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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The structure and Use of Shape-based Noun Classes in Miraña (North West Amazon) Add Dissertation
Author: Frank Seifart Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2005
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Documentation; Typology;
Subject Language(s): Bora
Language Family(ies): Witotoan
Director(s): Stephen Levinson
Nikolaus Himmelmann
Nicholas Enfield

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).