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LINGUIST List 16.3005

Tue Oct 18 2005

Diss: Language Description/Typology: Seifart: 'The s...'

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        1.    Frank Seifart, The Structure and Use of Shape-based Noun Classes in Miraña (North West Amazon)

Message 1: The Structure and Use of Shape-based Noun Classes in Miraña (North West Amazon)
Date: 17-Oct-2005
From: Frank Seifart <Frank.Seifartberlin.de>
Subject: The Structure and Use of Shape-based Noun Classes in Miraña (North West Amazon)

Institution: Radboud University Nijmegen
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

Author: Frank Christian Seifart

Dissertation Title: The Structure and Use of Shape-based Noun Classes in Miraña
(North West Amazon)

Dissertation URL: http://webdoc.ubn.ru.nl/mono/s/seifart_f/struanuso.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Language Description

Subject Language(s): Bora (boa)

Language Family(ies): Witotoan

Dissertation Director(s):
Nicholas J Enfield
Nikolaus P Himmelmann
Stephen C Levinson

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis provides a detailed description of the morphosyntactic
structure, the mostly shape-based semantics, and the discourse use of noun
classes in Miraña, an endangered Witotoan language spoken in the Colombian
Amazon. The descriptive findings are discussed from a typological
perspective. Also included is a sketch grammar of Miraña.

Nominal classification in Miraña involves a large and heterogeneous set of
class markers, including a few forms used for animate referents as well as
a large set of shape-denoting forms, ranging from short and frequently used
forms with relatively general semantics to longer forms with specific
semantic content. All class markers are bound suffixes that can be used for
the productive derivation of nouns as well as for the formation of nominal
modifiers, relative clauses, and pro-forms. Some of the uses of class
markers in these latter contexts constitute redundant agreement marking,
while class markers may also be used to convey new information. When used
to derive nouns, class markers typically unitize noun roots, which are
grammatically non-countable when used on their own. When class markers are
used in pro-forms for reference tracking, they typically specify the shape
of the intended referent.

Nominal classification in Miraña raises issues in the typology of nominal
classification. In particular, it questions the distinction between the two
basic types 'noun classes' (defined by agreement) and 'classifiers'
(typically large sets of forms with specific semantic content, e.g. numeral
classifiers). With respect to the typology of reference tracking systems,
it is proposed to introduce two new parameters (semantic domains and
semantic motivation) to systematically compare Miraña with languages that
do not use the domain of shape for reference tracking (e.g. English) and
languages where shape is present, but noun class assignment is not
motivated (e.g. Swahili).

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