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mar. 29/03/2022 Séminaire de recherche de l'axe DiLiS
Nominal classification in Baniwa
MSH-LSE, salle Berty Albrecht
Conférence de :
  • Sandra Cronhamn (Lund University)

dans le cadre DILIS : Séminaire DiLiS

  • Link to the videoconference room

      In this seminar, I will present my ongoing PhD research, which is concerned with the description and analysis of the classifier system in Baniwa [bwi], an Arawak language spoken in Northwestern Amazonia. My work builds primarily on original data collected in São Gabriel da Cachoeira, AM, Brazil, in 2020. I focus mainly on the semantic, morphosyntactic and historical aspects of the system.

      Baniwa has around 50 classifiers, which are marked as suffixes and used in both derivational and inflectional functions (Ramirez (2001), Aikhenvald (2007)). Inflectional suffixes are obligatory in several morphosyntactic contexts, including on low numerals and attributive adjectives. The assignment of classifiers is flexible and mostly semantically transparent, although there are also examples of conventionalization. The analysis of agreement within the system is currently being undertaken, with inconclusive results so far due to conflicting data.

      Semantically, Baniwa classifiers are highly diverse and fill several different functions. The system contains both sortal and mensural classifiers. Among the sortal classifiers, most distinctions are shape-based, but parameters such as gender, function and configuration also play a role. The system contains a classifier with generic status, as well as a few highly specific classifiers which are only used with a very small number of nouns. Apart from varying in semantic generality/specificity, classifiers also vary greatly in their frequency of use.

      Besides being an interesting system in its own right, nominal classification in Baniwa—like in many other languages of NW Amazonia—is also interesting from a typological perspective, as it shares traits with both (typical) classifier systems on the one hand and (typical) noun class systems on the other, suggesting a possible grammaticalization path between the two (Seifart (2005), Seifart & Payne (2007), Grinevald & Seifart (2004)). I will therefore spend some time discussing the features of Baniwa classifiers from a typological perspective.


      Aikhenvald, A.Y. (2007) Classifiers in multiple environments. Baniwa of Içana/Kurripako–A North Arawak perspective. In: International Journal of American Linguistics 73(4), pp. 475-500.

      Grinevald, C. & Seifart, F. (2004) Noun classes in African and Amazonian languages: Towards a comparison. In: Linguistic Typology 8, 243–285 (2004).

      Ramirez, H. (2001) Uma Gramática do Baniwa do Içana. Ms.

      Seifart, F. (2005) The structure and use of shape-based noun classes in Miraña (North West Amazon). Nijmegen: Radboud University dissertation.

      Seifart, F. & Payne, D.L. (2007) Nominal classification in the North West Amazon: Issues in areal diffusion and typological characterization. In: International Journal of American Linguistics 73(4), pp. 381-387.



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