Skip to main content

Cariban Verbal Morphology

I have recently finished my doctoral dissertation on the development and the typology of verbal argument marking in Cariban languages. For this purpose I have compiled a database, which is served as a CLLD web app here. The source code is available here.

Here is a brief rundown of the contents of the thesis:

1 Introduction

This chapter introduces the extant languages of the family, as well as the most important literature on them. It also serves as the introduction to the topics treated in subsequent chapters.

2 Internal classification

Families of related languages are usually assumed to have a tree-like internal structure. I discuss the major classifications found in the literature, and present my own, conservative classification, based on shared innovations. I also explore quantitatively generated phylogenetic trees based on my database; the current state of the phylogenetic classification can be seen here.

3 Verbal person marking

I introduce the verbal person marking patterns in the various languages. Here, one needs to distinguish between the so-called Set I systems, which show hierarchically conditioned access to index slots, and simpler Set II systems. For many languages, the analysis of the person markers found in the literature is sub-par. For these languages, I present the first coherent account of person marking patterns.

4 Alignment

The verb forms taking Set I prefixes in various Cariban languages have been characterized as having “hierarchical alignment”. I show that a consistent definition of alignment does not include the hierarchical component of these forms, but rather results in distinct alignments depending on the person values of arguments in transitive scenarios. I give an exhaustive overview of the intricately conditioned alignment patterns in each language.

5 Hierarchical effects, inversion, and pragmatic disguise

For the Cariban languages where a hierarchy is postulated, it is usually a rather flat one, SAP>3, also reconstructible for Proto-Cariban. After investigating potential pre-Proto-Cariban sources for this hierarchy, I explore the changes the daughter languages have made to this hierarchy, showing that the only restructuring in local scenarios are in favor of the second person. I briefly discuss the concept of grammatical inversion, and show that such an analysis is not adequate for the Cariban system(s). Finally, I investigate the various changes that were made to local scenarios, which in Proto-Cariban were both marked identically. A tendency for portmanteau prefixes in 1>2, but not in 2>1 scenarios, emerges.

6 Linking prefixes and linking behavior

Proto-Cariban is reconstructed as having a linker j-. This crosslinguistically rare kind of prefix expresses adjacency of an argument. I give an exhaustive overview of linking morphology in Cariban languages, and demonstrate the historical absence of *j- on *t-adding verbs.

7 *t-adding verbs

This chapter treats an idiosyncratic class of transitive verbs which showed a third person marker *t- instead of *i- in Proto-Cariban. I explore the distribution of t-prefixes in today's languages, both from a morphosyntactic and a lexical point of view. I argue that the loss or preservation of *t- in certain verbs correlates with frequency of use.