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LINGUIST List 18.2327

Sat Aug 04 2007

Confs: General Ling/Brazil

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        1.    Leo Wetzels, Amazonian Languages, Phonology and Syntax

Message 1: Amazonian Languages, Phonology and Syntax
Date: 03-Aug-2007
From: Leo Wetzels <wlm.wetzelslet.vu.nl>
Subject: Amazonian Languages, Phonology and Syntax
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Amazonian Languages, Phonology and Syntax

Date: 03-Dec-2007 - 08-Dec-2007
Location: Manaus Amazonas, Brazil
Contact: Frantomé Pacheco
Contact Email: frantomeuol.com.br

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Meeting Description:

This conference is the first of a series of three meetings, as part of an
internationalization project between the research centers CELIA Paris, INPA
Manaus, UFAM Manaus, Leiden University, and the VU University Amsterdam. The
themes to be discussed at the first meeting are 'morpho-syntactic alignment' and
'nasal harmony'. Although the nature of the meeting is that of a seminar for
which most of the contributors are individually invited, there is space in the
program for 5 or 6 more speakers, which we hope to be able to invite as a result
of this announcement. Also, the meeting is open for students and scholars that
are interested in assisting without presenting a paper.

Description of the conference themes:

The term '' vowel harmony '' is generally used either to designate long distance
nasal spreading (i.e. spreading of the nasal feature beyond the immediately
contiguous segment), or to refer to a type of contrastive nasality in languages
where the nasal feature seems to characterize a prosodic constituent or a
morpheme, rather than a segment. Nasal harmony systems are regularly found in
South-American languages, where their presence often goes hand in hand with the
existence of contour stops comprising a nasal and an oral phase in syllables
with an oral nucleus, which, in turn, typically arise in consonant systems in
which a triple voiceless-voiced-nasal contrast is lacking.

Recent research on nasal harmony has aimed at identifying the relevant
phonological and morphological parameters involved in nasal harmony systems,
often based on secondary data. In addition, various proposals were made to
explain the emergence of contour segments as the manifestation of underlying
sonority, or as the phonetic enhancement of voicing. For the African language
Ikwere, Clements and Osu have demonstrated the relevance of a class of
non-obstruent sounds which 'naturally' combine with nasality.

In the light of Clements and Osu's findings, it seems worthwhile to study the
aerodynamic properties of voiced stops in South-American languages that have
nasal harmony, to see if the Ikwere explanation can be extended to these
languages. For this conference, papers featuring research based on primary data
and careful laboratory analysis that could shed new light on the parameters and
properties of nasal harmony systems in South-American lowland languages, on the
relation (if any) between the underlying consonant system and the emergence of
contour stops, or on the aerodynamic properties of segments that are targets for
nasal spreading are solicited.

Despite the notable increase in recent years in the number of detailed
descriptions of the languages of the South-American lowlands, the impact of the
now available knowledge of their grammars on the theoretical debate has remained
less profound than one would expect. The integration of the data that were
gathered into the theoretical discussion is urgent, since most of these
languages are threatened with extinction, and a return to the sources might only
be possible within a very limited span of time. Aside from the four bigger
linguistic families, Arawak, Karib, Tupi and Jê, this region hosts a multitude
of smaller families, as well as many isolates. This diversity is also reflected
in the existing alignment systems because, besides the classical accusative,
ergative and active types, multiple splits affect intransitivity (lexically, the
Aktionsart of verbs, syntactically, the aspect of predicates, for example) as
well as transitivity (split ergativity, differential object marking,
differential subject marking, hierarchical agreement, inverse).

In addition, the often-observed relation between clause structure and
noun-phrase structure (transitive predicate and genitive phrase, subordination
and nominalization) requires an effort of systematization that warrants serious
attention. Where comparison is possible, the comparative approach has indicated
promising trails for the understanding of diachronic and structural relations
these types and sub-types maintain with one another. Such insights might prove
useful for the exploration of linguistic domains where comparison is either
limited (small families) or impossible (isolates). It is of utmost importance
for scholars to systematically share and analyze the various hypotheses and
results produced in the recent past, in order to achieve a more in-depth
understanding of the linguistic structures relating to this part of grammar.

For information about hotels in Manaus, please contact the local organizing

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