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Evaluating Arawakan features versus

Guaporé-Mamoré features

Swintha Danielsen, University of Leipzig

Abstract
The Arawakan language family is one of the most widely extended language families
of South America. Also in the Guaporé-Mamoré area there are representatives of the
Arawakan language family. A still open question is how much influence there has been
to this linguistic area from Arawakan languages. In this presentation I will evaluate
the postulated linguistic features of the Guaporé-Mamoré area (Crevels & van der
Voort 2008) in comparison to the identified Arawakan features (Aikhenvald 1999; 2001,
Danielsen et al. 2011). The evaluation also takes into account that some Arawakan
features are more resistant than others; these may be the ones to have been more
influential than others.

1 General

• Guaporé-Mamoré area: “The distribution of formal and functional similarities


across genetic linguistic boundaries indicates that the Guaporé-Mamoré region
is a linguistic area. Although a small number of linguistic features show the
clustering of certain subregions, the overall picture is that of a single linguistic
area.” Crevels & van der Voort 2008: 172)

• the extent of the region, which may represent a “residual zone” (Nichols’ terms,
referred to in Crevels & van der Voort (2008: 167) is argued on the basis of shared
geographical, political, cultural and linguistic features

• Guaporé-Mamoré area would then be a subarea of the postulated Amazonian

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linguistic area (cf. Derbyshire & Pullum 1986, Dixon & Aikhenvald 1999, Payne
1990c)

• according to Crevels & van der Voort (2008: 156), we can identify the pres-
ence of originally 39 languages in the Guaporé-Mamoré area, the majority were
Arawakan; in contrast now we have 22 languages, and only three are Arawakan

• if there used to be so many Arawakan languages in the area, how much impact
may these have had on the linguistic diffusion? (Of course, the same can be
asked about the influence of Tupi-Guaraní and Gê languages, in particular on the
Brazilian territory)

• for this reason I want to compare the postulated linguistic features of the area to
Arawakan features

2 The linguistic features of the Guaporé-Mamoré area

The linguistic features of the Guaporé-Mamoré area have been summarized from Crevels
& van der Voort (2008). We learn that the languages of the Guaporé-Mamoré area
mostly diverge lexically, and share only structural features. The only lexical forms that
may be related are listed here (Crevels & van der Voort 2008: 167-168) and compared
to the Proto-Arawakan forms reconstructed by Payne (1991) where available:

1. banana: AKU/TUP/MEK/KWA1 apara; AIK dipara; ITO upatSu; MOV pere;


MOS chhipePre

2. arrow: AKU mambi; ARI mbu; DJE kubi; KAN mapi; KWA maái; MEK mampi
– compare: PROTO-ARW: *šumeca (arrow, bow); *yokor1 (arrow, spear), but
ARW classifier *-aph i (*-pi?) ’long, thin, felxible’

3. maize: AKU/KAN/MAK/TUP/WAY atiti; MEK atsitsi; ARI/DJE tSitSi; KWA


atSitSi; ITO atS1 – compare: PROTO-ARW: *marik1
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abbreviations: AIK= Aikanã; AKU= Akuntsu; ARI= Arikapú; ARW = Arawakan; AYM= Aymara;
APPL= applicative; CLF= classifier; DJE = Djeoromitxi; ITO = Itonama; KAN = Kanoê; KWA =
Kwaza; MAK = Makuráp; MEK = Mekens; MOS = Mosetén; MOV = Movima; TUP = Tuparí; URU
= Uru; WAY = Wayuru; 3 = third person

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4. star: ARI war9war9; DJE wir9wir9; KAN war1war1; KWA/MEK/TUP/MAK
waruwaru; URU waruwaru; AYM wara

The authors Crevels & van der Voort (2008) present the grammatical feautres 1 - 21 in
form of a table, but give the more specific feautres 22 - 25 in the text – in table 1 and
contrasted to Amazonian (Dixon & Aikhenvald 1999, Derbyshire & Pullum 1986, Payne
1990a) and Arawakan features (Aikhenvald 1999; 2001, Danielsen et al. 2011, Payne
1990a). The + indicates that there is an affirmative statement about this feature to
be present, the − is set where there was a statement about not being a typical feature,
(+) is used where a feature is in tendency present but not overwhelmingly, and ? where
there are doubts or no specific statements about this feature. Any value is, of course,
to be taken as a tendency.

3 Evaluation
• there are no Arawakan features that are not identical to the Amazonian features
(except for two minor phonological features, not listed here, and features for which
we have no information, F3, F4, F12, micro feature F25)

• “In most cases Amazonian features correspond to Arawak features, because the
majority of Arawak languages are also Amazonian and have therefore also added
to the generalizations of the linguistic area. In addition, the authors (Dixon &
Aikhenvald 1999) may also have taken Arawak languages into consideration to
a greater degree than other languages because of their own research interests.”
(Danielsen 2007: 30)

• this means that Arawakan languages have definitely contributed to the typical
Amazonian features; and it is doubtful how to distinguish Arawakan from Amazo-
nian features

• “The impression one gathers for the Guaporé-Mamoré region is that speakers of
the languages under discussion have been in contact with one another for many
centuries, leading to the emergence of a Sprachbund. Especially the similarity of
both the forms and the structures of classifier systems, the empty noun-formative
root and the applicative morpheme suggest this.” (Crevels & van der Voort 2008:
169)

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Table 1: Linguistic features in comparison
no. feature Guaporé-Mamoré area Amazonian area Arawakan
1 subordination through + + +
nominalization
2 cross-reference + + +
3 evidentiality + – ?
4 vowel harmony + ? (+)
5 head marking + + +
6 verbal number + – –
7 directionals + +? +
8 polysynthesis + + +
9 postpositions + + +
10 inclusive/exclusive distinction + – –
11 alienable/inalienable distinction + + +
12 verb classification + ? (+/–)
13 strictly NOM-ACC alignment (+) – –
system
14 asymmetrical morphology – + +
15 nasal harmony (+) ? ?
16 nominal number – (+ in Bolivia) + +
17 head-modifier (+) + +
18 possession marked on possessum (+) + +
19 classifiers – (+ in Rondonia) + +
20 switch reference – + (+)
21 grammaticalized – + (+)
(classifier/gender?) system
22 locative case suffix similar to -ni, (+) – –
-na, -ne
23 applicative element -ta, -te, -ka + + +
24 emphatic marker -(te)te, -kete, (+) – –
-te, -tere
25 i- or e- empty noun-formative + – (+)
root to bound nouns
Notes: feature (F) 7 – directionals: western Amazonia, in Payne (1990b: 223), but not
Amazonian in Crevels & van der Voort (2008: 170); F23 – applicative element: western
Amazonia, in Wise (2002: 341) and Arawakan in Seifart forthcoming and Wise (2002:
341); all features confirmed, and in particular F3, F7, and F20 supported by Arawakan
general features’ questionnaire used for Danielsen et al. 2011

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• taking the comparative list in table 1, it seems that the most outstanding specific
features of the Guaporé-Mamoré area are: verbal number, (F6) switch reference
(F20), the inclusive/exclusive distinction (F10)2 , and the specific forms of the
locative (F22) and the emphatic marker (F24)

• features where Guaporé-Mamoré and Arawakan features coincide: F1, F2, F4,
F5, F7, F8, F9, (F10), F11, F16, F17, F18, (F19), F23, F25 (15 out of 25)

• which of these features could have been contributed by Arawakan?

• in order to decide, some very general macro-features have do be deleted from the
list, because they hold for almost all (Lowland) Southamerican or Amazonian
languages and cannot be taken to be particularly strong features (e.g. person
cross-reference and alienable/inalienable)

• the use of classifier systems (F19) is a common feature in Arawakan (at least 55%
in our database on Arawakan features); it may have had an impact on Rondonian
languages

• the empty noun formative i- or e- (F25) attaches generally where also person
markers attach for possessive cross-reference; the fact that many Arawakan lan-
guages have a bound form i- (3SGm, non-focused A/Sa, impersonal marking,
unknown possessor) may have lead to diffusion in this area; and since also for
Proto-Tupí-Guaraní Jensen (1999: 147) had the person marker i- (possession
marker and S/A on verbs, set 2), the diffusion process was possibly facilitated

• the applicate suffix on verbs (F23) is very widespread in Arawakan languages,


as others have shown (Seifart forthcoming, Wise 1990); in addition, however,
it is found in many other western Amazobian languages (Wise 2002); the ap-
plicative suffix in the forms -ko, -ta, -cho seems to be an archaic formative of
Proto-Arawakan; it is very possible that this formative spread all over Amazonia,
including the Guaporé-Mamoré area (including the typical functions as verbal-
izers, transitivizers, causativizers etc.)

• features like plural marking on nouns (F16) I personally find difficult to consider,
because this is one of the first features that get influenced by Spanish/Portuguese,
2
Nichols (1992) claims for a high genetic stability of the inclusive/exclusive distinction and a moderate
areal stability

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and only because we have so many Arawakan languages with plural marking, it
does not mean that this may always have been so..., it is also common in Arawakan
languages to have no plural marking (mass or generic reference and specific and
topical), and the plural “suffix” is very often a quantifying, classifying, or another
kind of nominal stem

• a similar argument I would use for the feature strictly NOM/ACC alignment
(F13); the split marking system that is so typical for Amazonian and Arawakan
languages, is also eroded to only more NOM/ACC systems in many languages
(under influence of Spanish/Portuguese or simple grammatical erosion?)

4 Conclusion

• lexical similarities are mainly found in Rondonia Crevels & van der Voort (2008:
164) as it seems, and among Tupí subbranches

• there is no evidence for any Arawakan influence on the shared lexemes in the
Guaporé-Mamoré area (could still be investigated further with a bigger word
list); instead Tupían may have had a stronger lexical impact

• one of the most special features in the Guaporé-Mamoré area seems to be the
tendency to have an inclusive/exclusive distinction, which is rather typical of
Andean languages and not so much of Arawakan nor Amazonian

• two particular features that may result from Arawakan influence are: applicative
suffixes in the forms -ta, -tya, -ka and the empty root formative i- (also the
existence of i- in Tupi-Guaraní is suspicious and may have facilitated the spreading
of this form)

• both of these features are not exclusive for Arawakan, so these may also be features
that can be found more wide-spread than only in this area

• all in all the evaluation did not seem to show us that in particular Arawakan
languages had a great influence on the areal features here

• it only seems to be the case that Arawakan features have, in general, contributed
a lot to the grammatical characteristics of Amazonian languages

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• anyway, it still remains to be seen, taking e.g. the lexicon and particular affixes
(form and function) where the influence from Arawakan, as well as Tupí, Macro-
Gê and other language families may have been (I expect there to be more)


Thank you very much for your interest, and sorry for not being there!

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