
Lomitas (Formosa, Argentina): Centro del Hombre Antiguo Chaqueño
(CHACO), pp. 193-213.
Viñas Urquiza, M. T.
1970 Fonología de la lengua mataca, (Cuadernos de Lingüística Indígena, 7),
Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras,
Centro de Estudios Lingüísticos.
1974 Lengua mataca, (Archivos de Lenguas Precolombinas, 2), 2 vol, Buenos
Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Centro de
Estudios Lingüísticos.
Eliane Camargo*
1. The group
The Cashinahua language belongs to the Panoan family, composed of nearly thirty
languages spoken in the Amazonia Lowlands, on both sides of the Bolivian, Brazilian and Peruvian borders. Cashinahua is spoken by about 5.400 people (Ricardo
2001: 12) who live along the Brazilian-Peruvian border.
The Cashinahua refer to themselves as huni kuin1 ‘kuin man’, translated as ‘real
man’ (Kensinger 1994), and the name of their language is hanca kuin ‘kuin language’. The term kuin refers to part of the Cashinahua socio-cultural system of classification (Deshayes & Keifenheim 1994, Erikson 1996, Lagrou 1998). Within the
Cashinahua territory, they speak their language exclusively. Although they learn to
read and write in their mother tongue, their whole school education is done in Portuguese, for those who live in Brazil, and in Spanish, for those who live in Peru.
2. The language
Cashinahua is an agglutinative language that uses almost exclusively suffixes and
has no prefixes. The word order is verb-final and the basic sequence is SOV. In this
language, the different classes of noun phrase have different morphological systems
when they appear as S, A, or P of a clause. Thus, nouns (‘man’ huni-n A, huni-ø S/P)
have an ergative-absolutive case marking system (1), pronouns (1st and 2nd person
singular, and all non singular persons: ‘we’ nu-n A/S, nuku-ø P) have a nominative
case marking system (2), and finally the 3rd person singular presents a neutral case
system with only one form for all three functions (ha or ø as S/A/P) (3). This split
ergativity system is shown in the table below:
* Member of Centre d'Études des Langues Indigènes d'Amérique (CELIA: American Indigenous Language Studies Center), and Nucleus of Indigenous History and Indigenous Studies- NHII/University of
São Paulo. A study on Cashinahua complementation (‘actancy’) was presented at the French research
group about actancy (RIVALC - GDR 0749, CNRS). I thank Sergio Meira and Hein van der Voort for
their comments on this paper, Vladmir Nedjalkov and Gilbert Lazard for the discussions we had about
Cashinahua syntax.
This language has eighteen phonemes: (a) four vowels: /a/, /i/, /´/ (noted "i" in the examples), /u/, and
(b) fourteen consonants: /p/, /t/, /c/ (regarded as an affricate /t/), /k/, /b/, /d/, /j/ (occlusive palatal sound ),
/s/, /ß/ (a voiceless fricative retroflex), /h/, /ts/, /m/, /n/, /w/. The data in this study are transcribed in accordance with the Cashinahua phonological system. It is worthy to note that <n> in coda position represents
nasalization of the preceding vowel: <kaman> = [kam] ‘dog’.
Univalent Bivalent verbs
SG (1st, 2nd)
PL (1st, 2nd, 3rd)
P-a (SG)
P-ø (PL)
neutral system
SG (3rd)
Table 1: The split ergative system
(1) a
(2) a
(3) a
kaman -an baki -ø kiju -mis -ki
dog -A child -P bite -HAB -ASS
‘I assert that the dog bites the child.’
kaman -ø ußa
-mis -ki
dog -S sleep -HAB -ASS
‘I assert that the dog is always sleeping.’
mi -n i
-a kiju -mis -ki
2SG -A 1SG -P bite -HAB -ASS
‘I assert that you bite me.’
mi -n ußa
-mis -ki
2SG -S sleep -HAB -ASS
‘I assert that you are always sleeping.’
kiju -mis -ki
(3SG.A) (3SG.P) bite -HAB -ASS
‘I assert that s/he bites her/him.’
-mis -ki
(3SG.S) sleep -HAB -ASS
‘I assert that he/she is always sleeping.’
This case marker –n has two allomorphs –{a/i}n in different environments. These morphophonological
changes occur only with nouns. Rule: (a) with final CV syllabes, -an occurs if the final vowel is /u/ : ainbu
‘woman’ > ainbu-n or ainbu-an. With the vowel /i/ it is only attested with the word badi ‘sun’ > badi-an.
In all others contexts, the suffix –n appears; (b) in CVC final syllables, a rule of vowel harmony occurs
with /i/: jaiß-in ‘armadillo’. With other vowels –an occurs: kaman-an ‘dog’, amin-an ‘capivara’ (currently
the biggest rodent – Hydrochoerus hydrochoeris (L)), bikun-an ‘blind’. For a sketch of the split ergative
system, see Camargo (2002).
The glosses: S(ubject) of an intransitive, A(gent), and P(atient) of transitive constructions, identify the
three semantico-syntactic roles.
This paper is concerned with the personal pronoun system and its irregular
morphology. The irregularity depends on the case marking associated with the
pronouns. Grammatical relations are indicated by different suffixes: (a) -n marks the
nominative case on pronouns (and ergative on nouns4), and the genitive case (and the
locative, and vocative cases5) on both nouns and pronouns. It is notable that the
accusative and dative case marking show different morphological markers for nouns
and singular and plural pronouns. A zero-morpheme, -ø, marks the nouns (huni-ø
‘man’ P) and the person plural (nuku ‘us’, matu ‘you’, hatu ‘them’ P), while in
modern Cashinahua the 1st and 2nd person singular are marked by -a; (b) -win marks
the the argument of reason and the 3rd person singular in a genitive construction (and
the instrumental case when associated with a noun); (c) -ki indicates the dative as
subject of a state; (d) -bi (and -bitan) comitative; (e) -anu marks the allative, and (f) anua the ablative case. These different syntactic functions and the representation of
their semantic roles and pragmatic status are exemplified by the data collected in
Peru during different field trips (1994-1999).
In section 3., a sketch of the personal pronoun morphology and the different
case markers is put forward. In section 4. I present some peculiar uses of the 1st and
2nd person singular, and a particular combination between these two persons, in a
genitive construction. In section 5. the uses of the 3rd person either of the singular or
of the plural are also shown, with special attention to the neutral system. In section 6.
a summary of the morphology of the pronouns is presented, and in section 7. the neutral system is shown. In section 8. Dixon’s and Payne’s analysis of the Cashinahua
split system is presented and discussed.
3. Personal pronouns
The Cashinahua personal pronoun system is composed of seven forms, including two
third-person: hatu and habu. The hatu form refers to a homogenous concept of person. The habu form relates to a heterogeneous concept of person, as described in
section 5. Table I summarizes these forms, and presents the morphology of Cashinahua pronouns in the three basic semantico-syntactic roles, termed S(ubject of intransitive), A(gent of transitive) and P(atient of transitive).
The suffix -{a/i}n marks the ergative:
man-A meat-P eat-HAB
nami-ø pi-mis
‘The man usually eats meat’
‘The man usually works’
The vocative case marking appears on nouns and it is represented by the suffix -n. It is used on proper
nouns madia-n 'hey Maria!' and especially on kinship terms: huci-n 'hey oldest brother!', cai-n 'hey brother-in-law!'.
free form
ha (*ha-a)
P-a, ø (SG), -ø (PL)
Table 2: Personal pronoun morphology as S/A and P
3.1. The topic forms
The free pronominal form represents a left-dislocated, stressed participant. It occurs
in the initial position of the sentence, cf. (4-7):
nuku, nu -n ka -ai,
1PL, 1PL -S go -PROG, today -dan7
‘We are going today.’ (lit. ‘we, we are going today’)
ha inun ia, nu -n ka -ai,
-anu -dan
3SG and 1SG, 1PL -S go -PROG slash and burn -ALL -dan
‘He and me, we are going to the plantation.’
In a transitive construction, the ergative marker -n is associated with the free form
(6b-c), except in the 3rd person singular, is not expressed by overt morphology (7b).
(6) a
ia -di,
-n ka -ai
mi -bi
1SG -also, 1SG -S go -PROG 2SG -SOC
‘Me too, I am going to work with you.’
daja -i -dan
work -INF -dan
ia -n -di,
-n bi -ai
mabu -dan
1SG -A -also, 1SG -A take -PROG stuff -dan
‘Me too, I am buying things.’ (lit. ‘me too, I am taking things’)
ia -n bisti, i
-n ßinan -ai
1SG -A only, 1SG -A think -PROG
‘Only I am thinking about him. (lit. ‘only me, I am thinking’)
The parentheses indicate that the use of these forms as S/A is optional.
Morphemes with glosses in italics are still under study.
(7) a
ha, ø
daja -paki -mis -ki
3SG, 3SG.S work -paki -HAB -ASS
‘He works continuously.’ (lit. ‘him, he works continuously’)
ha (-dan), ø
atsa -ø pi -mis -ki
3SG (-dan) 3SG.A manioc-P eat -HAB -ASS
‘He eats manioc.’ (lit. ‘him, he eats manioc’)
3.2. The nominative subsystem
In the nominative subsystem, which concerns all pronouns (except 3rd person singular), both S (2b, 4-5, 6a, 7a, 8) and A (2a, 6b-c, 7b, 9, 10), semantic roles are marked
by the suffix -n. Nevertheless, in the accusative case, the P argument (2a, 7b, 9, 10)
is not expressed by overt morphology.
badi -n
ma -n hiki -ai
moon sun -LOC 2PL -S arrive -PROG
‘You are coming home in the moonlight.’
mi -n nuku -ø bicipai haida -ai
2SG -A 1PL
-P like much -PROG
‘You like us very much.’
(10) a
-n matu -ø bicipai haida -ai
1SG -A 2PL
-P like much -PROG
‘I like you very much.’
ma -n hatu -ø
2PL -A 3PL
‘You like them.’
bicipai -ai
like -PROG
In the nominative case, the third person singular does not have to occur overtly, whether it is S (11), A (12a, 13) or DAT (12b):
midan ø
ka -mis -ki
jungle inside 3SG.S go -HAB -ASS
‘He always goes in the deep jungle’
(12) a
atsa -ø pi -mis -ki
3SG.A manioc-P eat -HAB -ASS
‘He eats manioc.’
huni -n ø
baka-ø inan -mis -ki
man -A 3SG.DAT fish -P give -HAB -ASS
‘The man is used to give (her/him) fish.’
(13) is extracted from the narrative about the character Basnen Pudu (BP). It tells the
story of a woman who used to weave beautifully and quickly. Nobody could understand how she could weave so quickly. When she got some cotton thread, she very
quickly wove a hammock. BP’s sister-in-law was wondering where BP kept the
thread8. This example shows the sequence 3rd person A and 1st person P. In this
order, the 3rd person does not appear overtly either:
hani ø
-a a
-kain -minkain
where 3SG.A 1SG -P range -MOT -INTER
‘I wonder where she could have put (my cotton)?’
Absence of an overt third person pronoun usually suggests that it is singular. If a
plural is meant, then the 3rd-person plural forms have to be used: P (10b, 14), and
optative in A (15) and S semantic roles:
ikis, i
-n hatu
today, 1SG -A 3PL
‘I met them today.’
nuku -ßu
meet -COMPL -ASS
hatu -n bisti bi -ßu
-ki juinaka -dan,
3PL -A only take -COMPL -ASS game
bisti -tu -n pi -iki
3SG.P only -PL -A eat -EVID -ASS
‘Only they took game, (it seems that) only they eat it.’
In (15), the 3rd person singular represented by ha refers to the game. It is an anaphoric pronoun.
3.3. The dative case
Trivalent propositions normally involve an A, a P and a DAT(ive). If the dative represents an argument of ‘reason’ of a state9, it is marked by a special suffix: -ki (16).
However, if the dative is the actual receiver of the patient in a transfer-of-possession
predicate, then it is not morphologically marked in the third porson (17):
Basnin Pudu's sister-in-law is wondering where BP put all the cotton thread she gave her to weave. She
looks everywhere and is unable to find it, as BP put the cotton in the space stretching from her womb to
her navel. As the sister-in-law mistrust BP’s skill of weaving, BP got ashamed.
Note Givón (1984: 88) about the dative argument of a state: “that state is most likely to be mental”.
(16) a
nu -n mi -ki
dati -ai
1PL -S 2SG -DAT afraid -PROG
‘We are afraid of you.’
-n hatu -ki
binima -mis -ki
1SG -S 3PL -DAT happy -HAB -ASS
‘I am happy with them.’
-n ha -ki
nama -mis -ki
1SG -S 3SG -DAT dream -HAB -ASS
‘I usually dream of him/her.’
The examples below show that the pronouns marked by Dative (DAT) elements may
have a Benefactive (BEN) or Indirect Object (IO) function.
(17) a
-n mi -a
baci -ø
1SG -A 2SG -DAT dress -P
‘I am giving you a dress.’
inan -ai
give -PROG
-n hatu -ø
baci -ø
1SG -A 3PL -DAT dress -P
‘I am giving them a dress.’
inan -ai
give -PROG
Esperansa -anua, ø
baci -ø
Esperanza -all, 3SG.A 1SG -DAT dress -P
‘She is bringing me a dress from Esperanza.’
bring -PROG
3.4. The comitative case
The suffix -bi marks the case role with the meaning of ‘together with’:
(18) a
-n mi -bi
tadi hanca -ai
1SG -S 2SG -COM private talk -PROG
‘I am talking in private with you.’
-anu mi -n ha -bi
ka -ai
slash and burn -ALL 2SG -S 3SG -COM go -PROG
‘You are going with her to the plantation.’
3.5. The genitive case
In a genitive construction, all the personal pronouns are marked by -n (19), except
the 3rd person singular which is marked by an instrumental morpheme -win (20):
(19) a
1SG -GEN house
‘My house.’
mi -n
‘Your house.’
nuku -n
-GEN house
‘Our house.’
matu -n
-GEN house
‘Your house.’
hatu -n
-GEN house
‘Their house.’
Comparing the case-marking morphology of (19a-b) and (2, 6, 9-10a, 14, 16b-c, 17a,
18), note identical personal pronoun forms for 1st and 2nd person singular (i-n ‘1SG’,
mi-n ‘2SG’) in the genitive construction and in S/A semantic roles. The difference
between genitive case-marking in singular and plural is that in the plural, number is
specific for each person: -ku characterizes the 1st person nu-ku; -tu shows the 2nd
person and the 3rd person homogeneous: ma-tu and ha-tu; and -bu marks the 3rd
person heterogeneous: ha-bu, i.e. a generic plural. Plural pronouns in the genitive
case have the same form as those in S/A semantic role. The 3rd person singular is
represented by ha, and the morpheme –win is attached to it:
(20) a
ha -win hiwi
3SG -GEN house
‘his/her house.’
ha -win baki -bu
3SG -GEN child -PL
‘his/her children.’
ha -win ibu
3SG -GEN genitor man/male
‘His father is going hunting.’
ka -ai
hunting go -PROG -dan
3.6. The genitive case with the function of ‘reason’
As shown above, the suffix -win functions as a genitive case marker only in the 3rd
person singular. With the others persons, it indicates a reason adjunct ‘because (of)’:
mi -win tai
diti -nami -dabi -kan -iki
2SG -GEN begin -STAT hit -REC -DU -PL -EVID10 -ASS,
tomas inun jakobo -dan
tomas and jakobo -dan
‘Tomas and Jacobo, they hit each other because of you.’
(lit. ‘having started with you, they hit each other, Tomas and Jacobo)
3.7. The allative and ablative cases
The allative case is marked by -anu, which, together with pronouns, indicates motion
towards ‘the place where one lives’ (22)11. Pronouns with -anu can also have a locative meaning referring to the ‘inside’ of a person (23):
(22) a
mi -anu i
-n hu
-ßian -ki
2SG -ALL 1SG -S arrive -PAST -ASS
‘I arrived at your place.’
nuku -anu ka -ßan -ai
‘He is going to our place.’
-anu jußin pipa, hiwi -a
1SG -ALL “soul” good, live -STAT -ASS
‘In me lives a good soul.’
The suffix -anua marks the ablative case which indicates a motion ‘from’ (25).
Example (24) comes from a dialogue, and means literally "no noise is heard from
one’s place", i.e., "it is very calm at one’s place".
mi -anua unan -uma haida -ki
2SG -ABL know -PRIV much -ASS
‘It is very calm where you live.’
(lit. ‘from your place, there is not much noise’)
A preliminary study on evidentials in Cashinahua is presented in Camargo (1996a).
It also occurs with nouns:
slash and burn-ALL 2sg-S
‘Today, you are going to the plantation.’
(25) a
mi -anua i
-n hu
2SG -ABL 1SG -S arrive -quick -PROG
‘I’ve just com from your place.’
-anua i
-n hu
slash and burn -ABL 1SG -S arrive -PROG
‘I am arriving from the plantation.’
4. Semantic uses of 1st and 2nd person singular
I would now like to turn to some special situations involving 1st and 2nd person singular pronouns. In many cases in dialogues, the pronoun in S/A function can be
omitted (26-27). On the other hand, the P pronoun is obligatory. The relation between the narrator and his audience is marked only by the 2nd person P pronoun, like
mia in the examples below, extracted from the story about Basnen Pudu:
ßuntiß -wi
mi -a a
-ßun -dan, ak -a
bring -IMPER hull -IMPER 2SG -P make -OR -dan, say -STAT
‘Bring it! Do the hulling! (I’ll) weave it for you, she said.’
Example (27) shows a conventional formula used to start narratives:
iska -ni
mi -a jui -nun, ninka -wi
so -INDF.PAST -PAST.EVID 2SG -P tell -nun listen -IMPER
‘(lit.) That was so, (I) tell you, listen!’
As mentioned above, the basic order of the constituents is SOV, and the sequence i-n
mi-a (I you) can usually be treated as transitive. However, in some cases, this sequence has a different meaning. It refers to a possessive construction as shown in
(28) by the sequence i-n mi-a ‘I you’, which in this case means ‘my possessed element/hammock made by you’. Extracted from the "BP" narrative, this sentence describes how the hammocks, woven by Basnen Pudu, are very much appreciated by her
sister-in-law, who asks her to weave one as soon as possible. This kind of possessive
indicated by the sequence in mia expresses a distant family relationship, cf. (28), the
literal reading of which seems to suggest ‘(for) you, I am a distant family’. However
the sequence in min (29) refers to a close relationship, the literal interpretation of
which suggests ‘my family is your family’.
mi -a inawai
1SG -GEN 2SG -P distant family
‘You are my distant family.’
(29) a
mi -n
nabu kajabi
1SG -GEN 2SG -GEN family ‘real’
‘You are my next of kin.’
mi -n
kajabi -ki
1SG -GEN 2SG -GEN potential husband ‘real’ -ASS
(lit.) ‘My potential husband is yours.
5. Semantic uses of the 3rd person pronouns: ha, hatu and habu.
The third person form is ha. This form, representing the 3rd person singular, appears
as a free form and is always placed at the head of the sentence:
ha (-dan), atsa -ø pi -mis -ki
3SG (-dan) manioc-P eat -HAB -ASS
‘He, he usually eats manioc.’ (lit. Him, he eats manioc.’)
This form does not appear in the syntactic-semantic roles S/A and P, as shown above
(7, 11-12). However, in any syntactic-semantic role where the 3rd person form ha
appears, it is anaphoric:
mai -n
misti hu
-mis -ki
land -LOC 3SG.S only come -HAB -ASS
‘The one [we are talking about] comes on foot by land.’
In contexts where it is used anaphorically, ha can refer to an A, as in (32a), or refer
to a P, as in (32b-c) and in (15).
(32) a
ia -ø ha
-mis -ki, hancawan
-n ain -nan -dan
1SG -P 3SG.A do -HAB -ASS speak.strongly 1SG -GENwife -nan -dan
‘She does so to me, my wife speaks (to me) strongly.’
(lit. She, whom we are talking about, does so to me)
-n ha
-mis -ki, hancawan
ain -dan
1SG -A 3SG.P do -HAB -ASS speak.strongly 1SG -GEN wife -dan
‘I do so to her, (I) speak strongly to my wife.’
mi -n
2SG -A
haska wa -ma
3SG.P so
do -FAC
-i -dan,
-ASP -dan
jusin ninka -mis -ma -ki
learn listen -HAB-NEG -ASS
‘You must do so, (you) don’t listen to learn.’
In the extract below, ha in (33) is used anaphorically as the Agent of the sentence.
This myth tells the story of a man (Mana Dumeya - MD) who has to take care of his
child (his married daughter) as his son-in-law is lazy. In order to get food, MD becomes a jaguar when he goes hunting. In this extract, it is almost dawn, so MD tells
himself that it is time to go home. In (33), ha refers to MD when he is (already) back
home putting away his arrows :
— ka -di
-tan -nun, ißun,
— go -quick -MOT -nun, he.thinks,
come -EVID -dan
ha -win pia
-bain -a
3SG.A 3SG -INSTR arrow put.away -MOT -STAT -dan
‘— It’s time to go home quickly, he thinks. He’s back home, (where) he
puts away his arrow.’
Concerning the 3rd person, in other Panoan languages such as Capanahua (Loos
1999), Shipibo (Valenzuela 1997), the 3rd person singular marker is ha (or haa), or a
in Marubo (Costa 1997)12. It receives the case suffix -n, to mark the nominative
(S/A). In modern Cashinahua, the nominative and the accusative case marking, -n
and -a respectively, are linked to the 3rd person singular only in a specific combination which appears sentence initially Both constructions express ‘also’. The nominative case marking -n appears with the term tsidi ‘also’: ha-n tsidi (3sg-nom also) ‘he
too’, cf. (34)13. The accusative marking -a appears in the combination with the imminent suffix –di: ha-a-di ‘he too’, cf. (35). The data obtained with these forms show
that with the nominative case marking, the first participant and/or agent is focused,
and with the accusative, attention is focused on the benefactive.
ha -n tsidi, (ø)
bi -ai,
3SG -A too, (3sg) buy -PROG, stuff/thing -dan
‘Him too, he is buying things.’
(referring to A)
ha -a -di, (ø)
bi -ai,
mabu -dan
3SG -P -too, (3sg) buy -PROG, stuff -dan
‘(For) him too, he is buying stuff (for himself).’
(referring to P)
Capanahua and Shipibo are spoken in Peru, and Marubo in Brazil.
This combination covers all the personal pronous:
‘So do you, eat!’
The sentences below show that in a transitive construction, the nominative case marker -n is restricted to the 3rd person plural (36). This case marker, -n, does not involve the 3rd person singular (30) (repeated here for convenience):
hatu -n (-dan), (haut
-n) atsa -ø
(-dan), (3PL.ho -A) manioc-P
‘Them, they eat manioc.’
ha (-dan), ø
atsa -ø
3SG (-dan) 3SG.A manioc-P
‘Him, he eats manioc.’
pi -mis -ki
eat -HAB -ASS
pi -mis -ki
eat -HAB -ASS
The plural form is a combination between ha and plural values: ha-tu (homogenous
plural) and ha-bu (heterogeneous plural). In fact, with hatu, the speaker refers to
people he is in a close relationship with - for instance people from his village or his
next of kin. With habu, the speaker refers to the people he is in a close relationship
with (those he refers as hatu) and also with his/her distant kinship and/or with people
from outside of his/her village. In some case, it can be interpreted as a collective
morpheme. Contrary to the 3rd person singular, plural person markers are required in
a P semantic role. In (37), for instance, the narrator refers to a cotton weaver who
teaches people how to make weaving patterns. The pronoun habu indicates that the
weaver taught everybody how to weave patterns.
-ø uin -ma -a
3SG.A 3pl (he) -P see -FAC -STAT -ASS
‘She showed them (how to make the weaving patterns).’
However it is optional in S/A semantico-syntactic roles. In this case, they appear to
avoid ambiguities, as shown in (37). In a transitive construction, the 3rd person plural receives the nominative case marker, -n:
(38) a
hatu -n, tama bidu a
-kan -iki
3PL -A, peanut seed do -PL -EVID -ASS
‘Them, (it seems that) they peel peanut.’ (homogeneous plural)
(The speaker refers to the people of his/her village)
habu -n, tama bidu a
-kan -iki
-A, peanut seed do -PL -EVID -ASS
‘Them, (it seems that) they peel peanut.’ (heterogeneous plural)
(The speaker refers to the people in general, those from his/her village,
and those from other Cashinahua villages)
Normally, the plural (-bu or -kan) is associated with the predicate, as in (39b). In this
case, the argument in the nominative case represented by the 3rd person plural is not
required, cf. (38b). However, as mentioned before, the 3rd person plural in a S/A
function appears to avoid ambiguities and to distinguish whom the speaker is referring to: either members of his next of kin (38a) or persons who are not necessarily of
his kin (38b). Comparing (39a-b), I note that in (39a) the argument, which is not expressed morphologically, refers to a 3rd person singular. In (39b), the predicate is
marked by the plural suffix -bu, which indicates that the subject argument is the 3rd
person plural. In (39c), the predicate is not marked by the verbal plural suffix (-bu or
-kan), but there we find a 3rd person plural pronoun:
(39) a
ø tama bidu a
-mis -ki
3SG peanut seed do -HAB -ASS
‘She usually peels peanuts.’
tama bidu a
-mis -bu -ki
peanut seed do -HAB -PL -ASS
‘They usually peel peanuts.’
hatu -n tama bidu a
-mis -ki
3PL.ho -A peanut seed do -HAB -ASS
‘They usually peel peanuts.’
6. Summary of personal pronoun morphology
In the examples presented above, morphological variations of the personal pronouns
have been examined. Below, all the pronoun forms are shown in detail to indicate the
loss of the final syllables. The two forms of the plural, hatu and habu, are not included in this syllable reduction.
The 1st and 2nd person singular
The 1st and the 2nd person singular root is: i- and mi- to which each different casemarking attaches.
S/A, gen Free form
P, dat/ben dat(subj) soc
-a (univalent) -a
-an (bivalent)
Table 3: 1st and 2nd person singular
The 1st and 2nd person plural
The 1st and 2nd person present a syllabic variation only in the nominative case: nuku
→ nu-, matu → ma- only in S/A case marking.
Free form,
P, dat/ben
Table 4 : 1st and 2nd person plural
The 3rd person singular and plural
Especially in narrative, the 3rd person singular is represented formally in the three
basic syntactic-semantic roles, S, A and P. In discourse, it is normally not represented. It does, however, occur to mark an anaphoric relation, which refers either to A or
to P. Elsewhere its form ha appears and receives the different case markers.
S/A,P, dat/ben
narrative hasituation
Free form gen dat(subj)
-win -ki
gen abl/all
-win -anu(a)
Table 5 : 3rd person singular
In Loos’ overview on Pano languages (1999: 236), it is said that “All Pano languages are characterized by a distinctive transitivity concord system”. His examples
(25a-b), probably from Capanahua, cannot be compared to modern Cashinahua. In
these examples, the 3rd person singular form is haa, which receives the ergative case
marking –n: in transitive (25a) haa-n ta his-i-ki (3-A / decl / see-pres-fact) ‘He sees
(it)’, but not in reflexive (25b) haa ta his-it-iQ-ki (3S / decl / see-refl-pres-fact) ‘He
sees himself (in a mirror)’. In modern Cashinahua the forms ha-n and ha-a occur
with the adverbial expression ‘him/her too’ as indicated above (34-35). Historically
speaking, it may be the case that in earlier Cashinahua the 3rd person singular form
was ha. In modern Cashinahua, it acts as an anaphoric or cataphoric pronoun in the
context of storytelling, representing either S, A or P. However, similar to Cashinahua, the form haa in Capanahua also refers to an anaphoric pronoun: “haa ‘that’,
whatever has been referred to before in the context”, writes Loos (1999: 248).
The 3rd person plural keeps its full form while marking all cases:
Free form
-ø (univalent)
-n (bivalent)
S/A, gen P, dat/ben dat(subj)
gen abl/dir
-win -anu(a)
Table 6: 3rd persons plural
7. The neutral system
As mentioned before, Cashinahua has a split ergative system, characterized by the
ergative-absolutive case marking system for noun phrases and by the nominativeaccusative system for pronouns. In the examples presented, all the pronouns operate
on a nominative-accusative basis, except the 3rd person singular as shown in Table
4. When the latter appears in its form ha it does not carry the marker of the ergative
case in A role. Thus, the examples (31-32) show that ha in S (31), A (32a) and P
(32b-c) is indeed morphologically unmarked. The three primitives (A, P and S) have
the same form: “this is tantamount to lack of case marking for these relations”
which is a neutral system “widespread in the languages of the world”, writes Comrie
(1989:125). So, in the Cashinahua argument hierarchy diagram, the noun phrases are
on the right and the pronouns on the left. In the middle of this hierarchy there is an
overlap where the 3rd person singular A or P is unmarked. This diagram refers to the
type of arguments which are more likely in A than in O function, as suggested by
Dixon (1994: 85):
1st > 2nd
pronouns > nouns
nominative > neutral > ergative
> 3rd >
Proper and common nouns:
(including demonstratives) animate and some inanimate
such as ‘wind’ and ‘sun’.
Table 7: The Cashinahua argument system hierarchy diagram
In the Cashinahua system, an overlap in the split ergative system happens when the
ergative marking stops at the place where the accusative begins. That is, the middle
portion of the hierarchy will have the same form for all three of the core functions S,
A, O. The third person singular shows the same case-marking form for all these different syntactic-semantic roles.
8. Dixon’s and Payne’s analyses of the Cashinahua system
The examples show that the full form for the singular pronouns are: i- 1st, mi- 2nd,
ha 3rd. Dixon (1994: 85-87) analyses the form -a as a suffix which associates with
all these persons in O function: i- → ia, mi- → mia, ha- → haa, which is valid only
for the 1st and 2nd person, as I have shown above. The data show that the form haa
does not correspond to the O function in modern Cashinahua. The 3rd person singu-
lar, as an argument, does not have any phonological realization. The 3rd person analysis as presented by Dixon (see Table 8) suggests that there are three different forms
for each of the A, S, P semantic roles. The form habu as it is presented, may indicate
the 3rd person singular form in A/S function, when it corresponds to one of the two
3rd persons plural. In fact, habu refers to the plural, while ha refers to the singular
anaphorically. The A marking is not a nasalisation, but a nasal consonant -n, that on
proper and commun nouns shows a morphophological variation -{a/i}n, depending
on the final syllable of the lexeme to which is attached (see the rules in note 2). The
nominative case is marked only in the 3rd person (plural), habun, in A function, but
the morpheme -n is also attached to the 1st and 2nd persons, respectively i-n, mi-n. In
short, all the persons in the singular and plural forms, except the 3rd person singular,
are marked in the nominative case.
1st and 2nd person
3rd person pronoun
proper names and
common nouns
Table 8: Dixon’s sketch of the Cashinahua system (1994: 86)
R. Dixon’s analysis is pertinent when he says that “A and O markings overlap for
some part of the middle of the hierarchy, rather than ergative marking stopping at
the place where accusative begins” (Dixon 1994:87). However, the overlap occurs in
the 3rd person singular which shows the same mopholology for S/A/O functions;
thus, it is a neutral system and not a tripartite one. This same contradiction is shown
in Payne’s analysis of the Cashinahua system. Payne (1997: 156) also analyses the
Cashinahua 3rd person as “a tripartite system, in which each of the three primitives
has distinct cases”. Like Dixon’s, Payne’s analysis refers to Cashinahua data (Table
6) obtained indirectly. Nevertheless these data do not correspond to modern Cashinahua14.
1, 2 pronoun
3 pronoun
Full NPs
Table 9: Payne’s sketch of the Cashinahua system (1997: 156)
In Payne’s Cashinahua data, the 1st and 2nd persons as A are unmarked, but the 3rd
person is marked by -n (noted as a nasal). According to our data, the only situation
where ha-n can appear, is in the combination ha-n tsidi, as seen above. We can see
During the 20 months I was in the field the forms *ha-n as A and *ha-a as P were never attested.
this morpho-syntactic rule in the other Panoan languages as in Marubo (Costa 1997)
where a ‘3sg’ receives -n → an in P function. In Capanahua, a double "haa" indicates
the 3rd person (Loos 1999: 236).
This discrepancy between grammatical relations and morphological case is
marked only in the 3rd person, which I have indicated below as ø and ha. The latter
appears more frequently in narratives than in discourse situations. Table 9 shows that
the neutral system applies only to the 3rd person singular, so the morphology treats
the three functions homogeneously. The complete data showing the three basic syntactic-semantic roles of the split system is proposed below.
1st and 2nd
person pronouns
A -n
S -n
P -a (SG)
-ø (PL)
3rd person
ø, ha
ø, ha
ø, ha
3rd person
hatu-n, habu-n
hatu-n, habu-n
hatu-ø, habu-ø
proper names
and common
-{-i, -a}n
Table 10: Camargo’s proposal for diagram of the Cashinahua split ergative system
9. Conclusion
In this study the Cashinahua personal pronoun system was discussed, which contains
seven forms, and its morphology varies depending on the case markers. I have tried
to show that this language presents a split ergative system where the pronouns are
characterized by the nominative-accusative system. The nominative case is marked
by the -{a/i}n suffix. However, contrary to what has been reported in the literature
(Dixon, Payne), the 3rd person singular form does not form a tripartite system, but
rather a neutral one, with no morphological indication of the three semantic roles (A,
P, S). They have the same form. However, example (34) shows ha- suffixed by -n in
the combination with tsidi ‘also’ → han tsidi ‘he/she too’ or ‘so does he/she’. The
accusative case marking appears with the suffix -di ‘imminent’, refering to the benefactive: ha-a-di ‘(for) him too’.
Therefore, it is possible that in ancient Cashinahua, the 3rd person singular in
S/A semantic roles also received the nominative case marker suffix: ha-n (S/A) or a
semantic role distinction, as data from the Capanahua language suggest. In this language, the 3rd person receives the same morphological treatment as proper and common nouns: haa (S) and haa-n (A).
It is possible that, in Cashinahua, ha is a relic from an earlier stage of the language when it had a nominative-accusative system for the 3rd person. Nowadays, the
3rd person singular is not marked as an argument in a discourse situation. The form
ha appears indeed as anaphoric pronoun. And in this case it is unmarked in its semantic role of S, A or P. So, it overlaps the nominal hierarchy where, morphologically, the pronouns are characterized by the nominative-accusative case system and the
nouns are marked by the ergative-absolutive case system. The 3rd person singular
pronoun is outside this system.
Another issue that was raised in this paper is the construction with the 1st and
2nd person singular with an embedded genitive: i-n mi-n nabu (1SG-GEN / 2SG-GEN /
family), literally ‘your family is my family’. The context-dependent occurrence of
this construction in the examples in (29), for instance, reflects sociocultural factors.
Camargo, Eliane
2002 ‘Ergatividade cindida em caxinauá’, in : Línguas indígenas brasileiras: Fonologia, gramática e história. Atas do I Encontro internacional do Grupo de
Trabalho sobre Línguas Indígenas da ANPOLL, Belém : Gráfica Universitária.
1996a ‘Valeurs médiatives en caxinaua’, in: Zl. Guentchéva (ed.) L’énonciation médiatisée, Paris: Éditions Peeters, pp. 271-284.
1996b ‘Des marqueurs modaux en caxinaua’, Amerindia, 21:1-20.
Comrie, Bernard
1989 Language Universals and Linguistic Typology. Syntax and Morphology, Oxford : The University of Chicago Press.
Costa, Raquel
1997 ‘Aspects of Ergativity in Marubo (Panoa)’, in: The Journal of Amazonian
Languages, 1/2: 50-103.
Deshayes, Patrick & Keifenheim, Barbara
1994 ‘Penser l’autre chez les Indiens Huni Kuin de l’Amazonie’, Recherches et
Documents, Amériques Latines, Paris: L’Harmattan.
Dixon, Robert, W.
1994 Ergativity, [Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, Vol. 69], New York: Cambridge University Press.
Erikson, Philippe
1996 La griffe des aïeux. Marquage du corps et démarquages ethniques chez les
Matis d’Amazonie, Paris: Éditions Peeters.
Givón, T.
1984 Syntax. A Functional-Typological Introduction. Vol. I, Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Kensinger, Kenneth
1994 The Way Real People Ought to Live: Essays on the Peruvian Cashinahua,
Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press.
Lagrou, Elsje Maria
1998 Caminhos, Duplos e Corpos. Uma abordagem perspectivista da identidade e
alteridade entre os Kaxinawa, Ph.D thesis, FFLCH/USP.
Loos, Eugene
1999 ‘Pano’, in: R.M.W. Dixon & A.Y. Aikhenvald (eds.) The Amazonian Languages, [Cambridge Language Surveys], pp. 227-249.
Payne, Thomas, E.
1997 Describing morphosyntax. A Guide for field linguistis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ricardo, Carlos Alberto (ed.)
2001 Povos Indígenas no Brasil, 1995-2000, São Paulo: ISA (Instituto Socioambiental).
Valenzuela, Pilar
2000 ‘Ergatividad escindida en Wariapano, Yaminawa y Shipibo-Konibo’, in: H.
van der Voort en S. van de Kerke (eds.) Indigenous Languages of Lowland
South America, [ILLA/1], Leiden: CNWS, pp. 111-128.
first person
second person
third person
completive (aspect)
direct object
habitual (aspect)
HIST PAST historical past
INDF PAST indefinite past
object (of a transitive
valency increaser
past (aspect)
past evidential
heterogeneous plural
homogeneous plural
Alain Fabre
Universidad Tecnológica de Tampere, Finlandia
1. Introducción
El objetivo de este trabajo es presentar algunos rasgos tipológicos del kamsá, una
lengua poco documentada, hablada en el valle de Sibundoy, Putumayo, sudoeste de
Colombia, en una zona clave para las relaciones entre los Andes sur-colombianos y
la selva amazónica. Empieza por un breve recuento de los estudios lingüísticos
existentes sobre esta lengua, y por un resumen tipológico del kamsá. Luego se
describen, con más detalles, dos fenómenos: incorporación nominal y clasificación
nominal, vistos desde una perspectiva lingüística areal. El estudio considera, además
del kamsá, lengua de partida para la comparación, un conjunto de once lenguas,
distribuidas en tres zonas geográficas. Si bien el kamsá pertenece geográficamente a
la zona andina, el área que ocupa cobra mucha importancia como punto de contacto
entre dicha región y la selva amazónica. Como se echará de ver a lo largo de este
trabajo, la lengua kamsá comparte rasgos tipológicos de ambas zonas. Las tres áreas
y las lenguas consideradas son: (1) lenguas amazónicas: uitoto [familia witoto-bora],
waorani [lengua aislada], cofán [lengua aislada], andoke [lengua aislada], lenguas de
la familia tucano occidental y oriental y lenguas de la familia záparo; (2) lenguas
andinas: guambiano [lengua aislada], nasa yuwe o páez [lengua aislada]; (3) lenguas
de la vertiente del Pacífico: emberá [familia Chocó] y awa pit o kwaiker [familia
barbacoa]. El ingano (variedad del quechua) es una lengua con poca profundidad
temporal en esta zona, razón por la cual se menciona pocas veces en el texto.
2. La lengua kamsá
El kamsá (kamna) es una lengua aislada, hablada por unas cuatro mil personas en
el valle de Sibundoy, situado en el extremo oeste del departamento de Putumayo,
Colombia, hacia el este de la ciudad de Pasto. En el valle de Sibundoy viven, además
de los kamsá, quechuahablantes (inganos) y mestizos castellanohablantes. Los kamsá
han tenido contactos con los españoles y sus descendientes desde el año 1535, si bien
sus contactos con la sociedad nacional han venido intensificándose recién desde
Quisiera dar constancia de mi profundo agradecimiento a Sérgio Meira y Hein van der Voort para sus
valiosos comentarios y sugerencias a la versión original de mi trabajo. Circunstancias imponderables
hicieron que las cuidadosas notas editoriales de Sérgio y Hein, hechas varios meses atrás, no me
alcanzaron hasta la semana prevista para dejar la versión definitiva del texto a la imprenta. Sin embargo, he
tratado de aprovechar en la medida posible sus atinadas observaciones. Huelga decir que soy único
responsable para cualquier error o inconsecuencia que aparezca en el texto.
principios del siglo XX (Bonilla 1972). Esta situación se ve reflejada en el fuerte
influjo que ha tenido la lengua española sobre el kamsá. También la lengua quechua,
llamada regionalmente ingano o inga, ha dejado su huella en el kamsá. La lengua
kamsá, como las demás lenguas del sudoeste andino de Colombia, con excepción del
ingano, está escasamente documentada. A continuación, hago un breve recuento
cronológico de las fuentes lingüísticas modernas sobre el kamsá.
El Instituto Lingüístico de Verano está presente entre los kamsá desde el año
1964.1 Los cuatro misionarios-lingüistas que se han dedicado a esta tarea se han
interesado mucho más en el aspecto misional que en la descripción lingüística, lo que
se desprende de lo poco que han publicado sobre la lengua. El número de títulos
lingüísticos publicados por ellos en el lapso de 36 años suman cinco2, o en realidad
tres, pues dos de ellos existen en dos versiones, inglesa y española3. Todos los demás
títulos son ya elucubraciones misionales y/o cartillas de alfabetización.4 La compilación de vocabulario kamsá (Clough & al. 1992) se debe también al equipo de misionarios del ILV. Cabe destacar que contiene varios errores que delatan un conocimiento deficiente de la lengua, razón por la cual debe emplearse con mucha cautela.5
El trabajo de Howard sobre los tipos de párrafos, existe en dos versiones, castellana (1977) e inglesa, esta última en el segundo volumen de un libro editado por
Robert E. Longacre (1979). La primera es más amplia, la segunda acortada. Por lo
que atañe a las partes comunes a las dos versiones, las mismas difieren solamente en
puntos de detalle.6 Este estudio de los tipos de párrafos incluye algunas observaciones sueltas sobre la morfosintaxis del kamsá, sumergidas en una sarta de disparates y
fórmulas tagmémicas, que casi nada revelan acerca de la estructura lingüística del
kamsá. Además, los propios ejemplos del texto publicado en que se basa el artículo
desmienten a menudo lo afirmado en el cuerpo del texto. El único lingüista profesional del Instituto Lingüístico de Verano que ha trabajado en la región, Stephen H.
Levinsohn, se ha dedicado exclusivamente al ingano, variedad del quechua.
Fuera del Instituto Lingüístico de Verano, el investigador colombiano Monguí
Sánchez publicó, en 1981, un libro titulado La lengua kame.ntza. Fonética 1
Estas informaciones pueden ser consultadas en la página web del ILV/ Colombia:
Howard (1967, 1972, 1977, 1979; Clough & al. 1992).
Se trata de los artículos de Howard (1967 [versión inglesa] y 1972 [versión española], que versan sobre
la fonología del kamsá (ambos con 16 páginas) y Howard (1977 [versión española, más larga, con 66
páginas] y 1979 [versión inglesa acortada de 23 páginas]). Existe, además, una reseña sin publicar del libro
de Monguí (Van Zyl & Solarte R. 1985).
Obsérvese, además, que los últimos títulos propiamente lingüísticos datan de 1977 (desconozco la fecha
de compilación del vocabulario de Clough & al. (1992), mientras las fechas de publicación de los títulos
restantes se extienden hasta el año 1999. La misma situación se da para las demás lenguas de la zona, con
la salvedad del inga(no), en cuyo caso la presencia de un lingüista profesional (Levinsohn), influyó en el
número relativamente elevado de estudios lingüísticos sobre esta lengua.
Cierta premura de tiempo para la publicación del vocabulario comparativo puede haber ocasionado tales
errores e inexactitudes. Muy a menudo, resulta difícil extraer las raíces léxicas, especialmente cuando
aparecen ligadas a morfemas irrelevantes. En otras ocasiones, el lexema resulta ser error de interpretación.
El texto español de las páginas 7-23 corresponde a las páginas 276-291 del texto inglés, mientras el
texto español de las páginas 57/60-67 corresponde a las páginas 291-296 de la versión inglesa.
fonología - textos (Bogotá, Publicaciones del Instituto Caro y Cuervo). En esta obra,
tras una escueta, y en trechos poco clara, presentación de la fonética y fonología (pp.
3-25), el autor nos ofrece una compilación de textos con doble traducción, literal y
contextual (pp. 29-222). Este trabajo de Monguí y el más reciente de McDowell
(1994), representan el mayor caudal de textos kamsá que se haya publicado, por lo
menos en forma accesible.7 Los textos kamsá de Monguí aparecen sin segmentación
alguna, lo que dificulta el análisis lingüístico de los mismos. Es también importante
destacar la labor del Centro Colombiano de Estudios de Lenguas Aborígenes, de la
Universidad de los Andes, en Bogotá, que viene publicando estudios lingüísticos de
alta calidad, también sobre el kamsá (Jamioy Muchavisoy 1989, 1992; Juajiboy
Mutumbajoy 1995). Lamentablemente, por lo que a esta última lengua se refiere, no
he podido, hasta la fecha, encontrar los materiales publicados por esta institución,
razón por la cual no estoy en condición de comentarlos.
De aquí en adelante, todos los ejemplos provienen de los materiales citados en
la bibliografía. El análisis lingüístico y la segmentación, en cambio, son de mi entera
responsabilidad. La transcripción se da según las normas de la Asociación Fonética
Internacional (IPA) con las siguientes modificaciones: (a) la oclusiva palatal sorda
(ch del español) se escribe /t/, para mantener el paralelismo con la palatal retrofleja
/t/, mientras /c/ representa la africada alveolar <z> del alemán (ts); (b) el acento,
cuando su presencia ha podido colegirse en los textos, ha sido colocado directamente
sobre la vocal acentuada.
Para concluir este apartado, puede afirmarse que el kamsá sigue perteneciendo a
aquella mancha de sombra del sur andino colombiano, bajo la cual se cobijan otras
lenguas poco estudiadas como cofán, awa pit, nasa yuwe y guambiano que suelen
permanecer fuera del alcance de la comunidad lingüística internacional.
3. Resumen tipológico del kamsá
El kamsá es una lengua medianamente polisintética, con prefijos y sufijos
gramaticales. Los prefijos gramaticales no son frecuentes en las lenguas del área
considerada: además del kamsá, los hay solamente en el andoke y las lenguas
3.1. Marcadores de personas
El sintagma verbal puede llevar prefijos que corresponden al agente de primera
persona y paciente de segunda (1a) y (1b), así como agente de segunda persona y
paciente de primera (2). En (1b), llama la atención que el segundo actante remite al
“objeto indirecto” (segunda persona de singular) y no al directo:9
Pude consultar los textos editados por McDowell recién después de la elaboración de esta ponencia.
El nasa yuwe (páez) tiene algunos prefijos empleados en la derivación lexical. No obstante, las
relaciones gramaticales de esta lengua se concretan a través de sufijos.
Parte de las abreviaturas empleadas en las glosas de los verbos se basan en el cuadro (sumamente)
parcial de los afijos del verbo (Howard 1977: 7). Estas interpretaciones deben ser tomadas con una fuerte
dosis de cautela (v. comentarios en las notas a pie de página correspondientes a los ejemplos). Las demás
(1) a
‘yo te llevaré’ (Monguí 1981: 89)
abreviaturas, así como el desglose correspondiente, cuando no expresamente indicado, son de mi
responsabilidad y no son más que un intento de interpretación de los datos: ACT = actor; ASP = aspecto;
AUM = aumentativo; BEN = benefactivo; CAR = caritativo; CL = clasificador; DIM = diminutivo; DEIC =
deíctico; DIS = marcador de discurso; DU = dual; DUR = durativo; EVID = evidencial; EVID.VISTO.CON.PART
= presenciado con participación del hablante; EVID.VISTO.SIN.PART = presenciado sin participación del
hablante; FIN = finalidad/ meta; FUT = futuro; HAB = habitual; INF = infinitivo; ITER = iterativo; LOC =
locativo (también progresivo con raíces verbales); PAS = pasado; PL = plural; PRED = predicativizador;
RECIP = recíproco; SEPAR = separativo; SING = singular; SOC/INSTR = sociativo/instrumental; V = vocal
Algunos ejemplos, en las notas, van en la grafía original de Howard o Monguí, en cuyo caso se dan
entre paréntesis angulares <...>. En el cuerpo del texto, la transcriptión (entre fonética y fonológica) es la
de la A.F.I. El inventario fonémico del kamsá se presenta como sigue: (a) consonantes: /p, t, c (= ts), t, t,
k, b, d, g, f, s, , , x, m, n, , l, , r, w, j/; (b) vocales: /I, e, a, , u, o/. Los solapamientos de alófonos, sobre
todo en las vocales, es un asunto que merecería un estudio detallado. Así, por ejemplo, a pesar de la
existencia de un buen número de pares mínimos que permiten postular indudablemente /u, o, / como
fonemas distintos, los textos publicados exhiben solapamientos de sus alófonos respectivos. En todos estos
casos, he mantenido la vocal original de la fuente empleada.
En cuanto al morfema -bu, que podría ser llamado ‘dual’, he preferido glosarlo de acuerdo con la
función que tiene en cada caso particular. Queda todavía por comprobar el valor ‘general’ de este morfema
(v. también nota s 14 y 19). El morfema dual tiene los alomorfos siguientes: [ -bu, -bo, -b]. Los
solapamientos alofónicos impiden a estas alturas del análisis decidir cual de estas formas debería ser
escogida como forma básica. Por esta razón, he preferido mantener las vocales originales tales como
aparecen en los textos publicados. Para la claridad de exposición, en vez de la glosa 2SG-DU para ku-bu- y
DU-3SG para bu-(Ø), prefiero escribir 2SG-1SG y 3SG(-3SG). Las combinaciones de morfemas permiten
generalmente interpretar las personas aludidas. Así /bu-/ es agente de primera persona de singular en kubu- ‘yo te…’, pero agente de tercera persona de dual en bu-(Ø) ‘ellos-dos…’. Se puede, tentativamente,
también suponer cierta influencia de una jerarquía de personas en la interpretación final.
En cuanto a los morfemas verbales (al parecer evidenciales), que Howard (1977: 7) subsume bajo el
rubro “participación”, la autora distingue dos: -n- (“presenciado y con participación del hablante”) y -k(“presenciado, sin participación”); el morfema cero, en esta posición, indica que la acción no fue
presenciada por el hablante. Los textos que manejo, parecen confirmar este análisis de Howard.
El morfema x- indica, según Howard (1977:8), ‘movimiento’. Ella lo explica como sigue: “El
movimiento que sigue la línea del suceder del tiempo se marca con el morfema <j> [grafía original] en
tagmemas de desarrollo gradual, DG. Sin embargo, el morfema frecuentemente se obscurece por razón de
los cambios morfofonémicos. También se da en los verbos genérico-históricos, y en el infinitivo”. Considero aquí que hay dos morfemas diferentes, que aparecen en posiciones diferentes. Como primer prefijo a
la izquierda del verbo, puede considerarse como marca de infinitivo (INF). En medio del verbo, parece
señalar el carácter predicativo de la palabra, y lo llamo, en espera de un estudio más detallado, simplemente
‘predicativizador’ (PRED), aunque el empleo de este término tampoco me parece totalmente adecuado.
Hablando de las raíces verbales del kamsá, Howard (1977: 8) afirma que las mismas constan de una
vocal de enfoque que indica que el sujeto es o agente o paciente. Como no aduce ejemplos del proceso, la
existencia de una vocal de enfoque queda por comprobar. Sin embargo, encuentro en los textos de Monguí
dos ejemplos que, por lo menos en estos casos, podrían confirmar la hipótesis de Howard. Se trata de los
casos siguientes, casi pares mínimos, con la vocal de enfoque subrayada: i-o-x-o-féna (DIS-3SG-PRED-Vdespertar) ‘él se despertó’, frente a i-o-x-a-féna-i (DIS-3SG-PRED-V-despertar-ACT) ‘él los despertó’
(Monguí 1977: 45 y 46). En la duda, la “vocal de enfoque” va glosada por mí con un signo de
interrogación. El problema que dificulta el análisis de esta vocal, estriba en los solapamientos de alófonos,
inclusive su desaparición total.
chicha-CL-DIM 2SG-1SG-FUT-BEN14-alistar
‘la chichita te alistaré’ (Monguí 1981: 122)
1SG-2SG-EV.VISTO.CON.PART-PRED-empezar salvar
‘tú me empezaste a salvar’ (Monguí 1981: 89)
Con un paciente de tercera persona, sin embargo, suele aparecer un solo morfema
(3a), (3b), (3c), (3d) y (3e) . Como resalta de (3d) y (3e), este único morfema refiere
al agente más que al paciente:
(3) a
‘él lo llevó’ (Monguí 1981: 89)
DIS -3PL-PRED-PAS -V-llevar
‘ellos lo llevaron’ (Monguí 1981: 184)
tarr--nga i maaxta ventador-a-ngá
tarro-CL-PL y muchos aventador-CL-PL
i xasa-be-nga
y calabazo-CL-PL DIS-3SG-PRED-V-poner cama-CL-LOC17
‘puso en la cama tarros y muchos aventadores y calabazos’
(Howard 1977: 28)
McDowell (1990: 300), cuyo estudio no es propiamente dicho lingüístico, emplea el término “benéfico”
para referirse al morfema -bo-, lo mismo que resulta ser idéntico a lo que, según la tabla de Howard (1977:
7) sería tercera persona de dual. Sea como fuere, en (1b), los dos morfemas se distinguen por su posición
(es irrelevante el hecho de que la tercera persona de dual aparezca aquí como b-: como puede observarse
con otros ejemplos, varía libremente con bo- (y bu-).
Existen, según Howard, dos “marcadores de discurso”: t-, que “se usa en las narraciones de hechos
históricos y de hechos contemporáneos con raíz puntiliar (es decir, el hecho se ve como concluido en un
momento dado)” e i- que “se da en verbos de narración de leyenda. También se puede dar en narraciones
históricas y contemporáneas de acción previa no presenciada”.
Howard (1977: 8), dice que hay dos morfemas de pasado: -ec- “que se refiere a la acción (ya sea a la
progresiva, o a la que se realizó en un momento dado) que ocurrió en el pasado reciente en verbos de
acontecimiento contemporáneo o de leyenda” y -an- “pasado histórico” que es “obligatorio en verbos de
acontecimiento en narraciones históricas y es optativo en verbos de acontecimiento contemporáneo o de
leyenda. Este morfema coloca la acción más en el pasado”. Cabe observar, acerca de estas y otras
afirmaciones gramaticales hechas por Howard, que en primer lugar, Howard nunca define los términos que
emplea ni discute ejemplos en que se pueda comprobar la diferencia de significado y/o función entre los
morfemas citados.
La glosa LOC subsume varios morfemas locativos: -ene, -ok, -oi, -e (este último, al final de un verbo,
es también marca del progresivo), y -ka (este último morfema aparece muy a menudo al final de toda clase
de palabras. Muchavisoy (1997) lo traduce por ‘con’, por lo cual podría tener un valor de sociativo/
instrumental. Al final de verbos, podría simplemente tener un valor coordinativo ‘y’).
‘yo lo golpeaba’ (Howard 1977: 45)
pájaro-CL yo
‘yo siempre cojo un pájaro’ (Howard 1977: 60)
3.2. Dual
Debe notarse el uso del morfema bu-, que Howard (1977: 7) considera como tercera
persona de dual, en casos involucrando a dos personas, cualesquiera que sean.19 Así
el dual de los ejemplos (1a) y (1b) arriba se refiere a la primera del singular (agente),
mientras en (3a) a la tercera del singular (agente también). En los ejemplos (4a) a
(4e), el dual no se explica por el agente, que es de tercera del singular, sino por la
acción en conjunto, que involucra a dos entidades animadas:
(4) a
‘él le cortó (a otra persona)’
‘él empezó a pelear (con otro)’ (Howard 1977: 18)
DEIC-tigre y
‘él volteó al tigre y lo mató’ (Howard 1977: 18)
‘él se lo llevó a él’
Howard (1977: 7-8) llama “Aspecto 2" a los dos “marcadores de aspecto”: -nd- (“genérico
contemporáneo”) y -njb-/-nd- (“habitual”). La misma autora añade que estos marcadores de aspecto “no
manifiestan DG [desarrollo gradual]”.
El dual ocurre también con agente de tercera del singular y paciente en tercera del dual. En un trabajo
en elaboración, analizo con más detenimiento las modalidades de uso de este morfema “dual” (Fabre, en
Talvez xe-n-: INF-EV.VISTO.CON.PART-, donde el primer morfema aparecería con una vocal de apoyo.
Muchavisoy (1997) trata el -n(a) final del verbo como un durativo. En muchos casos, sin embargo,
parece tener un valor indeterminado que prefiero glosar como CON ‘conector’.
kanje tigre-fta-ka
‘se encontró con un tigre’ (Howard 1977: 35)
La existencia del morfema bu- como tercera persona del dual queda, por otra parte,
confirmada en el corpus. Ejemplos típicos son (5a) y (5b):
(5) a
‘huyeron los dos’ (Monguí 1981: 143)
DEIC-hora 3DU-PRED-V-descansar-DU-SOC/INSTR
‘luego descansaron los dos’ (Monguí 1981: 141)
La presencia de un dual, tanto en el predicado como en los sintagmas nominales, es
poco frecuente en las lenguas del área considerada.24 En el área considerada en esta
ponencia, la categoría de dual ha sido registrada, además del kamsá, en el awa pit,
witoto y waorani. (6a) y (6b), son ejemplos del dual en sintagmas nominales:
(6) a
1DU-DU-GEN contrato
‘nuestro contrato (de los dos)’ (Monguí 1981: 97)
DIS-3SG-PRED-ITER-preguntar DEIC-dos
‘él les preguntó a las dos señoritas’ (Howard 1977: 36)
3.3. Ausencia de marcación de casos Agente y Paciente en los nominales
Llama la atención la coexistencia de los sintagmas nominales y los afijos verbales
correspondientes, aunque en las lenguas amazónicas polisintéticas, la presencia de un
afijo verbal de actante supone generalmente la ausencia del sintagma nominal
correspondiente en el enunciado25. En este sentido, el kamsá se acerca más al
esquema andino. Por otra parte, los sintagmas nominales agentes y pacientes del
Casi idéntico a la forma empleada por los quechuahablantes del valle de Sibundoy: chi-oras ‘a esa hora;
entonces’. Ambas lenguas, por otra parte de estructuras muy diferentes y genéticamente no emparentadas,
han tomado prestado la segunda parte de esta palabra del castellano (hora), precedida del deíctico quechua
chi, que bien podría ser, en kamsá, préstamo del último.
El sufijo final –ka, llamado aquí SOC/INSTR puede tener también un valor de lazo entre oraciones. A
veces, al modo del syfijo quechua –wan, incluso puede servir de conjunción (tipo ‘el oso y el tigre’).
Wise (1999: 318) señala que el dual es una categoría poco frecuente en las lenguas amazónicas en
De ahí, en muchas de estas lenguas, una diferencia muy significativa entre el número de verbos y de
sintagmas nominales.
kamsá no llevan ningún caso morfológico, como puede apreciarse en los ejemplos
(7a), (7b) y (7c)26:
(7) a
t-bo-x-an-e-natax -ka
DEIC-tigre y
‘él volteó al tigre y lo mató’ (Howard 1977: 18)
kánje bobóns bu-x-at-o-bianxeí
‘él atisbó a un joven’ (Monguí 1981: 97)
‘él le entregó la llave’ (Howard 1977: 89)
3.4. Orden de las palabras
Acerca del orden de las palabras en el enunciado, se puede notar lo siguiente:
(1) el orden del objeto directo y del verbo está sujeto a variación: del desglose de un
centenar de ejemplos, consta un leve predominio del orden V+O (55.6% del total)
frente a O+V (44.3%):
(8) a
kánje nená
señora 3DU-PRED-V-saludar-SOC/INSTR
‘a una señora (blanca) ellos dos saludaron’ (Monguí 1981: 36)
‘ellos invitaron a otros’ (Howard 1977: 55)
(2) aunque el sujeto precede generalmente al verbo, no faltan ejemplos del orden
(9) a
kanje salteador i-bo-x-ue-bwatae-na
salteador DIS-3DU-PRED-V-salir-CON
‘un ladrón le salió (al encuentro)’ (Howard 1977: 73)
Lo mismo puede decirse del “objeto indirecto” (no locativo).
kánje sólid
solitaria montaña-CL-LOC
únga kena- -ng
‘del interior de una montaña solitaria salieron tres blancos’
(Monguí 1981: 32)
(3) los numerales siempre van antes del nombre (7b), (8b) y (9b);
(4) los adjetivos pueden aparecer tanto antes como después del nombre, con la
particularidad notable que el adjetivo antepuesto no lleva clasificador, mientras el
pospuesto sí lo lleva (véanse ejemplos más abajo).
El cuadro de la página siguiente presenta algunos rasgos tipológicos de las lenguas
escogidas: (1) incorporación nominal; (2) presencia de clasificadores; (3) categorá de
dual; (4) género masculino/ femenino); (5) prefijos gramaticales [mayormente
actantes del verbo]. Algunas lenguas, como el nasa yuwe, hacen uso de algunos
prefijos, pero solo con valor derivativo. Casos de este tipo no han sido tomados en
cuenta en la elaboración del cuadro; (6) marca morfológica de paciente en el
sintagma nominal; (7) orden preferencial “objeto”/verbo; (8) orden preferencial
poseedor/nombre poseído; (9) orden preferencial adjetivo/nombre.
Notas al cuadro siguiente:
Los ejemplos en Aguirre (1999: 142) y Harms (1994: 86) muestran que la incorporación nominal
existe en emberá, si bien su empleo parece restringirse a un número limitado de verbos transitivos.
Cook & Criswell (1993) no mencionan la posibilidad de incorporación nominal en coreguaje (tukano
occidental), pero esta construcción queda atestada en otras lenguas de la rama oriental de esta familia
lingüística. Gómez-Imbert (1988) y Strom (1992) dan ejemplos de incorporación nominal, para el barasana
y tatuyo (Gómez-Imbert) y el retuarã (Strom).
Obando (1992: 112-113) habla de cuatro clasificadores en awa pit, tres de los cuales figuraban ya en
Jijón y Caamaño (1998 [1940], Tomo I: 160). Sin embargo, la segmentación arbitraria de palabras en
“sílabas-morfemas” por parte de Jijón y Caamaño llevan a dudar de la existencia de clasificadores para esta
lengua. Además, Curnow (1997) niega terminantemente la presencia de clasificadores en awá pit.27
La presencia de una categoría de dual en awá pit está sujeta a variación dialectal: la variedad descrita
por Curnow (1997) la desconoce mientras existe en los dialectos descritos por Obando (1992).
En nasa yuwe, los pronombres personales de primera y segunda persona singular, así como los
sufijos verbales de segunda del singular, diferencian entre masculino y femenino (Rojas C. 1994, 1998;
Rojas C., Nieves Oviedo & Yule Yatacué 1991; Slocum 1986).
En andoke, una diferencia de géneros entre masculino y femenino existe con referentes [+animado]
(Landaburu 1979).
Agradezco a Curnow la gentileza de haberme enviado un ejemplar de su tesis doctoral.
marca de
en el SN
no (9)
no (3)
sí (4)
sí (1)
no (8)
no/sí (5)
(POS+N) (16)
sí (10)
A+N (18)
V+O (13)
no/sí (11)
sí (2)
sí/no (6)
no/sí (7)
N+A (22)
V+O (15)
no (12)
Coreguaje Uitoto
Waorani Záparo
/ Tukano
Los pronombres personales de tercera persona del singular, dual y plural, tienen, en waorani, una
forma feminina honorífica (Peeke 1973; Pike & Saint 1988).
El nasa yuwe emplea algunos prefijos en la derivación lexical. Por lo demás, en las declinaciones y
conjugaciones, esta lengua usa, exclusivamente, sufijos.
El emberá es una lengua ergativa. Ello significa que los pacientes de verbos transitivos aparecen con
un caso cero (absolutivo).
(10) Con la salvedad de que en guambiano, un objeto genérico no lleva sufijo de objeto directo (Long
1985: 15-16; Vásquez de Ruiz 1988, 1994).
(11) El coreguaje marca solamente el paciente específico (Barnes 1997; Cook & Criswell 1993)
(12) Wise (1999) señala que las lenguas záparo exhiben, en algunos casos, señales de ergatividad. Por
otra parte, el paciente no lleva caso morfológico (V. también Eastman & Eastman 1963).
(13) En coreguaje, el objeto va generalmente después del verbo. En otras lenguas tukano (por ejemplo en
barasano y macuna [tukano oriental], el objeto precede al verbo (Barnes 1999: 224).
(14) La presencia de actantes nominales fuera de los afijos verbales no es necesaria. De aparecer los
actantes primero y segundo este último se coloca más cercano al verbo. Landaburu (1979: 94) describe este
fenómeno bajo el rubro de “proyección”.
(15) El orden es O+V en arabela, pero en iquito y záparo, de la misma familia lingüística, el orden más
usual es V+O (Wise 1999: 329).
(16) Con un poseedor [-humano], el orden es en guambiano POS+N. Con un poseedor [+humano] el
orden es ya N+POS (más usual), ya POS+N, cuando se quiere dar relieve al poseedor (Long 1985: 16).
(17) La posesión nominal se marca, en andoke, mediante prefijos personales. A la izquierda de estos
prefijos, puede aparecer el poseedor: pód ja-tí “luna su[clase 3.1] madre” (Landaburu 1979). De todos
modos, el poseedor precede al nombre.
(18) Los “adjetivos” del coreguaje son, en su mayoría, formas verbales. Cuando éstas aparecen como
determinantes de nombres, Cook & Criswell (1993: 34) indican que suelen colocarse después del nombre,
salvo cuando se desea realzar el efecto.
(19) En lugar de adjetivos, el uitoto hace uso de verbos o nombres. Petersen señala sin embargo una muy
reducida clase de adjetivos con estructura nominal, a la cual pertenecen cinco adjetivos calificativos. Éstos
preceden al nombre (Petersen 1994: 71-76).
(20) La categoría de adjetivo no existe como tal en andoke. Los ejemplos aducidos por Landaburu (1979:
176-7) muestran que la “determinación periférica” se sitúa a la izquierda de la cabeza del sintagma
nominal. Ello podría justificar la inclusión de A+N para esta lengua en el cuadro.
(21) Existen pocos ejemplos de palabras que equivalen a “adjetivos” en los textos waorani.
Aparentemente, el orden más usual es A+N. Es imposible incorporar otros datos al respecto, pues los
“adjetivos” se traducen por verbos o clasificadores y forman parte de una palabra compuesta.
(22) Ambos ordenes existen en arabela (Wise 1999: 329-330).
4. Incorporación nominal en kamsá
Entre las lenguas del sudoeste colombiano, el kamsá se distingue por el empleo de
incorporación nominal, fenómeno registrado también en las lenguas tukano, andoke
(Landaburu 1979: 183) y las lenguas de la familia chocó (Aguirre 1998: 142; Harms
1994: 86).28 Resulta a menudo difícil distinguir entre incorporación nominal
propiamente dicha e incorporación de clasificadores en el verbo, entre los cuales
algunos pueden, en casos determinados, referir a entidades bastante concretas, tal
como ocurre, por ejemplo, en waorani (v. textos publicados en Pike & Saint, eds.
En su trabajo fundamental sobre la incorporación nominal, Mithun (1984)
distingue cuatro tipos de incorporación nominal. Es importante señalar que cada una
de estas estructuras puede existir en una misma lengua. Las estructuras de tipo I
combinan un nombre con un verbo, ya mediante simple yuxtaposición, o mediante la
formación de una palabra morfológica compuesta. El resultado típico es un nuevo
predicado intransitivo, y el nombre incorporado queda despojado de índices
particularizadores tales como deícticos, partículas o artículos definidos, número y
caso. Desde un punto de vista semántico, el nombre puede ser paciente, locativo, o
instrumental. La actividad o el estado involucrado se ven como un concepto unitario
y poco saliente. El tipo II supone, además de lo mencionado para el tipo I, cierta
“manipulación” de los casos, en la que la algún argumento oblicuo de la oración se
ve promovido a la posición, ahora libre, del nombre incorporado. En el tipo III, a
estos fenómenos se añade otro más, la “manipulación de la estructura del discurso”, a
través de la cual la incorporación en el verbo de un argumento hace retroceder este
último al fondo del discurso. Según Mithun, esta fase es típica de lenguas
polisintéticas que traen afijos verbales para sujeto y objeto, y en las cuales los
sintagmas nominales no se usan mucho, siendo el predicado portador de casi toda la
información. En cuanto al último tipo, el IV, Mithun lo llama “incorporación
nominal clasificadora”. Su particularidad es el empleo, además del nominal
incorporado en el verbo, de un sintagma nominal exterior que refiere de una manera
más específica, al argumento. Ello ocurre ya que el nombre incorporado suele
adquirir una referencia más amplia, menos específica, a la par que muchas veces se
ve fonéticamente reducido.29 Así, por ejemplo, una vez incorporada la palabra ‘ojo’,
ésta puede referir a cualquier objeto pequeño y esférico. Basado en el análisis de más
de cien lenguas diferentes, el estudio de Mithun muestra que los cuatro tipos forman
una jerarquía implicacional: I > II > III > IV.
Para los casos semánticos de los nombres incorporados, la investigación de
Mithun hace resaltar lo siguiente: (1) cuando una lengua acepta un único caso
semántico para los nombres incorporados, se trata del paciente de transitivo; (2)
cuando dos casos semánticos distintos pueden ser incorporados, al paciente de
Para el andoke, Landaburu habla de “bases compuestas”, entre las cuales resaltan combinaciones de
bases verbales con nombres de partes del cuerpo y clasificadores. Para el emberá, Aguirre, por su parte,
habla de “composición nombre + verbo”, mientras Harms menciona verbos con incorporación de objeto.
La incorporación nominal no ha sido registrada para las lenguas siguientes: awa pit, guambiano, nasa
yuwe, cofán, waorani, witoto, y záparo.
La reducción puede llegar a los extremos de formas supletivas, en cuyo caso resulta a menudo
imposible el deslinde entre incorporación de nombres e incorporación de clasificadores.
transitivo del caso anterior se suma el sujeto de intransitivo30; (3) con tres casos
semánticos susceptibles de ser incorporados, el tercero representa un instrumento y/o
un locativo. Se trata, pues, de una segunda jerarquía implicacional: paciente de
transitivo > sujeto de intransitivo > instrumental/locativo.
En los textos publicados por Howard, constan algunos ejemplos de
incorporación nominal, aunque Howard no ofrece ningún comentario al respecto:
recién nacido nene-DIM
‘un nene recién nacido había sido puesto en el camino’
En (10) y (11), y quizás también en (15), el nombre incorporado conserva su(s)
clasificador(es), pero ello no es necesario, como lo prueban (12b), (13) y (14), que
no llevan ningún clasificador sufijado al nombre incorporado en el verbo. El ejemplo
(10) puede ser contrapuesto al siguiente (11), que presenta una estructura sin
muchas ?-fritada-PL
‘iba regando muchas fritadas en el camino’ (Howard 1977:29)
(12a) es una estructura con nombre suelto, no incorporado, mientras en (12b), el
nombre ‘cenizas’ queda incorporado:
(12) a
tana i-o-x-o-cbaná
DIS-3SG-PRED-V-levantarse ceniza -LOC-SEPAR
‘entonces él se levantó de las cenizas’ (Howard 1977: 37)
i-o-x-o- inja-cbaná
‘se levantó de las cenizas’ (Howard 1977: 37)
Refiero a Lazard (1994: 24-45) para una discusión de los problemas referentes al reconocimiento de
entidades como ‘paciente’ y ‘sujeto’. También Baker (1988: 83) hace hincapié en las dificultades
inherentes al uso del término ‘paciente’.
Cp. las semejanzas entre cbanán-oka ‘arriba’ (con -[o]ka = LOC) y -ana = SEPAR
El vocabulario de Clough & al. (1992) ofrece la forma xatinja para ‘ceniza’, mientras traduce ínje por
‘sol’. Sea cual fuere la traducción de esta palabra, el análisis morfológico sigue en pie.
nená i-n-ec-b-tbema-e
señora DIS-EVID.VISTO.CON.PART-PAS-puerta-sentar-LOC
‘una señora estaba sentada en la puerta’ (puerta-CL = bá-á)
(Howard 1977: 58)
tá tá-we-n-o-tamo-ena-ka-ka
cómo él FUT-?- EVID.VISTO.CON.PART -V-cuello-botar-SOC/INSTR
‘cómo debía amarrársela (la cadena) al cuello’ (tamo- a ‘cuello-CL)
(Monguí 1981: 101)
INF-ITER-V-mano-? -atar-FIN-DUR
‘para amarrársela (la trenza) en la mano’
(buakuá-e ‘mano’) (Monguí 1981: 103)
Puede ser mera casualidad que en todos los ejemplos, los nombres incorporados sean
locativos.34 En este caso, y si las predicciones de Mithun son ciertas, debería ser
posible la incorporación de pacientes de transitivos y de sujetos de intransitivos,
casos no atestados en mi corpus. En el caso de que ello no fuera posible, habría que
modificar la jerarquía de implicancias propuesta por Mithun para los casos
5. Clasificación nominal en kamsá
A pesar de que ninguna de las fuentes de que yo tenga conocimiento haga referencia
explícita a la existencia de clasificadores en Kamsá, llama la atención que el vocabulario de Clough et al. (1992) parece reconocer siete de ellos, en cuanto aparece, pero
solamente en el caso de algunos nombres, una segmentación de los morfemas -bé,
-xa, -e, -a, -e, -fxa y -fxwa. Lo único que apunta, en dicho vocabulario, hacia un
reconocimiento, si bien implícito, de un concepto de clasificador, es la traducción del
adjetivo ‘redondo’ por el morfema -bé. Además, en varias entradas del vocabulario,
los clasificadores antedichos aparecen ligados a la raíz, sin ninguna segmentación. A
continuación, notaré otras terminaciones recurrentes en nombres, las que sin lugar a
dudas son clasificadores. La lista está todavía abierta ya que las modificaciones morfofonémicas, sobre todo en las vocales finales, no siempre dejan claramente entrever
si se trata o no de clasificadores distintos. Por las dudas, he reunido los clasificadores
Quizás el morfema -na- sea el (probable) clasificador de forma idéntica, aunque ‘brazo/ mano’ aparece
normalmente con otro clasificador, - e.
Después de la redacción de este trabajo, encontré once casos más de incorporación en los textos
publicados por McDowell (1994), de los cuales destacan siete casos de locativos. De los cuatro restantes,
todos parecen ser pacientes de transitivos, aunque no puede haber entera seguridad al respecto, debido a la
traducción inglesa, que en trechos se aparta bastante del texto original. Los textos de McDowell aparecen
en formato bilinear, con el original kamsá y la traducción (muy libre) al inglés, sin el paso intermediario de
una traducción literal, lo que dificulta el análisis lingüístico.
fonéticamente parecidos.35 Como se echará de ver, los clasifica-dores pueden unirse
tanto a radicales nativos como a préstamos del castellano y del quechua.
1) -bé ‘esférico; redondo’: armadio-bé ‘armadillo’ (<esp.); nxana-bé
‘tambor’; naranxa-bé ‘naranja’ (<esp.); nd-bé ‘piedra’; fn-bé, fn-bé ‘ojo’
(también bomin-je con otro clasificador); mia-bé ‘codo; muñeca’; axwan-bé
‘fruta’; mn-bé ‘huevo’; maak-bé ‘naranjilla’; taus-bé ‘calabazo’;
tamot(x)on-bé ‘nuez’; em-bé ‘remo’ (<esp.); salado-bé ‘nutria’;
2) -xa ‘forma alargada’ (cp. fá-xa ‘afilado’): betá-xa ‘hueso’; bia-xa-téma
‘bejucos’ (biá-xa ‘soga’ + diminutivo. El elemento bia reaparece en nombres
compuestos (v. abajo); bittá-xa ‘lengua’; btat-xa ‘camino’ (quizás dos
clasificadores: -t (a)-xa); bobo-xa ‘pelo del cuerpo’ (quizás dos clasificadores: /e/a-xa, cp. bobo-á o bobó-e ‘piel peluda’); bia-xa ‘soga’; kotá-xa ‘senos,
pecho’ (quizás dos clasificadores: -t a-xa); matbá-xa ‘olla’; mntxá-xa ‘pierna’;
stxn-xa ‘cabello’; taná-xa ‘hombro(s)’ (quizás dos clasificadores: -á-xa);
tbt-xa ‘raíz’;
3) -a : bland-a ‘plantano’ (<esp.); c-a ‘ají’; ¿en-a ?‘hombre’ (podría
ser lexema sencillo);
4) -e ‘aumentativo’: bca-e ‘grandote’ (‘grande’ + aumentativo); lo-e ‘pene’
(quizás como el español, relacionado con lóf-e ‘pájaro’); rata-e‘ratón; rata
grande’; sapo-e ‘sapo’ (<esp.);
5) -a
: bá-a ‘puerta’; flor-a ‘flor’ (<esp.); wamtt-a ‘ombligo’;
xwesan-a ‘bodoquera, cerbatana’; wajá-a ‘boca’; waja-cebiá-a ‘labio’;
kumbamb-a ‘mentón’;
6) -e
: batná-e ‘araña’; ftá-e ‘dientes delanteros’; encóje-e ‘agutí’; f
end-e ‘yuca’; ni-e ‘palo’; pe-e ‘peña’ (<esp.); -e ‘caña de azúcar’; titiée ‘papaya’; tongénce-e ‘algodón’; tortúga-e ‘tortuga’ (<esp.); en-e ‘banco’;
cxá-e ‘nariz’; xobcan-e ‘máscara’; (ena)xomá-e ‘carbón’; xwacá-e ‘diente’;
be(s)a-e ‘cabeza’ (quizás dos clasificadores: -()a-e); xwenca-e ‘frente’
(quizás dos clasificadores: -a-e); ncamiá-e ‘rodilla’; betá-e ‘hueso’ (también
betá-fxa); ctxon-e ‘cuerno’; kanoú-e ‘canoa’ (<esp.); mma-e ‘pacá’; ké-e
7) -
: (probablemente variante de 6): bong- ‘helecho’; tronko-
‘tronco’ (< esp.);
La variación fonética, tanto para los fonemas vocálicos como para los consonánticos, no ha sido
debidamente estudiada. Para los primeros, Monguí (1981) propone una lista de seis fonemas, /i, e,  , a, u,
o/, identificando además algunas variaciones. Sin embargo, los numerosos solapamientos de alófonos
justificarían un análisis más detallado. Así, por ejemplo, Monguí (1981) transcribe en la página 186
/bunguán ko-ticém/ y en la página siguiente /bunguán ko-ticém/ (<bunguán kochitsém> y <bunguán
koche.tsém>, respectivamente), dejando entrever una variación [] / [i] que no implica cambio acentual. De
la misma manera, [a] fluctúa con [] i con [i], en una misma palabra, incluso en préstamos del castellano.
Cabe observar, además, que [], cualquiera que sea su posición, puede aparecer con o sin acento.
8) -(a) : ataaj-a ‘atarraya’ (<esp.); avion-a ‘avión’ (<esp.); barko-a
‘barco’ (<esp.); lanc-a ‘lanza’ (<esp.); mandor-a ‘achiote’ (ingano: mandur);
uxonjan-a ‘hamaca’; tuxua- ‘estera’; jébna- ‘casa’ (también sin clasificador:
jéb()na); xuesan-a ‘bodoquera; cerbatana’; xucn-a ‘catre; cama’; tramp-a
‘trampa’ (<esp.); wanefxú-a ‘flor’; wamacaxonjan-a ‘arete, orejera’;
xwatngmiá-a ‘ala’; bobo-a ‘piel peluda’ (también bobo-e);
9) -e
: bamba-e ‘tronco de árbol’; betijé-e ‘árbol’ (también betí-je, quizás
con clasificador -je); kuti-e ‘cuchillo’ (<esp.); marak-e ‘maraca’ (<esp.);
nd-mé-e ‘piedrecillas’ (cp. diminutivo -téme); polb-e ‘polvo’ (<esp.); sapate ‘zapato’ (<esp.); txuá-e ‘estera’; xanet-e ‘neblina, nubes quietas’; xubobá-e
‘corteza’; tongénce-e ‘algodón’; bujé-e ‘agua’ (también béxa-je); stxná-e
-te : cbuana-te ‘hoja’ (también xocá-te); ombiá-te ‘faja; chumbi’
(<quechua); bená-te ‘camino, trocha’; bobá-te ‘piel’;
-fxa/ -fx/ -fxi ‘(instrumento) afilado (la mayoría son de fabricación
humana)’: arkú-fxa ‘arco’ (<esp.); kou-fxa ‘alfiler’; kuti-fxa ‘cuchillo’ (<esp.);
klabú-fx ‘clavo’ (<esp.); ani-fxi ‘anillo’ (<esp.); ngna-fxa ‘zancudo’; betá-fxa
‘hueso’ (también betá-e);
: abwangwan-xwá ‘cushma’; waskwai-xwá ‘cola’; tuntuixwa-nga ‘tripas’ (tuntui [<quechua) ‘tripa’ + CL + PL); kádn-xwa ‘cadena’
13) -fxwa (posiblemente variante de –xwa): ansuel-fxwa ‘anzuelo’ (<esp.);
plet-fxwá ‘flecha’ (<esp.); plum-fxwá ‘pluma’ (<esp.);
14) -kwa : aparece solamente seguido por otros clasificadores en mi corpus (v.
15) -je : ‘líquido’: béxa-je ‘agua; río’ (también bú[-]je-e y bú[-]je-e); binjiaje ‘viento’ (también sin clasificador: binjia); bóko-je ‘chicha’; faxa-je ‘río’ (talvez
fa-xa-je con dos clasificadores, v. ‘catarata’); jebwa-je ‘saliva’; léi-je ‘leche’
(<esp.); wafxaxóna-je ‘lago’;
16) -e : (quizás variante de -je cuando aparece con nombres de líquidos):
a) nombres de líquidos: buí-e ‘sangre’; fawenaní-e ‘catarata’; obaxtkaní-e
‘fuente, ojo de agua’; xatá-e ‘pantano’ (quizás con dos clasificadores -á-e);
b) otros: bomín-je ‘ojo’ (también fn-bé); axatnxní-e ‘trocha’; betí-je ‘árbol’
(también beti-jé-e); n-je ‘sol’; xéna-je ‘semilla’; bacxá-e ‘cerro, loma’; cxnae ‘techo’; xatá-e ‘pajonal’; txá-e ‘monte’; xaxá-e ‘chagra’; taxá-e
‘sementera de maíz’;
17) Tentativamente, se podría añadir otro clasificador (si lo es), -na, que acompaña
muchos nombres, como los siguientes:36 ainá-na ‘corazón’ (cp. ainá ‘vivo’); báx36
-na aparece también con verbos, especialmente — pero no exclusivamente — en la forma nominal
llamada ‘infinitivo’ por Howard. Llama la atención el número elevado de nombres de insectos que
terminan en -na. Por otra parte, si se considera este -na como un clasificador, sólo un pequeño número de
nombres (y “adjetivos”) queda sin clasificador. Además, al igual que el sufijo –ka, -na tiene funciones
diversas, poco claras, entre las cuales destaca la de relacional.
na ‘araña’ (talvez raíz quechua; cp. pakta ‘araña’ en quechua de San Martín, Perú);
bcana-ná ‘anciano’; beó-na ‘pez; pescado’; biánga-na ‘venado’; bobinj-ná
‘anciano’; ctxó-na ‘nigua’; ijendó-na ‘ardilla’; jéb-na ‘casa’; mcá-na ‘piojo’;
mné-na ‘carne’ (? mn-é-na); ngó-na ‘humo’; ngnciá-na ‘picaflor’; eó-na
‘criatura’; acbiá-na ‘mosca’ (? ac-biá-na); ákua-na ‘hierba’; ié-na ‘ratón’;
txowá-na ‘abeja’; ta-ná ‘ñame’; utab-ná ‘jefe’; wabái-na ‘nombre’; wafté-na
‘lluvia’; xuá-na ‘hormiga’; xuakó-na ‘luna’; ai-ná ‘vivo’; bóte-na ’maduro’ (?
bó-te-na); buánga-na ‘rojo’; buaá-na ‘seco’; bngnja-na ‘liso’; cjá-na
‘amarillo’; ft-ék-ua-na ‘mojado’; ngf-na ‘verde’; obo-ná ‘gordo’; ek-ba-na
‘frío’; xanguá-na ‘podrido’; xútxe-na ‘lleno’;
Algunos nombres pueden emplearse bien con uno u otro clasificador, bien con dos o
más, sin cambio aparente de sentido:
was-kwa- 
jéb( )na
betá-fxa ‘huevo’
beti-jé- e ‘árbol’
xuenc-a-e ‘frente’37
was-kwa- e-xwa ‘cola’
binjia-je ‘viento’
La lista siguiente representa los casos de acumulación de clasificadores (mi análisis
es tentativo):
1) -kwa()e: bua-kwá-e ‘brazo’; ku-kwa-e ‘mano’; mac-kwa-e ‘oreja’ (cp.
wa-mac-axonxan-a ‘arete’, en que aparece un elemento común — mac— ‘oreja’,
el verbo ‘colgar’ y el clasificador -a); e-kwá-e ‘pie’;
2) -kwa-e-xwa: was-kwa-e-xwa ‘cola’ (también: was-kwa-);
3) (?) -kwa-na: a-kwa-na ‘hierba’; ku-kwa-na ‘pava de monte’;
4) (?) -kwa-a: ku-kwa-a ‘mano; pata’ (cp. ku-kwa-e ‘mano’);
5) (?) -kwa-xa: (?) bexn-gua-xa ‘pescuezo, cuello’;
6) (?) -kwa-je: m-kwá-je ‘serpiente’;
7) (?) -xwa-(n)bé: a-xwan-bé ‘fruta’;
8) (?) -()a-xa: tamo-a-xa ‘cuello’ (cp. tamo-ton-bé ‘nuez’); st-a-xa
‘espalda’; tan-a-xa ‘hombro’;
9) (?) -ta-xa: ko-ta-xa ‘senos, pecho’;
10) (?) -á-fxa: xn-á-fxa ‘dedo del pie’ (cp. na-buá-fxa ‘dedo de la mano’;
11) (?) -bia (± -a/ -e); [quizás también -miá (± [-a] : wafs-biá ‘vientre’; ngécebia-e ‘uña’; wajace-biá-a ‘labio’; xwatng-miá-a ‘ala’;
12) (?) -fxá-e: -fxá-e ‘pantorrilla’;
13) (?) -fxá-xa: -fxá-xa ‘espinilla’;
El cambio en el radical puede ser simple condicionamiento fonético: [nc] : [ns] y [a] : [ ].
14) (?) -bua-fxa: na-buá-fxa ‘dedo (de la mano)’ (cp. x-na-fxa ‘dedo del
pie’; quizás también ta-na-fxa ‘hombro’, aunque el elemento común puede guardar
relación con el nombre ená ‘persona’);
15) (?) -je-e:
beti-jé-e ‘árbol’; bu-je-e ‘agua’;
16) (?) -xa-je: fá-xa-je ‘río’; bé-xa-je ‘agua’ (también bú-je-e);
17) (?) -a-xwa: wa[-]ngc-bobo--xwa ‘barba’ (cp. wa[-]já-a ‘boca’, quizás
tambien wa[-]mt-a ‘ombligo’); kwa-a-xwa ‘bebida’;
18) (?) -á-xa: bobo-á-xa ‘pelo del cuerpo’;
19) (?) -a-e: xat-a-e ‘pantano’;
Pueden completar esta lista todavía el diminutivo -téma, el caritativo -xéma, así como
los dos aumentativos -jéma y -kuem(a), morfemas cuyo empleo recuerda, por lo
menos en algunos casos, el uso de los clasificadores como índices pragmáticodiscursivos. Así, en (23), -xéma parece retomar el -e de (22) (Howard 1977: 20):
kanje sapo- e
entonces una
‘entonces un sapo estaba sentado a la orilla de la zanja’
s-n-x-i- ate
‘yo cogí la pobre rana’38
Sin embargo, prefiero distinguir, por dos razones diferentes, estos tres sufijos de los
clasificadores propiamente dichos: en primer lugar, son bisilábicos en su forma
básica frente a los clasificadores monosilábicos; en segundo lugar, su empleo parece
ser independiente del de los clasificadores, si bien ambos pueden coexistir en una
misma palabra:
(24) a
‘El caballito gordito’ (Monguí 1981: 66)
bóng-e-tem -ng
‘palos de helechitos’ (Monguí 1981: 105)
Howard traduce <sapojema> por ‘rana-vieja’. -xema es el sufijo caritativo, que puede indicar
compasión, cariño y/o dulzura.
El uso de más de un clasificador por palabra ha sido mencionado también en otras
lenguas (amazónicas) de la zona, entre las cuales pueden citarse las tukanas. Para el
koreguaje véase el estudio de Cook & Criswell (1993). En Waorani, Peeke (1973:
125) proporciona ejemplos de palabras formadas únicamente por clasificadores
ensartados uno tras otro.
Los sufijos, tanto de caso como número, se sufijan al clasificador:
xocn--ene ‘cama-CL-LOC’ ‘en la cama’
pi--én ‘peña (<esp.)-CL-LOC ‘en una peña’
t-mn-be-ka ‘DEIC-huevo-CL-SOC/INSTR ‘con el (este) huevo’
El sufijo derivativo -mé, en cambio, y si es acortamiento de -téma/ -téme
(diminutivo), aparece antes del clasificador en la palabra nd-mé-e ’piedrecillas’.
Compárense, sin embargo, los ejemplos siguientes que reflejan el orden usual raízCL-DIMIN(-CASO):
boko-je-tem ‘chicha-CL-DIM’ ‘chichita’
tuxua--tém-én-ka ‘estera-CL-DIM-LOC-? ‘(en) donde la esterita’
(Monguí 1981: 45)
A veces, el clasificador no aparece, aunque este fenómeno puede deberse a la
aplicación de reglas morfofonológicas:
besá-e ‘cabeza-CL’ : besá-ne ‘cabeza-LOC’
El trabajo de Dixon (1986) hace hincapié en la distinción entre clases nominales, por
una parte, y clasificación nominal, por otra: las primeras constituyen un sistema
gramatical cerrado y obligatorio para casi todos los nombres de la lengua; además,
los morfemas de clases nominales pueden aparecer como afijos. Los clasificadores
nominales, en cambio, suelen distinguirse por su número, que puede llegar a ser
bastante elevado. Por otra parte, subraya el mismo autor, los clasificadores son
siempre lexemas libres, que nunca forman unidad morfológica con el nombre. Esta
afirmación terminante se puede contrastar con la de Allan (1977), quien habló con
más cautela de “morfemas” en vez de “lexemas libres”. Con referencia a la
clasificación de Dixon (1986), el kamsá ostentaría rasgos de ambas categorías. En
efecto, comparte con las clases nominales el hecho de poder afijarse al nombre, y con
los clasificadores nominales el de tener un número elevado de miembros. Estos
problemas con la clasificación de Dixon han sido señalados por Payne (1987) y
Derbyshire & Payne (1990). Payne (1987), con referencia a los sistemas de
clasificación nominal, agrupa las lenguas del oeste amazónico en cuatro grupos
tipológico-areales. El grupo 1 comprende las lenguas tukano, peba-yagua y algunas
de la familia witoto, y se distingue por la imposibilidad de incorporar los
clasificadores al verbo. Además, muchos nombres pueden tomar más de un
clasificador. También típico para estas lenguas es el hecho de que los clasificadores
no sean formas libres sino afijos. Los clasificadores llevan rasgos característicos
tanto de inflexión como de derivación. La marca de clase no aparece solamente en el
nombre, sino también en determinantes del mismo. En la mayoría de los casos, los
clasificadores deben aparecer con los numerales. Este último punto, sin embargo, no
cuadra con los datos del kamsá.39 Otra diferencia, entre las lenguas del grupo 1 y el
kamsá, es la presencia en la mayoría de las lenguas del grupo 1, según Payne, de un
sistema de referencia cruzada en el verbo, que indica rasgos tales como [±animado] y
género del sujeto y objeto. Con todo, es indudable que dentro del esquema propuesto
por Payne, el kamsá queda mucho más próximo al grupo 1 que de los demás.40 Desde
un punto de vista areal, es natural que el kamsá aparezca bien anclado en la red de las
lenguas que corresponden a la parte norte de la zona estudiada por Payne.
En su estudio sobre los diferentes sistemas de clasificación nominal en las
lenguas amazónicas, Derbyshire & Payne (1990) distinguen siete tipos de lenguas:41
(1) sistemas con clasificación numeral, (2) sistemas con clasificación numeral y
concordancia, (3) sistemas con clasificación numeral, concordancia e incorporación
verbal, (4) sistemas con concordancia, (5) sistemas con clasificación numeral e
incorporación verbal, (6) sistemas con incorporación verbal, y (7) sistemas con
concordancia e incorporación verbal. Para situar la lengua kamsá en este contexto,
cabe observar que esta lengua no usa clasificadores con los numerales:
kanje bc
uno grande tronco-CL-LOC
‘en un gran troncazo’ (Monguí 1981: 31)
tu-úta kena-xemá-t
DEIC-DU blanco-CAR-DU (concordancia de dual)
‘dos blanquitos’ (Monguí 1981: 172)
Tampoco es el caso en una lengua zápara como el arabela, que pertenece al grupo tipológico-areal 1 de
Payne (1987). El arabela emplea solamente tres numerales nativos mientras el kamsá tiene muchos más.
Sin embargo, los clasificadores del arabela, a diferencia de los del kamsá, van afijados a la raíz únicamente
en casos de derivación, y nunca, según parece, con nombres básicos de la lengua.
Las lenguas del grupo 2 desconocen la clasificación nominal, así que no se da tampoco la incorporación
de clasificadores en el verbo (omagua y cocama, ambos tupí-guaraní, más, quizás, algunas lenguas witoto).
Al grupo 3 pertenecen lenguas como el waorani (lengua aislada), chayahuita (familia cahuapana) y las
lenguas arawak pre-andinas. Este grupo se distingue por emplear, además del sistema clasificatorio del
grupo 1, la incorporación en el verbo de los clasificadores. En cuanto al grupo 4, su rasgo distintivo es el
empleo mayoritario de la incorporación verbal de los clasificadores (Harakmbet y algunas lenguas pano).
Este estudio parece tener su origen en Payne (1987), pero abarca un territorio mucho más ámplio a nivel
amazónico. En otro artículo, Derbyshire & Payne (1990) han escogido, como lenguas representativas del
grupo con concordancia como único rasgo de clasificación, las lenguas arawá y las maipure-arawak.
úta buakua--ka
dos mano-CL-SOC/INSTR
‘dos manos’ (Monguí 1981: 195)
únga kena--ng
grande-CL-PL-SOC/INSTR (concordancia de plural)
‘tres blancos grandotes’ (Monguí 1981: 32)
En cambio, los clasificadores aparecen, en determinados casos, con “adjetivos”42. Es
significativo el hecho de que los “adjetivos” que ocurren con clasificadores lo hagan
solamente cuando aparecen pospuestos (ejemplo 34 arriba y 35), pero no cuando
preceden al nombre que modifican (ejemplo 31 arriba y 36). En estos casos, el
clasificador aparece dos veces: primero sufijado al nombre y luego como copia en el
kánje jébna- bien tangua--ka
casa-CL bien viejo-CL-SOC/INSTR
‘una casucha bien vieja’ (Monguí 1981: 192)
i tanguá jébna-kuem-ka
grande casa-CL-SOC/INSTR y vieja
‘Grande casota y vieja casota’ (Monguí 1981: 193)
En (36), es posible que el sufijo aumentativo del adjetivo (-kuem) supla al
clasificador del nombre. Además, como lo muestran los ejemplos (37) y (38), el
clasificador del nombre y el del adjetivo pueden ser distintos:
kánje jébna- bien tanguán- , pero bcá--ka
casa-CL bien vieja-CL
pero grande-CL-SOC/INSTR
‘una casucha bien viejota, pero grandota’ (Monguí 1981: 83)
sola-CL(?) DIS-3SG-PRED-ASP-V-mirar
pero tanguá--ka
pero vieja-CL-SOC/INSTR
‘ya la casucha solitaria miraba, pero viejísima’ (Monguí 1981: 83)
Antes de hablar de una clase de adjetivos en el kamsá, cabría averiguar su existencia como categoría
distinta en la lengua. De ahí el uso de las comillas.
úng kórent kena--ng-ka
tres fornido blanco-CL-PL-SOC/INSTR
‘tres blancos fornidos’ (Monguí 1981: 141)
kánje bc
i kánje ku--ka
libro-CL-SOC/INSTR y una
‘el jóven sacó un gran libro y una agujota’ (Monguí 1981: 94-95)
muás i-o-x-ua-cá
kánje kanden-a
más DIS-3SG-PRED-V-caer una
‘Además cayó una cadenota grandota’ (Monguí 1981: 101)
faxáns íl-xa
i fsng-x
blanco hilo-CL y negro-CL
‘hilo blanco e (hilo) negro’ (Monguí 1981: 104)
Como el ejemplo (43) lo muestra, es también posible dejar el adjetivo pospuesto sin
ningún clasificador, pero ello puede deberse a la ausencia del mismo en el nombre:
kánje tx-ók
bien solidi
montaña-LOC bien solitaria
‘Irás a una montaña43 bien deshabitada’ (Monguí 1981: 93)
Las oraciones (44a) y (44b) se siguen en el mismo texto. El clasificador -be del
ejemplo (44b), sufijado al “adjetivo”, es anafórico, y refiere a la ‘piedra’ del ejemplo
(23a), que también lleva el mismo clasificador:
(44) a
‘nosotros dejamos la piedra en este mismo lugar’ (Howard 1977: 62)
El clasificador esperado no aparece aquí, ni tampoco en el adjetivo pospuesto. En el vocabulario de
Clough & al. (1992), el equivalente para ‘monte/ bush’ es txá- e.
Este morfema aparece en la lista de McDowell (1994) glosado como ‘acción transitoria’.
ná t tt-be
cuán pesada-CL INF-ITER-traer-FIN
‘cuán pesada (era la piedra) para traerla de nuevo’ (Howard 1977: 62)
En cuanto a clasificadores incorporados en el predicado, mi análisis de los textos ha
detectado dos ejemplos posibles (45 y 48).
Como quiera que el análisis de los morfemas del verbo se encuentra en un
estadio incipiente, es posible que algunos de estos morfemas tengan una forma
diferente de los que aparecen unidos a lexemas pertenecientes al sintagma nominal.
El sistema clasificador del kamsá podría, entonces, pertenecer al sistema (4) arriba
citado, o sea a un sistema con clasificación nominal de concordancia.
A continuación, paso a explicitar las modalidades propias de los clasificadores
del kamsá, que difieren de las que ocurren en las lenguas de las familias lingüísticas
arawá (dení, jamamadí, madija-culina y paumarí) y maipure (arawak pre-andino:
apurinã y piro) que sirven de ejemplos para el estudio de Derbyshire & Payne. En
efecto, las lenguas arawá emplean un sistema bifocal con clasificación nominal
basada, por un lado, en el género (masculino/ femenino), y por otro lado, para una
pequeña clase de nombres, en otras consideraciones. Las lenguas maipure (piro y
apurinã), en contraposición, presentan un solo tipo de clasificación, basado en el
género. En piro y apurinã, la concordancia con el referente exterior al verbo no
aparece ligada al actante externo, sino queda incorporada al verbo como afijo de
sujeto u objeto. Puede también aparecer con un demostrativo del sintagma nominal.
En las lenguas arawá, la concordancia, tanto de género como de no-género, tampoco
aparece unida al nombre sino en otras posiciones tales como demostrativos,
adjetivos, interrogativos, marcadores de aspecto, imperativos, evidenciales,
subordinadores etc. Lo que caracteriza a los clasificadores del kamsá, en cambio, son
los hechos siguientes:
(1) el kamsá no pertenece a ninguno de los dos subtipos de lenguas que emplean
solamente una clasificación de concordancia, pues desconoce el género. Formaría
pues un tercer subtipo de lenguas, ausente en el esquema de Derbyshire & Payne
(2) algunos clasificadores, pero no me consta si todos, o solamente parte de
ellos, señalan algún rasgo saliente del referido. Ello se conforma con los sistemas de
clasificadores conocidos;
(3) en la mayoría de los casos, estos clasificadores aparecen ligados
directamente a los nombres, o a los adjetivos pospuestos, pero no, en cambio, a los
antepuestos. Los clasificadores del kamsá no son lexemas aislados, ni tampoco
clíticos, lo cual se desprende claramente y sin ambigüedad alguna del orden de los
sufijos: RAÍZ-CL-CASO.
Desde un punto de vista semántico, la expresión de un rasgo saliente del referente, en el kamsá, es parecido a los sistemas de las lenguas del grupo tukano, witoto,
andoke etc. (clase natural, forma, consistencia, uso etc.). Según Cook & Criswell
(1993), en koreguaje (tukano occidental) los sustantivos con referente humano en el
singular van seguidos por un sufijo de género (masculino y femenino). En el plural,
hay que emplear palabras separadas para indicar el género de los referentes humanos.
En cuanto a los inanimados, éstos se dividen en dos grupos: los que llevan clasificador, que son unos treinta en total, y los demás. Una diferencia notable entre los sistemas de clasificadores del kamsá y koreguaje, es la presencia sistemática de clasificadores con los numerales en la segunda lengua, rasgo típico de las lenguas tukano en
general, frente a su ausencia en el kamsá. El género tampoco existe en kamsá, mientras se considera rasgo importante en lenguas como tukano y witoto45. Obsérvase el
uso de los clasificadores en el texto siguiente (45-48) (Howard 1977: 20; 1979: 288):
kanje rata-e bca-e
rata-CL grande-CL 1SG-EV.VISTO.CON.PART-PRED-V-coger-CL(?)
‘yo cogí una rata grande’46
inje soje
otra vez
‘entonces la trampa sonó otra vez’
inje-e t-oka
entonces otro-CL DEIC-LOC 1SG-EV.VISTO.CON.PART-PRED-V-coger
‘entonces yo cogí allí otra (rata) grande’
i t-ene
Tanto en las lenguas tukano como en witoto, las distinciones de género MASCULINO/ FEMENINO
aparecen, con unas pocas excepciones, con nombres de referentes animados, mientras los clasificadores se
unen a nombres de entidades no-animadas.
Existe una diferencia entre las dos versiones. La versión inglesa es como sigue:
<canye ratatxe
‘I caught a big rat’
bëtsatxe sënjishachiche>
big-big I-caught
frente a la versión española:
<canye bëtsratatxe sënjishache>
rata-grande yo-cogí
‘Yo cogí una rata grande’
La mayor diferencia estriba en que, en la versión inglesa, el verbo termina en un morferma que difícilmente
podría ser otra cosa que el clasificador, mientras éste está ausente de la versión española. Quizás esta
diferencia se deba al orden NOMBRE + ADJETIVO en el primer caso, y ADJETIVO + NOMBRE, en el segundo.
‘yo la maté y la arrojé al patio’47
Como se podrá apreciar, (45) presenta un actante nuevo, triplemente marcado con el
clasificador -e, en el nombre, en el adjetivo y luego en el verbo. En (47), aparece la
palabra ‘otro/ otra’, a la cual ha sido añadido el clasificador -e, que refiere a la
misma categoría de referentes que ‘rata’ en (45).
En la conclusión de su importante artículo sobre los sistemas de clasificación
nominal de las lenguas amazónicas, Derbyshire & Payne (1990) aluden a la
importancia de los clasificadores como índices conectivos pragmático-discursivos,
hecho que se ve plenamente reflejado en el ejemplo precedente. Hay que señalar, no
obstante, que una vez introducidos los actantes principales, el uso de los
clasificadores se vuelve redundante, por lo menos en verbos y adjetivos. En cambio,
los clasificadores parecen muy resistentes como morfemas ligados al sustantivo.
En el ejemplo (49) se ve, nuevamente, que el clasificador - á del “adjetivo”
retoma el del nombre que precede:
enan-á t-o-k-x-a-tnxna
DEIC-carro-CL-PL vacío-CL
‘los carros vacíos pasaron’ (Howard 1977: 49)
Entre las lenguas del sudoeste colombiano y zonas aledañas, la existencia de
clasificadores ha sido señalada para las lenguas siguientes: (1) cofán, lengua para la
cual Borman (1976) menciona siete clasificadores48; (2) koreguaje y lenguas de la
familia tukano en general, tanto en su rama occidental como en la oriental (Cook &
Criswell 1993: 18-26); (3) Emberá, con cinco clasificadores identificados (Aguirre
Licht 1999)49, (4) waorani (Peeke 1973: 125-128), (5) witoto, con unos 50
clasificadores (Petersen de Piñeros 1994: 38-39), y (6) andoke (Landaburu 1979:
133-134 y 322-323)50. En cambio, los clasificadores faltan en inga, nasa yuwe, awá
pit y guambiano. No tengo los datos relevantes para el casi extinto carijona de la
familia caribe, pero como estas lenguas no usan clasificadores, supongo que el
carijona tampoco.51
La glosa original de Howard para la primera palabra reza: <sënjobá> “yo-maté-la”, lo que presta a
confusión, debido a que -obá es sin lugar a dudas la raíz del verbo ‘matar’. El texto de Howard está
plagado de tales confusiones.
Cofán: - to ‘diminutivo o forma redonda’; -kho ‘aumentativo o forma angular’; -khu ‘ahuecado’; -fa
‘largo o alto’; -si ‘peludo’; -hiõ ‘alto como árbol’ y -he ‘plano’ (Borman 1976: 115-122).
Emberá: -xã ‘superficies planas’; -á ‘líquidos’; -pã ‘superioridad’; -dar ‘superficies cartilaginosas’;
-mór ‘sustancias y órganos internos del cuerpo’ (Aguirre 1999: 75-76)
Para esta lengua, Landaburu habla de nombres clasificadores, los que se combinan obligatoriamente con
determinantes pronominales.
El texto carijona publicado por Robayo (1989) parece comprobar la inexistencia de clasificadores en
esta lengua.
Para finalizar este apartado, debe mencionarse que algunos nombres, entre los cuales
destacan varios nombres de vegetales y animales, no llevan ningún clasificador.
Comoquiera que una terminación -na aparece con frecuencia, ésta, sin embargo,
podría ser un clasificador, lo que reduciría drásticamente los nombres sin
clasificador. En el caso contrario, la terminación -na debería ser tenida por el fruto de
pura casualidad, y formaría entonces parte de la raíz.
6. Conclusiones
La posición geográfica del valle de Sibundoy, así como el papel desempeñado por
sus habitantes aborígenes, mediadores entre el mundo andino y la selva amazónica,
son hechos que han dejado su huella tanto en la etnohistoria de la zona como en la
estructura de la lengua kamsá, que comparte rasgos de las lenguas de estos dos
mundos tan diferentes y sin embargo siempre comunicados como bien lo señalan
Bonilla (1972) y Taussig (1985). Desde el punto de vista lingüístico areal, los lazos
amazónicos (o por lo menos de las tierras bajas si se incluye a la vertiente del
Pacífico) pueden detectarse en la presencia de incorporación nominal y de
clasificadores, ambas categorías desconocidas en las lenguas andinas del sur
colombiano. En cambio, la ausencia de género masculino/ femenino, categoría típica
de las lenguas amazónicas adyacentes, con la salvedad del cofán, formaría un eslabón
con las lenguas andinas. Como rasgos originales del kamsá, ausentes de las lenguas
andinas y amazónicas del área, pueden citarse la presencia de dos actantes prefijados
en el predicado, la categoría de dual y un subtipo de incorporación nominal, original
por sus modalidades de empleo.
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1987 Shamanism, colonialism, and the wild man. A study in terror and healing,
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Elena Filimonova
University of Konstanz, Germany
1. Introduction
Hierarchies play a significant role in the organisation of phonological, grammatical,
and lexical structure (to mention a few: Keenan & Comrie’s accessibility hierarchy
(1977 [1972]), Berlin & Kay’s colour term hierarchy (1969), Foley’s syntactic bondedness hierarchy (1980), Corbett’s hierarchy of semantic agreement targets (1979),
animacy hierarchy suggested by different scholars for various linguistics parameters
– e.g. Smith-Stark (1974) for number marking, Silverstein (1976), Moravcsik (1978)
and others for case marking distribution). In this paper, the person hierarchy will be
at issue. Concentrating on Aymara, I will show in what way the ranking of persons
can influence morphosyntactic patterns. I hypothesise that person hierarchy is not an
“artificial” concept developed by linguists to describe different structural constraints
but rather a cognitive parameter inherent to the worldview of the corresponding language society.
According to their involvement in the speech act, one traditionally distinguishes
three main characters, or persons: Speaker (S), Addressee (A), and Non-Locutor (or
Non-participant of the speech act) (N). Since the time of the first grammars written
by ancient Greeks, these persons are usually referred to by numbers, whereby 1st
person refers to Speaker, 2nd to Addressee and 3rd to Non-locutor, where the order
of enumeration clearly depicts the principle that the Speaker is presupposed to play
the prominent role in interpersonal communication. In this paper, however, I will
consider cases where the Addressee (the 2nd person) appears to be most salient.
Starting with the analysis of morphosyntactic rules, I will argue that grammatical
salience of the person spoken to has its functional motivation and is conditioned by
the rules of interpersonal communication of the respective culture, which merits a
special status not to the Speaker but to the person addressed.
The paper will be structured as follows. In the next section, I will briefly introduce the main features of the person hierarchy. Section 3 will deal with Aymara data
demonstrating the ordering of persons. Section 4 will discuss some principles of Aymara culture revealing the underlying conception of Addressee salience. Finally, the
major findings of the paper will be summarised.
Acknowledgements: I am indebted to Martha Hardman for answering my numerous questions about
Aymara structure and for providing me with additional materials. I am also grateful to Irina Nikolaeva and
the editors for useful comments on an earlier version of the paper. Special acknowledgements go to the
Spinoza project at Leiden University (Pieter Muysken and his colleagues) who invited me to participate at
the Workshop on Bolivian and Rondonian Indigenous Languages. Thanks also to Arista Da Silva and
Allison Wetterlin for polishing up my English. All mistakes are my own.
2. Person hierarchy and its features
Until recently the hierarchical ordering of persons has not received extensive analysis
in linguistic theory. Proceeding from the traditional designation of persons by numbers (and possibly supported by the egocentric nature of the Western worldview), the
ordering 1>2>3, in our terms S>A>N, has been considered as the only possible and
even axiomatic configuration. However, with the beginning of active studies of the
indigenous languages in the last few decades, this stereotype was abandoned. Surveys of person marking morphology in Algonquian languages, which seemed to be
clearly motivated by the opposite ranking of speech act participants, i.e. the hierarchy
A>S>N, had an overwhelming effect in violating the assumption that the Speaker is
universally more highly ranked than the Addressee. The only universal which seems
to be absolute across languages is that speech act participants (S and A) always overrank the Non-locutor(s): {S, A}>N.
The person hierarchy is typically manifested in the polypersonal verb agreement
which indicates more than one argument of the verb (e.g. subject and non-subject,
subject and direct object, subject, direct and indirect object, etc.). Personal verb inflection in itself is a two-faced phenomenon: On the one hand, agreement is triggered
by verbal arguments and in this sense it signals their presence in the syntactic representation of the clause; on the other hand, agreement morphemes encode deictic
characteristics of these arguments (e.g., Speaker, Addressee, Non-locutor). These two
parameters are logically independent, but we may be able to speak about some prototypical correlation between grammatical relations and the deictic properties they are
associated with.
It is generally assumed that locutors are more active than the Non-locutors, i.e.
they are more likely to act and not to be acted upon, and therefore are typically considered to be the best candidates for the subject position. The reverse is true for Nonlocutors: They are typically considered to have less control over the situation than
any of the speech act participants (SAPs) and in the clause structure are more likely
to be expressed as one of the non-subject arguments. Technically this prototypical
distribution of participants over grammatical relations is determined by a one-to-one
correspondence between higher and lower ranked positions on two hierarchies: the
person and relational hierarchies. The person hierarchy, as already mentioned above,
generally orders SAPs above Non-locutors (whereby SAPs can in turn be differentiated as higher vs. lower ranked ones) and relational hierarchy ranks subject above
other verbal arguments. When, however, the distribution of persons over grammatical
relations does not fit the prototypical correlation, i.e. when the higher ranked person
corresponds to a lower ranked argument and the lower ranked person occupies the
more prominent argument position, a conflict situation arises. Languages which are
sensitive to the combinability of deictic and argument statuses signal this conflict
morphosyntactically. In such cases, the usual encoding of polypersonal situations
does not hold, thus falling outside the frames of the standard morphological paradigm. A close inspection of the persons involved and the analysis of their distribution
over higher vs. lower ranked argument positions enables us to reconstruct their mutual ordering.
The means of expressing the prominent status of a given person may considerably vary from language to language depending on morphonologic, syntactic and semantic constraints of the language in question. It would, therefore, be useless to
search for a procedure generally applicable to all languages in order to determine the
configuration of the person hierarchy (cf. Heath 1998).
It should be noted, however, that cases of unambiguous salience of S or A in the
hierarchy of persons occur much more rarely than those where the mutual ranking of
SAPs is unclear or opaque. Heath, for example, in discussing the patterning of transitive constructions in Australian and Native American languages, argues that it is extremely difficult to rank one SAP over another: “The 1Ù22 combinations are doubly
dangerous because they not only contain the most pragmatically sensitive pronominals they also combine them into a syntagmatic structure and thereby necessarily
focus attention on the speaker-addressee relationship” (Heath 1991:86). In these
situations, “structures that make the most sense cognitively or formally are actually
avoided” (Heath 1998:102), instead, opaque and non-transparent structures which
mitigate the reference to speech act participants are used. In these cases, the configuration of the person hierarchy may be defined as {S ≈A}>N, without any preference
to anyone of the SAPs.
Among the languages which do signal the higher rank of a given speech act participant, contrary to the expectations that languages with Speaker and Addressee salience are equally distributed, those favouring the Speaker clearly prevail. The cases
where the Addressee overrides the Speaker in the person hierarchy are very uncommon and therefore often tend to be ignored in cross-linguistic surveys.
This paper investigates the phenomenon of person hierarchy in Aymara, a Jaqi
language spoken by 2,200,000 people in Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina (data
from Ethnologue, 14th edition). The goal of this study is to demonstrate deictic and
grammatical salience of the person spoken to in Aymara grammar and to examine
extralinguistic features possibly motivating this particular configuration of the person
hierarchy (A>S>N).
A special status of the Addressee in the Jaqi languages has already been pointed
out by Martha Hardman. She considers the salience of the 2nd person (in our terms
Addressee) to be one of the tenets, or ‘linguistic postulates’, as she calls them, realised in the language. In Hardman’s terms, linguistic postulates are “those recurrent
categorisations in the language which are most directly and most tightly tied to the
Heath (1991) uses abbreviation ‘X=>Y’ to refer to the distribution of persons over the main arguments
of the transitive verb. An element to the left from the arrow refers to the person occupying the subject
position and an element to the right corresponds to direct object. An arrow (=>) denotes the transition of
the action from one person to another. E.g. 1=>2 means that 1st person is a subject and 2nd person a direct
object. Further, the bi-directional arrow (Ù) in abbreviations like 1Ù2 denotes the conjunction of person
combinations 1=>2 and 2=>1. In the following discussion I adopt these abbreviations referring to person
distribution over subject and non-subject arguments in the verbal inflectional markers.
perceptions of the speakers, those elements which, while language imposed, are so
well imposed that speaker considers them just naturally part of the universe ...”
(1978a:122-123). In other words, she believes that language specific categories contribute to a worldview in a speaker’s culture. Hardman’s theory of linguistic postulates clearly resembles (and was probably inspired by) the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis,
according to which language determines, or less resolutely, has a tendency to influence thought and cognition, thus presupposing correlations between different linguistic phenomena and variations in non-linguistic behaviour. I, however, inspired by the
ideas presented by Lee 1959 and Plank 1985, suggest that it is not the language that
shapes speakers’ worldview but rather the culture that imposes the language and gets
manifested in its structure.
3. Aymara data
In this section, I will mainly concentrate on Aymara data, demonstrating the salience
of the person spoken to. This salience can be seen, first and foremost, in the verbal
personal inflection. The Aymara verb is characterised by cumulative tense-person
morphemes. Usually only two participants of the particular situation receive their
reference in the person marker, one of them always being a subject participant and
the other one of the non-subject arguments. In Jaqi languages, person-tense suffixes
are normally treated as unit morphemes. Person and tense markers have amalgamated
to an extent that it is difficult to distinguish (at least synchronically) any constitutive
morphemes. Nevertheless, due to the comparative analysis of Jaqi languages and
historical reconstruction (Hardman 1978b), some correlations can be stated as “distinctive features” designating the four persons. These person features are not always
fixed to a particular argument position and in some cases, the same marker can indicate both subject and non-subject complements, cf. Table 1.
Person distinctive features
-it (as subject and non-subject complement); -ta (as subject)
-ta in the simple tense; -m in the non-realised tenses and some
other places, especially as non-subject complement, and long
vowel3, particularly when joined to one of the other markers;
basically unmarked, either as subject or non-subject complement. -i in the simple tense is easily absorbed and/or omitted;
-p or -pa in non-realised tenses;
an interpolated -s- over the corresponding form for 1st person
(as non-subject complement); a nasal (as subject), additionally:
-ta for non-future realised tense, -sa for non-realised tenses
Table 1: Person distinctive features in Aymara (adapted from Hardman-de Bautista, Vásquez & Yapita
(from here on HVY) 1974:232-233)
This long vowel derives from a proto-Jaqi syllable *-ma, still occurring in some dialects of Aymara and
in the other Jaqi languages.
Considering these person features and analysing the tense-person markers of different
combinations of persons, we can observe that the distribution of the corresponding
person markers is far from uniform. Consider table 2, where simple tense person
markers are given:
Marked person
Marked argument
Addressee marked
Speaker and Addressee marked4
Addressee marked
Addressee marked twice
Speaker marked
Speaker marked
Incl marked (Speaker subject
marker + nasal)
Incl marked (Speaker complement marker + interpolated -s-)
subject & non-subj.
Table 2: Simple tense person markers in Aymara (adapted from HVY 1974:232-233)
In most combinations, only one participant of a given situation appears to be marked.
However, it is neither systematically the subject nor the non-subject. The person patterning in Aymara follows the hierarchy: A>S>N., i.e. each person combination is
signalled by the participant which occurs higher on the person hierarchy, independently of its syntactic status. However, in the situations where Addressee is involved,
the distribution of participants over grammatical relations is also significant. Thus,
according to the above-mentioned rule, the combination 3=>2 should be signalled by
the Addressee marker, since it is the higher ranked person in this combination. However, in this particular case, due to its non-subject position which is considered to be
less prestigious that the subject one, the person spoken to additionally appears to be
even doubly marked5.
The distribution of person markers in “1Ù2” combinations, i.e. where both
SAPs are involved, plays an essential role in determining the configuration of the
With 2nd person as subject, 1st person and Inclusive fall together in form, and Inclusive semantically
falls out. However, the old -s- referring to Inclusive, appears intermittently in 2=>1 markers.
The multiple marking of the Addressee in its subordinate role is not unique for Aymara, it is characteristic of the Jaqi family in general (Hardman 1966, 1978b). Interestingly, a similar pattern of Addressee
salience is found in Huallaga Quechua (Weber 1986, 1989). There transitive verbs usually have two slots
for both subject and direct object, whereby the person markers precisely refer to the participants involved.
However, in 3=>2 and 3=>Incl combinations, the 3rd person subject marker undergoes a kind of shift and
appears to be of the same person as the direct object marker. That is to say that, 3=>2 is indicated by morpheme combination 2.Object-2.Subject and 3=>Incl is labelled by Incl.Object-Incl.Subject and not by
2.Object-3.Subject and Incl.Object-3.Subject, respectively. Thus, the 2nd person and inclusive appear to be
marked twice, whereas 3rd person receives no encoding at all.
Aside from morphological similarity, however, the tendencies of Addressee salience in Jaqi and
Huallaga Quechua seem to be historically independent.
person hierarchy. Here, if the Addressee occurs in a subject position (2=>1), both
Speaker and Addressee get encoded in the combination marker. However, if Addressee occurs in a low-ranked non-subject position (1=>2), it is the only person that
receives an overt expression. I see this marking strategy as clearly indicating that the
person spoken to overranks the Speaker in the person hierarchy.
Another interesting aspect of Addressee salience concerns the rules of person
marking when arguments with semantic roles other than patient/theme trigger agreement. In this case, the choice of the complement to be referred to in the person
marker is presupposed by a kind of relational hierarchy, according to which a beneficiary/purposive complement (marked by the -taki- morpheme) always takes precedence over a directional complement (marked with -ru- or -ta-). This principle is
illustrated in examples (1-3) and (4-6), where the first series shows the prominence
of the beneficiary complement over the directional complement ‘to, toward’, and the
second series, the beneficiary over the directional complement ‘from, of’:
jupa-r ch’uq chura-m
3-to potato give-IMP.2=>3
‘Give potatoes to her’ (HVY 1974:316)
(jupa-r) (ch’uq) chura-rapi-:-xa ?
who-BEN-SENT 3-to
potato give-VBEN-FUT.1=>3-POL
‘On whose behalf shall I give her potatoes?’ (HVY 1974:316)
(jupa-r) (ch’uq) chura-rap-ita:ta
1-BEN-SENT 3-to
potato give-VBEN-IMP.2=>1
‘Give them to her on my behalf’ (HVY 1974:316)
3-from cheese buy-Near-FUT.1=>3
‘I’ll buy cheese from him’ (HVY 1974:316)
(jupa-t) (kis)
ala-rapi-:ta ?
who-BEN-SENT 3-from cheese buy-VBEN-FUT.2=>3
‘On whose behalf will you buy cheese from him?’ (HVY 1974:317)
(jupa-t) (kis)
2-BEN-SENT 3-from cheese buy-VBEN-FUT.1=>2
‘I’ll buy cheese from him on your behalf’ (HVY 1974:316-317)
Information on SENT: -wa marks the sentence as affirmative and/or personal knowledge; -sa marks one
of the two basic question types of Aymara. It ordinarily occurs with an interrogative, either directly on the
interrogative or on a construction containing it.
However, when Addressee occurs in a position of directional complement it can
override a beneficiary and gain its expression in the person-tense marker. Thus, in
(7a), unlike the examples above, a directional complement is marked.
(7) a
juma-r jupa-tak ch’uq alja-:ma
3-BEN potato sell-FUT.1=>2
‘I will sell you potatoes for (you to deliver/transmit him’
(HVY 1974:317)
juma-r jupa-tak ch’uq alja-:
3-BEN potato sell-FUT.1=>3
‘I will sell you potatoes for him’ (Hardman, p. c.)
In (7a), the verb person-tense marker -:ma signals the Addressee, which is a directional complement, and does not encode the person of a beneficiary-marked constituent. Based on examples (4-6), one would expect here a “1=>3” verbal marker.
According to Hardman (p.c.), any time there is an Addressee, it may take precedence over any other person marking. Thus, the Addressee, be it a beneficiary or directional complement, may, at the discretion of the speaker, be marked in the verb
over any other person. Thus, example (7b) is also grammatical, but the preferred
variant is probably (7a).
The next aspect of Aymara grammar which is also most probably motivated by
Addressee salience concerns the use of independent personal pronouns. Typically,
free pronouns in Aymara are omitted but may occur for redundancy or explicitness,
in direct reflection of the verb person (HVY 1974:209). One would suppose that free
pronouns of all four persons are used equally. However, as McKay (1985) showed
with his statistical calculations of the frequency of free personal pronouns in Aymara
texts, this assumption is far from true, cf. Table 3.
As we can see, the pronoun referring to the Addressee clearly appears to be the
most frequently used (in 3/4 of cases where 2nd person has been involved), whereas
1st person and inclusive free pronominal forms are only used in half of the cases
(each 50%). Moreover, diachronically the 2nd person pronoun also appears to be the
most stable. Thus, in comparison to the 1st person pronoun, which shows much
variation between Jaqi languages in general and Aymara dialects in particular, the
2nd person pronoun seems to be resistant to all kinds of morphophonemic changes.
This diachronic stability of pronominal forms referring to the Addressee may also be
attributed to the salienced status of the person spoken to (Hardman 1978b:435).
Pronominal forms
nä, na, naya
upa, jupa, jup’’a
jiwsa, jiwasa
Table 3: The frequency of free pronoun use in Aymara (in %)
(McKay 1985, adapted from Hardman 1988/1989:127)
Finally, one should mention in particular the inclusive/exclusive dichotomy in the
Aymara pronominal system which, as I have shown in Filimonova (1999), seems to
correlate with the grammatical salience of the person spoken to7. Traditionally, the
inclusive/exclusive opposition is regarded as a subdistinction within the 1st person
category. Its meaning is usually interpreted as denoting the inclusion vs. exclusion of
the Addressee into the referential group of the Speaker, whereby the Speaker — aside
from the presence of the other participants (A(s) or N(s)) which actually appear to be
involved in the action to no lesser extent than the Speaker — is considered to be the
main person in the corresponding set. In languages characterised for an Addressee
salience, however, the semantic focus of the inclusive form shifts towards the Addressee, thus emphasising his/her involvement in the corresponding group.
Thus, structurally the Aymara inclusive has nothing to do with the 1st person
and would be better recognised as a separate fourth person. The exclusive, however,
is distinguished as a 1st person form. This can be clearly seen from (8) where the
four basic pronominal forms and the corresponding referential sets are presented. The
forms are unspecified for number but can optionally take a plural marker -naka, thus
yielding in: naya-naka, jiwasa-naka, juma-naka, and jupa-naka.
naya / na
{S}, {S+N+...+N}
{S+A+...+A}, {S+A+...+N...}
{A}, {A+A+...+A}, {A+N+...+N}
{N}, {N+N+...+N}
Interestingly, the status of an inclusive as a separate person seems to be not only a
structural but also a psychological reality, being perceived by the speakers as an “integral part of Aymara thought and culture” (Hymes 1972:106 referring to Cole
19698). I believe that the distinct status of inclusive in Aymara is stipulated by the
presence of the person spoken to in its referential set. This person, as I will show in
the next section, forms a kind of a pivot in the interpersonal communication of Aymaras.
The reverse is, however, not true. Languages possessing inclusive /exclusive opposition do not necessarily imply grammatical salience of the 2nd person.
His thesis remained unavailable for me.
In sum, all these features (Addressee salience in the person markers, the use of independent person pronouns and their historical development, the presence of inclusive/exclusive opposition and the structure of inclusive) clearly indicate the influence
of the person hierarchy, particularly of the A>S>N kind, in patterning the morphosyntactic structure of Aymara.
4. Aymara world view and tenets of interpersonal communication
In the previous section I summarised the features that characterise the grammatical
salience of the person spoken to. However, the special status of Addressee in Aymara
is not limited to the language only. In this section, I will investigate the hypothesis
that the morpho-syntactic salience of the person spoken to is initiated and determined
by a certain conception of self in the Aymara culture. Following Shweder and
Bourne (1984), I will call this sociocentric as opposed to egocentric.
The splitting of the universe into two parts — society and self — is a phenomenon, which most likely occurs in every individual. However, the identification of
these two parts, the definition of their boundaries and their interrelation can be completely different. In the egocentric world (where undoubtfully the Western culture is
classified), “society is imagined to have been created to serve the interests of idealised ... autonomous”, while in the sociocentric world, “individual interests” are subordinated “to the good of collectivity” (Shweder and Bourne 1984:190). In the sociocentric world, the value of a person depends on the position he/she occupies in the
system of interperson or intergroup relationship and not on his/her personal achievements and success in any given sphere of life. Thus open competition and forceful
self-expression are missing in Aymara culture (Saavedra 1981:27). In such cultures,
“... self-expression and self-fulfilment can find their fullest scope within the cooperative situation, in terms of helpfulness, of sharing, of respect for inviolability of the
rights of the others” (Lee 1959:52). Saavedra observes that “Given the chance, the
Aymara will generally judge a person, regardless of background, according to the
individual qualities. This process is quite different from criteria of wealth, social
class, education, and cultural background that the Hispanic [and other peoples of the
Western culture – E.F.] use” (1981:25-26)9. Within this framework that Aymara culture offers to its members, there seems to be no boundary between an individual and
community, no clear-cut opposition between the individuals in the interpersonal
communication. Hence in speech acts, the Speaker does not behave as a dominant
person; rather s/he is always considerate of those in his/her presence, showing them
respect and deference.
Culturally the Aymara are very aware of who they are speaking to, always acknowledging the presence of another. Aymara people make tentative requests and
avoid command situations, i.e. situations where the Speaker is supposed to have control over the actions of the other person. Lee (1959) calls this characteristic “the prin9
It should be mentioned that this observation is made by a Hispanic who grew up with a Hispanic attitude toward the Aymara and later studied Aymara people and language.
ciple of the inviolate integrity of the individual”, mentioning “that no personal orders
can be given or taken without a violation of personal autonomy” as a corollary of this
principle (1959:8). Possibly because of this tenet, all imperatives in Aymara are usually softened by special ‘polite’ suffixes and particles.
Aymara has a much more elaborated system of politeness than most European
languages. Beside polite and courteous welcomings and farewells (address forms
(lexical items and honorific forms)) and lexical politeness markers such as ‘please’,
Aymara has an abundant system of derivational and inflectional suffixes and sentence markers that convey the presence or absence of politeness and courtesy. Therefore, unlike European languages, where politeness is of lexical and pragmatic nature,
politeness in Aymara seems to be ‘primarily morphological’ (Briggs and England
1981:291). I will now give a few examples of Aymara polite morphology, a more
detailed analysis, however, can be found in Briggs (1981).
In general, Aymara roots are not in themselves polite or impolite but acquire
overtones of politeness and impoliteness through the presence or absence of suffixes
(Briggs 1981:90). For example, a verbal derivational suffix -t’a-, which usually has
the semantics of a ‘momentaneous action’ also signals the courtesy of the corresponding verb. Thus, the verb jisk’’iña ‘to ask’ seems to have a corresponding polite
form jisk’’it’aña which is then better translated as ‘to ask a specific action’. “Without
-t’a- the verb has the meaning ‘to ask aimlessly, purposelessly, like a drunk” and
“would typically produce a negative reaction in the person addressed” (Briggs
The most obvious label of politeness in Aymara is a sentence marker -ya-,
which can be attached to nouns or verbs. Its semantic colouring ranges from “mere
courtesy to urging to emphasis” and frequently occurs with imperatives, where it is
used as a softener or attenuator. Here are some examples demonstrating the usage of
the -ya- suffix with imperatives:
Mother addressing an adult son:
‘Please just look for it for me’ (concerning the hoe she had previously
given to him but needs back) (Briggs 1981:102)
juma-ki-y amuy-t’a-m
2-just-POL look.after-POL-IMP.2=>3
‘You look after it’ (HVY 1974:417)
An adult or older sibling urging a child to do something:
‘Take it!’ (Briggs 1981:104)
run-IMP.2=>310-POL run-IMP.2=>3-POL
‘Run, run’ (Briggs 1981:104)
‘You go on and herd’ (Briggs 1981:104)
Different polite suffixes in Aymara are easily combined with each other, expressing
various shades of courtesy. Consider the following examples, 14a and b, where more
than one polite suffix are used:
(14) a
al- t’a- s- ita- y,
buy-POL-REFL-IMP.2=>1-POL sir.POL
‘Please buy from me’ (because it’s the end of the day and there is still a lot
to sell) (Briggs 1981:92)
‘Please, buy from me, sir’ (Briggs 1981:92)
An extensive usage of polite suffixes in Aymara also seems to penetrate into the
speech of the native Spanish speakers in La Paz. Laprade (1981) mentions a great
frequency of the particles pues, nomás, siempre, and pero in La Paz Spanish. Unlike
standard Spanish, these particles often have the function of softener or attenuator for
the preceding phrase.
Interestingly, the morphological markedness of politeness in Aymara is usually
accompanied by corresponding intonational contours. “In Aymara a subdued, almost
whining intonation connotes courtesy in persuasion or in requesting a favour”
(Saavedra 1981:27). These contours seem to be an integral part of expressing courtesy in Aymara and serves to avoid brusqueness.
The Aymara specialists perpetually emphasise the necessity to consider correct
address forms, politeness suffixes and intonational contours when teaching Aymara
to Hispanics. Not to be addressed in polite forms is interpreted by Aymara as a negation of the presence of the human being, since only animals can be addressed without
According to the Aymara linguistic tradition, all verbs in Aymara are considered to be transitive and
‘intransitive verbs’ (in an Indo-European sense) imply a zero 3rd person complement (HVY 1974:210).
Therefore in (12) and (13), where ‘intransitive’ verbs are used, -ma- is glossed as a morpheme denoting
personal interaction.
the polite forms (Saavedra 1981:26). Otherwise the Aymara feel insulted, something
the Hispanics seldom realise. Instead they misinterpret the sullen reaction of the Aymara as unfriendliness or unwillingness to communicate.
In sum, the worldview of the Aymara is characterised by a special concept of
ego, according to which and an individual, contrary to the Western conception, is deemphasised and not contrasted to the other selves. Hence the centre of awareness is
shifted from an individual to those in his/her presence. For interpersonal communication this means that the role of Speaker becomes less authorised, relinquishing the
foreground to the other SAP, i.e. person spoken to. This perception of world structure
is presumably reflected in the language, which evolves particular grammatical constraints in response to the specific demands of the society in which it is used.
5. Conclusion
In this paper, I first argued that irregularities of person marking in Aymara are influenced by a special configuration of the person hierarchy, according to which the person spoken to overranks the Speaker: A>S>N. Secondly, I suggested that this layout
of the person hierarchy is determined by a special conception of ego in the Aymara
culture which, unlike Western perception, does not consider an individual to be the
centre of the universe and hence shifts the emphasis from the speaker to those in
his/her presence.
Support for this hypothesis comes from other language families, which also
demonstrate grammatical salience of the person spoken to (e.g. Algonquian, Sioux).
As I have shown elsewhere (Filimonova 2000), anthropological data (descriptions of
philosophy of life and everyday communication) which characterise these language
societies also confirm the suggestion that the underlying conception of ego may influence the language and shape its person marking. In addition, these tentative results
clearly reveal the hidden potential of cooperative work between language specialists
and anthropologists. Linguists can learn much in trying to describe the grammars of
non-native languages within the framework of the corresponding logic rather than
imposing their own, as if it were universal.
Finally, independent of whether the link between the development of morphosyntax and the culture is to be considered as casual or spurial, an important typological implication of the findings discussed in this paper is the fact that one-to-one correspondence between the referents (i.e. S, A, and N) and their morphosyntactic labels
(i.e. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd persons) is not universal. In languages in which the morphosyntactic structure provides examples of the salience of the 2nd person forms, this
person actually appears to be the 1st person. Using the terms of the referential categories (the Addressee is more highly ranked than the Speaker, or the Speaker is set
lower than the Addressee) allows this disambiguity to be avoided.
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M. J. Hardman-de-Bautista (eds.), Papers on Linguistics and Child Language,
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1981 The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context, Gainesville: University Presses of Florida.
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1991 ‘Pragmatic Disguise in Pronominal-Affix Paradigms’, in: Frans Plank (ed.)
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Languages’, IJAL 64:83-104.
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1972 ‘On personal pronouns: ‘Fourth’ person and phonesthematic aspects’, in: M.
Estellie Smith (ed.), Studies in Linguistics in Honor of George L. Trager, The
Hague: Mouton, pp.100-121.
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1981 ‘Some Cases of Aymara Influence on La Paz Spanish’, in: M. J. Hardman
(ed.), pp. 18-29.
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1978 ‘On the distribution of ergative and accusative patterns’, Lingua 45:233-279.
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1985 Language, Structure, Worldview and Culture Contact: Understanding Aymara
Culture and History in a Bolivian Context, M.A. thesis. University of Florida,
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1985 ‘Die Ordnung der Personen’, Folia Linguistica 19:111-176.
Saavedra, Carlos
1981 ‘Social and Cultural Context of the Aymara in Bolivia Today’, in: M. J.
Hardman (ed.), pp. 207-227.
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Categories in Australian Languages, Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, pp. 112-171.
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1974 ‘The plurality split’, Chicago Linguistic Society 10:657-671.
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1984 ‘Does the Concept of the Person Vary Cross-Culturally?’, in: R. A. Shweder
& R. A. LeVine (eds.), Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion,
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Tübingen: Narr, pp. 333-349.
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NEAR Nearative
SENT Sentential marker
VBEN Verbal Benefactive
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
Colette Grinevald
Université Lumière, Lyon 2
1. Introduction
Nominal classification systems appear to be a common feature of South American
lowland languages (Aikhenvald 2000, Payne 1987, Derbyshire and Payne 1990), and
their analysis is often presented as a challenge for the typologies of nominal classification systems developed so far (Aikhenvald 1999, Allan 1977, Craig 1992, 1994,
1995, Dixon 1986, Grinevald 2000, to appear a, for instance). From a few systems
that have been described in some detail (Aikhenvald 1994, 2000, Barnes 1990, Gomez-Imbert 1982, Klein 1979, Payne 1986, Vidal 1995), it appears that many nominal classification systems from this region of the world do not match very closely the
types found elsewhere in the world (Asia, Africa, Australia, the Pacific and North
America). One of their major characteristics is that they seem to overlap with two
major types of systems: classifier systems on the one hand and noun class/gender
systems on the other. It is in this context that any encounter with a system of nominal
classification from South America constitutes a welcome opportunity to continue
exploring our understanding of the parameters of variation of that linguistic phenomenon in the languages of the world.
This paper is the result of the very brief but intense encounter between a linguist
interested in the phenomenon of nominal classification and an Amazonian language
that turned out to have an instance of such a phenomenon. The encounter took place
in the fall of 1995, in the midst of a sweeping government sponsored alphabet project
that aimed at “regularizing” writing systems for the benefit of future bilingualbicultural education programs. The language in question was Movima, a little known
and genetically unclassified language of the eastern lowland of Bolivia which is spoken today by a few thousand, mostly in the town of Santa Ana of the Province of
Beni, and along the Yacuma, Matos and Apere rivers (Plaza and Carvajal 1985: 15).
The linguist was then called Colette Craig and in the midst of developing a typology
of the various types of classifier systems (Craig 1986b, 1992, 1994). She is now
called Grinevald and has widened the scope of the study to the issue of nominal classification systems in general, in great part due to more familiarity in recent years with
the Amazonian descriptive challenge (Grinevald 2000, to appear a, Grinevald and
Creissels 2000, Grinevald, Creissels and Seifart 2001).
This brief sketch of the Movima nominal classification system aims at making
three points. First, that this particular system might well be of the kind that is typically found in that region of the world and, as such, challenges the morphosyntactic
typologies of nominal classification systems conceived so far on the basis of data
from other parts of the world. For that reason it clearly deserves further study. Second, that it is of particular interest because of its nature as a mixed system that combines phonologically and semantically based patterns of classification. And third, that
the evolution of the various accounts of this system over the last decades can be used
to illustrate the relation of linguistic description to the development of theoretical and
typological frameworks. In this case, the analysis has evolved from an initial account
by missionaries in the sixties to a partially erroneous analysis of it as a probable instance of a numeral classifier system by the present linguist. While the missionaries
identified the existence of the phenomenon with descriptive limitations due to the
vacuum of a theoretico-typologial context for interpreting it properly, the linguist was
blinded by her preoccupation and interest limited at that moment to classifier systems. This paper, however, provides a revised analysis of the system, considering it
finally as a probable noun class system, in the context of on-going work on the variety of Amazonian systems of nominal classification.
The first part of this paper, Section 2, will therefore consist in the presentation of
the information that was available, at the time of the 1995 field encounter, from the
writings of Judy and Judy, the SIL missionaries who were faced with this system
before the issue of nominal classification took shape in the world of general linguistics. Section 3, the second, and most extensive part of this paper, will present an updated analysis of this nominal classification system which is based on the data gathered for that purpose in 1995. This update will focus at this point on the description
of a particular aspect of the system that had been seemingly missed by Judy and
Judy: the coexistence of phonologically productive patterns of formation of classificatory morphemes and more familiar semantically based ones. Section 4, the third
and final part, will then consider the issue of how and why this Movima classification
system was first reframed as a numeral classifier system, and only later identified in
fact as the noun class system it most likely is. The present description is therefore
mostly meant to be an invitation to pursue the analysis of this system, for its own
sake and for the sake of contributing to the ongoing debates about the nature of such
nominal classification systems in that part of the world.
2. Early mention and initial re-interpretation of the system
2.1. The data in Judy and Judy (1962a)
Some mention of the existence of a nominal classification system in Movima is to be
found in the writings of Robert Judy and Judith Judy, of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, who studied the language in the early sixties and produced a word list (Judy
and Judy 1962a), a pamphlet on the Movima phonemes (Judy and Judy 1962b) and a
tagmemic grammar (Judy and Judy 1967).
2.1.1. “Descriptive-object pronouns”
The existence of classifying morphemes is mentioned in the appendix of the 1962
Movima-Spanish Vocabulary entitled Notes on Movima Grammar, on pages 150 and
151. At the time, Judy and Judy labeled these morphemes “pronombres objetosdescriptivos”, the translation of which is not obvious, being it literally something like
“descriptive-object pronouns”. By way of introduction, Judy and Judy first state that
“certain objects that are sufficiently clear in the context are referred to only by means
of the descriptive- and appropriate object pronoun (sic). This [pronoun] is suffixed to
a descriptive word or a noun (sic)”.
2.1.2. Inventory of these “pronouns”
Since their presentation of this phenomenon is brief, and since the publication is not
readily available, their entire account of such pronouns will be reproduced below.
The list of some of these “pronouns”, with the objects they supposedly classify can
be found on page 150 given below in (1) as it appears in their writings (in translation
here and with new numbering, for ease of reference later in this paper):
round fruit, egg, nest, jug, etc.
skin, paper, book, etc.
seed, grain, star, viper, river,
house, etc.
plantains, bird, insect, airplane,
basket, tropical forest, etc.
yuca, totora, etc.
tooth, spoon, point, etc.
A more extensive list of another 23 “other objects with their pronouns” is also given
on page 151, reproduced here in the alphabetic order of the pronoun forms in which
they appeared originally:
‘cane’ -as, ‘piece of pottery’ -bij, ‘plant’ -bo, ‘mud’ -bun, ‘toasted manioc’
-cho, ‘person’ -e, ‘location’ -huaj, ‘milk’ -lo, ‘thorn’ -lej, ‘straw’ -mas,
‘water’ -mi, ‘shell’ -moł, ‘wind’ -muj, ‘feather’ -mun’, ‘bundle’ -pi, ‘animal’ -poi, ‘clothing’ -oj, ‘hat’ -to, ‘dust like’ -vas, ‘hoof’ -ve, ‘wood’ -vos,
‘ashes’ -vus, ‘arm’ -yin’, etc.
2.1.3. Their use
Little is said about the use of such forms, although some information can be gleaned
from direct or indirect statements. For instance, the second list given in (2) is preceded by the following information (reproduced as is, the numbering being mine
again, for later ease of reference):
“examples of their use”
(sota’ra ‘one’)
(choesni ‘ugly’)
(daujes ‘deer’)
(sonra ‘other’)
(oira ‘two’)
(mere’e ‘big’)
(beuni ‘mature’)
(tochi’i ‘small’)
(paco ‘dog’)
No morphological analysis is provided, but it is at least clear from (3) that the phenomenon under question is a matter of substitutable or added last syllable of the
word, and that it affects a number of lexical categories, including nouns (dog, deer),
adjectives (ugly, big, mature, small), and number (one, two), as well as the word
‘other’ which is unspecified here as to its status as adjective or pronoun.
Besides these examples, additional information about the use of these forms is
contained in the following final statement: “these pronouns are also suffixed to the
stem of verbs and identify the object of the verb”. This statement is then followed by
the examples given in (4) below:
(4) a
with the verb
‘to soften’
‘to soften a jug’
‘to iron’
with the verb
‘to know’
onamona ‘to know the bird’
onahuajna ‘to know the place’
onapoina ‘to know the animal’
Again, no morphological analysis or glossing was provided, but, at least with the
verb onarana ‘to know’, one can recognize two of the three morphemes under scrutiny: -huaj- associated with ‘location’, and -poi- associated with ‘animal’, already
mentioned in the list in (2) above.
2.1.4 Conclusion
Thus, in these original two pages of notes on the “descriptive-object pronouns” of
Movima, Judy and Judy provided enough information to establish that Movima had a
nominal classification system. It is on the basis of these intriguing few pages that
specific elicitation was carried out in 1995 in order to confirm its existence and to
clarify its status.
2.2. The initial re-interpretation of the system as a ‘numeral classifier’ system (1995)
Judy and Judy did not actually identify these “pronouns” as classifiers per se; this
was, after all, 1962, and not much had been written on classifiers in the general linguistic literature by then; the first publications on the topic to be widely read not appearing until a good decade after they had published their studies (such as Adams and
Conklin 1973 and Allan 1977). The initial analysis done by the present author in
1995, before initiating fieldwork on the system, focused on the fact that it had much
in common with numeral classifiers. Arguments that could be advanced to support
this analysis were both of a morphosyntactic and semantic nature.
2.2.1. Morphosyntactic argument
The morphosyntactic argument was basically to be found in the examples of such
morphemes with numerals, as given in (3.1) ‘one’ and (3.5.) ‘two’ above, which are
repeated below:
(5) 3.1 sota’ba
3.5 oidi
(sota’ra ‘one’)
2.2.2. Semantic arguments
The semantic argument consisted in noticing that, on the basis of the initial list of
apparent ‘classes’ of nouns given in (1) above, one could find similarities between
the semantics of some identifiable Movima classes and the semantics of some of the
classes commonly found in numeral classifier systems (see for instance the study of
the semantics of classifiers in Adams and Conklin 1973, Adams 1986, and Allan
1977). The Movima classes given by Judy and Judy that seemed to clearly exhibit
some semantic motivation and echo semantically motivated classes of numeral classifier systems are shown in (6). The numbering assigned is the same as the one given in
(1) above, and the possible numeral classifier semantics are mentioned below the
Movima instances:
semantically motivated classes
round fruit, egg, nest and jug,
could be a class of round objects,
skin, paper, book,
could be the class of ‘flat and flexible’ objects,
also commonly found in numeral classifier systems,
yuca and totora,
could, maybe, be a plant class,
tooth, spoon, point,
could be taken to be a class of ‘pointed objects’
For some of the classifying elements, the semantic motivation was therefore fairly
straightforward and familiar (round, flat and flexible, long and pointed, plant).
There were also classes which were more mixed, with no immediately obvious
semantic motivation, but that could also be expected of a numeral classifier system.
These semantically heterogeneous classes are given in (7), still with the numbering of
the original (1) of this text:
semantically heterogeneous classes
plantains, birds, insects, baskets and tropical forest,
seed/grain/star, but also viper, river, and house
At first glance these supposed classes seemed reminiscent of some famous heterogeneous classes discussed in the literature on numeral classifiers. One such case is the
case of a numeral classifier of Thai, tua (discussed in Carpenter 1986), which is said
to have originally been used for ladle, spoon, fork, umbrella, for their parts that had a
long and rigid shape, then to have come to also be used with rickshaw, also with long
handles, but then with bicycle, plus bus and car, as an amalgamate of transportation
means, and also with string instruments, at which point it started not applying any
more to the original long and rigid objects. The most famous case of semantic heterogeneity of a classification system is probably the case of Dyirbal (Australia)
which was originally described by Dixon (1972) but later used as a case study of a
particular type of semantic analysis of prototypes by Lakoff (1986, 1987). The title of
Lakoff’s 1987 book Women, fire and dangerous things refers in fact to the apparent
heterogeneity of a class of nouns taking the same class marker. It is worth noting in
passing that the Dyirbal system is actually a system of noun classes and not of numeral classifiers.
Lakoff (1986) contains also another case study of a very heterogeneous class,
this time a real instance of numeral classifier: it is the class headed by the Japanese
numeral classifier hon said to be used to count, at least, the following: sticks, canes,
pencils, candles, trees etc; dead snakes and dried fish; martial arts contests; hits in
baseball; shots in basketball…; judo matches; rolls of tapes, telephone calls; radio
and TV programs; letters; movies; medical injections (Lakoff 1986: 25-26). This
Japanese data was used by Lakoff to discuss the various means of extension of
classes and to justify, on an a posteriori basis, the inclusion of those items in the same
class. It is in this context, therefore, that the existence, in the Movima system, of apparently semantically heterogeneous classes did not appear particularly troubling. It
seemed to call for the same kind of a posteriori reasoning to motivate, at least partially, the regroupings found in the heterogeneous classes.
2.2.3. ‘Unique classifiers’ and large systems
The initial analysis of the system as a numeral classifier system could also possibly
handle the list of the 23 “other objects and their pronouns” given in (2) above. The
list seemed to make two claims: first that there were at least apparently 23 instances
of so-called “descriptive-object pronouns” which applied to only one object, and,
second, that the list was actually open, as indicated by the final “etc. ...”. Both characteristics found echo in what was known of some of the better known and best described numeral classifier systems, such as those of South East Asia.
Those numeral classifier systems are known to include several types of classifiers, according to their level of generality or specificity (see Craig 1994, Grinevald to
appear a). The most common type of classifiers are ‘specific classifiers’ which head
more or less homogeneous classes. They may come in fairly large numbers (dozens if
not hundreds). At the same time, it is common in large(r) systems of numeral classifiers, again such as those of Asian languages for instance, to have ‘general classifiers’
which may substitute the specific classifiers and are devoid of much semantic motivation (and could be translated as ‘thing’). Those systems also commonly include yet
another type of classifiers, called ‘unique classifiers’ in that they head classes of only
one item. These unique classifiers are usually idiosyncratic to the language and are
taken to be indicative of the cultural importance of the elements they classify (some
animals for instance, like the elephant or the tiger in some systems, see Craig 1986b
for the case of the unique classifiers of Jakaltek-Maya noun classifiers).
As for the mention of “etc. ...” at the end of the list, two interpretations were
possible: either that this was just a sample of a larger but closed number of such morphemes, or that the list was open-ended. But such an “etc. …” at the end of the list
was also not uncharacteristic of classifier systems: some such systems have been
shown to have in the hundreds of classifiers, particularly when one takes into account
all the registers of the language, from common language to most formal registers (see
Berlin 1965 for Tzeltal, and Erbaugh 1986 for Chinese, for instance). Furthermore,
large classifier systems often exhibit the phenomenon of ‘repeaters’, lexical nouns
that occupy the classifier slot and start functioning as classifiers, leaving the door
apparently open to create more classifiers.
2.2.4. Conclusion
It is therefore on the basis of a preliminary re-analysis of the Judy and Judy material
of the Movima system as a probable ‘numeral classifier’ system that the sessions of
direct elicitation were carried out in 1995. Such analysis seemed viable at the time on
both morphosyntactic and semantic grounds, as well as on the basis of general characteristics of such systems known then from studies from other parts of the world.
3. New data on the supposed ‘numeral classifiers’ of Movima.
What follows is a reconstitution of the analysis carried out during and immediately
following the fieldwork sessions led by the present author. The direct elicitation took
place in the town of Trinidad (Department of Beni), in October 1995, with two
speakers of Movima: Gilberto Machado Vega and Peregrina Cayu Mazaro. As explained above, the elicitation carried out assumed at that time an analysis of the system as a system of ‘numeral classifiers’ and consequently concentrated on gathering
data aimed at defining the specifics of that type of system for the Movima language.
3.1. Confirmation of the existence of supposedly ‘general’ and ‘specific’ ‘numeral
Initial elicitation of numbers showed that Movima numerals are composed of a root
and a suffix. The suffix -ra occurs when the numeral is used in simple enumeration
and for general counting, as illustrated in (8) below:
Judy and Judy had glossed -ra as ‘thing’, a gloss appropriate for a ‘general’, neutral
classifier. The native counting system only goes up to the number ‘four’, after which
Spanish loanwords are used, with the same system of suffixation:
‘five’, from Spanish ‘cinco’
‘six’, from Spanish ‘seis’
However, when objects are being counted, the most common construction is one in
which the number takes any one of a number of other suffixes besides -ra. The same
numeral therefore can appear with various suffixes, depending on the nature of the
objects being counted, as illustrated below:
(10) a
‘one (said of banana)’
‘one (said of plate)’
‘two (said of oranges)’
‘two (said of dogs)’
The numeral suffixes did in fact behave in a ‘pronominal’ fashion, as the “pronombres objetos-descriptivos” mentioned by Judy and Judy, to the extent that the lexical
noun corresponding to the object was indeed not given, even in direct elicitation.
Those suffixes of numerals can actually also occur on adjectives, another fact
that they seem to share with many numeral classifier systems in other parts of the
world. The data on the adjectival use of classifiers in Movima remains very limited to
date, although it is suggested, as illustrated by the variation in the suffix of the adjective for ‘big’ given below:
‘big (said of a basket)’
‘big (said of a house)’
Having confirmed the existence of the classifying elements mentioned by Judy and
Judy, the novelty of the analysis of the data newly gathered consisted in the reanalysis of the apparently very heterogeneous classes reproduced from Judy and Judy in
(1) above.
3.2. A semantic puzzle, with a phonological solution
What follows is a reanalysis of the Movima data presented by Judy and Judy that
shows that the apparently heterogeneous ‘classes’ of Movima suffixes are not actually semantic classes at all but cases of homophonous suffixes resulting from the
phonological truncation of source nouns. For instance, it is not the case that there is a
class of nouns regrouped by their sharing the classifying suffix -d’i which would include such disparate objects as grain/seeds and stars, as well as houses and snakes.
Rather, it is a phonological accident that all those nouns end with the same syllable,
which is the one preserved with the truncation rule that produces the numeral suffixes.
What happens in Movima is that multiple cases of homophonous suffixes are
due to the fact that if the simple syllable structure of Movima words (which, admittedly, remains to be studied in greater detail), is coupled with the fairly small phonemic inventory of the language, the result is that many words in the language share
similar last syllables. The apparent regrouping of such disparate words as grain,
house and snake, is therefore an accident of morphology, due to the fact that all these
nouns end in -d’i.
3.2.1. Monosyllabic suffixes
The usual pattern of formation of the classifying suffix under study here is the truncation of the source noun that leaves the last syllable of the noun to be suffixed. The
examples below illustrate this principle of truncation.
‘typical small river embarkation’
The syllable retained for suffixation seems to be that of the root of the noun, although
it may be that of a more complex noun stem. Much more work needs to be done on
the noun morphology of Movima to establish the parameters of this truncation phenomenon, in view of probable extensive noun derivation and noun composition processes in the language. For instance, the limited data gathered include an example of
the truncation of the last syllable of an apparently fairly long word, which is probably
the result of some composition process:
which contrasts with the fact that the truncation does not affect the last syllables of all
the ‘words’, as the examples of the following words ending in -kwa show:
As it turns out -kwa is a fairly productive suffix in the language. Judy and Judy had
identified it as a “partitive” suffix, although by its semantics and suffixal nature. It is
reminiscent of a semantic class marker for round objects of the kind often found in
noun classification systems in other parts of the world. Judy and Judy’s list of noun
affixes (1967: 395) gives the following instances of -kwa:
-kwa ‘partitive’ and/or ‘round’ class?
tripes, intestines
shell (of turtle)
shell (of fruits)
grinding handle
wild cat
seed, star
The truncation process was not systematically checked on those nouns in the 1995
fieldwork sessions. This morpheme will deserve more attention. An exceptional form
was collected, consisting of a disyllabic suffix from a word supposedly ending in the
suffix kwa: -lakwa from itilakwa ‘man’, for instance.
The same noun truncation principle accounts for the suffixation found on adjectives which was mentioned before:
‘black (said of hat)’, from choramkwanto ‘hat’
The origin of the suffix that Judy and Judy called “objective-descriptive pronouns”
first reproduced in (1) and (2) above, and later considered as ‘numeral classifiers’ is
therefore the truncated final syllable of a source noun.
3.2.2. Confirming the truncation analysis with loanwords
Support for this phonological truncation analysis of the “descriptive pronouns” of
Judy and Judy can be found in the treatment of loanwords. In the case of loanwords,
the truncation process is somewhat different in that it results in disyllabic rather than
monosyllabic suffixes, but this apparent exception to the rule of final syllable truncation is actually taken to be a confirmation of the existence of a truncation process in
the first place:
from Spanish
The analysis that, in the case of loanwords, the corresponding suffixes on numbers
and adjectives must be two-syllable long is further confirmed by the situation that
arises with simpler originally disyllabic loanwords. In this case, the disyllabic suffix
is formed by reduplicating the last syllable, as illustrated below:
from LOANWORD from Spanish
The choice of the reduplication process in those cases seems, furthermore, to
strengthen the analysis of the truncation of the final syllable of native nouns. The
indirect support for this analysis consists in the fact that the reduplication of the last
syllable of such loanwords preserves the principle of truncation. Simply using the
disyllabic loanword would fulfill the requirement of a disyllabic suffixation but not
that of a truncation for the purpose of suffixation.
Counting shirts and chairs, which are both nouns borrowed from Spanish, is therefore
done in the following way:
(19) a
‘two shirts’ from kamisa (Spanish camisa)
‘two chairs’ from siya (Spanish ‘silla’)
This constraint on the length of the numeral suffix for loanwords could be seen as an
example of a functional principle in the spirit of some of T. Givón’s proposals (1979,
2001), that longer forms are for less familiar material and shorter forms for more predictable, or known material.
The issue of loanwords is an interesting one in Movima, as there exist diverse
combinations of loanwords and native Movima numerals and names of counted objects, in which either the number or the number suffix (SUF) is (from) a loanword, in
the following patterns:
(20) a
Number loanword + SUF from Movima native noun
‘five (said of baskets, for instance)’
‘five (said of plates, for instance)’
Number loanword + SUF from Spanish loanword noun
‘five (said of carts)’
(from Spanish cinco carretas)
Movima adjective + SUF from Spanish loanword noun
baschim-pato ‘unmatched (said of shoe)’
(from Spanish zapato ‘shoe’)
The truncation principle that is at the origin of the Movima suffixes found on numerals and other elements explains therefore the fact that several nouns would be represented by similar looking suffixes because of their phonological composition, more
specifically the similarity of their final syllables. In addition, this truncation principle
accounts for the apparent ‘open–endedness’ of the system hinted at by Judy and Judy,
since it appears to be very productive, with specific accommodations for loanwords.
Finally, this truncation principle can explain why the vast majority of the classifying
suffixes of Movima look like instances of ‘unique classifiers’, i.e. classification
markers heading classes that are made of only one element.
However it is worth noting here that, within a numeral classifier system perspective, the presence of unique classifiers is fairly common. Those unique classifiers are
usually in a small minority in the totality of the inventory of classifiers. This is not
the situation in Movima where the apparent proliferation of what would be considered unique classifiers raises the question of their actual function in the language.
This and other elements of the initial analysis of these Movima suffixes as ‘numeral
classifiers’ will be reconsidered later in Section 4, where the system will be argued to
be a noun class system rather than a numeral classifier system, although a noun class
system of the Amazonian kind.
Although the truncation principle accounts for the majority of the cases of suffixation on numerals (and other elements as seen below), a complete description of
the functioning of the counting system requires accounting for the few semantic
classes that also exist in the Movima system.
3.2.3. Semantically based classification too
As mentioned earlier, it is not the case that there is no instance of semantic classification in the Movima counting system. There are indeed a few semantically based
‘classes’ of nouns which manifest themselves, in the counting process for instance,
and which were readily identified by the Movima speakers which took part in this
Some of the Movima numeral suffixes do function like prototypical numeral
classifiers in that they classify nouns into identifiable semantic classes, with semantics of the kind commonly found in numeral classifier systems. Four suffixes were
readily identified as marking such semantic classes by the Movima speakers interviewed in 1995:
four-legged animals
two-legged animals
The suffix -poy is used for counting animals, of the four-legged type. It applies to
animals such as:
giant anteater
oso bandera
oso hormiguero
brown agouti
gray brocket deer
jochi pintado
jochi colorado
puerco espino
The semantic class suffix -poy comes in fact, by truncation, from the generic noun
popoykwa meaning ‘animal’, itself a complex word [po–poy–kwa] made of a reduplication (as is the case for a number of animal names in that language and in many
other South American languages), and the ‘partitive’suffix -kwa found in many
words and already mentioned.
The other animal suffix is -mo. It classifies two-legged animals, such as birds
and fowls, of all sizes:
No source was identified for this biped animal class marker.
Another clearly semantic class is that of fruits, marked by the class suffix -b’a.
This class includes native nouns and loanwords from Spanish:
Here again, a noun source can be found for the class suffix. -b’a is the result of the
truncation of the generic noun for fruit: b’ab’akwa, which exhibits the same complex
morphological structure as the source of the marker for four-legged animal (reduplication and suffixation of the now familiar suffix -kwa).1
The generic noun b’ab’akwa ‘fruit’ appears to be itself derived from the noun b’akwa ‘head’ (with no
Next to the class of fruits is that of plants, which is marked with the class suffix -b’o.
Included in this class are nouns like:
‘cooking banana’
‘sweet banana’
‘mango tree’
No noun source could be elicited for this plant class suffix.
The Movima system of numeral suffixes includes therefore some semantically
motivated classes, two for animals (four- and two-legged) and two for the vegetable
world (fruits and plants), the largest of all being the animal classes. It is noticeable
that the semantic classification does not seem to include class(es) for humans, which
are generally considered to be among the most basic ones and the first to appear in
numeral classifier systems.
3.2.4. Semantic extension
Some processes of semantic extension of these basic classes further confirm the
analysis that some of the suffixes found on numerals are semantically motivated. The
data collected contained two instances of the semantic extension of the suffix for the
fruit class, to include rounded objects. For example, to count bottles and glasses, as
well as eggs, one uses the class suffix for fruits -b’a, presumably because of their
roundish shape:
(26) a
‘two (of bottles)’ for boteya ‘bottle’
‘two (of glasses)’ for waso ‘glass’
‘two (of eggs)’ for hołkwa ‘egg’
It is interesting to note that the semantic classification can apply to loanwords too, as
shown by the numeral suffixation for (26a) boteya from ‘botella’ and (26b) waso
from ‘vaso’. One could have expected disyllabic suffixes specific to loanwords of the
kind mentioned above, such as -teya or -soso, but as will be considered in the next
section, there are three ways of counting objects in Movima, two of which have been
mentioned so far (phonological truncation/ reduplication and semantically based),
and the system is presently in flux.
The literature on numeral classifiers is replete with examples of the extension of
the basic classes defined originally as plant parts to extended classes that include obreduplication but suffixation of -kwa).
jects that share some shape characteristics of plant parts. There are three basic cases
of such semantic extension. One is the extension of ‘fruit/seed’ to ‘round and compact’, which is exemplified above. The others are the common extensions of the lexical item ‘tree/trunk’ to ‘long and rigid’ objects, and that of ‘leaf’ to ‘flat and flexible’
ones. There may exist hints in Movima of such association in that Judy and Judy
(1967: 394) give the “root citation form r” as follows: -as ‘sugar-cane’; -b’a as
‘roundness’ and -ben’ as ‘flatness’. However, no examples accompany this statement,
and none could be elicited from the speakers interviewed in 1995, for either the notion of long (and rigid) or the notion of flat (and flexible).
3.2.5. Conclusion
There is therefore a clear but limited process of semantic classification indicated by
numeral suffixes at least. It co-exists with an apparently productive system of formation of numeral suffixes by phonological truncation of the source noun being
counted. The semantic classification may in fact be secondary to the extent that it
might have arisen originally from the truncation of generic names, at least for two of
the semantic classes identified, the four-legged animals and the fruits, for which synchronic evidence could be elicited.
3.3. A classifier system in flux
One of the striking features of the elicitation sessions on the Movima system was the
fact that apparently simple questions on how to count simple objects of the environment provoked intense discussions between the two speakers. Besides the items of
the four semantic classes noted earlier for animals and plants, many items were the
topic of some discussion, including some heated disagreement between the speakers.
It was surprising to watch how counting even familiar objects was apparently not as
straightforward a matter in Movima as it is in European languages. The system seems
to be in a state of flux, counting being done in one of three ways:
counting with a suffix of phonological origin by way of the truncation principle. As noted earlier, this gives the impression of both heterogeneous classes
and numerous ‘unique’ numeral classifiers, when all it is, is widespread homophony of the last syllable of nouns;
counting with a class suffix with semantic motivation, regrouping animals and
plants in certain classes, with limited extension to objects sharing similar
counting with the general classifier in a periphrastic construction.
All three alternatives are illustrated below:
(27) a
‘two (of plates)’ from chad’o ‘plate’
‘two (of monkeys)’ from si’do ‘monkey’
two-class (four-legged animal)
oy-ra di’ tirinchi
two-class (general) of fork
‘two forks’
Nouns seem to fall into different categories, according to the combinations of these
three constructions the speakers permitted for counting them. There were those nouns
that speakers agreed could be counted only one way, and those for which more than
one way was possible. The examples of (27) above appeared each to be limited to the
pattern shown (truncation for ‘plate’, semantic for ‘monkey’, general periphrastic for
‘fork’). The examples of (28) below further illustrate the exclusive use of the general
periphrastic construction with ‘plank’ and ‘jugs’:
(28) a
oy-ra di’ chakatorawa
‘two planks’
two-class(general) of plank
a’* oy-wa
‘two (of planks)’
‘two jugs’
oy-ra di’ lotob’a
two-class (general) of jug
b’* oy-b’a
‘two (of jugs)’
There were nouns that speakers agreed without hesitation could be counted either one
of two ways, such as ‘cats’, ‘pigs’ and ‘chairs’, as shown below:
(29) a
two-class (truncation)
‘two (of cats and pigs)’
from michi ‘cat’ and kochi ‘pig’
‘two (of cats and pigs)’
two-class(four-legged animal)
two-class (truncation)
‘two (of chairs)’
from siya ‘chair’
oy-ra di’ siya
two-class(general) of chair
‘two chairs’
There were also nouns that elicited much discussion and had no obvious established
way of being counted. This was the case for instance for ‘benches’, an item that provoked heated discussion with no resolution. Not unexpectedly, the treatment of loanwords afforded interesting insights into the dynamics of the Movima classifier system.
4. The Movima system in an Amazonian perspective: a noun class system
The second part (Section 3) has presented data that had been elicited with the view
that the phenomenon at work in Movima was of the numeral classifier system general
type. As already acknowledged, this particular interpretation of the nature of the system stemmed from the preoccupations of the field linguist at the time with building a
typology of classifier systems. This typological bias blinded her to the evidence that
could be found in Judy and Judy that the system was not strictly speaking a numeral
classifier system per se. The present analysis is that Movima must have a noun classifier system of the concordial type now commonly identified in languages of that
Amazonian region of the world.
4.1. Noun class systems of the Amazonian region
As discussed in Grinevald and Creissels (2000), Grinevald, Creissels and Seifart
(2001), and Grinevald (to appear b), many of the nominal classification systems of
the Amazonian region which have been labelled in the literature in various ways,
including as classifier systems, are probably better analyzed as noun class systems. A
characteristic of these Amazonian noun class systems, however, and the one that prevented their being identified as such earlier, is that they are much less grammaticalized systems than the systems of Niger Congo languages which have been the basis
for the analysis of prototypical noun class systems. These typically less grammaticalized Amazonian systems are more open-ended, more semantically motivated, more
subject to speaker variation, as well as to discourse context and register level. Overall
they tend to feel less stable and more lexical and to be more difficult for the field
workers investigating them to capture in their diversity and their complexity. Many
early descriptions of such systems exude a feeling of these systems being hard to
circumscribe, a feeling justified as it were by their very nature of lexico-grammatical
It is typical of descriptions and discussions of lowland South American nominal
classification systems to note that they cut across the various types of classifier systems identified in other parts of the world. This is the main point of studies such as
Aikhenvald (1994, 2000b), Derbyshire and Payne (1990), and Payne (1986). They all
argue, for instance, that the current typologies that distinguish between numeral and
verbal classifier systems do not apply to those languages where that distinction seems
to be blurred. Within the context of more recent typological work on classifier systems which emphasizes the need to distinguish between distinct subtypes of classifiers (Grinevald 2000 and earlier versions of it found under Craig 1992, 1994), more
recent studies of Amazonian systems have tended to treat the descriptive challenge
that those systems represented by considering them to be cases of yet unseen situations of ‘multiple classifier systems’ within the same language.
All along, people have also noticed that those systems appear to challenge the
classical distinction between inflectional and derivational morphology in that, when
one wants to describe the so-called classifiers of these languages, one must handle
sets of morphemes that function like classifiers, which are generally considered to be
part of the inflectional morphology of the language, but also like derivational affixes,
in their capacity to create new lexical items.
Finally, another specificity of these Amazonian systems of nominal classification, often mentioned in descriptions, is that they function primarily in an anaphoric
way. What is often commented on by field linguists is the extent to which the use of
full lexical nouns is quite limited in discourse, in such a way that these affixes fulfill
the greatest part of the referent tracking process. This is discussed, for instance, in
Barnes (1990) for Tuyuca and in Payne (1986) for Yagua; it is also mentioned in the
overview article of Derbyshire and Payne (1990).
4.2. Movima noun class system
There was indeed information provided by Judy and Judy (1962a) pointing to the
existence of such a noun class system in Movima. Their listing of instances of what
they had called “descriptive-object pronouns” included for instance a number of different loci for these affixes, hinting at a concordial type of system typical of noun
class systems. Their “examples of their use” already presented in the first part of this
paper in (3) and (4) will be recalled here now to identify on which items such affixes
were said to be found:
(4) a
“examples of their use”
with the verb
(sota’ra ‘one’)
(choesni ‘ugly’)
(daujes ‘deer’)
(sonra ‘other’)
(oira ‘two’)
(mere’e ‘big’)
(beuni ‘mature’)
(tochi’i ‘small’)
(paco ‘dog’)
‘to soften’
riłaba ‘to soften a jug’
riła'oj ‘to iron’
with the verb
onarana ‘to know’
onamona ‘to know the bird’
onahuajna ‘to know the place’
onapoina ‘to know the animal’
From these examples one could assume that there was a concordial system, which
affected elements of the noun phrases such as numerals (3.1 and 3.5), adjectives (3.2,
3.6, 3.8), and determiners at large (3.4). No specific information was given on two
common categories of the noun phrase: possessives and demonstratives. It appeared
also that there was concord with the verb, at least for the objects of some transitive
verbs. Notice the element –poi– in the last example ‘to know the animal’ where one
can identify the semantic suffix for animals mentioned earlier (ex. 21). The examples
also included pointers to the existence of suffixes on nouns, which could correspond
to class markers on head nouns of noun class systems (3.3, 3.9). The pattern of use of
those suffixes suggested by the data from Judy and Judy’s material could therefore be
sketched out as (30) below:
[ N-SUFF Adj-SUFF Numeral-SUFF det-SUFF ]
[ V-SUFF ]
Such a pattern could receive two possible interpretations at first sight. One approach
consisted in considering it a matter of ‘multiple classifier systems’, with at least a
numeral classifier system (which often includes markings of adjectives and determiners) and a verbal classifier system. This was the approach taken in the initial analysis,
the one that led to the lack of interest in consciously checking the full pattern when
eliciting new data in 1995. The other could have been to consider it as a noun class
system from the start, with affixes on head nouns as well as concordial affixes of the
same nature on different elements of the clause.
This second noun class system analysis is imposing itself today, as much for
Movima as for a number of other Amazonian languages. The elements that were
there to suggest it a few years ago included: the multiple loci of affixation and the
fact that similar suffixes seemed to be used in the different loci. The typology of classifier systems relies, on the other hand, on the demonstration that distinct classifier
systems have distinct semantic profiles and distinct sets of classifiers (see Grinevald
In fact new data from 1995 included information that was not really compatible
with the analysis of a numeral classifier system. It was the presence of suffixes on
adjectives qualifying both count and mass nouns. Therefore, besides affixes on qualifiers of count nouns such as the ones found in (31) below (from O’Connor, p.c.
(31) a
‘the/a big one (animal)’
‘a big one (plantain)’
‘a big one (canoe)’
‘a big one (forest)’
there were examples involving mass nouns such as (32a, b):
(32) a
‘boiled (of water)’
‘boiled (of milk)’
‘strong (of wind)’
from mass NOUN
tomi ‘water’
nonlo ‘milk’
pawmuj ‘wind’
‘boiling (water)’
‘cold (water)’
‘muddy (water)’
As for the derivational properties of those suffixes, they were indirectly shown at
least in one example of the almost undecipherable tagmemic grammar of Judy and
Judy (1967: 393), which is reproduced below:
‘eat–nom–thing’ (food)
where -ra can be identified as the generic suffix found also on numerals out of context. The point of belaboring how the initial analysis of the Movima system mistakenly took it as a numeral classifier system, is to illustrate a case of partial blindness
one might suffer in the process of collecting and analyzing data that is probably more
common in field studies than admitted or identified. It is a reminder of the bind in
which field linguists often find themselves: without some sort of theoretical framework, chances are that interesting linguistic phenomena would remain untreated because they would easily go unnoticed, while too much of a theoretical bias can easily
blind one to the nature of the data at hand. Good descriptive linguistics is an art and
always a matter of balancing out being guided by but also guiding theoretical advances for a better understanding of the wealth of the languages of the world. Today
it seems clear that the analysis of the Movima nominal classification system has to be
taken within the more general framework being developed presently for such systems
of many languages of the Amazonian region, taken to be little grammaticalized noun
class systems. All the data collected in 1995 on their manifestation with numerals
therefore needs to be completed in the perspective of such an analysis to do it better
4.3. Conclusion
Movima has a productive nominal classification system. It would appear to be fairly
typical of the type of not very grammaticalized noun class systems found in languages of the Amazon region. It is a mixed system that functions mostly on the basis
of morphophonological characteristics and partly on the basis of some semantic organization.
The basic principle of the truncation of the source nouns that was demonstrated
is interesting in part for what it contributes to the study of one of the possible origins
of classification systems, showing them to be secondary linguistic systems which
develop from basic lexical material. The Movima case of truncation echoes other
studies showing the same phonological process increasingly identified as a trait of the
systems of the region, as well as in other parts of the world. It has been identified for
a number of lowland languages of this region of the world, see for instance Barnes
(1990) for Tuyuca, Payne (1986) for Yagua, and the other cases mentioned in Derbyshire and Payne (1990). The double process of truncation and reduplication in loanwords was taken to support the notion that the truncation, i.e. the process of dropping
at least one syllable, was the primary operation. This was shown in the fact that,
when there was a convergence of two constraints on the system, one being that a syllable be dropped, and the other being that the class suffix corresponding to loanwords
be two-syllable long, the solution was the reduplication of the only syllable left once
truncation had first applied, as the dominant process.
The mixed nature of the system, which functions in some cases morphophonologically and in others semantically needs further study. The morphophonological
truncation process points to a non-classificatory function of the suffix formation since
it produces potentially innumerable ‘unique’ class markers. As was argued, the apparent classes presented by Judy and Judy which regrouped items supposedly sharing
a same suffix were not really classes of items, but accidental regroupings which were
the result of the application of the truncation principle. The multiplication of homophonous suffixes was due in fact to the limited number of phonemes in the language and its simple inventory of basic syllable structures. The semantic classification of items seemed quite limited, but corresponds to what is known of classification
systems of the world. As Denny (1976) argued, they are meant to highlight the relation that humans have to the objects of their worlds, among which items of the animal and plant world are indeed the most important for survival. The semantic classes
mentioned are the most obvious ones, animals (four-legged and two-legged) and
vegetal (fruits and plants); they were the easiest to elicit but it remains to see whether
there might not be others at work in the language.
The dimension of the use of the same suffix for what appear to be derivational
and inflectional functions remains to be investigated. It would be a matter of systematically observing the basic denomination of objects of the world, to see to what extent the nominals of the language take themselves suffixes in their isolated form. In
the grammaticalized Niger-Congo noun class systems, all nouns enter in the system
and all are analyzed as having affixed class markers and participating in the system
of concordial marking. In Movima the process of head marking does not seem very
widespread but it is likely to exist to a greater extent than acknowledged here.
As for the use of the suffixation, much remains to be done. On the one hand all
loci need to be systematically checked, including demonstratives and possessives,
and on the other hand the phenomenon of counting objects in itself may warrant its
own study, for the richness of its constructions, and the apparent extensive variation
in their use in the language today.
It is to be hoped that such studies will contribute to justify in the eyes of the
general linguists the study of the languages of Bolivia, in particular those that are
genetic isolates. In this particular case of the study of a nominal classification system
in an isolate language, it is worth considering how much of the phenomenon is in fact
a reflection of an areal characteristic that is attracting increasing attention, as one of
the characteristics of so-called Amazonian languages. Finally, beyond strictly academic considerations of the kind just expressed, it needs to be said that the justification for such studies lies also largely in the expectation clearly expressed by interested members of this community of speakers. They have been asking for linguists to
come and work with them on their language so that they themselves learn to analyze
the intricacies of their language and include it in the pedagogical material they want
to produce. So may it be that this little essay on a fascinating aspect of their language
impulse further study in which they will fully participate.2
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Simon van de Kerke
University of Leiden/WOTRO
1. Introduction1
Leko used to be spoken widely on the Andean eastern slopes of the province of La Paz
in Bolivia. Today it is almost extinct. The last speakers have passed the age of 60. They
did not speak the language for over 40 years and did not pass the language on to their
children. The major published source on the language, apart from the small word lists
by Lázaro de Ribera (in Palau & Saíz 1989), Cardús (1886), Brinton (1946) and
Montaño Aragón (1987), is a Christian doctrine composed by the missionary Andrés
Herrero in the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Leko doctrine was published by
Lafone Quevedo (1905), who used it as the major source for a grammatical sketch of
the language. His work has remained the only serious analysis of Leko, since no other
linguistic study of the language was undertaken since then. In 1994, I was able to trace
some of the last speakers of the language and during visits in the following years I
gathered enough language data to extend the linguistic analysis presented in Lafone
Quevedo and publish a reinterpreted version of the Leko doctrine (van de Kerke 1999).
A first view of complex verb formation was presented in van de Kerke (1998) and the
purpose of the current article is to pursue this line of investigation, since I have collected much more reliable data since then.
2. The Leko language
In Grimes (1996) Leko, classified as an isolate, was reported to be extinct. However,
Montaño Aragón (1987) reported a number of speakers in the region of Atén and Apolo
in the province of Franz Tamayo and along the river Mapiri in the province of Larecaja,
both in the Andean foothills region (the eastern slopes), to the north of La Paz, Bolivia.
In 1994, responding to an appeal in Adelaar (1991) to investigate the possibility that
speakers of the Leko language might still survive, I undertook a fieldwork trip to
Bolivia. A thorough search in the region of Atén and Apolo was in vain, but I contacted
some elderly men and women on the Mapiri river, who in their youth had learned to
speak a language that, on the basis of the existing data, could be characterized as Leko.
Since then, ongoing fieldwork has produced much more language data. One of the
major problems is the fact that the Leko speakers do not feel free to enter into spontaneous conversation with each other, so most of my data are the result of elicitation.
I would like to thank the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO), a
subdivision of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), for financial support. H. van der
Voort and Mily Crevels were so kind to comment on a draft version of this article. An explanation of the
glosses that are used in the morphological analysis are given in a separate appendix.
Happily enough, in july 2001, a speaker2 whom I had contacted the year before, told me
a good number of spontaneously produced stories. Wherever possible I will use examples from these stories to illustrate the use of the different derivational suffixes. Tentatively, a number of ordering constraints of the suffixes will be discussed in section 5.
3. Complex verb formation in Leko
Leko belongs to the class of so called ‘agglutinative’ languages in which a complex
meaning may be expressed by means of a morphologically complex word. Complex
words consist of a root and a number of clearly recognizable morphemes with a
specific meaning. Apart from the addition of inflectional morphemes, which express
Person, Number, and Case (in the case of nouns) and Tense (in the case of verbs),
complex words may be formed by the addition of derivational morphemes and by
means of the compounding of roots. Whether and how these word formation processes may be distinguished is an unresolved question that has led to a number of
highly theory-dependent and language-specific answers. The distinction between
derivation and inflection is difficult to make when inflectional morphemes occur in
between clearly derivational morphemes. The same holds for the distinction between
derivation and compounding. The fact that a root is combined with another morpheme that may occur as a root in the language, is by itself no conclusive evidence
for the combination to be a compound, especially when other morphemes occur in
between them. Our knowledge of Leko is still so incomplete that it is premature to
take a firm stand on the question whether some complex verbs are the result of
derivation or of compounding. In the following I will present all the word formation
processes as derivational, although I am well aware of the fact that in the end a
number of them may be better analyzed as cases of compounding.
Unlike the neighbouring highland languages Quechua and Aymara with which it
shares a number of features, Leko has both suffixes and prefixes. Due to the fact that
until this year almost all data from Leko were gathered by means of elicitation and
due to the fact that the speakers had not spoken the language for over 40 years, the
number of affixes collected so far probably form a small subset of the affixes that
were used when the language was still in daily use. However, by scrutinizing the
collected data closely from time to time a new affix is discovered, the meaning and
position of which can be understood by subsequent elicitation. For example, apart
from the object markers that have already been treated in van de Kerke (2000), we
find in the set of prefixes the element ka- that expresses a subjunctive: it refers to
unrealized but possible states of affairs. In the set of suffixes, we find a number of
elements that may be described as derivational in nature. They are meaning and/or
valency changing and are reminiscent of equivalent sets of elements, both in meaning
and in position, in many other languages that rely on verbal derivation to form
complex verbal expressions. As far as position in the verbal complex is concerned,
Cerilo Figueredo, who was born in Karura around 65 years ago and who still lives there.
they can be identified as elements that occur in between the verb root and an inflectional element, which can be either verbal like tense or a nominalizing suffix. This
leads to the possibly arbitrary decision that an element like -chi that mitigates an
imperative, which forms part of the inflectional system, is treated as derivational. A
suffix like -sin, an equivalent of untranslatable particles like English ‘then’ and
Spanish ‘pues’, is not, since it follows the imperative suffix:
1. a.
ka- yin-
k’o -chi -a
‘He should eat it on my behalf’
yin- k’o -a -sin
1DAT eat IMP ‘then’
‘Eat it on my behalf, then’
Besides clearly inflectional elements like imperative -a, I will analyse -no as inflectional, too. In earlier papers on the language I have presented -no as an indicative
marker, the suffix being in complementary distribution with the negative marker -in.
However, I now tend to analyze it as a nominalizing element since it can be followed
by a case marker. Note, for example the dative marker -ki in lulchanoki in (2), which
is the head of the object phrase ber kallapote lulchanoki ‘the one passing on a raft’,
the complement of the main verb dosoqchano ‘he was looking at’:
kala -ra do- soq -cha -no (-te3) ber kallapo-te lul -cha -no -ki
beach LOC 3OB look DUR NOM (MT) one raft
‘From the beach he (yobora 'my friend') was looking at someone else passing
on a raft’ (the beach story)
The same holds for the suffix -a, which I used to analyze as a part of the past tense
marker, but that can better be analyzed as a nominalizing element: a past participle.
There is still a lot we do not know about Leko, but on the basis of the data I collected
during my fieldwork we can obtain a first impression of the role of the derivational
suffixes in this hardly studied Bolivian ‘pie de monte’ language.
4. Derivational suffixes in Leko
4.1. –cho ‘feel like’
The suffix -cho is glossed as ‘desiderative’, but that is only one part of the meaning
complex, the idea of which is better expressed by ‘to feel like’. As a lexical verb it
I used to analyze the suffix -te as the third person main tense marker. I now analyze it as a tense marker
'pur sang', the third person marker being zero. In colloquial speech -te is easily dropped. Therefore, one
could also analyze dosoqchano as a nominalized clause in apposition to the noun yobora ‘my friend’. This
would lead to the interpretation: ‘my friend, the one looking from the beach at the one passing on a raft’.
expresses the idea ‘to hurt’. It must be realized immediately after the root and it is
restricted to bases that express express mental or physical states: ‘be in pain’, ‘feel
sad’, ‘be hungry’, etc.:
sok’och chikala lais soncho -no
-cho -no
very well well smell NOM be hungry DESID NOM
‘The food smelled very nice, he felt hungry’ (the bear story)
The concept of mental or physical state has to be understood broadly since a verb like
sisich ‘to sleep’ is also a target for suffixation:
-cho -no
‘I feel like sleeping’
I encountered a great number of combinations of -cho with the adjective lais ‘good’.
This suggests that the suffix can turn adjectives into verbs:
lais -cho -no
-te charki lais -cho -no utu -no on charki
well DESID NOM MT dry meat well DESID NOM fat NOM that dry meat
‘It was very good, the dried meat, very good, fat it was, the dried meat’ (the
wild boar story)
4.2. The ‘Motion’ modifiers
Modification of motion verbs by means of suffixes is a well known characteristic of
languages in the region, like Quechua and Aymara, and Leko is no exception. Motion
verbs that are not inherently specified for the direction in which the motion takes
place, are marked as such by means of motion modifiers. Frequently occuring are
‘upward’, ‘downward’, ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ motion. The first three of these are
attested in spontaneous speech.
4.2.1. -su(ri) ‘upward motion’
do- to -suri -a has
3OB put UP IMP below ABL
‘Throw it from below’
soboto hekor bat -tha -te chaka -su -no
kawot -tha
insect outside tree DIM LOC sit
UP NOM above DIM
‘Outside in a little tree the insect sits high, a little bit high’ (the soboto story)
4.2.2. -sa(ri) ‘downward motion’
kawot -rep4 do- to -sari -a has
above ABL 3OB put DOWN IMP below
‘Throw it down from above’
ho cha
wela -ra yin- to -sari -tan on moo lelwo
this three arrow LOC 1DAT put DOWN OBL that monster
‘With these three arrows you have to put down for me that monster’ (the story
of the lord of the animals)
4.2.3. -sori ‘inward motion’
ho cha
kura wet -a ho -ra wet -no ho- to -sori -ko dowa -ra
this three priest die PP this LOC die NOM 3OB put INTO EXH river LOC
`These three priests have died, they died here, let’s throw them in the river’
(the story of the three fathers)
kandado e
-ri -m ha- amphas -sori -a on pilpuq -aya -ki sor se
pull INC PRP 3OB push
INTO PP that door PL DAT in
‘Pulling out the lock, he pushed the doors inward’ (the story of the three fathers)
Although I tried to find the missing ‘outward motion’, I could not get my informants
to form an acceptable utterance like ‘he walked out of the house’ other than by using
the free verb ubusich ‘to leave’ in combination with the place adverb hekor ‘outside’:
wonon -mo ubus -cha -no
walk PRP leave DUR NOM
‘He leaves walking outside’
Whilst searching for ‘outward motion’, I was confronted with some other motion
modifiers, which give us a clear indication of how these suffixes may have emerged:
via a process of verb incorporation. Contrasting pairs show that the same lexeme may
be used either as a free verb or as a suffix. In (14a) and (15a) we find the independent
verbs wari- ‘to climb a slope’ and hori- ‘to enter’ in combination with a motion verb
in the present participle, in (14b) and (15b) we find the same motion verb in combination with -wari and -hori, that now funcion as a suffix.
At least after nasals the case markers -ra and -rep change to -da and -dep, just like the inceptive marker -ri
and the future marker -ra change to -di and -da All informants use -rep as the ablative marker, but Cerilo
Figueredo also uses the marker -bet. This is an intriguing fact, since in van de Kerke(2000) I already noted the
possible link of -rep with the ablative marker in Cholón -(llac)-tep. A similar link may be stipulated for -bet.
4.2.4. -wari ‘upward motion’
The difference with ‘upward motion’ -suri is a difference in grade. While -suri
indicates a relatively vertical upward motion, -wari indicates upward motion on a
on wotha wari
-m on -da tintatinta laq
-a -te era -iki
peel bark PP MT I
that hill
move up PRP that LOC tree
‘Climbing the hill, I peeled the bark from the tintatinta (tree) for me’ (story of
the tintatinta tree)
So, we obtain the contrast between two independent verbs or one derived compounded verb:
(14) a.
wonon -mo wotha wari -no -te
walk PRP
‘Walking he climbs the hill’
wotha wonon -wari -no -te
walk UP
‘He walks the hill up’
4.2.5. -hori ‘inward motion’
The verb ho- means ‘to enter’. Used as a suffix in combination with ‘inceptive’ -ri, it
marks ‘motion into’:
(15) a.
on kachu ho
-ri -no -te heboa -ra se -m
that bird enter INC NOM MT nest LOC fly PRP
`The bird enters the nest flying’
on kachu se -hori -no -te heboa -ra
that bird fly INTO NOM MT nest LOC
`The bird flies into the nest’
4.3. -ri ‘inceptive’
The ‘inceptive’ character of the suffix -ri may mark that an action is going to take
place, cf. (16). In other cases it has related meanings, such as changing a stative verb
like huchich ‘to be the end’ into a process verb huchirich ‘to come to an end’, as in
yo- yo
-ki yin- hal -di -ra -no -te wes
tomorrow 1SG mother GEN 1DAT buy INC FUT NOM MT Huanay LOC
‘Tomorrow my mother will go and buy me (a new one) in Huanay.’
on saltaqwo -ne chika hel
topaq ki- chinwa -ra
TOP very brilliant back 3SG nose LOC
that insect
huch-ri -a -ra hote -te siri -aya
end INC PP LOC have MT eyes PL
‘That flying insect has a very brilliant back, where its nose ends it has its eyes’
(the saltaqwo story)
4.4. -hi ‘completive’
The completive aspect that is marked by the suffix -hi relates to different concepts of
completedness. It indicates that a process is completed:
yo- moki warsuch tiltil -hi
-no -te
1 GEN trousers old CMPL NOM MT
`My trousers are completely used.’
on -ne vasias -a -te -am it -ki
-a -te kaldera
that TOP empty PP MT 1PL full CAUS CMPL PP MT container
‘That one we have emptied, we have completely filled the container’ (the
story of the sugarmill)
Completive aspect is also attested in the next example, but in a different way. Here it
relates to the concept of completedness in respect to the set of elements that either
performs the action (Agents) or on which the action is performed (Patients). It is quite
logical that in such cases one also encounters the universal quantifier seneng ‘all’:
seneng se -hi
-a -ra decien se -ra -no -te on suma lito
fly CMPL PP LOC then
fly FUT NOM MT thay big
‘When they have flown all, then that queen mother will fly (the ant story)
ni ber noq- bes
-in mo -no -te senen kin- k’o -hi
-a polo
not one PL? wake NEG say NOM MT all
3DAT eat CMPL PP puma
‘Not one (mule) did wake up, it is said, the puma(s) had eaten them all to his
detriment’ (the bear story)
4.5. -har/-handa ‘again, to come to’
The semantics of -har (and its allomorph -handa) are far from clear, but elicited
examples suggest the implication of ‘motion’ prior to action:
do- woy -di -a sok’och men -cha -no -te k’o -har -ai
3OB call INC IMP food
‘Go and call him, the food is getting cold, he must come to eat (it)’
In the text material I only encountered examples where -har was combined with the
verb nech ‘to exist, to be’, in which cases it expresses that a former state of affairs
has come into existence again. In the following example the speaker could have used
wilkach ‘to return’, but that would have been different from ‘to be there again’:
on yobas -ne contento ko- noko -aya ne -har -no
-aya -te -s
3 brother PL be COME NOM PL MT PL
that man TOP happy
‘That man felt happy, his brothers showed up again’ (the story of the lord of
the animals)
4.6. –somo ‘at once’
The semantics of the suffix -somo appear to be very complex, but in a number of
contexts it indicates that an action is performed immediately or in a hurry:
hap k’eso do- hoq
-somo -a ka
viper (type) 3OB swallow IMM PP be
‘The viper has swallowed the rat at once’
-te thunu -ki
chera samas -no -te -am perol primera to -somo -a khiri -te
NOM MT 1PL pan
put IMM PP oven LOC
‘We rest, (but) first we have put at once the pan on the fire’ (how to make
4.7. –bats ‘almost’
The semantics of the suffix -bats is not yet clear, since it is a rarely used suffix.
However, the few examples I obtained suggest that it may be used in contexts where
English would use the adverbial element ‘almost’, As in English, we find that the
scope of the adverbial element may be either on the object as in (26), or on the action
expressed by the verb, as in (27):
thunu -aya senen aros k'o -hi
-bats -a
PL all
rice eat CMPL NEAR PP
'The rats have eaten almost all the rice'
-te -s
polo -ki ber puñete di- ki
-a di- kis -bats -a mo -no -te
puma DAT one punch 3OB make PP 3OB kill NEAR PP say NOM MT
‘He gave the puma a punch, it is said that he almost killed him’ (the bear
4.8. -mo ‘reciprocal’
The suffix -mo, homophonous with the present participle, combines with transitive
action verbs, the thematic grid of which contains both an Agent and an animate
Patient. It then indicates that these two animate entities perform one and the same
action with respect to each other. In combination with ditransitive verbs with an
animate third argument (the Goal), like kuch ‘to give’ and maytasich ‘to lend’, the
reciprocal relation holds typically between the Agent and the Goal.
yobas -aya yanapas -mo -no
-aya -te ta balich -ki
NOM PL MT corn plant DAT
man PL
‘The men help each other to plant corn’
With a number of verbs the reciprocal marker forms semi-lexicalized derivations:
‘speak to’
In reciprocal constructions one usually finds the two (or more) participants in the
reciprocal action as subject of the verb:
abor -mo -a mo -no
ka -te ber tropa wutili ber tropa ch’owe
meet REC PP say NOM be MT one group wutili one group ch’owe
‘It is said that they met again, one group of wutili one group of chowe (two
different species of monkey) (the monkey story)
However, especially with the semi-lexicalized reciprocal verbs, one of the actors can
be realized as the subject while the other is realized as a comitative complement:
kibi kel -mo -cha -ra k’eso -i, ni haka do- soq -in -kama -te
he hit REC DUR LOC snake COM nobody 3OB look NEG be able MT
‘When he is fighting with the snake, nobody can look at him’ (the ‘soboto’
In the next fragment we find an unexpected use of the reciprocal marker with the
verb wasuch ‘to close’ which can be understood when we realize that doors in many
cases consist of two parts, here explicitly expressed by mentioning on toi korwa ‘the
two doors’:
wasu -a mo -no won wasu -mo -a
close PP say NOM house close REC PP
toi candado lewa
two lock
toi candado toq -a yawis -a mo -no ka -te, on toi korwa
two lock
put PP key
PP say NOM be MT that two door
‘He (the king), it is said, closed the house, he closed it (together), he hung two
locks, he put two locks, he closed them with a key, it is said, the two doors
(the story of the three fathers)
As I have argued in van de Kerke (1998), there is no reflexive marker in the language. When an object complement is not overtly expressed, the absence of an object
marker on transitive verbs is understood as an implicit reflexive.
4.9. ‘Higher verbs’
It may be the result of influence from Spanish that speakers of Leko use the same
‘higher verb’ roots, either as infinitival complements or as derivational suffixes. So
the string yisisich kich rainte ‘they do not want to let me sleep’ in (33), has almost the
same meaning as yisiskirainte:
on bel -aya era -iki lais yi- sis
-ich ki
-ch ra -in -te
DAT well 1OB sleep INF make INF want NEG MT
that bat PL I
‘Those bats do not want to let me sleep well’ (the story of the three fathers)
Note the, from the viewpoint of argument structure, unexpected placement of the
object marker yi- on the lowest verb sisich ‘sleep’. As an argument of the verb kich
‘to make’, the object marker should have been realized on this verb. This is seen in
the next example in which the speaker makes use of the Spanish loan dejar ‘to let’ as
a higher verb, on which the object marker is realized:
ho -ra bel -aya -te ye- dejas -in -te sis
-ich -ne
this LOC bat PL MT 1OB let
‘There are bats here, they do not let me sleep’ (the story of the three fathers)
4.9.1. -ki ‘causative’
The lexeme ki- ‘to make’ or ‘to let’ can be used as a free verb selecting a nominal or
verbal complement, as in (33), or as a causative verbal suffix with the same meaning:
o- botha -tha -ki
do- ko
2SG brother DIM DAT 3OB drink CAUS IMP
‘Make your little brother drink.’
... hasta wakia -ra ho
-m noka
until hole LOC enter PRP how
ubus -ki
-no -te -aska
ber -ki ber -ki he- hepka -m hi- kis -no -te senen
one DAT one DAT 3OB grab PRP 3OB kill NOM MT all
‘(that soboto kills) even entering the hole, how would he make them get out,
grabbing them by for one, he kills them all’ (the ‘soboto’ story)
4.9.2. -ra ‘future’
So far a special inflectional suffix to mark future tense has not been encountered in
Leko. To refer to future events speakers make use of the derivational suffix -ra which
I suppose to be related to the free verb dach ‘to want’. In many instances it is realized
as rach, and it can also have a future connotation, the meaning ‘to want’ being linked
to the idea of ‘unrealized’. As a free verb dach takes either a nominal or an infinitival
complement. So as equivalent phrases are accepted:
(37) a
on yobas yo- won -ki -ra sis
-ra -no -te
tomorrow that man 1 house GEN LOC sleep FUT NOM MT
‘That man will sleep tomorrow in my house’
on yobas yo- won -ki -ra sis
-ich da -no -te
tomorrow that man 1 house GEN LOC sleep INF want NOM MT
‘That man wants to sleep/will sleep tomorrow in my house’
The following two sentences are produced in the context of storytelling and clearly
show the future/unrealized character of -ra:
es -ra -no -te cha
wison -da es -ra -no -te
rain FUT NOM MT three day
‘It will rain, within three days it will rain’ (the ant story)
dingu -i era din- somdu -ra -no -too cuento kulew -moki cuento
gringo COM I
3OB speak FUT NOM 1MT story vulture GEN story
‘I will tell a story to the gringo, the story of the vulture’ (vulture story)
4.10. -cha ‘durative’
The fact that actions or processes are ongoing is expressed by means of durative
wachi ne -a o- yo
-ki sis
-cha -no -te
silent be IMP 2 mother GEN sleep DUR IND MT
‘Shut your mouth, your mother is sleeping’
yo -moki choswai moa mo -ki
-a nohal -cha -no -te warapu
1 GEN woman fire fire CAUS PP boil DUR NOM MT cane juice
‘My wife has made fire, she is boiling the sugar cane juice’ (how to make
There is an obvious link with the durative marker in Quechua which in various dialects is realized as : -chka,
-cha, -ša, or -sa. Note that the nominal diminutive marker -cha in Quechua is realized in Leko as -tha.
4.11. -chi ‘politeness’
When speakers want to soften the imperative character of their requests, they can use
the suffix -chi:
lulaq yin- ura
-a ka -te yi- siri -ra de- e
-chi -a
1DAT enter PP be MT 1 eye LOC 3OB pull MIT IMP
‘A bee has entered my eye, please pull it out’
4.12. Mood
The syntax and semantics of the following two suffixes is still badly understood. I
assume that they form part of the ‘mood’ system of the language; normally an
extremely complex matter. The impossibility of combining them with the nominalizer
-no is a quite striking, although not understood, phenomenon: -kama-te or -bibi-te
and never *-kama-no-te or *-bibi-no-te.
4.12.1. -kama6 ‘be able’
As one might expect the verbal suffix -kama has also a free variant with the same
meaning. The derived form lamkas-in-kama-te-am in (43) may also be realized as
lamkas-ich kama-in-te-am.
chika es -cha -no -te lamkas -in -kama -te -am
very rain DUR NOM MT work
‘It’s raining cats and dogs, we can’t work’
on -ka
te -in -kama -te ni te -in -kama -too on -ka
that COMP live NEG BE ABLE MT not live NEG BE ABLE 1MT that COMP
heka te -in -kama -te -noq heka -asne lais te -ch -moki
you live NEG BE ABLE MT 2PL
you too
well live INF GEN
‘Like that one cannot live, nor I can live, like that you cannot live you also
(should choose) to live right (the story of the monkeys)
Another example can be found in (31).
4.12.2. –bibi ‘almost’
I assume that the suffix -bibi is a mood marker. Almost always my informant added
the Spanish adverbial casi ‘almost’ to underline the uncertainty of the expression.
Apart from that, -bibi may occur in a paratactic construction. It is realized as a main
verb, while the sentence which it modifies is realized independently, cf. (45b):
It is an interesting question whether there exists a link between the root kama as a verb and a verbal
suffix, and the case marker -kama that indicates a limit in space or time.
(45) a
bat -te waqa -m (casi)
kel -bibi -te
tree LOC climb PRP (almost) fall almost MT
‘Climbing into the tree, he might fall/almost fell’
bibi -te kaldera lelda -cha -no
moa -te
almost MT pan
burn DUR NOM fire LOC
‘It is almost/may be the case that the pan is burning on the fire’
The little information I have on this suffix is all the result of elicitation, so care has to
be taken with these data. Much more attention has to be paid to the complex nature of
mood in the language.
5. The order of the verbal suffixes
In the present state of knowledge of the language, it is dangerous to make explicit
statements on the order of the verbal suffixes. My knowledge of Leko is only based
on elicited information from a small number of informants and on the analysis of
spontaneous speech of not more than two informants. Furthermore we have to keep
in mind that all informants have to rely mainly on memories from their childhood.
Apart from that, we have to realize that the use of the verbal modifiers may be
restricted by the fact that all speakers are using Spanish as the language for daily use,
and that Spanish is not a language in which verbal derivation occurs frequently. It
should also be mentioned that other languages, which are of the same linguistic type
as Leko, do not make use of verbal suffixes all the time either. In my research of
Bolivian Quechua (van de Kerke1996) I found that of all the verbal types in a quite
large transcribed Quechua corpus some 35% consisted only of a verb root, 45% of a
verb root with one derivational suffix, leaving 20% for the combinations of a verb
root with two or more derivational suffixes. So, by nature, affix combinations seem te
be restricted and it is to be expected that it is one of the language features that is
strongly affected by the process of language loss.
However, in a number of cases, grammatical judgements on the impossibility of
certain affix combinations were very outspoken, while a number of other affix
combinations is well attested in my data. Of course, the latter all involve combinations of suffixes that are regularly used. Happily enough this group is relatively large.
The following suffixes that have been presented in the present article are regularly
used: -cho, -ri, -ra, -ki, -mo, -hi, -cha, -kama and -chi. The other suffixes:-somo,
-bats, -bibi, -har/-handa, and the direction markers show up infrequently.
It has already been noted that ‘desiderative’ -cho must be realized immediately
after the root. It is followed by ‘inceptive’ -ri. In between is a position for the direction markers, which all involve the suffix -ri, as we have seen. As regards the ‘aspectual’ markers, at least -hi, and possibly -somo, -bats and -har, are followed by
‘reciprocal’ -mo. This last suffix can be encountered at either side of the ‘higher
verbs’, ‘future’ -ra and ‘causative’ -ki. The mood markers -kama and -bibi do show
up at the end of the suffix string. This also holds for the ‘politeness’ marker -chi.
Adelaar, W.F.H.
1991 ‘The Endangered Languages Problem: South America’, in: R.H. Robins and
E.M. Uhlenbeck (eds.) Endangered Languages, Oxford: Berg Publishers.
Brinton, D.G.
1946 The American Race, Biblioteca Americanista, Buenos Aires: Editorial Nova,
Imprenta López.
Cardús, Fr. José OFM
1886 Las Misiones Fransiscanas entre los Infieles de Bolivia: descripción del estado
de ellas en 1883 y 1884, Barcelona: Librería de la Inmaculada Concepcíon.
Grimes, B.F.
1996 Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 11th edn., Dallas: SIL.
Kerke, S. van de
1996 Affix Order and Interpretation in Bolivian Quechua, Doct. Diss. University of
1998 ‘Verb Formation in Leko: Causatives, Reflexives, and Reciprocals’, in: L.
Kulikov and H. Vater (eds.) Typology of Verbal Categories, Linguistische Arbeitsberichte 382, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, pp. 195-203.
1999 ‘A 19th Century Doctrine in the Leko Language’, in: S. Dedenbach-Salazar and
L. Crickmay (eds.) The Language of Christianisation in Latin America: Catechisation and Instruction in Amerindian Languages, BAS 20/CIASE 29, Markt
Schwaben: Saurwein, pp. 115-150.
2000 ‘Case Marking in the Leko Language’, in: H. van der Voort and S. van de Kerke
(eds.) Indigenous Languages of Lowland South America, ILLA 1, Leiden:
CNWS, pp. 25-39.
Lafone Quevedo, S.A.
1905 ‘La Lengua Leca’, Anales de la Sociedad Científica Argentina, tomo 60.
Montaño Aragón, M.
1987 Guía Etnográfica Lingüística de Bolivia, La Paz: Don Bosco.
Palau, M. and B. Saíz
1989 Moxos, descripciones exactas e historia fiel de los indios, animales y plantas de
la provincia de Moxos en el virreinato del Perú por Lázaro de Ribera 17861794, Ministerio de Agricultura y Alimentación, La Paz: El Viso.
Appendix: Glosses used in the text
Person marker
BE ABLE be able
Inward motion
Main Tense
Past Participle
Pres. Participle
Upward motion
Sérgio Meira
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
1. Introduction
The Cariban language family is composed of approximately 25 languages (numbers
ranging from 20 to 50, depending on different researchers’ opinions about which
varieties are dialects and which are independent languages), spoken by approximately
100,000 people in lowland South America, from south-eastern Colombia (where
Karihona is spoken) to the Oiapoque river in Brazil (Karinya), from the coast of the
Guianas (Karinya) down to the southern Xingu area in central Brazil (Bakairí).
The field of comparative Cariban studies was initiated more than two hundred
years ago, when the relationship between a number of Cariban languages was first
noticed by Filippo Salvadore Gilij (1782). Unfortunately, the historical-comparative
method has been only very rarely applied to Cariban languages, for two main
reasons: (1) most of the languages are, to this day, poorly known, which means that
there is very little reliable material to compare; (2) most people who compared
Cariban languages were not trained comparativists. Girard (1971) remains the only
methodical attempt at reconstructing Proto-Cariban lexical items and proposing a
classification (unfortunately based on a still very poor data base). In the area of
morphosyntax, Gildea (1998) presents the first reconstruction of the person-marking
and tense-aspect-mood (TAM) systems of Proto-Cariban and their syntactic
The present work attempts to contribute to the development of historical studies
in the Cariban family by presenting a first preliminary reconstruction of the
pronominal system of Proto-Cariban (including non-third-person and third-person, i.e.
anaphoric and demonstrative, pronouns). For this purpose, the available sources (cf.
Table 1 below) were scanned in search of pronouns, which were then sorted in
cognate sets (Tables 2-4), according to what is known about the sound
correspondences between Cariban languages (taking Girard 1971 as a guide), so as to
draw conclusions on the historical evolution of these forms.
In Section 2 below, the sources and standardized transcription are introduced.
Section 3 has a summary discussion of pronouns in Cariban languages, which is the
main background for the rest of the paper. The actual reconstructions are discussed in
This paper is a revised version of a short comparison of Cariban demonstrative systems that was
presented at the 50th International Congress of Americanists in Warsaw. It includes a significant amount
of new material, and discusses also non-third-person pronouns. I wish to thank Hein van der Voort and
Mily Crevels for comments on an earlier version, and Ana Carla Bruno and Bruna Franchetto for sharing
their data. Any remaining mistakes are, of course, my own.
Sections 3.1 (non-third-person pronouns) and 3.2 (third-person pronouns). In Section
4, a summary table presents the reconstructed forms, followed by some further
speculative comments on the relationships between these forms.
2. Sources and transcription
Sources on Cariban languages, as is the case with most other language families in
lowland South America, are very different in their level of reliability, accuracy, and
breadth of coverage. For some languages, the best available sources are word lists
from the last century; for others, there are recently published high-quality
grammatical descriptions and occasionally even dictionaries. In view of that, the
actual availability of data was a factor of importance in the selection of the languages
to compare. Table 1 contains a list of the languages and sources selected for this
study. Data from the best sources (marked with ‘++’ in Table 1) is assumed to be
good in all respects; missing pronouns from these sources will thus be considered as
non-existent. The less good sources (marked with ‘+’ in Table 1), and especially the
worst sources (unmarked), are less reliable, and need to be handled with care. Mistranscriptions and inadequate phonological analyses are a real danger; missing
pronouns may in many cases actually result from gaps in the data.
Meira 1999, 2000; fn
++ Tamanaku
Gilij 1965[1782]
++ Cumanagoto Yangues 1683, Ruiz Blanco 1690
Karihona Robayo 1987, 2000a; fn
++ Chayma
Tauste 1680
Hixkaryana Derbyshire 1979, 1985
++ Pemón
Armellada & Olza 1994
Hawkins 1998; fn
++ Taurepán
Koch-Grünberg 1916
Katxuyana fn; Gildea’s fn
Abbott 1991, Amodio & Pira 1996
Hoff 1968, Mosonyi 1978 ++ Ingarikó
Koch-Grünberg 1916
Koehn & Koehn 1986; fn ++ Arekuna
Edwards 1977; Koch-Grünberg 1916 +
Jackson 1972; fn
++ Akawayo
Edwards 1977; fn
De’kwana Hall 1988
Muller 1994
Yawarana Méndez-Arocha 1959
Pacheco 1997; Gildea’s fn
Vengamián 19781
Souza 1992
WaimiríBruno 1996; Bruno’s fn
Steinen 1892, Wheatley 1973, 1978 +
Franchetto’s fn
Table 1. Cariban languages and sources considered in this work. he ‘+’ signs mark the best sources; fn =
field notes (Meira’s if unidentified). The dotted lines identify probable lower-level genetic subgroups.2
The different transcription systems of the various sources have been standardized to
facilitate comparisons. Certain details have been ignored (e.g. Koch-Grünberg’s
A couple of forms also from Robayo (2000b).
Tiriyó, Akuriyó, and Karihona were classified together already in Girard (1971) and in Kaufman
(1994); Meira (2000) proposed the name Taranoan for this subgroup and reconstructed part of the
grammar and vocabulary. Gildea (pers. comm.; cf. also 1998:91-96) considers Hixkaryana, Waiwai, and
Katxuyana a subgroup, which he named Parukotoan. The other groupings, present in Girard (1971) and
Kaufman (1994), contain very closely related languages or dialects.
attempt at marking non-phonemic distinctions between [e], [E] and [o], [ç], here transcribed simply as e, o; his stress marks — á, é, etc. — were also left out). The
symbols in need of explanation are: ï = IPA [ˆ], ë = [´], j = [j] (a palatal glide, English
y), χ = [x], γ = [ƒ] (velar fricatives), ’ = [/], ñ = [¯], x = [S], tx = [tS]. Sequences of
identical vowels (aa, ee, etc.) are phonetically long.
The language names, which often vary from source to source, have been
respelled here for clarity, avoiding language-specific uses (‘Karihona’ instead of the
Spanish ‘Carijona’). Names with final stress have a diacritic mark (e.g. Makushí,
Apalaí); the others have penultimate stress (e.g. Arekuna, Akawayo = Arekúna,
3. Cariban pronominal systems
A typical Cariban system has pronouns for: first person (1), second person (2), first
person dual inclusive (1+2), first person exclusive (1+3),3 and third person (3). In
terms of number, Cariban languages oppose ‘collective’ (i.e. focus on a group) vs.
‘non-collective’ (i.e. focus on less than a group, but not necessarily a single
individual). Usually, there is a second person collective pronoun (2Col), based on the
non-collective form plus a collective ending, a first person inclusive collective
(1+2Col), based on the first person dual inclusive form, and third-person collectives;
the first person exclusive form (1+3) is unmarked for number. Note that the firstperson pronoun does not have a collective form; semantically, the 1+3 and 1+2Col
forms play this role.
The third-person pronouns form a relatively complicated system, including anaphoric and demonstrative (proximal, medial, distal) forms which, along with number
(collective vs. non-collective), distinguish also animacy.
Derbyshire (1999:53-54) gives a first comparative overview of Cariban
pronominal systems. For the sake of convenience, we shall follow his system of
separating non-third-person from third-person pronouns as two subsystems, discussed
in Sections 3.1 and 3.2, respectively.
3.1. Non-third-person forms
The pronominal forms to be compared, from the sources in Table 1, are listed in
Table 2 below. As can be seen, they seem to form good cognate sets.
The first-person forms can be first divided in those that end in ro or rë, and
those that do not. The same syllable is present at the end of other pronouns in many
other languages. Considering its frequency (14 occurrences), one might feel tempted
to reconstruct it, at least to some intermediate level. However, for the following
reasons, this is not a good idea: (i) this syllable has no clear cognates in the other
languages (the final wï found in several languages cannot be compared to ro ~ rë,
Syntactically, the 1+3 form is treated as a third person (e.g. verbs agree with it as if it were a third
person pronoun); one wonders if it could have been an old non-possessible noun (cf. e.g. Brazilian
Portuguese a gente ‘we’, literally ‘the people’).
since there is no regular w : r correspondence in the Cariban family); (ii) it has an
obvious source in the ‘emphatic’ particle ro or rë, synchronically attested in most
Cariban languages (e.g. Tiriyó wïï ‘I’, wïï rë ‘really me’, ‘yes, that’s me’; cf. Hoff
1990:508 for ro in Karinya [Carib of Surinam], Derbyshire 1985:250 for ro in
Hixkaryana). It seems best to assume that the endings ro and rë result from the
reanalysis of the emphatic particle as part of the stem (much like otros in Spanish
nosotros, vosotros).4
awï, awë
awï, aa
ure, utxe
uγ e
amo, amor
amï, amïrï
omro, omo
e(e)γ e
you and I
kïχ ko
kïm wooro
juto, juta
kukuγ e
we excl.
ina, nja
tisuγ e
all of us
kïχ kaaro
ugro mo
ugoro mo
all of you
amora, amoja
omro mo
amaγ o
Table 2. Cariban non-third-person pronouns. Elements in parentheses did not occur consistently.
Interestingly, in Hixkaryana, the new first-person pronoun uro has given rise to a new first-person
prefix ro-, r- (e.g. ro-jïmï ‘my father’), which has replaced an earlier Proto-Cariban *u- (cf. Gildea 1998).
Note also that the final syllable ro, rë occurs as rï in Makushí and Arekuna (cf. below for Makushí ë > ï),
and as γ e in Kuhikuru (for which γ : r and e : ë are also regular correspondences: cf. Kuhikuru uγ u
‘manioc bread’, tehu ‘stone’, Tiriyó uru, tëpu). The cases of re (Pemón, Ingarikó, Tamanaku,
Cumanagoto, Chayma) are certainly mistranscriptions of rë.
Hoff (1968) and Mosonyi (1978) describe mutually intelligible dialects of the same language (‘Carib’
for Hoff, ‘Cariña’ for Mosonyi), here labeled ‘Karinya’. They are here treated independently (Hoff’s as
Karinya-Hf, Mosonyi’s as Karinya-Ms) because their pronouns differ in form.
If we ignore the final ro or rë, all first-person forms seem to contain a w, or a reflex of
it in the form of the vowel u; the longer forms contain a preceding and a following
vowel (*VwV). The second vowel can be reconstructed as ï, and the cases of u can be
seen as the result of vowel loss and syllable reduction (*Vwï > Vu > u). The first
vowel, however, is a more difficult case: there are forms beginning with a, o, ë and ï.
Such problematic vowel correspondences are not infrequent in Cariban languages, due
to (often irregular) vowel assimilation (cf. Girard 1971:79). A final reconstruction
must wait for better lower-level comparisons. For a tentative reconstruction, consider
that: (a) ï is often the result of the weakening of an earlier vowel in Cariban
languages, possibly as a first step in the process of syllable reduction and loss
(Gildea, pers. comm.; cf. Gildea 1995 on Cariban syllable reduction); (b) ë and o
seem to be diachronically related (cf. the second-person pronouns in Table 2), so that
the ë- and o-initial forms are probably not independent. Taking (a) and (b) into
account, *a is the best tentative reconstruction: with a following w, an *a > o
assimilation would be much more natural than *o > a (cf. Gildea 1998:83-84 for a
similar argument concerning the reconstruction of the second-person prefix *a(j)-).
Tentatively, one could suggest a protoform *awï.
Three problematic details remain, for which some suggestions are presented
here. (1) Tiriyó ïï is probably the result of a metrical reanalysis of pronoun–clitic
sequences: e.g. Pre-Tiriyó *ëwï rë ‘really me’ would go from [´VÆ@:}´] to [VÆ@:}´] by
losing the initial vowel, at which point the surface long vowel would be reanalyzed as
underlying ïï (or else it would become short — [Vˆ}´] —, as in all CVCV words; cf.
Meira 1998, 1999 on the stress system), thus yielding wïï rë. (2) The initial j in Panare,
Pemón, Makushí, and Taurepán may result from the resyllabification of an earlier
*Vw > *ïw sequence (e.g. *ïwï rë > *ïu rë > juurï).6 (3) Chayma txe is rather
puzzling; one might suggest that an element txe was added to an earlier *u (still
attested in u-re), maybe by analogy with the 1+2 form kutxe (but note that the txe in
kutxe is also of mysterious origin).
In the second-person forms, one can again exclude the final syllables that reflect
the particle ro ~ rë: ro, rë, rï, re, γ e, and also Waimirí ra and De’kwana dë
(De’kwana d often corresponds to r in other languages: cf. jïwïïdï ‘tapir’, Tiriyó
ïwïrï). Panare n is also a likely reflex of an earlier rë; cf. Panare tunkë ‘horsefly’,
akuñ ‘agouti’, Tiriyó turëkë, akuri. The cases of long vowels in the second syllable
(Karinya, Taurepán, Ingarikó, Arekuna) are probably phonetic effects of the rhythmic
stress system (cf. Meira 1998); Yawarana mëërë, on the other hand, may represent a
case of underlying ëë resulting from the loss of the initial vowel, like Tiriyó wïï (cf.
above). Looking at what remains, the second consonant m is almost always present
(except in Kuhikuru; cf. below) and can safely be reconstructed, together with two
Taurepán jïu looks like an attempt at transcribing what could have been an intermediate stage
(something like e.g. ïú:). Cf. the case of Portuguese eu [ew] and Spanish yo [jo], which have stressed
different parts of an earlier *eo < Lat. ego.
adjacent vowels: *VmV. The exact nature of the vowels is less clear; one can only
make tentative suggestions.
For the first vowel, one has the possibilities a, o, ë. As was mentioned above, ë
and o may not be independent, which would reduce the choice to a vs. ë/o.
Considering that the second vowel was probably ë/o, the ë/o cases in the first vowel
could be the consequence of assimilation (*a > o, possibly made easier by the
intervening labial *m), whereas the a cases are harder to derive from *o. The best
hypothesis is thus *a.
For the second vowel, one basically has ë/o: the cases of ue (Cumanagoto,
Chayma) and a (Tamanaku, Taurepán) are probably mistranscriptions of ë, and the
cases of ï (Waimirí, Makushí, Arekuna) look like reflexes of ë (ë : ï is attested in
Makushí, as in e.g. sikï ‘flea, chigger’, Tiriyó sikë; Waimirí has no phonemic ë). As
was mentioned above, ë and o are clearly related; there are numerous exemples of the
ë : o correspondence (e.g. Tiriyó sikë ‘flea, chigger’, Apalaí xiko). Gildea (pers.
comm.) considers ë to be always a reflex of Proto-Cariban *o, which is quite
plausible phonetically. There are, however, o : o correspondences without apparent
conditioning factors (e.g. Tiriyó okomo ‘wasp’, Apalaí okomo; cf. the second-person
forms in Table 2). The question of whether o : o and ë : o are independent
correspondences has not yet been settled. Taking a conservative stance, *o will be
reconstructed for o : o, and *o2 for ë : o.7 One thus ends up with a tentative protoform *amo2. The last problem is the unexpected Kuhikuru form e(e)-γ e (long ee
attested in the author’s [Meira’s] field notes; short e attested in Franchetto’s field
notes). One idea could be intervocalic m-loss: Pre-Kuhikuru *eme-γ e > e(e)-γ e.
However, all attested cases of m-loss in Kuhikuru are word-initial, not word-internal
(e.g. Kuhikuru oto ‘worm’, Tiriyó moto). It seems thus better to suppose that the
initial *e was lost first: *eme-γ e > *me(e)-γ e > *e(e)-γ e. (The long ee, in case it is not
a transcription mistake, might result again from the influence of an earlier rhythmic
stress system, as in the case of Tiriyó wïï.)
The first-person dual inclusive (1+2) forms show more complex patterns. After
eliminating the reflexes of the particle ro ~ rë, there are two major groups: (a) forms
that contain the intial element ku, kï, ki, and (b) forms that contain an initial element
ju, u (Panare, Pemón, Makushí; presumably, the other languages of the same group
also have similar forms, unfortunately unattested). The best idea seems to be, since
there is no initial k loss rule for the (b) languages, that these two groups of forms are
not cognate. In fact, the (j)u-initial forms all seem to be based on the first-person plus
a final element to, ta, kon, all reminiscent of number (collective) markers (e.g. Tiriyó
ton, kon, Apalaí tomo, komo, etc.; cf. below the discussion of collective forms). This
would imply a path of evolution whereby an original 1+2 form was lost and replaced
Note that the o : o and ë : o correspondences have distinct reflexes in Kuhikuru: e.g. tehu ‘stone’, Tiriyó
tëpu, and oti ‘field, grass’, Tiriyó oi; cf. also Kuhikuru okõ ‘wasp’. Thus, Pre-Kuhikuru apparently had *o
and *o2. Considering the number of (not obviously closely related) languages that have *ë, it is not
impossible that Proto-Cariban *o2 was actually *ë. Not much, however, can be said without a detailed
study of the distribution of o : o and ë : o in the family.
with an analytical 1 + Col form. One may further suggest that this form had
originally collective, not simply dual, meaning, and that the collective forms (which
have additional collective suffixes) may have originally been more emphatic
synonyms. The Ingarikó and Arekuna forms would thus represent — in case they are
not simple mistranscriptions — a retention of original k forms.
The k-initial languages all share an initial syllable reconstructible as *kV. Given
the overwhelming majority of cases of kï, the first idea is to reconstruct *kï. The
cases of ku, however, give food for thought. First, ku occurs in Wayana and in the
Southern languages (Kuhikuru, Bakairí, Arara, Ikpeng), which are as far away from
each other as is possible within the family. One may consider also the earlier
mentioned tendency for vowels to ‘weaken to ï’, and also the fact that k is not an
obvious environment for labialization (*ï > u). On the other hand, the possibility of
deriving ku from an earlier *kïwï, at least for some languages (cf. below), must be
borne in mind. All in all, reconstructing *kï seems to be still the best tentative
The second syllable of the k-initial forms, however, varies quite wildly; it does
not seem possible to view më (mo, mwo, nmë), wï (wi, we), txe, χ ko, ku (gu, go) as
all cognate. Rather, it would seem that an initial element *ku (probably the same as
the 1+2 prefix that Gildea (1998:92, 114) reconstructs as Proto-Cariban *k(ï)-) was
added to several independent elements (maybe old possessible nouns) to make 1+2
pronouns; even dialects may end up with different forms (e.g. Karinya: kïχ ko [Hf],
kïmwooro [Ms]). The various forms can be separated in several groups, which
correspond only imperfectly to proposed subgroupings (e.g. in Kaufman 1994): the
më group (Tiriyó, Akuriyó, Karihona [= Meira’s Taranoan], Wayana, Apalaí, Katxuyana, Karinya-Ms; most of Kaufman’s Guianan branch plus two Central branch languages; tentative reconstruction *kï-nmo2),8 the wï-group (Hixkaryana, Waiwai [=
Gildea’s Parukotoan without Katxuyana], De’kwana, Tamanaku; two Guianan and
two Central branch languages; tentative reconstruction *kïwï),9 and the ku-group
(Kuhikuru, Arara, Ikpeng, Waimirí; the Southern branch without Bakairí, plus one
North Amazonian language; tentative reconstruction *kuku). Bakairí might be added
to the ku-group (so that it includes all of Kaufman’s Southern branch) by assuming
that ku-rë actually results from *kuku ro2 (which would also yield Arara-Ikpeng
ug(u)ro, ugoro if one assumes the loss of the initial k). It is not unthinkable that Karinya-Hf kïχ ko is related to the ku-group: *kuku + *ko could yield present-day kïχ ko,
but not *kïnmo2 + *ko or *kïwï + *ko (cf. Gildea 1995 on syllable reduction). Chayma
kitxe remains isolated.
Notice that mwo instead of mo in kïmwooro represents no problem, since Mosonyi’s (Venezuelan) Karinya has rules of palatalization and labialization of consonants depending on the quality of the adjacent
vowels; the long oo results from the rhythmic stress system. The n in Wayana kunmë is less readily
explained; it is tentatively reconstructed, despite the rather strange absence of its reflexes in the other më
The long ïï in Waiwai kïïwï results from an idiosyncratic change (probably related to the stress system)
that lengthened the first vowel of all CVCV words.
Going farther than this means going into the realm of speculation, which, all in all, is
not a bad source of ideas. One first notices that *kïwï is not implausible as a source
for the *ku forms (e.g. Wayana kunmë < *kïu nmo2 < *kïwï nmo2; for the *ku
group, one might have e.g. *kïwï ro2 > *kïu ro2 > Bakairí kurë). However, this leaves
the ‘double-ku’ forms (Kuhikuru kuku, Arara ugo, Ikpeng ug(u)) unexplained, and
also Karinya kïχ ko; the lack of any reflex of the syllable wï in Tiriyó, Akuriyó,
Karihona, Apalaí, and Katxuyana (one would expect at least a long vowel) is a
further difficulty. One might also suspect that a simple *ku could have been the
original source of both the 1+2 pronouns and the 1+2 person-marking prefix; it may
even have been an independent element at some point (maybe still preserved in
Bakairí kurë < *ku-ro2), and would later on have blended with other elements
(erstwhile independent nouns). However, the evidence for this element as an
independent word in Proto-Cariban is very scant (Bakairí, the only apparent case of
retention, could also result from *kuku + *ro2 with syllable reduction).
Thus, in view of the variety of forms, it does not seem possible to reconstruct
the form of a 1+2 pronoun to Proto-Cariban. Notice that it must have existed, since
there are 1+2 pronouns in all languages (even those who lost the *ku-forms
innovated new 1+2 pronouns) and the 1+2-marking prefix can be reconstructed; its
form, however, must remain unreconstructed. This fact will be represented with the
formula *kïCV for the presumed Proto-Cariban 1+2 pronoun.
The first person exclusive (1+3) forms, like the first person dual inclusive forms,
are also all apparently partially, but not completely, cognate. All forms end in na
(Yawarana ehnë possibly explained by weakening, and Waimirí a’a maybe from an
earlier *a’na), so that a final syllable *na can be reconstructed.
However, the initial syllables, like the final syllables in 1+2 forms, clearly do
not form a single cognate set. One can separate the attested forms into: an n-ñ or
palato-alveolar group (a-nj, a-ñ, a-nn, i-nn, i-n, ñ: Tiriyó, Akuriyó, Karihona
[Meira’s Taranoan], De’kwana, Yukpa,10 Pemón, Taurepán, Makushí, Akawayo,
Panare, and probably also Apalaí and Bakairí;11 there are members of Kaumfan’s
Guiana, North Amazonian, and Central branches; tentative reconstruction, *a-in(n)a);
an m or labial group (a-m: Hixkaryana, Waiwai, Katxuyana [Gildea’s Parukotoan],
Cumanagoto, Chayma, and probably also Wayana e-m, Tamanaku ju-m, and IkpengArara txi-m; tentative reconstruction, *a-m-na); and an ’ or glottal group ((n)a-’, e-:
Karinya, Waimirí, Yawarana; two Central branch languages, one isolate; tentative
reconstruction, *a/e-h/’-na).
At this point, one may speculate further. It would seem that the three groups
could be unified if one presupposes an initial element *ap which, in contact with an
original *ina, could then: (a) nasalize to *am and yield amna with the loss of the
vowel i, or emna without this loss (e.g. via *aimna < *am-ina), and further
It may be that the Yukpa form is missing a glottal stop (na’na), in which case it would be transferred to
the glottal group.
For Apalaí, one may suggest ï < *i (weakening-to-ï); for Bakairí, the initial x- may be a later addition:
notice that xina is found in only one of the two dialects, the other having ina.
assimilate to the n, creating anna, inna, *ainna > anja, aña, ana, ïna (the last form
with ‘weakening-to-ï’); or (b) reduce to a glottal segment, yielding Karinya-Hf a’na
with loss of i (and also n for Waimirí a’a) and Yawarana ehnë without loss (via e.g.
*ai-p-na > *e-χ -na). This would suggest reconstructing *ap-ina or *apina to ProtoCariban, as depicted in Fig. 1 below. However, the in-/ñ-initial form could as easily
be reflexes of a simpler *ina, without *ap; and Tamanaku jumna, Ikpeng and Arara
tximna suggest that initial elements other than *ap could also occur (though their final
m does suggest some relation to *ap). The formula *(ap)ina will be adopted here to
stress the tentative status of the reconstruction of the initial element *ap.
Figure 1. A speculation on the evolution of *(ap)ina ‘1+3’. The remaining initial elements n, ju, x, tx are
not included.12
The collective forms (1+2Col, 2Col) all seem to be derived from the respective noncollective forms with the help of the collective suffixes -njamo, -jamo, -jarï, -jaro,
-aro, -wanno, -komo, -kemo, -ton, -nï, -no often more than one and not in the same
order as other languages (though, with a few exceptions — Tamanaku, Panare,
Arekuna —, every language uses the same suffixes in the same order for its 1+2Col
and 2Col forms); the ‘emphatic’ particle ro, rë (< *ro2) often occurs, sometimes
between suffixes. The best hypothesis seems to be the reconstruction of three
collective markers, *jamo, *komo, *tomo (all still attested synchronically as such in
several languages), and maybe also *no. The various collective forms would then be
derived as follows:
Tiriyó kïmë-njamo, ëmë-njamo < *jamo
Akuriyó kï(më)-njamo, ëmë-njamo < *jamo
Karihona kï-ñamoro, a-ñamoro< *jamo ro2
Hixkaryana kïw-jamo, om-ñamo < *jamo
Waiwai kïw-jamo, om-ñam-ro < *jamo (ro2)
Katxuyana kïm-jarï, om-jarï < *jamo ro2 (?)
Karinya-Hf13 kïχ k-aaro, amïi-jaro < *jamo ro2
It is also possible to derive *apna from *aipna, rather than directly from *apina; in this case, *aipna
would be Proto-Carib, and *apina either unnecessary, or maybe pre-Proto-Cariban.
Long aa < *ïja (as in amïjaro; note the short a here). Note that Karinya reduces nasal syllables to zero,
even in synchronic morphophonology, so that *-jamo ro2 > (j)aro is not surprising (cf. awoomï ‘to get up’,
aj-aawo-ja ‘I am getting up’).
Karinya-Ms kïmwo-ññaro, amo-ññaaro < *jamo ro2
Apalaí kïm-arokomo, am-arokomo < *jamo ro2 komo
Wayana kunmë-ramkom, ëmë-ramkom < *ro2 jamo komo
De’kwana kï-nwanno, ë-nwanno < *jamo ro2
Yukpa amo-ra, amo-ja < *(ro2) jamo
Waimirí amï-rïtï < *ro2 tomo
Tamanaku ki-kemo, am-ñamoro < *komo; *jamo ro2
Cumanagoto am-ia(mo)rkom < *jamo ro2 komo
Chayma kutxe-kon, am-iamorkom < *komo; *jamo ro2 komo
Pemón (j)ure-nokon, amare-nokon < *no komo
Taurepán jïurï-nïkon, amaarï-nïkon < *no komo
Makushí uurï-(’)nïkon, amïrï-(’)nïkon < *no komo
Akawayo urë-’nogon, amërë-’nogon < *no komo
Ingarikó14 kiule-nïkon, tïmïï-lïnïkon < *no komo
Arekuna jurëtokon, amërë(k)-nokon < *tomo komo; *no komo
Panare juta-kon, amën-ton < *komo; *tomo
Ikpeng ugro- mo, om-ro mo < *(ro2) komo
Arara ugoro- mo < *komo
Bakairí(a)ma-reemo < *ro2 jamo
Kuhikuru am-aγ o < *jamo ro2
Some suggestions for the problematic details are listed below.
(i) For the suffix -njamo in Tiriyó and Akuriyó, Meira 2000:59 suggests that it results
from the reinterpretation, in an earlier collective pronoun, of the*n-jamo
sequence as *-njamo, followed by the forming of new collective pronouns with
*-njamo. He suggests the following steps for the 1+2Col form: *kïmë + jamo >
*kïn-jamo > *kï-njamo, *kïmë + -njamo > kïmënjamo. For Hixkaryana -ñamo,
the obvious answer is nasalization by the preceding m (*om-jamo > omñamo). A
similar explanation for the ñ in Karinya-Ms was not found thus far, but it probably
(ii) Karinya-Hf -jaro < *jamo ro2, without nasal reflex, is not surprising: Karinya
loses NV syllables, even in synchronic morphophonology (cf. awoomï ‘get up’, ajaawoi-ja ‘I am getting up’). The long aa in the 1+2Col form probably results from
syllable fusion (*kïχ ko-jaro > kïχ kaaro; cf. 2Col amïijaro, with a short a); for the
Karinya-Ms forms, however, no obvious explanation was found. NV loss also occurs synchronically in Apalaí and Kuhikuru. Katxuyana -jarï is surprising, both
because there usually is no NV loss in this language, and also because *ro2 should
occur as ro, not rï. Nevertheless, an irregular evolution of *jamo ro2 still seems
The initial k, t in Ingarikó (cf. also, from Koch-Grünberg 1916, Arekuna kuulïnïkon ‘we’) are probably
mistranscriptions (but the k’s might also be remnants of earlier k-initial forms).
less strange than a whole new collective element *rï or *jarï without additional
(iii) The nw in De’kwana nwanno is hard to explain (it is not related to Karinya-Ms
mw; cf. fn. 7). There are some correspondences between j and w in the Cariban
family (e.g. Tiriyó ë-jomi ‘your language’, Wayana ë-womi), so that it may still
be derivable from *jamo ro2 (> *jan-no, with nasalization of *r). The preceding
n, however, remains unexplained (though it may indicate a connection with
*kïnmo2 languages).
(iv) The *no found in the Pemón group languages (reconstructed as *no, rather than
*nï, because of its frequency, including in the best documented languages: Akawayo, Arekuna, Pemón) is a surprising element, without obvious equivalent in the
other languages. Its origin remains unknown (though one may compare it to the
‘postposition collective’ -:ne, -’ne, which sometimes occurs on nouns; cf.
Tamanaku jeje ‘tree’, jeje-’ne ‘trees’; notice that a similar marker occurs in
Apalaí on inanimate demonstratives: moro ‘that (medial)’, moro-’ne ‘those
Some languages seem to lack collective forms. Kuikuru (Franchetto, pers. comm.)
has no 1+2Col pronoun and uses the simple 1+2 kukuγ e in all contexts. Waimirí
(Bruno, pers. comm.) has no 1+2Col form, and the 2Col form amïrïtï is often
replaced by the simple form amï(rï). Some of the gaps in Table 2 may also indicate
actual non-existent forms, and even some of the attested forms may be ad hoc, nonlexicalized formations (maybe Panare jutakon, amënkon, and Chayma kutxekon).
One therefore wonders if collective forms should be reconstructed to Proto-Cariban at
If one looks only at *komo and *tomo, the answer is probably ‘no’; but *jamo,
which is apparently older than *komo (it is always closer to the stem when the two
co-occur) is so frequent that it seems at least equally possible that Proto-Cariban
*jamo forms were lost in the languages that lack them (the Pemón group, Panare, and
Ikpeng-Arara). Collective *jamo forms are thus tentatively reconstructed here as
*kïC-jamo and *am-jamo (not *kïCV-jamo and *amo2-jamo, since there are no
reflexes of the final vowel in any of the languages, except for Tiriyó and Akuriyó, in
which it results from analogy — cf. (i) above — and Wayana, in which the final
vowel was protected by the following *ro2).
3.2. Third-person forms
Cariban languages usually distinguish animate from inanimate forms (the only exception being apparently Waimirí; cf. below). For the sake of convenience, these two
sets will be examined separately, in Tables 3 (inanimate forms) and 4 (animate forms).
Note that only animate pronouns have lexicalized collective forms. A general
classification (cf. Derbyshire 1999:54) recognizes anaphoric (or referential) and demonstrative (proximal, medial, and distal) forms; though not all languages fit exactly
into these categories, they are still frequent enough to be useful for comparative
The anaphoric pronoun is not attested in most of the Venezuelan languages
(Chayma, Cumanagoto, the Pemón group, Yawarana, Yukpa, Panare). In some cases,
this may be due to gaps in the data; however, even the languages with the best
sources (e.g. Makushí, Panare) do not mention special anaphoric terms. It is also
absent in the Southern languages Arara and Ikpeng, but this is possibly a spurious
gap, given the very poor available sources on these languages. If they are not taken
into account, the languages without anaphoric pronouns form a geographically
contiguous area, and may be more closely related to each other, while those with
anaphoric pronouns occupy a larger area and do not seem to form any subgroup
within the family. Based on this pattern, an anaphoric term may be reconstructed for
senï, serë
txenï, txerë
enï, ërë
on, tan
eenï, eero
senï, sero
herë, sin
(h)anji, kanji
sene(k), sere
seene(k), sïlë
se(e)ni, sïrïrï
txinek, muere
siini, mïrïrï
mën, ëmë
iγ e
eγ e
ooni, mënï
mo’o, mïmo
Table 3. Cariban third-person pronouns: inanimate forms.
The terms senï and mënï usually occur in their reduced forms sen and mën, except in contexts that
preserve the final ï (a following C(CV)-initial clitic or suffix).
The Yukpa sources contain a wealth of terms, all very poorly analyzed (e.g. Spanish ‘ese’: obsek, opse,
okano, otka, maa, orko). Although some of them may be cognate with terms in Tables 3 and 4 (e.g. mari,
maari, mas ‘this’), it seems wiser not to take them into account and wait for better data to become
The final vowel of this pronoun was clearly o2, given the ë : o correspondences (the
long ëë in De’kwana remains unexplained). The first vowel is somewhat more difficult to determine; *i looks like the best reconstruction, since an *i > ï change in
Apalaí, Hixkaryana and Kuhikuru is more likely (‘weakening’) than the reverse *ï >
i, without any clear conditioning environment (for Apalaí, note that the 1+3 pronoun
ïna also has an ï where an i or a might be expected; for Hixkaryana, consider that *i
> ï is elsewhere attested — e.g. the third-person prefix is ï-, not i-). The length (ii) in
Karinya-Hf and De’kwana is probably the result of the stress system and should not
be reconstructed. The intermediate consonant is usually an r, but (a) there are reflexes
as j, and (b) also as l in Kuhikuru, a language in which *r > γ (cf. fn. 5). One possible
explanation for this pattern would be a different proto-segment (e.g. *rj, or maybe a
cluster *rj). However, two of the languages with j reflexes, De’kwana and Karinya,
have synchronic morphophonological rules that change r into j in the vicinity of i in
at least some cases (cf. e.g. the De’kwana possessive suffix -rï, which has an
allomorph -jï used on stems that end in i); the possibility that this might also happen
in Katxuyana cannot be excluded. For Kuhikuru, it may be argued that the same *i
(which later became ï) was the environment conditioning the l reflex instead of γ . In
the absence of more detailed comparisons, it seems better not to postulate a new
segment for Proto-Cariban. The anaphoric pronoun is thus reconstructed as *iro2.
The proximal terms seem to belong either to a *ro2 or to a *nï series, often with
both terms co-existing in the same language (e.g. Tiriyó serë, senï). The fact that
many languages do not have both terms raises the question of whether they should be
both reconstructed to Proto-Cariban. More work on the actual distribution of those
terms, their semantic value,17 and their diachronic relations to each other is clearly
necessary. For the time being, considering that many absences may actually be gaps
in the data, that there are some indications of occasional loss of a term (e.g. the
Waiwai *ro2 term seems to have taken up the anaphoric role, being replaced by the
non-cognate tan as a proximal), and that languages with one term sometimes have
one and sometimes the other (e.g. De’kwana and Katxuyana have *ro2 forms, while
Yawarana and Hixkaryana have *nï forms), it seems best to reconstruct two
proximals. The reconstruction of their form presents two problems: (1) the fricative
initial element s, tx, h present in some languages but not in others; given that even
closely related languages may disagree (e.g. Tiriyó and Karihona), it seems best not
to reconstruct it;18 and (2) their initial vowel, which occurs almost always as e, but as
a in Waimirí, ë in Karihona, and o in Hixkaryana, Waiwai, and Katxuyana (the
Parukotoan languages). Waimirí is a very divergent language, so that the a might still
simply be an idiosyncrasy; but Parukotoan o : e elsewhere is a correspondence attested
The semantic distinction between the two terms is still unsettled. Hoff (1968:272-273) argues that
Karinya eero and mooro are the proximal and distal terms of a speaker-based subsystem, opposed to the
speaker-and-addressee-based subsystem of eenï and monï. Meira, in a preliminary corpus study (to ap.-b),
suggests that the difference is ‘newness’: serë refers to ‘new’, ‘recently introduced’ objects, while senï
refers to previously known objects.
Ikpeng initial n is probably not cognate with this element; its origin remains unknown.
also in other words (e.g. Hixkaryana jo ‘tooth’, Tiriyó je). This correspondence is
probably related to ë : o, here represented as o2, a problem that can only be solved with
more comparative work. Here, e : o is simply represented as o3. The reconstructed
forms are thus *o3ro2 and *o3nï.19
The medial and distal forms are easier to reconstruct, as *mo2ro2 and *mo2nï,
respectively. Further comments: (1) Tiriyó ooni, Akuriyó o’ni, the actual distal terms
(mënï is used for referents which are hearable but not visible; about the noise made
by a non-visible motor, for instance, a Tiriyó speaker might ask: atï mën? ‘what’s
that?’), have no clear origin. They do not correspond to the other terms in this series
(Tiriyó has no m : ∅ correspondences word-initially; there is no source for length in
the other words — notice that the stress system in Tiriyó does not automatically
lengthen the first vowel in CVCV words —; and the final vowel does not correspond
to the expected ï); they must have some other, yet unknown, origin. (2) The same can
be said for Makushí siini, Pemón txinek, which are reminiscent of the proximal
terms. (3) Panare mën seems to be the true cognate (with n < *ro2; cf. the discussion
of second-person forms in the previous section); the origin of ëmë, and how its
meaning differs from the meaning of mën, remain unknown. (4) Kuhikuru eγ e
exemplifies initial m loss, a normal feature of the language (cf. e.g. Tiriyó moto
‘worm’, Kuhikuru oto); one wonders whether it has become homophonous with the
second-person pronoun or not; they might provide a minimal pair for length (in case
Meira’s ee is not a mistake). (5) Ikpeng u is surprising; it is not known if this is a
normal reflex. (For additional details, cf., mutatis mutandis, fn. 19).
The animate anaphoric pronoun, as was the case with its inanimate counterpart,
is mostly not attested in Venezuela (but notice Tamanaku nare). Again, since it exists
in most other branches, it should be reconstructed to Proto-Cariban. The languages
are more or less evenly divided into those with an initial vowel (i or ï), and those
without it; it is not clear whether or not it should be reconstructed (note, in passing,
that Apalaí again has ï where other languages have i, as was the case for the 1+3
inanimate anaphoric pronouns).20 It can be tentatively added to the final reconstructed
form: *(i)no2ro2. (The a’s in Bakairí and in Tamanaku are probably
mistranscriptions; the glottal stop ’ in De’kwana remains unexplained.) Note
Kuhikuru l instead of r: the idea that the original *i ‘palatalizes’ the *r and keeps it
from becoming γ , though still possible, becomes less plausible, since the *r is
separated from the i by one syllable. The possibility that the intermediate consonant
should be reconstructed as having a palatal element (*rj, or *rj) cannot be ruled out.
On remaining details: note that the final rï in Makushí sïrïrï probably stems from the emphatic particle
*ro2, that the long vowels in Karinya (and probably in Yawarana and Taurepán) are due to the rhythmic
stress system, and that the final g’s and k’s are probably mistranscriptions.
There are some indications that an earlier i-form may have existed in Tiriyó. The particle inëërë ‘that’s
the one!’, which follows pronouns (as in e.g. mërë inëërë ‘it’s that one!’), looks related to nërë. Consider
also the occurrence of nëërë, synchronically equivalent to nërë + rë (the emphatic particle), but maybe
diachronically related to the i-initial forms. Akuriyó nëërë seems to be the same (although it is not known
if it has the same nërë + rë meaning).
nëërë namoro
nërë namoro
noro ñamoro
noro ñexamro
inooro inaaro
ñooro ñoorokon
inërë inamoro
në’dë nñanno
ï ele
mëi, mëhe
moχ ko
mohseekon mohko
moxiamo mokïro
moχ kaaro
metxamo muekrere
metxam(o) muekere
itxamo(re) muere
mëserï, mësenï mësëmonan maarï
mïïkïrï inkamoro
mëk(ï)re mïkamoro
mëitxamorï mïkrërë
mëkë mëkamoro
mookï moχ kan
mookï mookïkon
më’kï ma’kamo
Table 4. Cariban third-person pronouns: animate forms.
The animate proximal terms all seem to form a good cognate set. The initial consonant is clearly *m (which is, as expected, lost in Kuhikuru, and maybe also in
Bakairí, judging by the collective form). The second vowel is *o2, and the final vowel
*o3, given their different correspondences (ë : o and e : o). The intermediate
consonant is a fricative, probably *tx (cf. *c in Girard 1971); notice, however, that
Karihona h is an unexpected reflex (h in this language is supposed to come from *p;
cf. Meira 2000). The Karinya-Ms form suggests the reconstruction of a *hs (or *htx)
The Tiriyó collective forms usually occur as mëesan, mëëjan, mëkïjan, ohkïjan (cf. fn. 15).
Meira (2000:60) listed më’etxamo, më’jamo, mëkïjamo as Akuriyó collective pronouns. More recent
data (presented here) shows that these forms were mistaken (probably Tiriyó influence).
De’kwana në’dë is described as a distal form; the anaphoric pronoun is tïwï, a non-cognate.
Cf. fn. 16.
Bruno (pers. comm.) describes Waimiri as (surprisingly) lacking an animacy distinction. Irï (cf. Table
3) is also used to refer to people; and mïkï ‘that’ to inanimate objects.
cluster, which is not a bad hypothesis; however, there is no evidence yet of a ProtoCariban *h. The possibility of reconstructing two proximals, suggested by the two
Wayana forms mëi and mëhe (for which no good semantic description is yet
available), seems less likely: no other language has two forms, and, except for the
Karihona mëhe (which cannot be cognate with Wayana mëhe, since Karihona h < *p
and Wayana h < *tx; cf. Girard 1971), all forms look cognate (i.e. there do not seem
to be two sets, but only one). For these reasons, the proximal form is here
reconstructed as *mo2txo3, and the Karihona h is left unexplained. (The two Wayana
fborms might come from combinations with non-deictic elements, e.g. particles; this
is certainly the explanation for the ro, rï in Katxuyana, Taurepán, and Makushí, and
possibly also for the nï in Hixkaryana and Taurepán).
The animate medial and distal pronouns share suggestive similarities. Looking
at cases such as Apalaí mokïro vs. mokï, Chayma muekere vs. muek, Waiwai mïkro
vs. mïkï, etc., one has the impression that the distal terms are simply combinations of
the medial term with a reflex of the emphatic particle *ro2. This is probably true
diachronically, but it even may be true synchronically for some languages.26 For
instance, it is not so hard to imagine Apalaí as having a single distal term mokï that,
when co-occurring with the emphatic particle ro, is used for closer referents: the
‘closer range’ may be an effect of the semantics of the particle. The two plural forms
mokamo (for mokï) and mokaro (for mokïro) are also as expected: with the total
reduction of the final syllable mo, one would expect mokamo + ro > mokaro (though
the failure of the vowel a to nasalize is unexpected); cf. also Karinya-Hf moχ kan and
moχ kaaro. In Waiwai, there even is only one collective form mokjam corresponding
to both the medial and the distal pronouns. All of this strongly suggests that ProtoCariban did not have two non-proximal pronouns, but only one: all forms in the
medial and distal columns of Table 4 would then belong to one cognate set. (The
only problematic case is Karinya: moχ ko does not look like mokï + ro. One wonders
if there could be a connection with the 1+2 pronoun kïχ ko).
The form of this animate distal pronoun presents relatively few problems:
*mo2kï seems to be the best hypothesis. Almost all languages have an initial syllable
mo, më, mue (e in Kuhikuru); it is easier to assume that Panare, Tamanaku and
Ikpeng lost it. The final syllable kï, or clear reflexes of it (e.g. De’kwana ’, Tiriyó
long ëë) are also overwhelming. The few problematic cases are: (1) Bakairí awëkë,
which is not a clear cognate; (2) De’kwana më’kï ‘distal’, with an unexpected ’
(glottal stop); (3) Ikpeng oren, which may not be cognate; ugun, with loss of initial m,
looks like a better canditate. Note than Panare kën comes from *mo2kï-ro2, with *ro2
> n (cf. the inanimate medial mën and the second-person pronoun amën above).
The animate collective forms are also, as was the case with the non-third-person
pronouns, formed with reflexes of the collective elements *jamo, *komo, and the
This is not, of course, true for all languages. In Tiriyó, mëërë and mëkï are semantically very distinct;
they are clearly two lexical items (cf. Meira to ap-a). Panare kën and muku (also attested as mïkï) also
seem to be clearly independent, at least formally.
particle *ro2. The anaphoric collective can be reconstructed as resulting from *(i)n +
*jamo (without the final *ro2, since it does not occur in Tiriyó). It is not clear
whether the palatalization in Hixkaryana ñamoro, Waiwai ñexamrom comes from
the preceding *i (in which case one could reconstruct *(i)namo), or from the
following *j (in which case one could reconstruct *(i)njamo). To keep both
possibilities in mind, the formula *(i)n(j)amo will be used. The other collectives are
again derivable from the non-collective stem plus a combination of collective
markers and *ro2 (e.g. Panare kamonton < *jamo ro2 tomo). In Taurepán
mësëmonan, there seems to be a new collective element nan (< *jamo nan). The
problematic cases are: (1) Ikpeng wam, which might simply be the element *jamo,
without any original stem, or else non-cognate; (2) Makushí insemoro, inkamoro
with an initial unexplained i- (perhaps related to the (i)- in the anaphoric forms
(i)no2ro2, (i)n(j)amo). As was the case for the non-third-person pronouns, collective
forms with *jamo possibly existed; they can be reconstructed as *mo2k-jamo and
*mo2tx-amo. They are reduced, since almost all reflexes are reduced; Tiriyó
mëkïjamo may have been analogically rebuilt, apparently a frequent phenomenon in
Tiriyó collectives — cf. the 1+2Col and 2Col forms. In fact, Tiriyó mëesamo also
looks like an analogically rebuilt word, given the fact that it conserves an intervocalic
reflex of *tx (cf. Meira 2000:31, 54 for the loss of intervocalic *tx in Tiriyó). A hypothesis would be: *mo2txamo > *mëtxamo; at this point *-txamo is reanalyzed as a
suffix, while *mo2txo3 > mëe; then *mëe-txamo > mëesamo.
As a final observation, it is interesting to note that, apparently, the most
complicated Cariban demonstrative systems are found in the Guiana area (from
Tiriyó to De’-kwana in the tables). As one moves away from this area, the systems
become simpler: there may be no anaphoric term, and often only two distance terms
(distal vs. proximal, without medial; e.g. Makushí, Kuhikuru).
4. Conclusion
The Proto-Cariban pronouns reconstructed in the preceding two sections are
summarized in Table 5 below.
Table 5. Proto-Cariban pronominal and demonstrative system.
The non-third-person pronouns form a typical Cariban system, with all categories
duly represented. They correspond to the set of person-marking prefixes
reconstructed by Gildea (1998:114) as *u- ‘1’, *a- ‘2’, and *k- ‘1+2’.
The set of third-person pronouns is also typical, despite the absence of a medial-distal
distinction (which may be less frequent than the available descriptions suggest).
Since most semantic analyses of demonstratives in Cariban languages are not very
sophisticated, the meanings of the reconstructed terms are very approximative. In
fact, the cognate sets were determined by how well their members fit the known
correspondences in the family, rather than by putting together terms with the same
gloss; especially for the older sources, glosses such as ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘este’, ‘ese’,
‘aquel’ etc. are not very trustworthy.
The elements in Table 5 display certain recurrent similarities that lead to some
speculative ideas. Certain elements can be identified — *ro2, *nï, *mo2, *kï — which
suggest that the third-person pronouns are actually old combinations of yet older pronouns. The anaphoric *iro2 could be a combination of a third-person marker *i(from Gildea’s *jï-) with the element ro2, which could be the emphatic particle — i.e.
‘really third-person’. (This presupposes that the third-person prefix would have been
an independent element in the past, so that it could be followed by the particle *ro2).
The element *mo2, also found in combination with *ro2, might be compared to the
‘evidential’ mo or më that, in some languages, occurs with the third-person prefix to
indicate certain evidential values (e.g. Wayana nï-të-jai ‘he is going’, më-n-të-jai ‘he
is going (but I do not see him)’; Hixkaryana mo-n-eweh-no ‘he took a bath (out of
sight)’). More comparative research should help decide how much truth there is in
such speculations.
Abbott, Miriam
1991 ‘Macushi’, in Desmond C. Derbyshire & Geoffrey K. Pullum (eds.), Handbook
of Amazonian languages, vol. 3, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 23-160.
Amodio, Emanuele, & Vicente Pira
1996 Língua Makuxi — Makusi Maimu. Guia para a aprendizagem e dicionário da
língua makuxi, Boa Vista (Brazil): Diocese de Roraima & Missionários de
Scarboro (Canada).
Armellada, Cesáreo de, & Jesús Olza
1994 Gramática de la lengua pemón (morfosintaxis), San Cristóbal (Venezuela):
Universidad Católica del Táchira.
Bruno, Ana Carla dos Santos
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Waimirí-Atroari, Convênio FUNAI / Eletronorte.
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Edwards, Walter F.
1977 An introduction to the Akawayo and Arekuna peoples, Amerindian Languages
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Gildea, Spike
1995 ‘A comparative description of syllable reduction in the Cariban language family’, International Journal of American Linguistics 61:62-102.
1998 On reconstructing grammar: comparative Cariban morphosyntax. Oxford
Studies in Anthropological Linguistics, vol. 18. Oxford: Oxford University
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Girard, Victor James
1971 Proto-Carib phonology, Berkeley (CA): University of California Ph.D. dissertation.
Hall, Katherine L.
1988 The morphosyntax of discourse in De’kwana Carib, Saint Louis: Washington
University Ph.D. dissertation.
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1998 ‘Waiwai’, in Desmond C. Derbyshire & Geoffrey K. Pullum (eds.), Handbook
of Amazonian languages, vol. 4, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 25-224.
Hoff, Berend J.
1968 The Carib language, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
1990 ‘The non-modal particles of the Carib language of Surinam and their influence
on constituent order’, in Doris L. Payne (ed.), Studies in Lowland South American Languages, Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 495-541.
Jackson, Walter S.
1972 ‘A Wayana grammar’, in Joseph E. Grimes (ed.), Languages of the Guianas,
Norman: Summer Institute of Linguistics and University of Oklahoma Press,
pp. 47-77.
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1994 ‘The native languages of South America’, in Christopher Moseley and R. E.
Asher (eds.), Atlas of the world’s languages, London, New York: Routledge,
pp. 46-76.
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1916 Vom Roroima zum Orinoco. Ergebnisse einer Reise in Nordbrasilien und
Venezuela in den Jahren 1911-1913, vol. 4: Sprachen, Stuttgart: Strecker u.
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Odile Renault-Lescure
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
1. Introduction
Les Kali’na de la Guyane française, ou Galibi comme ils y ont été désignés jusqu’à
une époque récente, parlent une langue de la famille caribe (ou karib). Cette famille
comprend une trentaine de langues parlées dans de vastes régions au sud et au nord
de l’Amazone, plutôt dans la partie orientale de l’Amazonie, bien qu’une des langues,
le carijona, soit parlé à l’ouest, en Colombie et une autre, le yupka, à la frontière nord
entre Colombie et Venezuela. Dans le nord du bassin amazonien, elles s’étendent
jusqu’à la côte de la mer caraïbe. Au sud, elles sont limitées à la vallée du Xingu,
affluent de l’Amazone. Parmi toutes ces langues, le kali’na est aujourd’hui encore
probablement celle qui a le plus de locuteurs1, et celle qui a la plus large extension
géographique, depuis les savanes nord-orientales du Venezuela jusqu’au nord de
l’Amapá, au Brésil. Les données qui sont à la base de cet article ont été recueillies en
Guyane française et représentent la variété dialectale la plus orientale de la langue.2
2. Construction du verbe fini
Le verbe en fonction prédicative est formé d’une base verbale préfixée d’un indice
personnel et suffixée d’une marque de temps, mode ou aspect. La valence des verbes
est à 1 ou 2, les verbes intransitifs sont à un actant, les verbes transitifs à deux3.
2.1. L’énoncé transitif
L’énoncé prototypique transitif est formé d’un verbe, d’un indice actanciel préfixé et
d’une marque de temps, aspect ou mode suffixée:4
‘Il (elle) l’a décoré(e).’
Les données dont on dispose permettent d’indiquer une population en Guyane française dont le nombre
se situe entre 2.000 et 4.000 locuteurs, et une population globale estimée à 25.000 personnes. Mes remerciements vont à Jean Appolinaire pour son travail d’informateur.
C'est essentiellement sur la variété décrite par Hoff au Surinam, appelée carib, que s'appuient, par
exemple, les travaux de comparaison et de reconstruction de Gildea (1998).
En raison des pressions exercées par les rôles sémantiques et les statuts pragmatiques, nous adopterons
une terminologie qui souligne les rôles sémantiques. Pour une description des relations grammaticales en
kali'na de Guyane française, voir Renault-Lescure (sous-presse).
AC = Accompli; ATT = Attention; DEM.ANIM = Démonstratif animé ; DEM.INAN = Démonstratif inanimé;
FACT = Factitif; FUT = Futur; IMP = Impératif; INF = Infinitif; INT = Intensif; INTER = Interrogatif; INTERJ =
Interjection; NEG = Négation; PARFT = Parfait; PART = Participe; PLUR = Pluriel; PRES = Présent; REL =
Relateur; 1(2,3) = 1ère (2ème, 3ème) personne actant unique; 1(2,3)A = 1ère (2ème, 3ème) personne agent; 3P =
3ème personne patient.
L’indice actanciel 3P réfère sémantiquement à l’agent et au patient; morphologiquement, seul le patient est marqué. Les indices personnels préfixés aux verbes biactanciels marquent explicitement l’un des actants. Dans l’énoncé suivant:
‘Je l’ai invité(e).’
eyuku est le radical verbal, -i la marque de parfait et s- la marque de personne. Le
verbe est bivalent et comporte deux actants dont un seul présente une expression
grammaticale. Comme on pourra le vérifier plus loin, s- est une marque de première
personne. En effet, le choix s’opère suivant une hiérarchie des personnes qui réalise
une distinction fondamentale entre les personnes de l’intralocution et la personne de
l’extralocution: les personnes de l’intralocution sont situées plus haut sur l’échelle
des personnes que les personnes extralocutives:
1, 2, 1+2
Cela se traduit par l’effacement systématique des 3èmes personnes lorsqu’elles sont en
compétition avec une autre personne 1ère , 2ème ou 1ère inclusive, quel que soit le rôle
sémantique de la personne. La hiérarchie des personnes l’emporte ici sur celle qui
serait liée aux rôles d’agent et de patient.
Marque d’Agent (A)
Marque de Patient (P)
Tableau des indices de personne des verbes biactanciels.
(3) eyuku ‘inviter quelqu’un’
Marque d’Agent:
‘je l’ai invité(e)’
‘tu l’as invité(e)’
‘toi et moi, nous
l’avons invité(e)’
Marque de Patient:
‘il/elle m’a invité(e)’
‘il/elle t’a invité(e)’
‘il/elle nous (toi et moi)
a invité(e)s’
V indique une assimilation de la voyelle du préfixe à la voyelle initiale du radical verbal.
Je n’indique pas les variantes morphophonologiques qui ne sont pas pertinentes ici.
Le passage de la voyelle e à a est une variante morphophonologique régulière.
Aucune hiérarchisation n’apparaît par contre entre les personnes de l’intralocution,
c’est à dire la première personne et la deuxième personne:
1 > 2, 2 > 1
Neutralisation de l’opposition A/P
‘je t’ai invité(e)’, ‘tu m’as invité(e)’
Lorsque les deux participants sont de troisième personne, une marque spécifique est
préfixée qui renvoie au patient:
‘il/elle l’a invité(e)’
‘il/elle l’invite’
kVn- /n-
Cette marque est phonologiquement vide lorsque le patient est explicité lexicalement
mais présente lorsque l’agent est instancié par un nom (pronom, SN):
tanpoko dudi eyuku-i
Dudi inviter-PARFT
‘Il/elle a invité le vieux Dudi.’
tanpoko dudi n-eyuku-i
Dudi 3A-inviter-PARFT
‘Le vieux Dudi l’a invité(e).’
2.2. L’énoncé intransitif
L’énoncé prototypique intransitif est formé d’une base verbale, d’un indice actanciel
préfixé qui réfère à l’actant unique et d’une marque de temps, aspect ou mode suffixée.9
La chute de la syllabe finale du radical verbal devant la marque du présent est indiquée othographiquement par l'apostrophe.
‘Il est arrivé.’
Deux séries d’indices actanciels servent à marquer l’actant unique de ces verbes:
Actant unique (A)
OmKVtn- /kVn-
Tableau des indices de personne des verbes uniactanciels
∅-waimokˆ-i ‘j’ai embarqué’
m-aimokˆ-i ‘tu as embarqué’
kat-aimokˆ-i ‘toi et moi, nous
avons embarqué’
‘il/elle a embarqué’
‘j’ai ri’
‘tu as ri’
‘toi et moi,
nous avons ri’
‘il/elle a ri’
L’une des séries présente des similitudes avec le paradigme des marques de personne
agent des verbes biactanciels, l’autre série est identique aux marques de personne
patient du verbe bi-actanciel; les deux séries présentent cependant une marque unique
de troisième personne:
Actant unique Patient
Actant unique
Tableau comparatif
Certaines marques de TAM varient (a) suivant le type de radical verbal auquel elles sont associées, (b)
uivant les personnes indiciées, en fonction de l’intra- ou extralocution, (c) en fonction de la valence:
(a) s-alo-ya
‘Je l’emporte.’
(radical alo)
(b) s-ema-e
‘Je le jette.’
‘Je le jette.’
(radical ema)
ken-ema-no ‘Il le jette.’
(c) s-uku’-sa
‘Je le jette.’
(valence 2)
s-uku’-sa ‘Je le connais.’
(radical ukutˆ)
‘J’y vais.’
(valence 1)
‘Je le plante.’
(radical pomˆ)
La transcription utilise la proposition graphique retenue par les Kali’na. On notera essentiellement que
le phénomène de la palatalisation affecte presque toutes les consonnes (les occlusives, les nasales et les
semi-consonnes) qui suivent une voyelle i (ou la précèdent pour s), que les nasales finales ont une prononciation affaiblie, la nasalité se propageant sur les voyelles précédentes, que l’apostrophe désigne soit une
glottale ou un allongement vocalique, comme dans na’na ‘nous (exclusif)’, soit la chute syllabique d’une
syllabe finale d’un radical verbal (pˆ, tˆ, kˆ, ku / _#). La sonorisation des occlusives sourdes est soit liée à la
prosodie, soit en variation libre.
3. Le parfait
3.1. Morphologie
A la différence des autres marques de temps et d’aspect,11 la marque de parfait ne
présente aucune variation de forme:
Radical verbal
Tous les radicaux
3.2. Valeurs temporelles
Le parfait illustre bien la combinaison de valeurs aspectuelles et temporelles. On
pourrait le qualifier comme Feuillet (1988: 92) de ‘temps-charnière dans la mesure
où il est un accompli (et exprime par conséquent un procès achevé au moment de
l’énonciation) tout en appartenant à la sphère de la non-distanciation. Il est tiraillé
entre le passé pur et simple et le présent.’ Les valeurs du passé exprimé dans le parfait du kali’na sont celles de passés récents.12
L’exemple suivant décrit une situation dans laquelle une personne qui vient
d’arriver dans une maison se voit poser la question:
‘Tu viens d’arriver?’
Le parfait a ici une valeur temporelle de passé immédiat. Dans l’exemple suivant, la
valeur temporelle, renforcée par l’emploi d’un circonstant, indique un passé récent:
n -opˆ -i
3-arriver-PARFT déjà hier
‘Tu es déjà venu hier?’
Dans tous les cas, le passé ne pourra être antérieur au temps de vie du locuteur.
L’évocation au parfait ne peut dépasser les limites de l’expérience personnelle. Dans
l’exemple ci-dessous, le narrateur évoque un souvenir d’enfance:
kaleta ta
livre dans
PART-rentrer-FACT 3PERS-à 3+être+PRES
‘Je l’ai vu dans les livres, comment il [Noé] a fait rentrer beaucoup
d’animaux sauvages.’
Voir Hoff (1968) et Renault-Lescure (1999).
C'est la valeur que lui assigne Courtz (s.d.); Hoff (1968) ne lui donne aucune valeur temporelle.
3.3.Valeurs aspectuelles
La valeur fondamentale du parfait est la résultativité telle que définie par différents
auteurs (Comrie 1976, Desclés 1989, Guentcheva 1990). Il dénote une situation dans
laquelle un état est le résultat d’un processus antérieur qui a été arrêté. Il sera représenté figurativement par le diagramme suivant: un processus achevé indiqué par
l’intervalle de gauche, fermé à gauche et à droite, suivi d’un intervalle hachuré ouvert
à droite, qui est la zone de l’état résultant:
Observons les exemples ci-dessous:
‘Le garçon est arrivé.’
tout à l’heure tonnerre
ene-ko te
voir-IMP donc
moe tˆkalaiye moe kˆn-ˆ’-san
là-bas noir
là-bas 3-aller-PRES Laussat à
‘Tout à l’heure le tonnerre a grondé, vois donc ! c’est noir là-bas, il pleut
sur Laussat.’
mon frère
kˆn-ka-no ‘oto
3-dire-PRES quoi
ko isuwi’
2+être+PARFT ATT sœur
kˆn-ka-no ‘yaya
3-dire-PRES mon frère nous.EXCL 3-couler-PARFT mon frère 1-dire-PRES
‘Eh bien, que t’est-il arrivé ma sœur? a demandé mon frère. On a coulé
mon frère! ai-je dit.’
Le parfait y décrit un processus achevé dont le résultat est observable au moment de
l’énonciation. En (14) le garçon est arrivé et il est encore là, on peut l’observer, en
(15) après l’orage, on peut voir le ciel noir et la pluie qui tombe, en (16) la pirogue a
coulé et la suite du récit en explicite le résultat visible: les rescapés sont mouillés,
leurs affaires sont trempées, la farine de manioc imbibée d’eau…
Outre la valeur fondamentale décrite ci-dessus, des nuances variées vont apparaître au fil d’autres énoncés:
NEG-aller-NEG 1-être-FUT
3-travailler-PARFT alors
parce que
samedi dimanche
samedi dimanche
occupé à déjà
3-aller-INF avec la volonté de 3+être
‘Je n’irai pas, dit-il. Comme il a travaillé samedi et dimanche, alors, demain, il veut aller à la pêche.’
De cet exemple se dégage une valeur ‘avoir fini de’. L’homme dont il est question a
fini de travailler et souhaite passer à un autre type d’activité. L’accent est ici porté sur
le processus achevé. Dans l’exemple suivant, le résultat montre qu’un objectif visé
est atteint:
ilonpo ka’pa
lo y-asalˆ-kon
alors vraiment INT 1-ami-PLUR
lo ene
1-aller-PARFT INT voir
wonumekatopo-npo si-kapˆ-i
DEM.INAN rêve-ancien
‘C’est alors, mes amis, que je suis allé les voir [les pièces de musée], j’ai
réalisé ce vieux rêve.’
Contrairement à ce que nous avons vu en (17), le parfait met ici l’accent sur le résultat atteint. Procédons maintenant à l’examen des exemples suivants:
telapa si-melo-i
montre déjà 1A-dessiner-PARFT
‘J’ai déjà dessiné la montre.’
kaleta s-epekatˆ-i
cahier 1A-acheter-PARFT
‘J’ai acheté un cahier.’
otˆ ko
quoi INTER 2A-renverser-PARFT
‘Qu’est-ce que tu as renversé?’
Le parfait y décrit bien un processus achevé dont le résultat est observable au moment de l’énonciation. A la différence des exemples précédents, on y observe un processus de transformation mené jusqu’à son terme. L’état qui en est issu affecte un
patient à la suite de la transformation opérée par un agent. Cette valeur du parfait
correspond à ce que Guentcheva (1990) appelle, dans sa classification terminologique
des valeurs du parfait, un ‘état acquis’.
Une autre valeur fondamentale du parfait est représentée par la valeur
d’expérience. Ce parfait d’expérience (Comrie 1976) se réfère à une situation dans
laquelle un événement ou plusieurs, interrompus par le dernier de la série, aboutissent
à un état résultant dont la propriété est l’expérience nouvelle acquise par le sujet:
l’expérience des évènements vécus par lui-même (Desclés 1989). Le diagramme qui
le représente se compose d’un intervalle fermé à gauche et à droite, dans lequel apparaît la séquence d’évènements, et une zone hachurée, ouverte à droite, correspondant
à l’expérience acquise:
kaleta ta
livre dans
1A-voir-PARFT comment
PART-rentrer-FACT 3PERS-à 3+être+PRES
‘Je l’ai vu dans les livres, comment il [Noé] a fait rentrer beaucoup
d’animaux sauvages.’
y-asakalˆ-kon s-ene-i
ase’ke y-enu-lu
1A-voir-PARFT propre 1-œil-REL avec
‘Mes amis, je les ai vues [les pièces de musée] de mes propres yeux.’
∅-ene-’po melo y-asakalˆ-kon po’tome imelo ∅-wonumenka-i
3P-voir-AC après 1-ami-PLUR grand
1-avoir nostalgie-PARFT
‘Après les avoir vues [les pièces de musée], j’ai ressenti une très grande
Dans chacune des occurences ci-dessus, la manière dont l’expérience est acquise est
explicitée. En (22) un savoir a été acquis par la lecture de livres d’images, en (23)
l’expérience a été acquise directement, de façon perceptible. On pourrait donner ici
une valeur épistémique au parfait, car nous sommes dans le domaine du certain, du
constaté. En (24) l’expérience est provoquée par la vue d’objets traditionnels. Dans
ce dernier énoncé, la valeur d’expérience ne semble guère se différencier de la valeur
résultante. Les deux notions se recouvrent souvent. Le contexte de l’énonciation est
alors parfois à même de permettre l’une ou l’autre des interprétations. C’est ce qui se
passe dans l’exemple qui suit:
mon fils 1A-perdre-PARFT
‘J’ai perdu mon fils.’
Le contexte dans lequel cet exemple a été relevé indique qu’il s’agit d’un parfait
d’expérience: une femme parle de la perte de son fils, de cette douloureuse expérience dans sa vie. Mais cet énoncé, proféré dans un autre contexte, pourrait indiquer
typiquement un état résultant et se référer à l’état de deuil dans lequel se trouverait
une mère à la suite du décès de son enfant.
Une autre valeur du parfait se trouve illustrée en (26). Un homme, visitant son
abattis, y découvre déjà mûres les bananes qu’il n’y a pourtant que plantées la veille.
Le parfait, renforcé par l’interjection, dans ce cas, exprime la surprise:
koinalo loten
seulement 1A-planter-PARFT banane
‘Ça alors! Les bananes, je ne les ai plantées qu’hier!’
C’est aussi le cas de l’exemple suivant qui présente une situation inattendue. Dans
une course entre le vent et la tortue, celle-ci, malgré sa lenteur proverbiale, arrive la
1-arriver-PARFT mais pourtant PART-dire
‘Et pourtant, je suis arrivée, dit la tortue.’
man wayamˆ
3+être tortue
3.4 Valeur modale
Observons les deux énoncés qui suivent:
‘Je veux le goûter!’
kaleta s-epekatˆ-i
cahier 1A-acheter-PARFT
‘J’ai acheté un cahier!’
ko s-ene-i
justement ATT 1A-voir-PARFT
‘Je veux justement le voir!’
La valeur du parfait qui s’en dégage relève du domaine du modal.13 Il exprime une
intention, une visée à atteindre très fortement marquée. Une traduction peut-être plus
adéquate y ajouterait une valeur injonctive ‘Fais-moi goûter !’, ‘Fais-moi voir !’.14
Décrit comme un optatif par Hoff (1968 et 1986).
Dans la mesure où cette valeur modale est très différente des autres valeurs du parfait, il est peut-être
intéressant de se poser la question d'une possible forme indépendante homophone. Cette valeur modale ne
semble apparaître qu'à la première personne et pourraît alors correspondre à un impératif de première
4. Conclusion
Comme dans bien d’autres langues, le parfait recèle en kali’na une grande variété de
valeurs. Les valeurs temporelles s’articulent autour d’un temps plus ou moins récent
mais qui est toujours celui de l’expérience vécue. Une des valeurs aspectuelles fondamentales est celle que l’on observe dans le parfait d’expérience. Quant à la valeur
modale, elle peut se concevoir comme une expérience à atteindre. On pourra dès lors
se demander si cette notion d’expérience qui traverse le système TAM du parfait n’en
forme pas la pierre angulaire, le lien qui permet de passer du temporel à l’aspectuel
puis au modal.
Références bibliographiques
Comrie, B.
1976 Aspect: an introduction to the study of verbal aspect and related problems,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Courtz, H.
s.d. De Karaïbse Taal. Ms.
Desclés, J.P.
1989 ‘State, event, process, and typology’, General Linguistics, vol. 29, 3: 159-200.
Feuillet, J.
1988 Introduction à l’analyse morphosyntaxique, Paris: Presses Universitaires de
Gildea, S.
1998 On reconstructing grammar: comparative Cariban morphosyntax, New York /
Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Guentcheva, Z.
1990 Temps et aspect: l’exemple du bulgare contemporain, Paris: Editions du
Hoff, B.J.
1968 The Carib language: phonology, morphonology, morphology, texts and word
index, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
1986 ‘Evidentiality in Carib: particles, affixes, and a variant of Wackernagel’s law’,
Lingua 69: 49-103.
Renault-Lescure, O.
1999 ‘Le dispositif aspecto-temporel des verbes finis en kali’na oriental (langue
caribe de Guyane française)’, Actances 10: 163-176.
s.p. ‘Dynamique des relations actancielles en kali'na de Guyane française (ou galibi)’, Langues de Guyane, Goury L. (ed.), Amerindia 26.
personne marqué /s- -i/ (suggestion de S. Meira). Elle se rapprocherait de la forme du vétatif /kˆs- -i/,
exemple s-ene-i "Ne le regarde pas!".
Jeanette Sakel
MPI Leipzig
1. Introduction1
Mosetén (Chimane, Tsimane’) is a language isolate from eastern Bolivia. The language consists of three dialects, Mosetén de Covendo, Mosetén de Santa Ana, and
Chimane.2 There are about 5000 speakers, of which the majority speaks Chimane.
My research is based on the dialect of Mosetén de Covendo, which has only about
500 speakers.3
Derbyshire and Payne (1990) discuss noun classification systems as a common
structure in Amazonian languages. They distinguish three different kinds of classifiers: numeral classifiers, concordial classifiers and verb-incorporated classifiers. Gender systems are treated under the heading of concordial classifiers. While most classifier systems have a semantic base for assignment, such as classification according to
size, shape, function or the like, gender assignment may in some cases not be completely semantically based.
Mosetén has a gender system, which is rather arbitrarily assigned. There are two
genders: masculine and feminine. Female humans are in the feminine gender and
male humans are in the masculine gender. The rest of gender assignment does not
seem to follow any semantic rule.4
In most languages with a gender system, there is some kind of gender agreement
in the noun phrase. Often, determiners and modifiers agree in gender with the head
noun. In some languages, gender agreement is furthermore found outside the noun
phrase, as for example in the Caucasian languages Lak and Abkhaz, discussed by
Corbett (1991). In Mosetén, as well, gender agreement affects many different elements, from now on called targets, in the clause. As gender agreement is very frequent, it is exceptional for a clause in Mosetén not to have any marking for gender at
I want to thank Mily Crevels, Simon van de Kerke and Hein van der Voort for their review of this paper.
Often, Mosetén and Chimane are considered to be different languages, forming a small language family. The self-consciousness of the Mosetenes and the Chimanes as separate groups supports this argument.
Linguistically, however, Mosetén de Santa Ana and Chimane are more closely related than the two Mosetén dialects. Furthermore, all three dialects are mutually intelligible. I therefore choose to consider these
as three dialects of one language.
The data presented in this linguistic work are from my own fieldwork in Bolivia 1999-2000. I want to
thank my consultants Juan Huasna, Cleto Tahe, Adrian Topepe, Lidia Misange, as well as those who contributed to this linguistics work by telling stories.
In some cases, phonology and certain nominalization indicate specific gender assignment. For example
all nouns ending in the nominalizer –dye’ are feminine.
I will look at the different forms of gender agreement, starting with the noun phrase,
the prototypical locus for gender. I will then gradually move on to structures where
we do not usually expect to find this form of agreement.
2. Nouns
As in many other languages, gender in Mosetén is an inherent feature of nouns, without these usually having special gender marking themselves. Corbett (1991) calls this
a covert gender system, as no phonological form or marker on the noun itself predicts
the gender of this noun.
There are, however, some nouns in Mosetén usually referring to humans or animals which have different forms for each gender. These nouns have certain traits in
common: the feminine forms often end in –si’ and the masculine forms in –tyi’. Some
of these nouns might also have a shorter variant, so nanasi’ ‘girl’ below can also be
nanas, and nanatyi’ ‘boy’ nanaty:
female human being
masculine human being
Other nouns have suppletive forms for feminine and masculine gender:
woman, wife
man, husband
3. Pronouns
Personal pronouns in the 3rd person are marked for gender, while 1st and 2nd person
pronouns are not. The 3rd person masculine pronoun is mi’ and the feminine pronoun
is mo’. In the plural, the clitic in, which is the general marker of plurality in Mosetén,
is added to these pronouns, and thus gender is also apparent in the plural:
mo’ (3F)
mo’-in (3F-PL)
mi’-in (3M-PL)
Demonstrative pronouns also distinguish between feminine and masculine gender.
These are the suppletive forms öij for the feminine and its for the masculine. Again,
these can be pluralized with the clitic in:
öij-in (DEM.F-PL)
its-in (DEM.M-PL)
The possessive pronouns are formed by adding the gender markers –tyi’ (M) and -si’
(F) to the personal pronoun. They show gender agreement to the possessed element:
yäe-si’ phen
‘my wife’
yäe-tyi’ mama’
1SG-M father
‘my father’
When the possessor is a 3rd person pronoun, there are two kinds of gender agreement
in the possessive pronoun: agreement with the possessor, which is apparent in the
personal pronoun-part of the possessive pronoun and agreement with the possessum
in the added gender marker:
‘his wife’
There is a way of marking possession other than by the possessive pronoun, namely
by cliticizing a personal pronoun to the possessum as a postclitic. This clitic usually
agrees in gender with the possessor:
Mo’ jiri-s-tom aka’, jiri-ty waemtyi’-mo’
3F.SG one-F-COM house one-M man-3F.SG
äwä’ soñi’-tyi’. Me’ momo’.
one-M child man-M
so only.F
‘She has a house, a husband (is hers), a masculine child. That’s all.’
Usually, such a person clitic agrees in gender with the possessor, but there are examples where it agrees with the possessum. This is a phenomenon that most consultants
deny in elicitation, although it appears in the use of their language. Most of all, it
seems to be used by younger speakers, which could mean that this has to do with
language change. I also have few examples, however, where this appears in the
speech of an older speaker. Usually, when asked again, the informants wonder about
the forms, try the masculine and the feminine form and are not sure which form to
use. In free speech, the form agreeing with the possessum often simply occurs. The
following example is given by a young speaker of Mosetén:
mo’ lotej.
leave-VB-3SG.F.O 3F.SG plantation.E
äwä’-mi’ soñi-tyi’
child-3M.SG man-M
3M.SG-only.M work-APPL-3SG.F.O
‘This woman has left her plantation. Now only her masculine child (i.e.
her son) works (on) it.’
In what most Mosetenes would consider the correct form, the person clitic should be
–mo’ here (i.e. in the feminine) and not -mi’ in the masculine gender, i.e. it ‘should’
agree with the possessor and not with the possessum.
Since I also have examples of older people using this form, it might not be a
recent change in the language, even if it is rather infrequent as opposed to the cases
where this clitic agrees with the possessor. In the following example, a 63-year-old
speaker uses this form:
aj jen’-mi’
say.M.S-EVID-EVID 3M.SG ASP father-3M.SG peanut(F)-M
jam aj
NEG ASP give-3SG.M.O ASP-before
‘… said the father of the peanut, he did not give (it) to him (any more).’
Another pronoun with different gender forms is the reference tracking pronoun
‘other’. This has the form yoktyi’ in the masculine gender and yoksi’ in the feminine
gender. Again, the gender marking morphemes are -tyi’ (M) and –si’ (F):
Kiwïj yok-si’
again other-F
yäe se’we-’
1SG hear-3SG.F.O trap-VB.M.S
jedye’ dyash dyiñae’.
thing QUE trap
‘Another word I heard: ‘dyiñaeij’ – what is ‘dyinae’?’
yok-tyi’ soñi’
other-M man
‘another man’
The morphemes –tyi’ in the masculine gender and –si’ in the feminine gender resemble those used in the possessive construction. Thus, when then the yoksi’/yoktyi’ itself
appears in a possessive construction, it may appear to have two gender markers of the
same kind. This gives rise to double gender agreement on the same word. However,
agreeing with different antecedents in gender, one of these might be in the feminine
gender, while the other one is in the masculine gender: other itself agrees with the
noun it represents, while the possession marker agrees with the possessum of this
possessive construction:
äwä’ Alfredo-si’
know-VB-3SG.F.O child Alfredo-F
Mo’ momo’.
know-VB-3SG.F.O other-M-F
3F.SG only.F
‘Juan knows the daughter of Alfredo. But (and) he does not know others
(i.e. other man’s daughters). Only her.’
4. Determiners
In the function of determiners in the noun phrase, usually 3rd person personal pronouns and demonstrative pronouns are used in Mosetén. These are marked for gender
(see section 2. above) agreeing with the gender of the head noun:
3M.SG man
‘the man’
mo’ minsi’
3F.SG woman
‘the woman’
5. Numerals
Of the cardinal numerals, only the numeral ‘one’ is marked for gender: jiris in the
feminine and jirity in the masculine gender. All other numerals have the same form
for both genders. When counting ‘one, two, three’, and in other cases where gender is
not specified, the feminine form jiris is used. In the noun phrase, the numeral one
agrees in gender with the head noun:
jiri-s son daer-si’
one-F tree big-F5
‘one big tree (feminine)’
jiri-ty kojti daer-tyi’
one-M heart big-M
‘a big heart (masculine)’
An explanation of the long adjectival form is given below.
All other cardinal numerals are not marked for gender. This even includes forms that
are compounded with one, as twenty-one in (26). This numeral does not agree in
gender with the head noun, but remains in its unmarked feminine form:
paerae’-ki’ tyak
two-times ten
‘21 men’
jiri-s jiyi’
one-F NUM
paerae’-ki’ tyak
two-times ten
‘21 women’
jiri-s jiyi’
one-F NUM
The ordinal numerals, on the other hand, have both feminine and masculine forms of
all numerals due to their derivation. The derivation of ordinal numerals is the addition of -yi’si’ to the cardinal numeral in the feminine gender and -yityi’ in the masculine gender. The -yi- appears to be derived from the verb yi, ‘to say’, which in the
feminine gender is marked by a glottal and in the masculine gender remains unmarked. To this inflected verbal form, the gender marker -tyi (M) and -si’ (F) is
added and agrees with the head noun:
Chhibin’-yi-’-si’ mayedye’ khin’-dyem-ra’ karij-tya-ki-tsin
three-ORD-F.S-F day
‘The third day we already work.’
Chhibin’-yi-tyi’ soñi’ tsin kawe-te.
three-ORD.M.S-M man 1PL see-3SG.M.O
‘The third man we have seen.’
6. Adjectives
Adjectives have two forms in Mosetén, from now on called ‘long’ and ‘short’ forms.
While the short forms might be used as adjectives or adverbs, the long forms are
strictly adjectival forms. The long form consist of the short form plus the gender
marker -tyi’ (M) and -si’ (F). Thus, adjectives in the long form agree in gender with
their antecedent, while adjectives in the short form have no marking for gender. In
the following table, I summarise the use of the long and the short adjectival forms in
Adjective used predicatively
Adjective used attributively
short from
Table 1: the long and the short adjectival forms in Mosetén
long form
The long adjectival form appears with adjectives used predicatively and attributively,
while the short form, apart from some exceptions (see below), is only used with adjectives in predicative position.
The adjective marking is similar to the marking in Russian, which also has a
long and a short adjectival form (Wade 1992) with the same formal distribution as in
Mosetén. As in Russian, in Mosetén the distribution of long and short forms of the
predicatively used adjective depends on various semantic factors. The following examples show the attributive use of adjectives, where the adjective is usually marked
by the gender marker:
Mi’ mintyi’ daer-tyi’.
3M.SG man
‘The man is big.’ or ‘The big man.’
Tsin ya’ij
kasko öij-dye-tyi’ nana-si’ ïchäeke-si’.
buy.M.S DEM.M boat.E DEM.F-BEN-M girl-F
‘We buy this boat for that little girl.’
Some adjectives are exceptions and do not always take the genitive in attributive position:
dyam’ momo’ phen-in
few only.F woman-PL
‘only few women’
The following examples show the predicative use of adjectives. In this case, the adjectives may be in the long or in the short form. When in the long form, the adjectives
agree in gender with their antecedent, which in this case is the subject of the clause:6
Mo’ aka’ daer-si’.
3F.SG house big-F
‘The house is big/the big house.’7
Mi’ soñi’
3M.SG man big-M
‘The man is big/the big man.’8
In the case of an object predicative the agreement would be with the object.
This has also another translation (see ‘Relative clauses’ below): ‘the house that is big’
This also has another translation (see ‘Relative clauses’ below): ‘the man who is big’
Mo’ aka’ daer.
3F.SG house big
‘The house is big.’
7. Other nominal relationships
Apart from the adjectival marking discussed above, there are a number of structures
in Mosetén that express nominal relationships and mark for gender: the possessive
construction, which has already been discussed with the possessive pronouns, the
benefactive/purposive case and participant-nominalization.
The benefactive case consists of the benefactive marker and the gender marker
-tyi’ (M) and -si’ (F). It expresses benefactive and purposive meanings. Gender
agreement is with the subject of an intransitive clause:
Jikej katyi’ mo’-in ish-mo’
mo’-chhe’ ijme-dye-si’.
3F.SG-SUP arrow-BEN-F
‘Then her mother-in-law (went) up there to get feather(s) for the arrow.’
In transitive clauses, gender agreement in the benefactive case suffix is with the
object of the clause:9
tsin jiri-s jedye’ its-dye-si’.
say.M.S 1PL one-F thing DEM.M-BEN-F
‘We say one thing to (‘for’) him.’
Tsin ya’ij
o’sho’ mo’-dye-tyi’.
1PL buy.M.S 3M.SG clothes 3F.SG-BEN-M
‘We buy these clothes for her.’
One type of nominalization marking involves the morphemes –tyi’ (M) and –si’ (F)
and thus shows gender agreement. This nominalizer primarily derives verbs. The
nominalization focuses on the subject participant of the action, so that the nominalized element denotes a person. Gender agreement is with the subject of this verb, i.e.
with the person(s) that is / are expressed:
In other structures, to be discussed below, the antecedent of gender agreement can be an established
topic in the situation. Also the benefactive case marking might agree in gender with an established topic,
even if I have no clear examples of this yet.
Mi’-in-nä’ aj ro’ya-ki-tyi’-in
3M-PL-and ASP dance-INTR-M-PL
‘And the dancers (M) stop eating.’
8. Verbs
There is gender marking on all intransitive verbs. Transitive verbs are marked for
gender with 3rd person objects and also 1st person inclusive plural subjects. The other
person forms in the transitive cross-reference system do not mark for gender.
8.1. Intransitive verbs
Intransitive verbs agree with the gender of the subject. This agreement marking is
apparent in all persons. The feminine gender is expressed by a glottal suffix, the masculine gender is expressed by the lack of this glottal and when ending in a vowel, it is
often followed by a slight aspiration:
Yäe karij-tya-kij.
‘I (M) work.’
Yäe karij-tya-ki-’.
‘I (F) work.’
The inflection of intransitive verbs, with one exception, shows gender marking for
the subject. The exception is the 1st person plural inclusive subject, which behaves
differently from the other persons in the cross-reference paradigm, and which has a
separate form with intransitive verbs. The intransitive 1st person plural inclusive inflection has the same form for both genders:
‘We (incl.) eat.’ (masculine, feminine, mixed)10
Mosetén also has a verb with suppletive stem forms for each gender: atsij, ‘he goes’
and ayij ‘she goes’. Usually, the feminine ayij has no glottal at the end to indicate the
feminine agreement, even if I have few examples where speakers use the form ayi’
with a glottal. An explanation for this could be that since the gender is already specified by different verbal stems, there is no need for a special ending for feminine gender agreement:
In Chimane and Mosetén de Santa Ana, the same form –ja’ is also used with transitive verbs with a 1st
person plural inclusive subject, agreeing in gender with the object. The affix -ja is used with a masculine
object and –ja’ with a feminine object. Thus, the form –ja’, which is used in the intransitive
cross-reference ending in all three dialects, seems originally to be a feminine form.
Mo’ ayij
3F.SG come.F.S 1SG-AD
‘She comes to me.’
Yoshropai-mij khin atsij
now come.M.S M-IN
‘Thanks that you now came here.’
When affixes are added to the verb atsij/ayij, however, the glottal for the feminine
gender form and the lack of the glottal on the masculine form become evident. The
following examples show the directional marker –joij (M)/-jo’ (F) with the alternative form –joi’ (F), which frequently is added to this verb and which takes typical
verbal gender agreement forms:11
Me’-nä-yäe atsij-jo-ij
DM-‘and’-1SG come.M.S-DIR-M.S DM
yäe viaje-ij
1SG travel.E-VB.M.S truly-1SG
jäe’maj äwä-tom-yäe jäe’maj
son-COM-1SG DM
‘And I came here, I truly traveled here with my son for the certificate.’
maj ojñi’ ayij-jo-i’13
mo’ Köwë’döj.
come.F.S much water come.F.S-DIR-F.S 3F.SG Covendo (rio C.)
‘Much water came (here) in the river ‘Covendo’.’
Another verb that has two different stems, one for each gender, is the verb iyayekij,
‘get better.M’, oyayeki’, ‘get better.F’. With these stems, the development of different gender forms in the stem is synchronically clear, as this verb derives from a place
adverb with comparative meaning, which itself derives from a pronoun (see the section below on place adverbs):
mentisan.herb only.M
Only the affixes –jo’/-joi’ and –ban’ are used with this verb (in my data) and they have marking for the
feminine gender.
The Spanish word certificado ‘certificate’ seems to act as a feminine noun in Mosetén, even if its gender
assignment is masculine in Spanish.
The feminine form in Mosetén de Covendo is –jo’, even if some speaker use –joi’, which is the form of
this morpheme in the other dialects Mosetén de Santa Ana and Chimane.
jö’dyë’yä’ aj
3M.SG-only.M and
already get.better.M-INTR-again.M.S
‘We made him drink purely San’ (a special herb) and he became better.’
Kaechen’ öyaye-ki-’
get.better.F-INTR-F.S PST
‘She was getting better.’
8.2. Transitive verbs
The complicated cross-reference system of transitive verbs contains some forms
agreeing in gender with an argument, while other forms do not show any such
agreement. All 3rd person object forms show gender agreement with a number split in
respect to their antecedent: singular 3rd person object forms inflect for the gender of
the object, 3rd person plural object forms agree with the gender of the subject of the
clause. Also 1st person inclusive plural subject forms (of transitive verbs) show gender agreement. The following table summarises the forms of the cross-reference
markers in the 3rd person object forms and the 1st person plural inclusive forms in
order to show the gender agreement structure in transitive cross-reference. Only
forms that show gender agreement are given in the table:
Table 2: Transitive cross-reference markers that show gender agreement
8.2.1. The forms of the 3rd person singular object
These forms are marked for the gender of the object, but they are independent of the
gender of the subject of the clause.
Apart from the special person marking forms of the 1st person plural inclusive
subject marking, the forms of the 3rd person singular masculine object are –te and for
the 3rd person singular feminine object they are -V’ (or variably -Vi or -Vi’)14. The
gender agreement is with this object form (and not with e.g. the subject):
“Jäe’nä’ abi’ mi jij-tiij”
QUE 2SG come-DIR.M.S say-3SG.M.O-EVID
mo’ soñi’;
3F.SG man
me’kij mi’
soñi’ ye-’
phen …
thus 3M.SG
say.M.S man say-3SG.F.O woman
‘“Where did you come from”, she said to the man; thus the man said to
8.2.2. The forms of the 3rd person plural object
In the cross-reference forms for the 3rd person plural object, the gender agreement is
with the subject, as opposed to the singular, where the gender agreement is with the
object. In all cases, apart from the special case of where the subject of the clause is
the 1st person plural inclusive, the form is -ksi for 3rd person plural object and a masculine subject and -ksi’ for a feminine subject.15
Mo’ phoch-ya-ksi-’
3F.SG inject-VB-3PL.O-F.S
‘She injects them.’
Fan ji’-karij-tya-ksi
yidyej phen’-in.
DEM.M Juan CAUS-work-APPL-3PL.O.M.S pure woman-PL
‘This Juan makes purely women work.’
8.2.3. The forms of the 1st person plural subject
The forms of the transitive 1st person plural inclusive subject differ from other transitive cross-reference forms, as do intransitive cross-reference forms for the 1st person
plural inclusive subject. All forms of the 1st person inclusive subject agree in gender
with the subject:
V means vowel. In this case the vowel is often e.
The forms of the 3rd person plural objects differ from the other cross-reference forms in various other
ways. Many derivational affixes that usually appear before the cross-reference ending occur after the
marker for the 3rd person plural object. In many ways this form functions like an intransitive derivation,
also in its gender agreement to the subject of the clause.
not.let.disappear.again-and-POT PST
‘We will hit and thus kill it, and we (M) wouldn’t let it disappear again.’
mo’ yi-’
thus-that.M 3F.SG say-F.S NEG
yäe raise-’
1SG want-3SG.F.O bring-3SG.F.O
käedäej jedye-dye-si’-dye’-ki-ra’ ka-ti-’ ”.
‘Thus she says “I do not want to bring this baby, why should we (F)
bring it?”’
8.3. Copular verbs
Gender differences also occur in copular verbs. There is no obligatory copular verb in
affirmative clauses and the optional copular verbs do not show gender agreement. In
negative clauses, however, the copular verb itsi’ (F)/itsij (M) must be present. Gender
agreement is with the subject:
shiish-yäe, yodye’ itsi-’-ya’
eat.(trans)-3SG.F.O meat-1SG when wife-1SG
‘I eat meat when my wife is not (at home).’
aka’-khan’. house-IN
‘The (man) is not in the house (i.e. at home).’
9. Place adverbs
In Mosetén, even place adverbs agree in gender. The form is diachronically derived
from personal pronouns, in which this gender difference also is apparent (compare
section 2).16
The gender marking of the place adverb in transitive and intransitive clauses
agrees with the gender of the subject of the clause. However, as I will show below,
the antecedent of the agreement marking may change due to pragmatic factors.
Mo’ Jeanette mo-wej jadyi-ki-’.
3F.SG Jeanette F-DR
‘Jeanette went there.’
There are various deictic differences in the place adverbs: mo’wej (far), mowej (very far, cannot be
seen) and owej (close) differ in distance to the speaker.
Yäe mäen’ja’ mi-wej jadyi-ki.
1SG(M) yesterday M-DR
‘I (M) went there yesterday.’
The two examples above show intransitive clauses. In the first example the subject of
the clause is feminine and the place adverb ‘over there’ is in the feminine gender and
in the second example the subject is masculine, leading to a masculine agreement
marking in the place adverb.
The following example shows a transitive clause, where the gender agreement
of the place adverb is also with the subject of the clause:
Alfredo nash tyaj-k-ei-rä’
Maria i-ya’.
Alfredo EMP meet-DIR-3SG.F.O-POT Maria M-AD
‘Alfredo will go to meet Maria here.’
The subject of the clause is masculine, the object feminine and the place adverb carries masculine agreement, agreeing with the subject.
The examples above are all elicitation examples, i.e. clauses outside of a discourse context. Looking at discourse context, however, the picture of gender agreement is different. In the following example a topic is established in the first clause,
which then is the trigger of gender agreement in the second clause:
a Jikej mo’ anik-si-si’ jïjka-baj-te
PST 3F.SG sure-RD-F follow-again-3SG.M.O
leave-VB-3SG.F.O ASP
äwä’ tyäjä’-wë-dyërä’
‘move’-DIR-F.S yuca-F-DR
‘She surely followed him, left (her) child and went to the edge of the
yuca field.’
b Mo’-wej
mo’ aj soñi’-ra’
ïtsïkïj chhi-mo’ aj ïtsïkïj.
3M.SG ASP-before but.rather.E jaguar also-3F.SG ASP jaguar.
‘There he blew her (in her ear), (and from then on) she no longer (saw)
the man (he was) before, but rather a jaguar, and also she was a jaguar.’
In (59b) the place adverb is in the feminine gender, agreeing with the established
topic of the preceding clause, whereas the subject of (59b) is masculine in gender.
Thus here, the agreement of gender does not follow a strictly syntactic pattern, but
reacts to pragmatic factors.
10. Particles
Remarkably, gender can also be marked on some particles.
10.1. Only, just
The first particle I want to discuss is ‘only, just’. This is expressed by mimi’ (masculine) and momo’ (feminine). Diachronically, these seem to be reduplicated forms of
the personal pronouns mi’, ‘he’ and mo’, ‘she’. There are two kinds of uses, where
mimi’/momo’ appears. On the one hand this particle can be attached to a noun phrase,
meaning ‘only’. On the other hand, the particle can be used in a clausal context,
meaning ‘just’.
When this particle is used attached to the noun phrase with the meaning ‘only’,
the agreement in gender is with the head noun:
mimi’ äwä’-yäe jö’dye’ya’ tyiñe’-yäe
only.M son-1SG and
mi’-in mimi’ karijtyakij mi’-we-in
3M-PL only.M work.M.S 3M.SG-DR-PL
‘Well, only my son and my son in law, only they are working in there.’
In this example, ‘only’ is part of the noun phrase and agrees in gender with the masculine head noun.
When the meaning is ‘just’, the element in the scope of this particle is the whole
clause, and the gender agreement is with the subject of that clause. Example (61)
shows an intransitive clause involving agreement with the subject, (62) is a transitive
clause, where the agreement also is with the subject of the clause:17
Yok-min’-tyi’ katyi’-in jam jäe’maj jam’
chhaekh-dyi’-dyiij-in yok-min’-tyi’-in me’-mimi’ jiyij-in
careful-DIR-PROG-PL other-DIS-M-PL so-only.M pass.M-PL
jäe’maj kawa-kij-k-hoi-in
me’-katyi’ mimi’ jiyij-in
‘Others were not going carefully, they just passed without looking
(watching out), in this way they just passed.’
There might again, as with the place adverbs, be a broader, pragmatically based pattern of gender
agreement. This pattern would then take an established topic as its antecedent. However, the lack of correspondence between subjecthood and topichood remains to be investigated.
Maria chhïï-ye-te
äwä’-mi’ Martin-tyi’. Me’-momo’
Maria know-VB-3SG.M.O child-3M.SG Martin-M
‘Maria knows the child of Martin. That is all (about this).’
10.2. Question particles and other particles
Several particles are diachronically derived from the pronouns i and o, which in
Chimane seem to be free particles (Gill 1999). In Mosetén de Covendo, they always
occur in fixed combinations with particles or affixes, as for example together with the
unproductive suffix –ka’, which is used in rhetorical questions.18 Thus, diachronically, these two now unproductive morphemes have developed into the productively
used question particles ika’ (M) and oka’ (F). They show agreement in gender with
the subject:
ö-ka’ mo’ tï’-ï-’.
person-POT F-QUE 3F.SG name-VB-F.S
‘What was her name?’ (I knew it once, but can’t remember it right now)
i-ka’ ti’-ij
person-POT M-QUE name-VB.M.S 3M.SG[PL] approach-M
‘How was this old guy called who approached (the certain place).’
11. Discussion and conclusion
There are most probably several other targets showing gender agreement in addition
to those discussed here. Further research may reveal these.
11.1. The feminine as the unmarked gender
Formally, there is no clear difference in the markedness of the different genders, even
if with verbs the feminine gender often appears longer, as it involves a glottal where
there is no marking in the masculine form. Functionally, however, the feminine gender is usually the unmarked form in Mosetén as opposed to the masculine gender.
Thus, when a verb, such as the modal verb ‘want’, is followed by a clause as its formal object, this verb always gets feminine object marking:
Mo’ jam raise-’
3F.SG NEG want-3SG.F.O go-DIR-again-3SG.M.O
‘She does not want to follow him.’
When males and females constitute one group, usually the feminine form is used to
refer to them:
In the same way as the pronouns i and o are unproductive in Mosetén, the suffix ka’ is also unproductive in Mosetén and productive in Chimane. It only exists in some combinations in Mosetén, together with
other question particles such as dyaj or dyash, which themselves are productive in Mosetén.
Mo’-in yi-’-in
katyi’ äwä’-mi’.
3F-PL say-F.S-PL come-DIR-M.S EVID child-3M.SG
‘They (father and mother) said that their son came.’
Elena y
Fan, mo’-in käijedye’-tom San Jose-chhe’-in.
Elena and.E Juan 3F-PL plantation-COM San Jose-SUP-PL
‘Elena and Juan, they have a plantation in San Jose.’
Sometimes, however, the masculine gender form is used in this case, especially in the
speech of young people, surely due to the influence of Spanish.
11.2. Individual differences
I have encountered variation in the speech of consultants with respect to the formal
expression of gender. One of my female consultants differentiates between feminine
and masculine in the plural clitic in. She frequently uses on in feminine forms. Thus,
mo’in, ‘they, F’ becomes mo’on. She might be re-interpreting the i in this plural clitic
as a masculine form, as opposed to o being the feminine form. This difference becomes apparent in the personal pronouns, where mi’ is the 3rd person singular masculine and mo’ the 3rd person singular feminine. This seems to be a personal invention
of my consultant, since I have not yet found any other speakers who use this form,
nor any other data that could lead me to the conclusion that the form on for the plural
feminine is a general form.
11.3. Conclusion
In Mosetén, gender agreement is not restricted to ‘typical’ targets such as adjectives,
personal pronouns and verbal cross-reference, but it is also found in place adverbs,
case marking, relative clause markers, and particles. In many cases, it is rather unclear from a functional perspective why these targets show gender agreement. The
explanation lies in the development of these structures. The forms of gender agreement to some extent resemble each other. The gender forms in Mosetén can be divided into four formal classes:
1) –si’ (F) and –tyi’ (M)
2) o (F) and i (M)
3) forms ending in a glottal (F) and forms not ending in a glottal (M)
4) suppletion differences
I will briefly discuss these:
1) Gender agreement by the forms –si’ (F)/–tyi’ (M) and the short form –s (F)/-ty (M)
is frequently found inside the noun phrase. This is a phenomenon usually called macrofunctionality of morphemes (Gil 2001), i.e. the same morpheme is used for posses-
sion structures, adjectival marking, relative clause marking, nominalizations and
other functions. In Mosetén this macrofunctional morpheme furthermore marks some
pronouns and numerals. In addition to that, it appears in the benefactive case markers. As this morpheme shows gender differences, all its uses have these differences.
The development of macrofunctional morphemes as in Mosetén may have proceeded
in several ways. In the case of Mosetén, the development of macrofunctionality
might have started with the use of a morpheme in only one structure for which gender
agreement was functionally important. One such structure could have been the genitive case. Then, the morpheme gained a broader use, bringing its gender agreement
forms into other structures, which one would not usually expect to show gender
2) The differentiation between feminine and masculine gender by o (F) and i (M) is
found with pronouns, place adverbs and certain particles. Diachronically, these place
adverbs and particles appear to have developed from the personal pronouns mo’ (F),
mi’ (M) and the particles o (F), i (M), the path of grammaticalization still being rather
clear in the synchronic forms. In this way, place adverbs consist of a 3rd person pronoun such as mo’ and a local case marker such as –wej: mo’wej, ‘there’. In the same
way, the particle momo’ (F), mimi’ (M) has most probably developed by a reduplication of the personal pronoun. The place adverb ikhan’, ‘here.M’/okhan’ here.F’ and
the question particles oka’ (F), ika’ (M) have developed by combining the particle o,
i with a case marker or a question particle.
3) The marking of the feminine gender by a glottal and the lack of this glottal in the
masculine gender is found in verbs. Both transitive and intransitive verbs show this
marking, even if the transitive 3rd person singular masculine object has another
agreement form
4) Gender differences marked by suppletion are found in a few forms, among them
one verb, several nouns denoting females/males and the demonstrative pronouns öij
(F) and its (M).
I have shown that gender agreement morphemes are not separate forms in Mosetén,
but that there are few forms that are found in various different targets of gender
agreement. This seems in many cases to have to do with diachronic developments in
the language. Since personal pronouns carry gender marking in Mosetén and since
these pronouns have played a role in creating new forms, gender agreement had a
way to expand. In the same way, a certain morpheme that has developed into a macrofunctional morpheme by chance carried gender agreement, and thus brought gender
agreement to targets where we usually would not expect to find it.
Corbett, Greville
1991 Gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Derbyshire, Desmond C. & Doris L. Payne
1990 ‘Noun Classification Systems of Amazonian Languages’, in: Doris Payne
(ed.) Amazonian Linguistics: Studies in Lowland South American Languages,
Austin: University of Texan Press.
Gil, David
2001 ‘Escaping Eurocentrism: Fieldwork as a Process of Unlearning’, in: P. Newman & M. Ratcliff (eds.) Linguistic Fieldwork, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gill, Wayne
1999 A Pedagogical Grammar of the Chimane (Tsimane’) Language, revised edition, unpublished manuscript (Cochabamba: New Tribes Mission, Bolivia).
Payne, Doris L.
1990 ‘Morphological Characteristics of Lowland South American Languages’, in:
Doris Payne (ed.) Amazonian Linguistics: Studies in Lowland South American
Languages, Austin: University of Texan Press.
Wade, Terence
1992 A Comprehensive Russian Grammar, Oxford: Blackwell.
first plural inclusive
Spanish loan
first plural exclusive
emphatic marker
progressive aspect
adessive relation
feminine gender
past tense marker
inessive relation
question marker
benefactive case
masculine gender
superessive relation
demonstrative pronoun NUM
numeral marker
ordinal numeral
elicitation example
discourse marker
passive voice
text example
“downriver” relation
Hein van der Voort
Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen/WOTRO
1. Introduction
Kwaza is spoken in Southern Rondônia, Brazil, by about 25 people, most of whom live
among the Aikanã of the indigenous reserve Tubarão-Latundê.1 Kwaza, or in the literature: Koaiá (e.g. Rodrigues 1986), is an unclassified language which has often been
considered as isolated, just like its neighbours Aikanã and Kanoê. Almost all the other
languages by which it is traditionally surrounded belong to the Tupi and Nambikwara
linguistic stocks.
The basic grammatical categories of Kwaza are verbs, nouns and adverbs. Kwaza
is a morphologically complex language. Most of the grammar of the language is contained in derivational and inflexional verbal suffixes. Categories like classifiers, directionals, valency changing suffixes and tense, modality and aspect are in Kwaza best
regarded as derivational. Main word stress in Kwaza is basically on the last syllable of
the (extended) root. The extended root may include derivational morphemes, but in
principle no inflexional suffixes. As will be shown in Section 1.1 below, the morphological categories of subject and mood are obligatory and should be considered as inflexional. In addition to person inflexion, corresponding pronouns may be used for emphasis. Word order is relatively free, but SVO is the most frequent order.
In the present article I want to discuss the grammatical characteristics of the most
common way in which speech is quoted in Kwaza. I will also discuss other modalitylike constructions that show striking similarities to the quotative construction. Furthermore, I will try to provide an explanation for the origin of both the quotative construction and certain modalities. I will not discuss indirect quotation as sometimes attested in
nominal argument clauses.
1.1. Argument agreement
The following examples show how the matrix verb in Kwaza sentences is obligatorily
inflected for subject person, and optionally for object person or a combination. Note
that the third person subject is not expressed. The default value of absent person inflex1
This article is based on data from linguistic fieldwork conducted among the speakers of Kwaza during
the years 1995-1998. I am especially indebted to my teacher Kyikãu Mãdε who is also known as Mário. I
am furthermore very grateful to the inhabitants of the Área Indígena Tubarão-Latundê for their hospitality.
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has generously financed the entire descriptive project of the Kwaza language under grant nr. 300-72-021. Finally, I want to thank Mily Crevels, Simon
van de Kerke, Sérgio Meira and Pieter Muysken for their highly valued comments. It should go without saying
that none of these people necessarily shares the views expressed here and that all errors are mine.
ion is either third person subject, or, in imperative sentences, second person. For convenience sake this is symbolised with a -Ø-. Consider these examples2:
water drink-1S-DEC
‘I drank/am drinking water’
´žwãu ´mε-hata-Ø-ki xyitsε-´wã
João hit-3S2O-3-DEC you.PL-AO
‘it was João who beat you’
water drink-2 -DEC
‘you drank/are drinking water’
Kwaza has no copular verbs. Instead, nouns may receive person and mood marking
without any intervening morphology. In that case an operation that can be characterised
as zero-verbalisation has taken place, and the result conveys the meaning “to be/to want
N”. Nominalised verbs, pronouns and adverbs can also be zero-verbalised.
Person marking in Kwaza is to be considered as bound inflexional morphology for
the following reasons: a) there is a clear formal difference between free personal pronouns and bound person morphemes; b) bound person morphemes cannot be separated
from their verbal host by either a change in the order of elements or; c), by the insertion
of free forms; d) bound person morphemes are part of the word as an accentual unit; e)
the presence of these bound morphemes is necessary for verb formation; f) bound person morphemes do not occur in isolation. The exceptions to criteria c), e) and f) will be
discussed in Section 1.5 below. Table I represents the evidence for criterium a):
we [inclusive]
we [exclusive]
you (PL)
he, she, it, they
they, people, it
Table I: Personal pronouns and subject cross-reference
Note that there is no number marking in Kwaza. In the pronominal system there are
three basic persons and two “associated” persons. According to this analysis, the distinction between first person plural inclusive and exclusive is explained by the association of a second and a third person respectively. Second person plural is represented in
In the Kwaza examples in this article I have indicated main word stress by an inverted comma [ ´ ] preceding the syllable that receives stress (or by a [ “ ] when another syllable gets secondary stress). Apart from explicit stress marking, the examples are in phonemic notation. The following symbols are used in a special way:
/a/ represents IPA [a]; /ε/ = [ε]; /y/ = []; /j/ = [j]; /b/ = []; /d/ = []; /D/ = [d]; /x/ = [s]; /c/ = [t]; /ž/ = []; /~/ =
Kwaza by a second person associated with a third person (may be singular or plural).
With respect to criterium d), main word stress tends to occur on the last syllable of the
root. If the root is extended with derivational morphemes, main word stress is on the
last syllable of the last extension. Main word stress is never on the subject crossreference morphemes, but it does occur on mood morphemes under specific circumstances, which will be mentioned in Section 1.2.
1.2. Matrix clauses: mood or speech acts
The examples above are all in the Declarative mood. Besides the declarative, there are
seven other matrix clause moods: the Interrogative, which combines with the entire
paradigm of person markers; the Imperative, Volitive and Exhortative, which combine
to constitute the Persuasive mood paradigm; the Negative Imperative, Negative Exhortative and Monitory, which together form the Prohibitive mood. The following examples show the morphological expression of these moods:
ka´wε kui-´nã-xa-re
(5) ´mĩu ´kui-a-xa-mỹ
coffee drink-FUT-2-INT
chicha drink-1P-AS-VOL
‘will/do you want to drink coffee?’
‘we’re going/want to drink chicha!’
water drink-1P-EXH
‘let us drink water!’
(7) ka´wε kui-Ø-´ni
coffee drink-3-EXH
‘let him have coffee!’
‘let’s not do that!’
(9) ay-´hỹ kui-´he-Ø-ky
that-NOM drink-NEG-2-NEI
‘don’t drink that!’
‘don’t let him drink!’
(11) kui-Ø -´ra
Remember that in the (negative) imperative mood cross-reference to the second person
subject is not expressed and in the other moods third person subject cross-reference is
not expressed. Note that certain morphemes, such as negative -he- and future -nã-, and
certain moods, such as the imperative, usually attract word stress.
1.3. Subordinated clauses: adverbial clauses
Besides mood marking in matrix clauses, there are also certain mood-like morphemes
that indicate the specific adverbial status of subordinated clauses: Conditional, Concessive, Additive, Absolutive/Manner, Temporal, Nominal and Contemporative. The following example shows the expression of a concessive adverbial clause:
cold-NOM-1S-CONC cut-1S-DEC
‘although I had become cold, I did clear a field’
The next example shows that the element -tja (a special variant of cosubordinative -ta,
that will be further discussed below in Section 1.4) may also indicate that the clause
functions as an absolutive/manner adverbial:
txu´hũi-Ø-tja hũnũ-´dy-da-ki
small-3-CSO scorch-CAU-1S-DEC
‘I burnt the food (just) a little’
1.4. Cosubordinated clauses: medial clauses and switch reference
There is a type of clauses in Kwaza that can be linked to the matrix clause. Such clauses
can form long chains and their illocutionary value is often determined by the sentencefinal matrix clause. Semantically they are coordinated with the matrix clause, but formally they are subordinated to it. Such constructions are known in the literature (e.g.
Foley & Van Valin 1984) as cosubordinated or medial clauses. The following examples
show cosubordinated clauses that have the same subject as the matrix clauses:
bilo´tswa e-´he-da-ta
shotgun have-NEG-1S-CSO hunt-NEG-1S-DEC
‘I can’t hunt because I have no shotgun’
shoot-1S-CSO devour-1S-VOL
‘I’m going to shoot and devour him!’
´tswa-wã ´mε-Ø-ta e´mã-Ø-ki
man-AO beat-3-CSO cry-3-DEC
‘(the woman) beat the man and (she) cried’
When the subject differs from that of the next clause in the chain this is morphologically indicated by either a different subject marker or, if the cosubordinated clause has a
non-third person subject, a special switch-reference morpheme that occurs in a position
normally reserved for mood inflexion. This is shown in the following examples:
e´tay tswa-´wã ´mε -dy-ta e´mã-Ø-ki ´tswa
woman man-AO beat-DS-CSO cry-3-DEC man
‘the woman beat the man and the man cried’
ho´Bεto atxitxi-´nũ
wa´dy-ta-Ø -ki
enter-1S-SWR Roberto maize-porridge
‘I entered and Roberto gave me maize porridge’
A narrative text may consist of one long chain of cosubordinated clauses, terminated by
a matrix mood clause, which then functions as a marker of the end of the story.
1.5. Morphological ellipsis and typological characterisation
It is a well-known fact that different criteria for the definition of a word may not always define the same entity in a language (see e.g. Bauer 2000). In Section 1.1 a
number of criteria are listed for considering person and mood marking in Kwaza as
(inflexional) bound morphemes. There are, however, exceptions to criteria e) and f).
Note that under certain specific circumstances verb roots can be omitted in Kwaza:
(19) [Q:] ´ja-xa-re
‘are you eating?’
[or, complete:]
‘(yes) I am’
‘(yes) I’m eating’
In the small dialogue in (19), the verb root of the answer ´jadaki “I’m eating” can be
omitted because the (discourse) context does not leave any doubt as to which verb
root is intended. In the result, daki “I am”, the root ja- “to eat” is ‘understood’, as it
were, by all speech participants. In Kwaza, not only roots can be omitted, but inflexions as well.3 In van der Voort (2000) I have referred to these phenomena as ‘morphological ellipsis’. They form exceptions to the claims that e) these bound morphemes are indispensable for verb formation and f) that bound person morphemes do
not occur in isolation. Furthermore both types of ellipsis may work together to produce exceptions to criterium c); the uninterruptability of the predicate and bound
inflexional suffixes. Finally, cross-linguistically speaking, criterium a) may not be
tenable since there are languages such as French, which has cross-reference agreement, free anaphoric particles and free pronouns (as in e.g. moi, je parle vs. toi, tu
parles), and languages such as Karo (Tupi-Ramarama), which has both crossreference clitics and free pronouns (see Gabas Jr. 1999).
This means that there are at least three morphological criteria on the basis of
which one could claim that rather than bound inflexional suffixes, Kwaza has free
morphemes that function as auxiliary verbs, particles or clitics. Nevertheless, on the
basis of the other criteria mentioned in Section 1.1 one could maintain that Kwaza person and mood are bound morphemes. In the latter analysis, Kwaza is a morphologically
complex (largely agglutinative) synthetic language and in the former analysis, Kwaza is
a morphologically simple, isolating language. At the present, both analyses seem to be
Kwaza is unlike the neighbouring Tupi languages in that it does not have a special closed category of
particle verbs that cannot be inflected (see Moore 2002).
For the time being, I have chosen for a synthetic approach. One of the reasons for this
choice is that it results in a relatively transparent and consistent analysis of the language. The present article deals precisely with phenomena that are exceptional in
synthetic languages. Furthermore, exceptions to criteria such as e) and f) are not impossible in other, well-established synthetic languages either, such as the Tarramiut
dialect of Eastern Canadian Inuktitut (see Allen 1996: 15; 27 n.13; 153 n.12). Finally,
my provisional impression is that if the Kwaza person and mood combination were
considered as a free particle, the entire grammar of Kwaza would have to be regarded
as syntax rather than as morphology. In such an approach, many derivational morphemes should also be seen as free morphemes, and stress placement and word order
rules would be greatly complicated. However, for a thorough understanding of the
consequences of an isolating approach more research is required.
2. Quoted speech
Kwaza syntax is relatively simple. Word order is rather free, and there are neither conjunctions nor complementisers. Not even quotation of speech involves such grammatical
devices. In Kwaza, speech is quoted by repeating literally what was said. The quoted
utterance is then embedded in an extra layer of person and mood inflexions that refer to
the quoting subject. Compare the following two examples:
‘I am ill’
‘I said I am ill’
The Portuguese translation offered by the informants is usually in the form of an indirect
speech quotation. However, when analysing the construction, its literal meaning represents a quotation of direct speech. This suggests that in Kwaza, no formal distinction is
made between direct and indirect speech. Note the following examples:
‘shei says shei is ill’
(lit. ‘she says ‘I’m ill’’)
Note that the alternative form of the declarative mood marker, -tsε instead of -ki, seems to occur only in
the third person and because of independent reasons. These reasons, however, are not well understood and
speculations about the alternative occurrence of the two forms are beyond the scope of this article.
‘shei says shej is ill’
(lit. ‘she says ‘she is ill’’)
‘Margarida says you’re ill’
‘you say Margarida is ill’
With respect to the notion ‘quotative construction’, the following remark is in order. It
will appear from many examples in the rest of the article that this construction does not
strictly express quotation of (direct or indirect) speech. In fact, with the term ‘quotative
construction’ I refer first and foremost to a specific morphological construction in
Kwaza in which a predicate occurs with double person marking.
2.1. Analysis of the structure of quotations
The following example represents an analysis of the structure of the verb in example
(25). It shows how extra inflexions are attached to a verb that is already inflected for the
same categories (i.e. person and mood):
[ [ kukuihỹ-Ø-´ki
[ [ ill
[ [ quoted utterance
[ [ predicate subject: ‘he’ ]
lit: [ ‘ [ ‘he is ill’
‘you say he is ill’
event of quoting
matrix subject: ‘you’]
you say’
As we have seen in the above examples, the layer of inflexions that is closest to the verb
root, the primary layer, cross-refers to the subject of the quoted utterance. The secondary
layer of inflexions, i.e. the one that follows the primary layer, cross-refers to the subject
of the event of quoting. Compare the structural analyses of (24) and (25), in the first of
which magariDa is the quoting subject (24b), and in the second of which magariDa is
the quoted subject (25b):
(24) b
[ maga´riDa [ kukuihỹ-xa-´ki
[ Margarida [ ill
[ quoted utterance
[ predicate subject: ‘you’
lit: [ ‘Margarida [ ‘you’re ill’
‘Margarida says you’re ill’
event of quoting
matrix subject: ‘Margarida’
she says’
(25) b
[ [ maga´riDa kukuihỹ-Ø-´ki
[ [ Margarida ill
[ [ quoted utterance
[ [ predicate subject: ‘Margarida’
lit: [ ‘ [ ‘Margarida is ill’
‘you say Margarida is ill’
event of quoting
matrix subject: ‘you’]
you say’
One could argue that the attachment of an extra layer of inflexions has come about
through cliticisation. In that case, one may just as well argue that both layers of inflexions are cliticised, which would require a less synthetic analysis of Kwaza (see 1.5). This
is because these inflexional layers are represented by the normal inflexional morphemes
of Kwaza, rather than by special clitic elements. In the first place, the forms in the primary and secondary layers of inflexions are identical, i.e. the very same person and mood
markers are employed. In the second place, in quotative constructions main word stress is
on the last syllable of the primary layer of inflexions. This can be seen in all relevant
examples. It suggests that, from the perspective of the secondary layer of inflexions, the
primary layer is to be considered as part of the extended root of the verb. In the light of
the observations that follow example (3) in Section 1.1, it may be best to suppose that the
inflected verb inside a quotative construction is zero-derived as a verbal stem.
2.2. Other moods in the quotative construction
The quoted speech construction is fully productive in Kwaza. It can occur with all different persons and in all existing moods. In fact, entire discourse units can be quoted. In
the following example an exhortative utterance is quoted:
‘he wants us to drink together’
(lit.: ‘he says ‘let’s drink!’’)5
Example (28) shows that quoted utterances can be embedded in cosubordinated clauses:
speak-TRA-1P-EXH-1S-CSO arrive-1S-DEC
‘I came for us to talk’
(lit.: ‘I arrive, me saying: ‘let’s talk!’’)
The illocutionary status of the quoting event can vary. In the next example it is imperative. The utterance does not report on something that was said, but it orders something
to be said:
The first person plural has a default interpretation of inclusive. If it were exclusive this would have been
marked formally by the associated person marker -xa-.
kwε-da-´mỹ-ca-Ø -ra
‘say ‘I will enter’!’
Note that in this example, the emphatic imperative element -ca- should not be seen as
forming a part of the quoted utterance. It belongs to the secondary layer of morphemes.
3. A possible origin of the quotative construction
We have seen that the quotative construction is characterised by the attachment of a
secondary layer of inflexions to (an already inflected) quoted utterance. One of the possible origins of this secondary layer is that it has remained after omission of the root of
a verb of speech. The following examples consist of a quoted utterance embedded in a
matrix clause headed by a verb of speech:
kukui´hỹ-xa-ki ´ta-ta-Ø-ki6
‘she said (to me) that I am ill’ (lit.: ‘‘you are ill’, she talked to me, notifying’)
´ta koto´rε-le tsũ´hũ xare´ja-xa-´re ta-Ø -ta
CSO toad-only
what search-2-INT talk-3-CSO
‘then the toad said ‘what are you looking for?’’
However, the juxtaposition of several matrix clause moods within one sentence is very
rare in Kwaza and makes sense probably only when speech is quoted. I assume that if
the root of the verb of speech ta- “talk” is omitted7 in these examples, the remaining
combination of person and mood inflexions could become cliticised to the previous
word. The result could be a quotative construction of the kind we have seen in the previous sections. However, it is not at all certain that the quotative construction necessarily emerged from the omission of ta- “to say”. Since there are no constructions in
Kwaza that have exactly the same form and the same function as the quotative construction, a verb with double layers of inflexions could probably be considered as a
quotative construction by default.
4. The special use of the quoted interrogative
Even though the quotative construction does not seem to be created for anything else in
Kwaza than to quote speech, it can be used in a different way that seems to be metaphorically related to its normal function. Note that the interpretation of the examples
(27) and (28) is not strictly quotative. Their literal reading may be quotative, but they
have a desiderative or purposive connotation. The purposive sense of (28) is partly an
independent property which is inherent to the cosubordination of clauses. However, the
Note that the preceding cosubordinated clause is not part of the quoted utterance.
The omission of verb roots was discussed in Section 1.5.
desiderative connotation of (27) and (28) may result from a merger of semantic and
pragmatic aspects of the exhortative morpheme and the event of quoting.
Because the pragmatic differences at this level, if they they can be investigated at
all, are rather subtle, it may be helpful to look at somewhat clearer cases of metaphorical use of the quotative construction. The following example concerns the quotation of
an interrogative utterance:
(ku´kui) ja-xa-´re-da-hỹ-ki
‘my, did you eat much!’ / ‘I say, you did eat!’
The literal meaning of ´jaxare “did you eat?” is interrogative. However, (32) has an
exclamative connotation of surprise, or of being impressed. It is true that the interrogative itself can be used in a non-interrogative and emphatic manner, as in:
ku´kui nỹ-´hỹ-re
cockroach wow! big-NOM-INT
‘my, that cockroach is big!’
But in such expressions, the expletive element ku´kui “wow!”, “gosh!”, “damned!” is
required, whereas it is optional in (32). So it seems that in (32) the quotative nature of
the utterance is used as an additional strategy for emphasis. Its alternative translation
shows that Kwaza is not the only language that can use a ‘verb’ of speech to create emphasis.
From the contrast between the following examples it appears that the quoted interrogative may also have a reflective or ruminative connotation:
‘am I (going) to work again?’
‘I think I’m going to work again’ (lit.: ‘I say ‘am I going to work again?’’)
One could suppose on the one hand that the origin of this ‘reflective’ construction does
not involve the hypothetical omission of a verb of speech, but rather of some other verb
of cognition, say, “to think”. However, Kwaza does not have a verb “to think”, and the
verb which approaches the sense of “to think” most closely is the verb tutunita´hỹ- “to
worry”. Therefore it may be better to regard the quotative construction as being quotative, but then only in a symbolic way. Since this construction appears to have other uses
besides quotation and since it does not involve an overt verb of speech one could probably also say that an ‘abstract’ verb of cognition is ‘understood’. This may become an
even more likely analysis for the phenomena discussed in the following section. The
fact that the verb ta- “to say” cannot be used to refer to other mental processes8 further
corroborates this approach. This fact suggests that it is not the actual verb ta- “to say”
that was omitted, or gets ‘zero’ expression in the quotative construction, but something
more abstract. It may be, however, that the most probable analysis of these constructions does not involve the omission of anything at all. Such an analysis was already
hinted at at the end of Section 3.
5. Non-quotative use of the quotative construction
There are two derivational modal morphemes in Kwaza that require double person
marking: purposive -te- and desiderative -heta-. Consider the following examples and
their translations:
‘I’m determined to run’
‘he is supposed to run’
The purposive morpheme is preceded and followed by a person marker. However, there
is no formal relation of the element -te- with one of the aforementioned mood markers.
It is probably derivational because it adds a semantic value of purposive modality to the
predicate. Furthermore, it occurs exclusively in this position inside the predicate, and
cannot take the verb-final position of a normal mood marker in the matrix sentence. The
following expression was not attested9:
Nevertheless, the utterances in (36) and (37) obey the structure of the quotative construction as if -te- were an embedded mood marker. When compared with the respec8
Such a phenomenon is reported to exist in several Andean languages by Adelaar (1990) and in Papuan
languages by de Vries (1990) where an explicit quotative element is used to refer not only to actual speech but
also to thoughts, wishes, intentions and other kinds of “inner speech”. In certain African languages, such as
Shona (Bantu), the use of the quotative element -ti- is not even limited to “inner speech” (Güldemann t.a.). In
Kwaza, such an element does not exist, but the absence (or zero-expression) of such an element in the characteristic ‘quotative construction’ could be regarded as having a similar function. If one would analyse Kwaza
alternatively as an isolating language with auxiliary verbs, these could be regarded as semantically relatively
abstract. Then the meaning of daki would depending on its context range between “I do”, “I am”, “I want”, “I
say” and “I think”. Karo (Tupi-Ramarama, see Gabas Jr. 1999) has an auxiliary verbal root -e- that could be
translated as “to do”, “to say”. In Kwaza, however, the auxiliary verb would not have an identifiable root.
But see the remarks concerning examples (46) and (47).
tive quotative examples (21) and (22) above, it is clear that (36) and (37) display the
same productive cross-reference properties. It is almost as if the omission of an abstract
verb of cognition has led to this construction. Another explanation could be that the
purposive construction is modelled after the quotative construction by analogy. One
could imagine the quotative and purposive examples to share this structure:
verb.stem-PERSON-MOOD/MODALITY (zero.verb.of.cognition)-PERSON-MOOD
For the following purposive examples, a literal translation involving an omitted verb of
speech can be contrived:
eromũtsa-da-´te-xa-ta ´nãi-xa-re10
‘is it for you to wear on your wrist?’
(lit.: ‘is it for youi to (say) ‘Ii wear it on the wrist’?’)
eromũtsa-xa-´te-xa-ta ´nãi-xa-re
wrist-2-PURP-2-CSO like-2-INT
‘is it for you to put on my wrist?’
(lit.: ‘is it for youi to (say) ‘youj wear it on the wrist’?’)
The same observations can be made with respect to the morpheme -heta-, which is like
-te- also considered as derivational on grounds of its distributional properties. Consider
the following examples:
‘I wanted to kill’
´ĩ cari-da-he´ta-Ø-tsε
he shoot-1S-DESI-3-DEC
‘he wanted to kill’
´txa kui-da-he´ta-xa-re
tea drink-1S-DESI-2-INT
‘would you like to drink tea?’
(lit.: ‘Ii want ‘Ii kill’’)
(lit.: ‘hei want ‘Ii kill’’)
(lit.: ‘do youi want ‘Ii drink tea’?’)
Note that the construction itself is embedded as a cosubordinated clause under a dummy matrix predicate
nãi- “to be like”. Constructions involving nãi- usually have an explicative value and cosubordination itself may
add up to the purposive meaning of the sentence. However, the following example (created by myself, but
based on similar examples) would convey more or less the same meaning as (40):
(40) b
‘(it is) for you to put on your wrist’
‘I would like him to talk’
(lit.: ‘Ii want ‘hej talk’’)
Again, the structure is typically quotative, and the embedded person markers remain
productive. The alternative person marking in (40) vs. (41) and in (44) vs. (45) go with
a predictable change of perspective. Both in example (40) and (44) the first person
marker -da- and the second person marker -xa- refer to the same subject. The situation
is reversed in example (41) where the double marking of second person -xa- crossrefers literally to different subjects. Unfortunately, a double second person version of
(44), which would represent a desiderative structural equivalent of (41), was not recorded.11 The change of perspective in (45) is especially clear when it is placed contrast
with (43).
Neither -te- nor -heta- can occur in any other position than in between person
markers inside the predicate. The only attested exceptions to this were elliptic (see Section 1.5):
‘would he gave to you!’, ‘if only he gave (it) to you’
dilε-´wã oi´tsi-da-heta
who-AO sex-1S-DESI
‘(I) would like to make love with someone’
Although a purposive utterance like example (38) was never attested, I suppose that it
may in principle occur as a result of morphological ellipsis. Just as in the case of (46)
and (47) it will be interpretable in an appropriate context, in this case: “(I’m/you’re/he
is) determined to run”.
So in spite of the quotative structures, the quotative interpretations of the purposive and desiderative modalities are somewhat contrived. If omission of a verb root
of cognition led to these constructions, it is unclear which root. It seems more likely that
the morphemes -te- and -heta- are inserted via a process of analogy into a grammaticalised and fixed quotative template.
6. The development of new modality morphemes out of mood inflexions
It was explained in Section 2 that the productive quotative construction in Kwaza involves a double layer of person and mood inflexions. Its semantic content is also quotative. In Section 5, the purposive and desiderative modality morphemes were shown to
It would certainly be grammatical:
(44) b
´txa kui-xa-he´ta-xa-re
tea drink-2-DESI-2-INT
‘would you like me to drink tea?’
(lit.: ‘do youi want ‘youj drink tea’?’)
occur in a very similar construction. The difference, however, is that a quotative interpretation is hardly possible and that the purposive and desiderative elements should
probably not be regarded as inflexions.
Apart from these two types of ‘quotative’ constructions, there is a third kind of
construction which holds a position somewhere in between. It involves derivational
modal elements which have apparently developed from person and mood inflexions. It
does not involve, however, productive word-internal person inflexion. Compare the
following example to example (7) above:
already drink-CAUS-1S-DEC
‘I already let (him) drink’
(lit., ±: ‘I already said: ‘let him drink!’’)
The causational12 element -nĩ- in example (48) bears a strong phonetic resemblance to
the exhortative mood marker -ni and is probably derived from it. I suppose it could
have emerged from a process of change of grammatical status of the exhortative element embedded in a quotative construction. With only a little effort, (48) can be read as
a quoted exhortative. This, however, is less easy in the following examples:
kuraku´ra ja-´dy-da-ki
‘I feed the chickens so that they can go to sleep’
‘I cut myself (by accident)’13
Whereas (48) is still somewhat quotative, (49) and (50) can hardly be interpreted as
quotative on semantic grounds. These latter two examples suggest that the original inflexional element -ni is on its way to become a new derivational element -nĩ-. Of course
the possibility cannot be excluded that both elements are not etymologically related at
all, and that their near homophonousness is a matter of coincidence. However, the derivational causational is not the only modality suffix that has a similar (both formally and
semantically) inflexional mood counterpart in Kwaza. Compare the following example
to the monitory example (10) in the introduction:
a-´wy wotsu-´tsi-da-ta
Ø-time skinny-MON-1S-CSO
‘I do it (feeding the cattle) before they become emaciated’
The causational modality is different from the valency-increasing causative morpheme -dy-.
This example is not reflexive. In the reflexive version of (50) the morpheme -nỹ- would have occurred
in the place of the causational morpheme, and the subject would have cut himself on purpose.
Here a quotative reading is difficult to conceive. It may be that a derivational modal
morpheme with a ‘preventive’ semantic content, “lest”, is developing from the monitory mood inflexion.
The volitive mood seems to have made it even further down the road to ‘lexicalisation’. In a fossilised combination with the first person singular cross-reference marker
-da-, the volitive mood morpheme -mỹ is attested as a derivational morpheme and a
verb root (-)damỹ-, meaning “to want”. Compare the following examples:
‘I’m going!’
‘I went’, ‘I am going’
‘are you going?’
‘are you going?’
The first example in (53) could still be regarded as a quoted speech construction in
which the volitive and the first person morphemes work together to produce the predictable literal meaning of: “do youi say ‘I’mi going!’?”. In the following example, no
such quotative reading is likely anymore:
‘it is becoming angry!’ (so watch out for that dog)
If (54) is to be interpreted quotatively, it would be interesting to know more about the
linguistic abilities of the dog, at least if the example is supposed to contain direct
speech. But also an indirect quotation of speech would be difficult to conceive. An interpretation that involves an (omitted) semantically abstract verb of cognition would
then be more likely: “iti thinks/feels/growls ‘Ii will become angry!’”. Now consider the
following example:
‘it is about to run out’ (the gas of the cigarette lighter)
In example (55) a strictly quotative interpretation is impossible. But even a more abstract cognitive interpretation would not make sense. Maybe these examples involve
quotation in a metaphorical manner. This is also attested in other languages, where inanimate beings may be said to ‘say’ something if they are likely to produce a sound. In
colloquial Dutch, for example, a firecracker may ‘say ‘bang’’. In (55), however, there is
Note that the stress pattern ´εdamỹ “I’m going!” was also attested.
no auditive connotation at all. Furthermore, the volitive mood morpheme can only be
applied to ‘controlled’ verbs. This means that the volitive mood -mỹ is anomalous on
verbs where the subject has no ‘control’ over the event, such as e.g. the event of getting
a fever. This restriction does not apply, however, to the petrified volitional combination
-damỹ, as is also shown by example (55). So it is perhaps better to say that the first person singular volitive set of inflexions -da-mỹ has developed into a different, derivational morpheme that has a general meaning that ranges over intentional or volitional
modality and ingressive aspect.15 An additional reason to see -damỹ as a separate, new
morpheme is that the first person marker that it contains is fossilised. In the wordinternal positions in which it occurs in the above examples, -da- could never be substituted for another person marker, whereas it can in its normal matrix clause use, as illustrated by example (5) in the introduction. The next examples show that damỹ- is even
used as a lexeme, a verb root that means “to want, to intend, to be going to” or a particle
that means “yes! (I will)”:
‘you (pl) are going to do (it)’
‘he is going (or wanting) to do (it)’, ‘he says ‘yes (I will)!’’
The latter example can still be seen as quotative. According to that interpretation, as
many as two verb roots may have been ‘omitted’: a verb of speech and another verb
root that is ‘understood’ from the specific discourse context of the utterance, as in (19).
7. Comparable developments in Quechua and Eskimo
The phenomenon of inflexional morphemes developing into derivational morphemes as
sketched in Section 6 may not be unique to Kwaza. According to Muysken (1977:105107) a similar process is likely to have led to new aspectual morphemes in Ecuadorian
Quechua. The following example contrasts an older pattern, involving a nominalised
verb and an inflected auxiliary verb, with a more recent construction, involving a (derivational) morpheme:
‘I am going to eat’
‘I am going to eat’
Note that in many languages of the world, the expression of future or ingressive aspect of inanimate and
non-controlled events may involve cognitive modal verbs or suffixes with a meaning like “to want”. In
languages as diverse as Indo-European, Eskimo-Aleut (see Johns 1999 for Inuktitut) and Kwaza one can
say things like “it wants to rain”. The peculiar fact of Kwaza is that this modal element includes a fossilised first person marker.
Muysken assumes that the word boundary between the two verbs has disappeared, and
that the (inflexional) nominaliser -k of the first word has merged with the root ri- “to
go” of the second word, which has led to a new inchoative morpheme -gri-. One of the
motivations for this historical development could have been the necessity to differentiate between emphatic and non-emphatic forms.
Also in the Eskimo languages, comparable developments seem to have taken place.
In Kalaallisut, the polysynthetic suffixing language of the West Greenlandic Inuit,
nominal oblique case markers may have developed into verbal directional morphemes.16
Consider the following ablative example (from Olsen & Hertling 1988:38):
‘from Godthåb’
‘he comes from Godthåb’
In this type of construction inflexional aspects such as person and number marking
remain productive, as is shown by the following allative and prosecutive examples (from
Kristoffersen 1991:16 and Bergsland 1955:92):
‘to her house’
‘he went to her house’
land-REL.SG inner-3SG.POS.PROS-start-every.time-CAU.1PL
‘always when we start to go through the land’
These constructions form an exception to the standard approach of Greenlandic as a
suffixing language, according to which obligatory word structure and morpheme order
is root-derivation-inflexion. The elements that follow the case marker in the above examples are not considered as clitics, but as derivations, that are followed again by
obligatory inflexions. This phenomenon occurs also in the Canadian, Alaskan and Siberian Eskimo languages, and it is usually referred to as ‘postinflectional morphology’
(e.g. De Reuse 1994:170-230; Sadock 1991:174-175).17
In Eskimo, postinflexional constructions based on inflected verbs are also attested,
however seldomly. The following Central Alaskan Yupik example from Sadock
(1991:175) involves the “very rare postinflexional clitic-like affix” -Vr- “to say”:
See the following entries in Fortescue et al. (1994:403;411;412 respectively): -k(k)u(C)ar- “go via”,
-mt- “be in or at”, -muaq- “go to(wards)”.
In the Danish literature it may be known as indre bøjning “internal inflexion”, (Berthelsen et al. 1998:128).
‘Lisa said this one is coming’
The same affix is attested in West Greenlandic, where it has the connotation of “to
shout”. Consider the following example from Schultz-Lorentzen (1967:350):
palasi agger-po-or-pata
priest come-IND.3SG-say-COND.3PL
‘when they shout ‘the priest is coming!’’
The contrast between the following Greenlandic examples, from Fortescue (1984:3) and
Kristoffersen (p.c.) respectively, clearly demonstrates productive internal plural
‘he shouted ‘a ship!’’
‘they shouted ‘ships!’’
According to its treatment in Fortescue et al. (1994:423), the morpheme -Vr- “to say” is
considered as a bound derivational morpheme. Because it is obligatorily followed by
inflexional suffixes it does not belong to the category of clitic affixes in Eskimo, even
though its attachment behaviour is similar.
8. Conclusion
In this article I have described the quotative construction in Kwaza as a specific grammatical construction that is characterized by word-internal person inflexion. It has a
limited and very specific use in Kwaza and does not occur elsewhere in the language.
The following table summarises the different appearances and semantic values (“functions”) of the quotative construction. The parameter ‘quotativity’ concerns the possibility of a quotative interpretation:
Table II: The different functions and forms of the quotative construction
Do the phenomena described and discussed here represent a kind of lexicalisation or
grammaticalisation? When a morpheme becomes lexicalised, it turns into a lexeme or it
becomes a fossilised part of another morpheme or lexeme. This seems to be indeed the
case in damỹ-, at least as a new lexical verb root “to want”, in which the first person
marker -da- has become petrified together with the volitive marker -mỹ, has lost its
original first person sense and cannot be substituted for another person marker. But
lexicalisation is not the only process of grammatical change in Kwaza. It seems also
that certain inflexional elements have become derivational. This was also shown in Section 6.
The phenomenon that grammatical elements may develop out of lexical (or content) words is called grammaticalisation. As pointed out in Hopper and Traugott
(1993:7), most linguists agree that such developments in a language are subject to a
‘cline of grammaticality’ that goes in the following direction:
content item
grammatical word
inflexional affix
It is a much recurring phenomenon in grammaticalisation changes that the original
form, on which a certain grammaticalised form is based, does not disappear, but continues to exist with (traces of) its original meaning. The new form does not make the old
one obsolete. Rather, new distributional possibilities are opened for the original form.
This characteristic of grammaticalisation is referred to as ‘divergence’ by Hopper and
Traugott (1993:117). If Kwaza were to be analysed as a language that is syntactically
complex rather than morphologically complex one could regard the person and mood
combination as an independent auxiliary verb. Such auxiliaries are then grammaticalised in the ‘quotative construction’, where they are cliticised. As explained in Section
1.5, I have chosen not to adopt this approach.
Only a few linguists assume the existence of processes that go in the opposite direction of the cline of grammaticalisation. In Norde (1997, 2001) data from Swedish are
presented to argue for the existence of such counterdirectional developments. Norde
considers the change of certain inflexional morphemes into derivational morphemes in
the historical development of Swedish as an instance of ‘degrammaticalisation’. Unlike
Hopper and Traugott (1993), she and several other linguists assume that derivational
morphology has a lower grammatical status than inflexion, and that it should be placed
to its left on the cline of grammaticality. An important aspect of the definition as employed by Norde is that degrammaticalisation differs from lexicalisation in that the former is a gradual phenomenon. Furthermore, degrammaticalisation cannot be regarded
as the reverse of grammaticalisation; it is a phenomenon of linguistic change in its own
right. Finally Norde appears to assume that ‘deflexion’ is a prerequisite of degrammaticalisation, i.e. degrammaticalisation crucially involves loss of original grammatical
In the present analysis of Kwaza as a morphologically complex language, counterdirectional developments can be argued to have taken place. The data presented here
call for an analysis in terms of degrammaticalisation. A conspicuous aspect of degrammaticalisation in Kwaza is that the original inflexional elements, from which deriva-
tional and lexical elements have derived, did not undergo ‘deflexion’ themselves. That
is, the volitive, exhortative and monitory moods are still productive inflexional morphemes, in spite of the fact that volitional, causational and preventive derivational morphemes seem to have developed from them. Contrary to what the Swedish data may
suggest, the data from Kwaza indicate that the abovementioned phenomenon of ‘divergence’ can also be observed in degrammaticalisation changes. With respect to purposive -te- and desiderative -heta-, deflexion may have taken place. It is a pity, however, that no earlier stages of the language have been documented.
The true quotative expressions in Section 2 are not considered as degrammaticalised in Kwaza. They are completely transparent and productive, and in this they resemble the Eskimo constructions with word-internal inflexion. The difference is that in Eskimo the embedded number, possessor and oblique case inflexions and the embedded
person and mood inflexions are followed by an overt derivational morpheme. They are
not zero-derived as in Kwaza.
Adelaar, Willem F.H.
1990 ‘The role of quotations in Andean discourse’, in: Pinkster & Genee (eds.), pp 112.
Allen, Shanley E.M.
1996 Aspects of argument structure in Inuktitut, Language aquisition & language disorders vol. 13, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Bauer, Laurie
2000 ‘Word’, in: Geert Booij, Christian Lehmann, Joachim Mugdan et al. (eds.),
Morphologie: Ein internationales Handbuch zur Flexion und Wortbildung,
Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft vol 17.1, Berlin/New
York: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 247-257.
Bergsland, Knut
1955 A grammatical outline of the Eskimo language of West Greenland, [typoscript],
Oslo: Skrivemaskinstua.
Berthelsen, C., B. Jacobsen, R. Petersen, I. Kleivan & J. Rischel (eds.)
1998 Oqaatsinut Tapiliussaq / Oqaatsit Supplementsbind. Nuuk: Atuakkiorfik Ilinniusiorfik.
Foley, William A. and Robert D. Van Valin
1984 Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar, Cambridge Studies in Linguistics
38, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fortescue, Michael
1984 West Greenlandic, London etc.: Croom Helm.
Fortescue, Michael, Steven Jacobson & Lawrence Kaplan
1994 Comparative Eskimo dictionary, with Aleut cognates, Fairbanks: Alaska Native
Language Center.
Gabas Junior, Nilson
1999 A grammar of Karo, Tupí (Brazil), [PhD thesis], Santa Barbara: University of
Güldemann, Tom
‘When ‘say’ is not say: The functional versatility of the Bantu quotative marker ti
with special reference to Shona’, in: Tom Güldemann & Manfred von Roncador
(eds.), Reported discourse as a meeting ground for different linguistic domains,
Typological studies in language, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. & Elizabeth Closs Traugott
1993 Grammaticalization, Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Johns, Alana
1999 ‘On the lexical semantics of affixal ‘want’ in Inuktitut’, in: International Journal of American Linguistics, 65/2:176-200.
Kristoffersen, Lars
1991 Verbal derivation and inflection in a functional grammar of West Greenlandic,
[master’s dissertation], Copenhagen: Københavns Universitet.
Moore, Denny
2002 ‘Verbos sem flexão’, to appear in: Atas do I encontro internacional do Grupo
de Trabalho de Linguas Indígenas, Brazil.
Muysken, Pieter
1977 Syntactic developments in the verb phrase of Ecuadorian Quechua, [doctoral
dissertation], Lisse: The Peter de Ridder Press.
Norde, Muriel
1997 The history of the genitive in Swedish: A case study in degrammaticalization,
[doctoral dissertation], Amsterdam: Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vakgroep
Skandinavische Taal- en Letterkunde.
2001 ‘Deflexion as a counterdirectional factor in grammatical change’, in: Language
Sciences, [special issue edited by Lyle Campbell: Grammaticalization: a critical
assessment], 23: 231-264.
Olsen, Lise Lennert & Birgitte Hertling
1988 Grønlandsk tilhængsliste, Pilersuiffik.
Pinkster, Harm & Inge Genee (eds.)
1990 Unity in Diversity: Papers presented to Simon Dik on his 50th birthday,
Dordrecht/Providence R.I.: Foris Publications.
Reuse, Willem J. de
1994 Siberian Yupik Eskimo: The language and its contacts with Chukchi, Salt Lake
City: University of Utah Press.
Rodrigues, Aryon Dall´Igna
1986 Línguas Brasileiras: Para o Conhecimento das Línguas Indígenas, São Paulo:
Edições Loyola.
Sadock, Jerrold
1991 Autolexical syntax: A theory of parallel grammatical representations, Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.
Schultz-Lorentzen, Christian W.
1967 Den grønlandske Ordbog: Grønlandsk - Dansk, [facsimile edition of 1926], S.L.
Voort, Hein van der
2000 A grammar of Kwaza: A description of an endangered and unclassified
indigenous language of Southern Rondônia, Brazil, [doctoral dissertation],
Leiden: Universiteit Leiden.
Vries, Lourens J. de
1990 ‘Some remarks on direct quotation in Kombai’, in: Pinkster & Genee (eds.), pp.
ablative case
absolutive case
allative case
animate object
associated person
causative (a mood in
Eskimo examples)
conditional mood
cosubordinating mood
declarative mood
different subject
exhortative mood
imperative mood
indicative mood
interrogative mood
indefinite subject
monitory mood
negative exhortative
negative imperative
prosecutive case
relative/genitive case
switch reference mood
volitive mood
1st person object
1st person plural
1st person plural
1st person singular
2nd person singular
3rd person
3rd person singular
3rd person subject, 2nd
person object
morphemic boundary
separates semantic units in
a portmanteau morpheme
composition or clitic
Mary Ruth Wise
SIL International
1. Introduction
Affixes, which promote oblique noun phrases to arguments of the verb, are found in
the verbal morphology of Peruvian Amazonian languages representing at least six
language families.1 “The semantic content [of the affixes] falls within the range generally attributed to so-called oblique relations” (Craig and Hale 1988:312). Since the
most common functions of these affixes are valence-increasing, “applicative” is the
cover term used for them in this paper. Nevertheless, the term is not completely satisfactory because in some cases they do not change the transitivity, or they may even
decrease it.
Applicatives were first described, as far as I can ascertain, by Carochi in 1645
for Nahuatl. According to him they serve to designate an “order[ing of] the action of
the verb towards another person or thing, connecting it to him (atribuyéndosela) by
way of damage or benefit, taking it off him, or putting it on him, or relating it to him
(refiriéndosela) in any way whatever” (1645:166; quoted from Tuggy 1981:413). A
given “applicative”—as the term is used here—may define the semantic role of the
argument; or, a general applicative, may simply indicate that the argument is somehow involved in the action of the verb.
Data from the following languages are presented to illustrate the range of functions of the applicatives in Peruvian Amazonian languages: Chayahuita (Cahuapanan), Arabela (Zaparoan), Yagua (Peba-Yaguan), Yaminahua (Panoan), Yanesha
(Maipuran Arawakan), Nomatsiguenga (Pre-Andine Maipuran Arawakan).2
Ashéninka (Pre-Andine Maipuran Arawakan) and Iquito (Zaparoan) are mentioned
briefly. The data are then summarized in order to look for correlates with other
grammatical characteristics.
2. Data
The basic word orders of the languages discussed are SOV (Chayahuita, Arabela, and
Yaminahua), SVO (Iquito), and VSO (Yagua, Yanesha, Nomatsiguenga, and Asheninka). The affixes discussed are all suffixes; one applicative suffix in Nomatsiguenga appears to be cognate with a causative prefix. All of the languages discussed have morphological causatives.
I am grateful to Simon van de Kerke and Mily Crevels for helpful comments on an earlier version of
this paper.
The term “Pre-Andine” is used by David Payne (2000) to refer to the group of Maipuran Arawakan
languages formerly classified “Campa.” It does not include Yanesha (Amuesha) and Piro, which were
listed as Pre-Andine in some previous descriptions such as Wise (1986).
2.1. Chayahuita (Cahuapanan)
“In Chayahuita the applicative suffix -të/-ta may verbalize (1a); transitivize (1b);
change impersonal verbs to intransitive (1c); detransitivize [i.e., change transitive to
intransitive] (1d); and change transitive to ditransitive (1e)” (Wise 1999:327).3 (In
Chayahuita the third singular object is zero; -r is ‘indicative’, -in is ‘third singular
agent or subject’.)
(1) a
‘trail’ (noun)
ama-r-in ‘he/she bathes’
tashi-r-in ‘becomes night’
(lit. ‘it nights’)
nati-r-in ‘he/she obeys
apa-r-in ‘he/she sends it’
ira-të-r-in ‘he/she walks’
ama-të-r-in ‘he/she bathes him/her’
tashi-të-r-in ‘it becomes night in the
place where he/she is’
(lit. ‘it nights on him/her’)
nati-të-r-in ‘he/she obeys’
apa-të-r-in ‘he/she sends it to someone’
(Hart 1988:269-270)
Chayahuita is a nominative–accusative SOV language with switch-reference suffixes
in subordinate verbs. The desiderative, reflexive, and causative morphemes are prefixes and there is a set of bound roots, which occur in compound verb stems. These
bound roots could be considered either prefixes or noun incorporation. Otherwise,
verbal affixes are suffixes, including those which cross-reference the arguments of
the verb.
2.2. Arabela and Iquito (Zaparoan)
In Arabela the suffix -ta-/-tia is not always valence-changing. It may imply that the
subject is complex or plural, e.g., a monkey and its baby although the baby is left
implicit. Some of the meanings added to the basic verb by this suffix, which is
glossed ‘applicative’ for convenience, include: compassion on the part of the speaker;
passive accompaniment (2); abnormal condition (3); subject or object contained or
containing something, e.g., carrying something as in (4);4 the subject is sick or old or
wounded, as in (5); the verb has to do with a goal or reason.
naana -akua tiuu -tia
guacamayo tree in
‘A guacamayo is perched (with it’s mate) in the tree.’
(Rich 1999:55)
Since the functions of the Chayahuita suffix glossed ‘applicative’ are so diverse, Bill Henning (p.c.)
suggests that -të/-ta might be more appropriately glossed ‘reverse default valence’. Thus, nati- ‘to obey’ is
by default transitive while ama- ‘to bathe’ is by default intransitive.
The symbol  in Chayahuita and Yanesha examples is used for a glottal stop which is part of the syllable
Alternatively, -tia could be considered transitivizing in (4), that is, ‘I stumbled my manioc.’
kia maka -ta
-re tee
kia -nu -taniya -ni
2SG climb APPL IRR where 1PL.INCL go INF FUT SCL
‘Climb (the tree in order to see) where we should go (having lost the trail).’
(Rich 1999:56)
kua morehaka tiurii
-ree -nihia
1SG manioc
stumble APPL COMPL 1SG
‘I stumbled while carrying my load of manioc.’
haniya -ri
(Rich 1999:431)
nu -koko -hi kua shikiorta -ashi
trail by
of 1SG hurt
roshi -yo
-wa -ni
‘With my wounded [leg] paining me at each step, ‘I dragged myself along
the trail and returned [home].’
(Rich 1999:56)
An additional function unique to Arabela (and other Zaparoan languages?) is that the
applicative occurs in the main verb when the subject of the infinitival complement is
different from that of the main clause. Compare, for example, (6) where the subject
of the verbal complement is the same as that of the main clause with (7) where the
subjects are different. (Example 3 might also be a case of this construction.)
haniya kia -ta kia -nu pani
1SG 2SG COM go INF want
‘I want to go with you.’
haniya kia pani -tia
1SG 2SG want APPL
‘I want you to go.’
(Rich 1999:91)
kia -nu -ni
go INF 1R
(Rich 1999:91)
Note that the applicative -ta/-tia in (7) and the sociative or comitative postposition -ta
in (6) appear to be cognate. (This was first pointed out by Doris Payne 1984.)
The suffix -ta/-tia is apparently the only applicative in Arabela. Some pronominal forms are proclitics and others are enclitics; they are not cross-referencing. Verbal
affixes are all suffixes. Arabela appears to be a nominative–accusative SOV language
although there are some traits which may indicate it is a split-ergative language.
Iquito, another Zaparoan language, also has the applicative affix -ta. Eastman
and Eastman (1961) describe it as both transitivizing and intransitivizing, i.e. reflexive. (R. Rich, p.c., suggests that this may not be the correct analysis. Recall, however,
that Chayahuita -të/-ta has both functions also.) Iquito word order is SVO.
2.3. Yagua (Peba-Yaguan)
In Yagua, also, there is a valence-increasing applicative suffix -ta/-tya. T. Payne
(1997:187) states that this suffix indicates that the promoted argument is a locative
(8b), an instrument (9b), or comitative. Compare (9b) with the postposition -tya in
(9a). In (8b) -ta occurs with an intransitive verb and in (9b) with a transitive. (As in
Arabela, the forms -ta and -tya are allomorphs.) In Yagua the clitic cross-referencing
the direct object always immediately precedes it. In (9a) -ra/-rya shows that meat is
the direct object while in (9b) ‘knife’ is.
(8) a
(9) a
saduu rá
3SG blow INAN into
‘He blows into it.’
sa- duu -tá
3SG blow APPL
‘He blows it.’
(T. Payne 1997:187)
si- ichití -rya
javanu quiichi -tya
3SG poke INAN.OBJ meat knife INST
‘He poked the meat with the/a knife.’
si- ichití -tya -ra
3SG poke APPL INAN.OBJ knife
‘He poked something with the knife.’
(T. Payne 1997:187)
Yagua is a nominative–accusative VSO language with cross-referencing pronominal
clitics; the cross-reference to the subject is a verbal proclitic while the cross-reference
to the object is encliticized to the word preceding the object, as in (9b). Apart from
the pronominal proclitics all affixes are suffixes. Classifiers occur in nouns and adjectives but are not incorporated into the verb except to derive a noun.
2.4. Yaminahua (Panoan)
In Yaminahua there are three applicative affixes each of which increases transitivity.
The promoted noun phrase has the form of an object—absolutive in the case of a
noun but accusative in the case of a first or second person pronoun. The applicative
suffixes are -xon ‘benefactive’, as in (10); -ni/Ø (following n) ‘malefactive’ (11); and
-kin ‘comitative’ (12b).
en mia waka we
-xon -non
you water bring BEN FUT
‘I will bring you water/I will bring water for you.’
(Faust and Loos, fc)
oa noko wenen
min awara mia win(Ø) -a
this person man (ERG) you thing you rob(MAL) COMP
‘This man has robbed you of something/This man has robbed something
from you.’
(Faust and Loos, fc)
(12) a
wake kawasan -i
already child walk
‘The child is already walking.’
kawasan -kin -we min exto
COM IMPV your brother
‘Accompany your brother/Go with your brother.’
(Faust and Loos, fc)
Yaminahua is an ergative–absolutive language except for first and second person
pronouns, which are nominative–accusative. (If the benefactive and malefactive objects -mia in (10) and (11) were nouns, the form would be absolutive rather than accusative.) Word order is SOV (AOV) with switch-reference suffixes in the verb
which also indicate the temporal/logical relation of the subordinate clause to its matrix clause and whether or not the verb of the matrix clause is transitive or intransitive.5 All affixation is suffixal except for bound forms of nouns which may be incorporated as verbal prefixes. There is no cross-referencing of arguments in the verb.
2.5. Yanesha (Maipuran Arawakan)
In Yanesha (Amuesha) there are three applicative affixes; the first two
-n/-on/-nan/-ñan ‘benefactive/malefactive’, and -apr ‘sociative/comitative’, always
increase transitivity, as seen in (13) and (14) where en- ‘look for’ transitive is ditransitivized, (15) where w-‘come’ intransitive is transitivized. A verb with the comitative -apr may be detransitivized, i.e., intransitivized, by the addition of -ann ‘reciprocal’, as shown in (16).
p- en
-apr -et
-eerr -en ne roor -eer
2SG look.for
1SG 1SG flower POSS
‘Help me look for my flower/Look for my flower with me.’
(Duff-Tripp 1997:99)
p- en
2SG look.for REP
‘Look for my needle for me.’
(Duff-Tripp 1997:173)
See Valenzuela (2000) for discussion of a possible diachronic relationship between switch-reference
(same subject) markers and applicatives in Shipibo-Konibo (closely related to Yaminahua).
Ø- w
-ahp -on
-ay -a
‘It arrived on (against) us (an illness).’
(Wise, field notes)
rr -apr -et -ann -at -eet
‘They ate together/They accompanied one another in eating.’
(Duff-Tripp 1997:99)
The functions of the other applicative suffix -amypy/-apy are more varied, as in the
cases of -të/-ta in Chayahuita and -ta/-tia in Arabela. The applicative -amypy/
-apy usually adds another argument, as in (17). In some cases it simply changes the
meaning of the verb stem, as shown in (18).6
tyom -ampy -s -as
s- aneets- er
2PL village GEN
‘He/she burned your village (to your detriment).’
(18) a
kow -een -aan
‘He/she is looking at the small child.’
kow -amypy -een -aan
‘He/she is caring for the small child.’
(Duff-Tripp 1997:99)
The suffix can be ‘benefactive/malefactive’, as shown in (19a). An impersonal verb
(20), or one in which the subject is normally only third person (21), can be changed
into a regularly conjugated intransitive verb, as in (20) and (21). Thus, an almost avalent verb becomes monovalent when suffixed by -amypy.
(19) a
ye- mayoch -amypy -een -s -a
1PL pray
‘We pray for you (pl) (along with others).’
-een -s -a
‘We pray to you (pl).’
(Duff-Tripp 1997:100)
Les Bruce (p.c.) suggests that (18b) could be considered to increase transitivity in the sense that the
actor is more involved.
(20) a
(21) a
tyooñ -o
yechekmy -et -amypy -es
to.night EP APPL
trail LOC
‘The darkness overtook us (while we were still) on the trail.’
chekmy -et -een
tyooñ -o
trail LOC
3SG to.night EP CONT
‘It’s dark/night along the trail.’
y- ahn
-om -amypy
‘We flew (in the plane).’
-om -a
‘It (the bird) flew.’
(Duff-Tripp 1997:100)
(Duff-Tripp 1997:100)
The applicative may also indicate that the subject (21a) or object (22) is in a container or that the object is somehow included in the action (23).
y- atyoor
-amypy -een -y
‘We fan the fire to heat the water.’
(lit. ‘we blow/fan the water contained’)
(Duff-Tripp 1997:100)
anos -amypy -s -aan
rreera po- choy -oor
‘He climbed up to where the hawk’s chicks were.’ (Duff-Tripp 1997:100)
Yanesha is a nominative–accusative VSO language. The subject cross-referencing
morphemes and one of the causatives are prefixes; all other verbal affixes are suffixes. Nouns and classifiers may be incorporated in the verb.
2.6 Nomatsiguenga (Pre-Andine Maipuran Arawakan)
Nomatsiguenga and the other Pre-Andine Maipuran Arawakan languages are considered by Thomas Payne as probably having “the most highly developed systems of
morphologically distinct applicative operations on earth” (T. Payne 1997:190). One
verb can contain several applicative markers. Example (24) is from the closely related Pajonal Asheninka. (Both applicative affixes, -ako and -imo, occur in
no- p -ako -ts -imo -tsi -ro -ri
Irena Irokarto paño
1SG give APPL EP PRES ASP 3f 3m
Irene Richard scarf
‘I gave Richard the head scarf in Irene’s presence.’
(Shaler 1971:45)
The general applicative -ako/-oko/-ko, illustrated in (25) and (26), has a whole range
of meanings which can be summarized as “the action is somehow in reference to the
object or the object is somehow involved.”7
i- samë
-k -e -ro
i- gisere
3m to.sleep APPL ASP NF 3f
3m comb
‘He went to sleep with reference to his comb
(e.g., he was making it and dropped it’).’
(Wise 1971:50)
i- komo
-t -oko -k -e -ri pabati otsegoha
3m EP APPL ASP NF 3m father stream
‘He dammed the stream with reference to father
(father was the leader of the project).’
(Wise 1971:50)
Other applicatives are listed and exemplified in (27)-(33). Although T. Payne
(1997:190-191) describes them as applicatives, some analysts might consider them to
be simply valence-changing affixes. (See Aikhenvald 1999:90-92 for discussion of
these affixes in “applicative derivations”.) The instrumental suffix -an/-ant in (30),
for example, is listed as an applicative since it promotes an oblique noun phrase to
object. Without -ant in the verb, the object suffix -ro ‘3f’ could not occur and abio
‘plane’ would be suffixed by -kë ‘in, at, by, with’.
‘because, for, why, because of’
pi- á
-birí -k -e
Iríma -kë
Lima LOC
‘Why did you go to Lima?’
(Shaver 1996:47)
-así ‘purposive (action done with some purpose in view), for’
ni- pok -así -k -i -mi
1 come PURP ASP F
‘I came for you (to take you).’
(Shaver 1996:47)
‘with respect to, in relation to’
i- sigo -pí
-t -ë -na
3m run
‘He ran away from me.’
(Shaver 1996:47)
Will Kindberg (p.c.) suggests that -ako in the closely related Ashaninka language may be derived from
the noun root ako ‘hand’, that is, -ako is an incorporated noun which has been grammaticalized.
-an/-ant ‘instrumental’
i- ken
-ant -ak
3m travel INST PERF
‘He traveled by plane.’
-ben/-bin ‘for, benefactive’
no- pën
-a -ben -k -e -ri
1 pay
‘I paid it for him.’
(Shaver 1996:48)
(Shaver 1996:48)
-té ‘towards, against’
i- hok -a -té
-t -abé -k -a
‘He threw it at him but missed/it didn’t hurt him.’
(Shaver 1996:48)
-ak/-akag ‘comitative/sociative causative’
i- komo
-t -ak -ak -e -ri
Pablo otsegoha
Paul stream
‘He dammed the stream with Paul/he caused Paul to dam the stream
working along with him.’
(Wise 1971:107)
Passive constructions are rare in Nomatsiguenga and are limited to third person. Example (34) uses the suffix -imo/-omo—illustrated for Pajonal Ashéninka in (25)—in
a passive construction.
Pablo ir- ia -t -omo -t -I -nani
‘Someone went to where Paul was’ (lit. Paul was gone in the presence of)
Nomatsiguenga is basically a nominative–accusative language although in stative
intransitive verbs the pronominal form cross-referencing the subject is a suffix (object position), rather than a prefix. Compare the position of the first person marker in
the active (35a) and stative (35b) examples.
(35) a
no- pok -e
1 come NF
‘I arrive.’
pok -ak
-i -na
‘I arrive (said upon arrival).’
(Shaver 1996:121)
The basic word order in Nomatsiguenga is VSO. Apart from pronominal forms crossreferencing the subject, one of the causatives, and the future/irrealis prefix; all verbal
morphology is by suffixation. Nouns and classifiers may be incorporated in the verb.
3. Summary of data and discussion
3.1 Summary of data
The chart summarizes the data for six of the eight languages mentioned in section 1.
Notice that all six have applicative suffixes rather than prefixes, although applicative
prefixes seem to be more common than suffixes in other parts of the world. (See section 2.2.) Most verb morphology is by suffixation in all of the languages, irrespective
of basic word order. Although not indicated in the chart, all of the languages are head
marking; as indicated, all have morphological causatives. Comparison of the languages discussed here with languages which do not have applicatives, but do have
morphological causatives, e.g., Bora (see Thiesen 1996), leads to the tentative hypothesis that the presence of an applicative affix implies the presence of a causative
affix, but not vice versa. Clear correlations with other grammatical features such as
nominative–accusative, ergative–absolutive, or presence of cross-referencing affixes
are not apparent.
Incorporated nouns in two of the languages are prefixed and suffixed in two
others. Two of the languages do not incorporate nouns. In two of the languages the
origin of at least one of the applicatives can be shown to be a postposition; further
investigation is needed in this area.
In all of the languages applicative suffixes increase valence most of the time but
in those where one of the applicatives has many functions (Chayahuita, Arabela, Yanesha, and Nomatsiguenga), some of the functions do not increase valence. Only in
Yagua is the object demoted in an applicative construction. (See example 9 in which
the direct object is implicit and the instrument is promoted to the object position.)
Yagua Yaminahua
Applicative prefix
Applicative suffix
Causative prefix
Causative suffix
Has only suffixes
SOV order
VSO order
Noun incorporation by
Noun incorporation by
Some split-erg traits or
split-S marking
S/O cross-ref affixes
with a postposition
increases valence
Applicative has many
Case markers on core
Object demoted
3.2. Contrasts with other languages
In many languages of the world, applicatives are prefixes. Craig and Hale (1988), for
example, describe “relational preverbs” in Warlpiri (of Central Australia), Rama
(Chibchan of Nicaragua), and Nadëb (Maku of Brazil). O’Herin (1995) describes a
set of five applicative prefixes in Abaza (a Caucasian language of Russia). Abaza has
SOV order and is an ergative–absolutive language. Several applicative prefixes may
co-occur but, in contrast to the languages of Peruvian Amazonia, neither they nor the
causative prefix increase transitivity. There is always one, and only one, crossreferencing agreement prefix from the absolutive set in the verb and only one absolutive noun phrase. (There are a few “inverted verbs” in which no absolutive occurs.)
The agreement prefixes, which cross-reference the “applied objects,” are from the
ergative set and the noun phrases which they cross-reference are likewise in the ergative case. Abaza shares with Nomatsiguenga and the other Pre-Andine languages the
trait that one verb can have several applicative markers.
O’Herin (1995) suggests that the noun phrase must be definite in order for the
postposition to be incorporated as an applicative. This is probably true also in those
Amazonian languages where alternative constructions are available, e.g. an applicative affix or oblique case-marking on the noun phrase, as in Yagua (example 9). The
correlations between definiteness and use of an applicative affix in a given construction need to be investigated. Note that David Payne (2000) states that in Ashéninka
the occurrence of a pronominal suffix cross-referencing an overt syntactic object “indicates a difference between highly referential, highly topical objects [36a] versus
non-referential, non-topical objects [36b].” (Ashéninka is closely related to Nomatsiguenga; the applicative suffixes are cognate with those of Nomatsiguenga.)
(36) a
r- etsiya -t -ako -t -aka -a -ye -t -ak
-ri eentsi
‘He healed (caused to be well) the children (the ones being referred to in
the prior dialogue).’
osheki mantsiyari
many sick
r- etsiya
-t -ako -t -aka -a
‘He healed many sick people.’
-ye -t
(David Payne 2000)
Perhaps the same is true in the choice of an applicative affix rather than a postpositional phrase where that alternative is available. It is clear from the examples in (36),
however, that the use of the applicative -ako does not depend on definiteness or referentiality. Pragmatic functions, such as coding thematically peripheral participants
as pragmatically salient arguments in the flow of discourse, is also a topic for further
study (see Zavala 2000).
3.3. Applicatives as adposition incorporation and relation to causatives
Baker (1988:229) proposes that preposition [read adposition] incorporation is the
source of the grammatical function changing processes called “applicative” and “dative shift.” Some of the applicatives discussed in this paper are clearly cases of postposition incorporation, e.g., Arabela -ta/-tia and Yagua -ta/-tya. Others are clearly
cognate with postpositions in other languages of the same family. For example, the
‘benefactive/malefactive’ -n/-on in Yanesha’ has a postposition counterpart -(V)na in
Piro, -ni in Garifuna, etc. The origin of most of the applicatives, however, is not yet
The similarity between causative and applicative constructions (indicated by
Baker 1988:233) shows up in Pre-Andine Maipuran Arawakan languages even in the
origin of some of the applicatives. In most of those languages there is a causative
prefix im-, which appears to be cognate with the applicative suffix -imo ‘in the presence of’. In Wise (1990) I showed that the Pre-Andine inflectional suffix -akag/-aka
‘causative/comitative’ is clearly cognate with a reciprocal verbal suffix in the broader
Maipuran Arawakan family. David Payne (2000) posits a scenario in which the
“original reciprocal sense developed into a broader sociative sense (which it still retains with verbs of physical activity in Pre-Andine languages), and from there to a
causative sense.”8
3.4. Applicative suffixes as an areal feature
Is the similarity in form of the applicative suffixes -të/-ta in Chayahuita, -ta/-tia in
Arabela, -ta/-tya in Yagua happenstance, indicative of a possible genetic relationship,
or an areal feature? Doris Payne (1984 and 1985), on the basis of the similarity in the
Yagua and Arabela applicatives and the fact that both have postpositions of the same
form, and on the basis of other apparently cognate morphemes, suggested a possible
Yagua-Zaparoan connection, but left the exact nature of the connection as a topic
requiring further study. The fact that the causative in Huitoto is -ta, and many Arawakan languages have a causative suffix of the form -da/-ta and/or an epenthetic,
verbalizing, or transitivizing suffix which includes a -t, leads me to propose (as I did
in 1993) that we are dealing with a wide-spread grammatical form (see David Payne
1990) or an areal feature rather than a genetic connection. If it is an areal feature,
what is the focal area? What other areal features should be added to those listed by
Dixon and Aikhenvald (1999:8-9)? Should this be listed as a western Amazon feature
only (cf. Dixon and Aikhenvald 1999:10)? Or should it be considered a northwestern
Amazon feature since Panoan languages do not share it? Perhaps it is one indicator
that the hypothesis is correct which assumes that Panoan languages originated in the
southern Amazon tributaries (Bolivia?) and migrated only as far north as the Amazon
itself while the Arawakan languages originated around Manaus (or up the Rio Negro)
and dispersed in all directions from there. I leave these questions open pending further research.
T. Payne (1997:190-191) notes that in some languages “the causative and [instrumental] applicative are
the same morpheme…The only real difference…is the animacy of the ‘causee.’ In both cases a causer acts
on something or someone to accomplish some action.” Tuggy (1981:449) describes a variety of Nahuatl as
“a halfway or hybrid case in which non-prototypical causatives exhibit a trait associated with applicatives,”
i.e., they are overlapping categories. Valenzuela (2000) asserts that in Shipibo (closely related to Yaminahua) “the associative applicative construction also encodes ‘sociative causation’.”
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ACC = accusative
ANTIPAS = antipassive
APPL = applicative
ARR = upon arrival
ASP = aspect
BEN = benefactive
CAUS = causative
CL = classifier
COM = sociative or comitative
COMPL = completive
CONT = continuative
DIST = distributive
EP = epenthetic
ERG/ERG = ergative
FRUS = frustrative
F/FUT = future
GEN = genetive
HAB = habitual
IMPERV = imperfective
IMPV = imperative
INAN = inanimate
INCL = inclusive
INF = infinitive
INST = instrument
IRR = irrealis
= malefactive
NOM = nominative
O/OBJ = object
PASS = passive
POSS = possessive
PRES = in the presence of
PROG = progressive
RECIP = reciprocal
REFL = reflexive
REP/REPET = repetitive
RES = resolved perfective
REAS = reason
RESP = with respect to
S = subject
SCL = subordinate clause marker
1 = first person
1R = related to first person
1 SG = first person singular
1 PL = first person plural
2 = second person
2 SG = second person singular
3F = third person feminine
3M = third person masculine
Ø = zero
NF =
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