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Title: Aspects of a Karitiana grammar
Authors: Storto, Luciana
Keywords: American Indigenous Languages (Southern)
Tupian Languages
Karitiana - Grammar
Issue Date: 1999
Publisher: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract: This dissertation is intended as a description of some theoretically interesting aspects of the phonology and syntax of the Karitiana language. Karitiana is the sole surviving language of the Arikem family (Tupi Stock), spoken today by approximately 200 people living in their own demarcated reservation located 95 km south of Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, Brazil. Chapter 1 describes and analyzes the segmental phonology of the language. With respect to segmental features, special attention is given to the consonants of the nasal series, which undergo partial oralization in environments contiguous to oral vowels. I claim that this phenomenon gives support to the hypothesis that nasality must be represented as a binary feature. Another phenomenon of theoretical interest in Karitiana phonology is vocalic epenthesis, which is triggered by syllabification word-internally and by syllabification as well as stress clash avoidance in certain phrasal environments. I explain the interactions between epenthesis and stress assignment in a derivational model of cyclic phonology. Chapter 2 describes the pitch accent system of the language, in which tones are assigned to the same metrical plane in which stress is computed. In Chapter 3, I show that the language is verb-final and that the verb obligatorily raises to the complementizer position (C) in matrix clauses to check tense and agreement features. In dependent clauses, the verb is final, and no agreement or tense is present. I draw a parallel between Karitiana and Germanic verb second languages: in both systems the matrix tensed verb must surface in C, and a phrase must fill Spec,CP. The latter is only a tendency in Karitiana. Standard agreement is nominative (absolutive), although whenever the object is A-bar moved to the focus position (Spec,CP) in non-declarative focused clauses, the verb shows ergative agreement. I argue that the functional morphology inserted as a focus marker deactivates the agreement features of I, the functional head that would normally covertly agree with the ergative subject, and as a result, the other functional head bearing agreement features (C) agrees with the ergative subject. Chapter 5 describes other instances of non-declarative and declarative focus constructions.
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