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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 Phonology and Grammar of Latundê/Lakondê Add Dissertation
Author: Stella Telles Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculty of Letters
Completed in: 2002
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Documentation;
Director(s): Leo Wetzels
Willem Adelaar

Abstract: This dissertation contains a description of the phonology and the grammar of Lakondê and Latundê, which belong to the family of Nambikwara languages, spoken in the region that is located in the southern part of the Amazon basin, in Brazil. The languages are spoken in an area that is known for its great linguistic diversity, which extends beyond the border of Brazil into the Bolivian Amazon.

At this moment, the Latundê number 19 individuals. Of the former Lakondê community only seven persons are known to be alive, but there has not been an autonomous group since at least 50 years.

This study, which was started in 1998, originally only intended to describe the language of the Latundê. However, in the course of the research project, in 2001 to be precise, we discovered the person who very well be the last competent speaker of Lakondê. Together with Latundê, Mamaindé and Negarotê, Lakondê forms the Northern branch of the Nambikwára family, and was believed to be extinct. The language data we have collected for Lakondê show its very close relationship with Latundê. This observation, together with the consideration that, especially with regard to Lakondê, linguistic documentation was a matter of 'now or never', was crucial in our decision to describe both languages in parallel.

The dissertation is divided into three different parts and contains seven chapters. The first part deals with the phonology and is based on Latundê, while the (sporadic) differences with Lakondê are discussed in the footnotes. The second and third part concern the morphology and syntax, respectively. These parts are mainly based on Lakondê, whereas here the particularities of Latundê are addressed in the footnotes.

Part I contains a single chapter, and describes the vowels, diphthongs and consonants, syllable structure, word-stress and its interaction with tone. Also, the most important phonological processes are discussed, such as assimilation (nasal assimilation, palatalisation, glottalisation and tone spreading), dissimilation, syncope and syllable reduction. Part II contains five chapters. The first chapter provides an introduction to the main characteristics of word formation in Latundê/Lakondê, as well as a sketch of the relevant word classes that are presented and elaborated in the following four chapters: nouns, verbs, adverbs, and interrogative pronouns. Part III presents the syntax. It contains a typology of word order, simple and complex clauses. In all parts of the study parallels are discussed between the grammars of Latundê and Lakondê, when there were differences in form or usage between the two languages. Whenever no explicit mention is made of the other language, this means that in both languages the same form or structure is used for a given linguistic category.

From a typological point of view, Latundê and Lakondê show the morphological structure of polysynthetic languages: there are a large number of morphemes per word, structured in a linear fashion, and both languages show the phenomenon of noun incorporation. However, different from what is usually found in polysynthetic languages, Latundê and Lakondê possess the process of verb serialisation, which in the literature is commonly related to more isolating morphologies or Creole languages. Latundê and Lakondê are languages of the active-stative type, which use a different marking of the pronominal affixes in two verbal subclasses that encode the notion of 'activity'/'inactivity' of the participants in the clause.