Linguistics Department

Dissertation Defence - Daniel Valle "Grammar and Information Structure of Kakataibo”

Thu, April 27, 2017 | CLA 4.716

8:30 AM - 11:00 AM

This dissertation provides a synchronic basic grammatical description of the San Alejandro dialect of the Kakataibo language and a more in-depth study of the expression of information structure, specifically, focus and topic. Kakataibo is spoken by approximately 1500 people in the Peruvian central Amazon region. This work represents the first attempt to analyze the expression of information structure in a Panoan language.

The first part of this work describes the grammar of the San Alejandro dialect of Kakataibo. The first chapter describes the phonology of Kakataibo, including contrastive segments, syllable structure, morphophonology, prosody and loanwords. The next four chapters focus on the morphology of the language, particularly nouns, adjectives and verbs, including as well discussion on the descriptive concepts such as morpheme, word, and clitic. The next two chapters describe the formation of simplex and complex clauses, respectively. The second part of this work contains two chapters dealing with the expression of information structure in Kakataibo.  The categories of focus and topic are discussed in each chapter.

The San Alejandro dialect of Kakataibo shows five vowels and fifteen consonants. Tone is distinctive only in a handful of monosyllabic words. Stress is phonetically realized by duration. In terms of the morphology, Kakataibo shows mixed features between isolation and polisynthensis, verbs being more polysynthetic than nouns. Kakataibo is mainly agglutinating with some instances of fusion. Kakataibo is characterized by a relatively large morphological inventory, although the ratio of morphemes per word is relatively low. The highest morphological complexity occurs in the verb having subsytems for expressing valency-adjusting, associated motion, metrical tense, among others. Kakataibo shows a relatively large set of enclitics; second-position enclitics express clause-level meanings. The clause in Kakataibo requires a clitic complex in second position and a main clause verb in final position; the position of all other elements of the clause is highly dependent on information structure. Subordinate clauses are marked by a large set of switch-reference suffixes as well as the set of nominzing suffixes.

The expression of focus in Kakataibo relies mainly on syntactic and prosodic features. Focused phrases are obligatorily overt and are associated with the sentence’s edges, left or right, depending on the syntactic constituent over which focus has scope. Focus is associated with the highest intensity in the sentence whereas pitch tends to, but does not necessarily, associates with focus. Topic in Kakataibo tends to be associated with the subject and may or may not be overt depending on the particular type of topic. Kakataibo does not have a specialized position for topics.

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