PhD project

The Cariban language family is one of the larger indigenous language families of South America. Cariban languages are mainly spoken in northern South America, i.e. northern Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana. Three languages are spoken in Central Brazil, and one in Colombia:

Extant Cariban languages; opaque languages are sampled.

The goal of my PhD project is to write a comparative overview, both in the typological and the historical sense, of Cariban verbal morphosyntax. The work is based on available grammatical descriptions of Cariban languages. The available literature on single Cariban languages is considerably heterogeneous both in terms of thoroughness and analytical approach. This necessitates a restriction to those languages for which good descriptions are available. The different analyses have to be brought into a uniform approach to Cariban morphosyntax.

Family-internal relationships in Cariban are not as distant as in other larger families in the area, like Macro-Jê and Tupian, and the languages thus share fairly similar structures. The structure of the verb consists of person-marking prefixes, a partially fossilized detransitivizer, followed by the verb root, followed by derivational affixes, TAM and number marking. After giving an overview of the paradigmatic and syntagmatic structures, I discuss argument marking morphology, morphosyntactic alignment, and especially hierarchically conditioned alignment. I also discuss valency-changing processes across the family. Besides these crosslinguistically comparable patterns, Cariban also exhibits some morphosyntactic idiosyncrasies. One is a smallish group of verbs which show a fossilized prefix *t- in certain morphosyntactic conditions. The other is the presence of linking or relational morphology, or a reflex of it, a testimony to the tight integration of certain arguments into the verb phrase, and partly shared with languages of other families.

Other interests

  • Alemannic German spoken in Switzerland, mainly phonetic and phonological properties.

  • Corpus-driven analysis of grammatical patterns

  • Phonology and phonological typology

  • Computer-assisted parsing of natural language