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Review of  Aymara

Reviewer: Edward J. Vajda
Book Title: Aymara
Book Author: Martha J. Hardman
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Anthropological Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Aymara, Southern
Aymara, Central
Book Announcement: 16.2959

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Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2005 11:25:03 -0400
From: Edward J. Vajda <>
Subject: Aymara

AUTHOR: Hardman, M. J.
TITLE: Aymara
SERIES: LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics 35
YEAR: 2001
ISBN: 3895869759

Edward J. Vajda, Western Washington University, Bellingham,
Washington, and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology,


The book is arranged in the style of a reference grammar, with
chapters progressing from an exposition of introductory historical and
sociolinguistic information (ch. 1, pp. 1-10), through an explanation of
the phonology (ch. 2, pp. 11-33), morphophonemics (ch. 3, 34-43),
and on to topics in morphology and syntax.

Ch. 4, entitled "Overview of the structure of the Aymara grammatical
system" (pp. 44-58), offers a breakdown of form classes and
morpheme types and serves as introduction to the book's remaining
eight chapters. Chapter 5, "Thematics" (pp. 59-72) deals with the
language's rather extensive form-class changing morphology. Ch. 6
(pp. 73-99) goes over the intricate system of verbal derivational
suffixes, the interplay between which gives Aymara linguistic
expression much of its sophistication. Each suffix receives an
individual description.

Verbal inflectional suffixes are the topic of ch. 7 (pp. 100-119).
Hardmann devotes considerable space to the use of tense forms for
purposes of expressing the language's important category of "data
source", or evidentiality. Ch. 8 (pp. 120-161) goes into equal detail to
explain the system of nominal suffixes used to express number, the
opposition between human and non-human, and a variety of temporal
and spatial concepts. Here too, much care is devoted to explaining the
form, morphophonemics, and functioning of the individual nominal
suffixes. Ch. 9 (pp. 162-169) covers what the author refers to
as "independent suffixes". These are several morphemes whose
occurrence is not fixed to any particular form class. The copious
examples in this brief section help elucidate a category of elements
that are difficult to define using simple translations. Hardeman likens
their semantic force to nuances of meaning often express in
languages such as English by the use of intonation (p. 162).

Chapter 10 (pp. 170-183) moves on to "sentence suffixes" -- elements
added to entire clauses to express functional sentence perspective
and illocutionary force of various sorts. These morphemes often
interact with the "independent suffixes" described in the previous
chapter. Ch. 11, entitled "syntax", (pp. 183-217), discusses the
creation of complex and compound sentences. Also discussed are
patterns of word order permutations, which play a minor role in the
syntax compared to the language's arsenal of suffixes. The final
chapter includes four sample texts, each provided with interlinear
glosses and an idiomatic English translation.

There are also 13 appendixes, which add information ranging from the
topics of homonyms and ambiguity in Aymara to portions of a
classified vocabulary offering lists of names of the months and days of
the week. There is also information here on Spanish borrowing


Published in the Lincom series "Studies in Native American
Linguistics" rather than as a grammar sketch in the series "Languages
of the World/Materials", this book offers comprehensive description of
the language. The author is a long-time expert on Aymara, and on the
Jaqi family in general, having conducted over four decades of both
theoretical and practical investigation of these languages. Hardman is
the founder of the Instituto Nacional de Estudios Lingüísticos in Bolivia
and the Aymara Language Materials Program at the University of
Florida. Much of the material in this grammar derives from the
author's previously unpublished practical teaching and reference

For any English speaker hoping to learn about one of South America's
most widely spoken indigenous languages, there has previously been
very little material available on Aymara. Accessible materials are
basically limited to dissertations or brief articles on individual aspects
of the language structure (listed in the bibliography on pp. 247-50), as
well as a basic course designed for Peace Corps workers (Wexler
1967). Given the prior absence of a modern and accurate full-length
grammar of Aymara, this book can only be welcomed as an essential
reference by anyone hoping to gain true insight into one of South
America's most vibrant indigenous linguistic communities. Hardman's
use of a practical orthography consisting of 26 consonant phoneme
symbols and 6 vowel phoneme symbols, alongside her careful
exposition of the phonetic and morphophonemic realization of these
sounds, makes the examples extremely easy to follow. Previous
descriptions of Aymara did not do justice to the fact that the language
employs only three short and three long vowel phonemes (a, i, u),
each of which appears in an unusually wide variety of phonetic
variants. The sociolinguistic factors underpinning the use of
evidentials -- which Hardman refers to as "data source" -- is
elucidated here on a level not before achieved. Likewise, Hardman
links her explanation of overt person marking as based on a system of
contrasts between speaker and addressee, on the one hand, and the
referent's presence vs. absence with regards to the speech act, on
the other (pp. 5-6) to the sociolinguistic salience of the addressee
category over the other persons.

Besides presenting a detailed and lucid account of Aymara language
structure, the book is replete with accurate sociolinguistic information
and valuable observations about the linguistic worldview of the
speakers. Readers will gain insight into Aymara substrate features in
Andean Spanish and into pre-Inka influence by Jaqi languages on
Quechua, an event that Hardman suggested developed during the
Huari period (500-1200 AD) predating the rise of the Inca Empire.
Aymara substrate features in Andean Spanish include the use of
certain European tense/aspect forms to express information source
(evidentiality). Pre-Columbian influence includes the adoption into
Quechua of an Aymara-like triple distinction in voiceless plosives
(plain, aspirated, and glottalized).

This is a key publication on a highly important regional language,
spoken as a mother tongue by a numerically significant minority of the
populations of both Bolivia and Peru, as well as in northernmost
Chile. Aymara is likely to be the only Jaqi language that survives into
the next century, since the family's other two extant members --
Jaquaru and Kawki -- are already endangered.


Wexler, Paul. 1967. Beginning Aymara: A course for English speakers.
Seattle: University of Washington.


Edward J. Vajda is director of East Asian Studies and professor of
linguistics and Russian language at Western Washington University.
An editor of the journal Word, his research interests include
morphological typology and minority languages of Eurasia. He is
intensively involved in documenting and describing Ket, an isolate
spoken by a few hundred people in Central Siberia.

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