A grammar of Umbeyajts as spoken by the Ikojts people of San Dionisio del Mar, Oaxaca, Mexico

Salminen, Mikko Benjamin (2016) A grammar of Umbeyajts as spoken by the Ikojts people of San Dionisio del Mar, Oaxaca, Mexico. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis is a reference grammar of the Umbeyajts language (also known as Huave) as spoken in San Dionisio del Mar on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Oaxaca, Mexico), a severely endangered langage spoken by approximately 2,000 people in the municipality of San Dionisio del Mar. Together with its four neighbouring varieties, Umbeyajts forms part of an isolate family with no established genetic links (affiliations to various language families or phyla have been proposed over time – Mayan, Mixe-Zoquean, Otomanguean, 'Hokan' – but none of these proposals have proved to be conclusive). A large number of common roots with Mixe-Zoquean, Mayan and Oto-Manguean languages are present which indicates intensive contacts.

This thesis, consisting of 13 chapters, has been assembled using techniques pertaining to ethnographic fieldwork and grammar writing acquired during my studies at James Cook University and put to practice in the field. The main component of the theoretical and methodological framework underlying this grammar is Basic Linguistic Theory, and the methodology is a combination of rigorous collection and transcription of linguistic data and the qualitative methodology associated with the interpretation of these data in their natural context, thus aiming at ensuring a high degree of ecological validity of the research findings. The sociolinguistic context of the speaker community and the methodological and theoretical basis of the research is described in the first chapter.

Umbeyajts is a head marking language. Possession is marked on the possessee by means of either a possessor prefix marking for person, or, when two NPs are juxtaposed, the head noun is marked with a pertensive prefix, while the possessor receives no marking. The language is synthetic rather than analytic, and it exhibits agglutinating, and at times fusional properties (Matthews, 1972). Markers in Umbeyajts often show multifunctionality, marking either several categories simultaneously, or being polysemous for several categories. Person/number categories are first, second and third person, singular and plural, and an inclusive first person dual and inclusive first person plural (called first person inclusive 'minimal' and 'maximal' by Hollenbach, 1981).

Umbeyajts has 24 consonant phonemes (of which 5 are marginal phonemes, appearing exceptionally infrequently only in loans). There is a prenasalised series of four of the stops and of one affricate, and 10 consonants have a palatalised realisation. There are seven vowel phonemes as well as two diphthongs, and bimoraic vowel nuclei may contain combinations of two vowels. The phonology includes several phonotactic restrictions conditioned by its historical development, and the historical development of palatalisation (which exists in all four varieties) plays an important role in explaining current syllable structure.

Umbeyajts has open and closed word classes: Nouns and verbs are open classes, whereas adjectives, adverbs, numerals, quantifiers, demonstratives, pronouns, clause-linkers, clitics and TAM markers constitute closed classes. Word class-changing derivation exists and can be observed in the formation of verbs expressing abstract property concepts as well as in deverbal participial forms with agentive meaning. An overview of word classes can be found in chapter 3.

The language exhibits agglutination and some fusional properties, with markers often displaying multifunctionality, and there is some affix mobility: Verbs may belong to either a prefixing class, which has both prefix and suffix positions, or a non-prefixing class which can only take suffixes – for example, a suffix such as past tense marker t thus may appear either as a prefix or a suffix depending on the verb class (whereas clitics do not display such mobility). Nouns are divided into classes based on differing sets of possessive marking. Another division in the noun system is made through the selection of one of three different numeral classifiers. An overview of nominal morphology and properties of the noun phrase is given in chapter 4, and morphological processes occurring in the verbal system are described in chapter 5 about verb morphology and classes.

Spatial relations and deixis are reviewed in chapter 6, about demonstratives. Umbeyajts features several series of demonstratives which have different syntactic properties and are conditioned mostly by the pragmatic context. The way non-spatial setting, such as the TAM system, is coded in the language is the topic of chapter 7, which includes an overview with examples of tenses (future and past), aspect (progressive, perfective, completive, inchoative), modality (abilitative, desiderative, necessitive) and mood (imperative, including non-canonical imperatives coded as optative or hortative forms), and also special negative forms.

Chapter 8 explains the rather interesting ways in which property concepts are expressed, which involve adjectives, nouns, verbs and deverbal stative participles. Chapter 9 about derivation gives a more in-depth overview of participles including human agentive forms, and examines different valency-changing devices used in the verbal system.

Chapter 10, about grammaticalisation in Huave, delves into the origins of different grammatical morphemes which can be revealed by their occurrence in present-day Umbeyajts as well as in the early 20th century texts recorded by Paul Radin. The overview includes clitics marking tense, aspect or modality and lexicalised verb roots now functioning as quantifiers or prepositions. Chapter 11 reviews clause and sentence types (verbless clause and copula clause constructions as well as complement clauses and relativisation strategies; declarative, imperative and interrogative sentences), clause combining and clausal (as opposed to constituent-level) negation. In chapter 12 an overview of speech genres and pragmatic phenomena can be found, and in chapter 13, language attitudes and ideology as well as language contact phenomena like codeswitching and borrowing are reviewed. Finally, in the appendix to the work, the reader will find a selection of the transcribed field recordings with morphological glossing and translation.

Item ID: 50066
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: endangered languages, grammar, head marking language, Huave, Ikojts people, Isthmus of Tehuantepec, lexicography, linguistic theory, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Dionisio del Mar, Umbeyajts
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2017 01:42
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2004 Linguistics > 200407 Lexicography @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 100%
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