Dissertation Research: Deixis in Cushillococha Ticuna
Ticuna (tca, isolate) is a complex of varieties spoken by ~60,000 people living along the main course of the Amazon River in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Since 2015, I have conducted 8 months of fieldwork on Ticuna in the town of Cushillococha (located in Mariscal Ramón Castilla province, Loreto department, Peru).
- My dissertation project examines the interplay between spatial and non-spatial forms of deixis in Ticuna. Although traditional analyses of demonstratives claim that they encode location in space, I show that the demonstratives of Ticuna encode much more. Four of six demonstratives have both perceptual and spatial meaning components: they encode the speaker's mode of access to the referent (does she see it, touch it, smell it, etc.) as well as its location in space. Another demonstrative has no spatial meaning at all, but does have temporal and perceptual meanings. It conveys, among other meanings, that the speaker last perceived the referent in the remote past.
I approach these phenomena from an interdisciplinary perspective incorporating Neo-Gricean pragmatics, logical semantics, and linguistic anthropology. My field data comes from semantic elicitation, experiments, and naturally occurring conversations.
- Talks I have given on Ticuna:
Documentation and description of Máíhɨ̃ki
Since 2012, I have conducted 12 months of documentary fieldwork on Máíhɨ̃ki, a highly endangered Western Tukanoan language spoken in extreme northeastern Peruvian Amazonia. My contributions to documentation of the language include a ~110,000-word corpus of time-aligned, translated, and fully morphologically parsed natural speech texts, representing over 19 hours of recordings, as well as two community-oriented text collections. I am affiliated with a research group (active 2010-2014) led by Lev Michael.
I continue to work actively on sociolinguistics in Máíhɨ̃ki and description of the language's numerous forms of traditional oral literature.
Interrogatives and epistemics in Western Tukanoan
While the languages of the Eastern branch of the Tukanoan family are known for their rich evidential systems, grammaticalized evidentiality is marginal in languages of the Western branch of Tukanoan. Furthermore, Western Tukanoan evidential constructions are transparently related to interrogative morphology. In this project, I use synchronic pragmatics and historical morphosyntax to trace the development of Western Tukanoan evidentials from non-evidential politeness strategies involving syntactic questions.
Tukanoan historical linguistics
I worked as a research assistant to Lev Michael on the MPI for History and the Sciences project "A lexical database of Tukanoan and other northwest Amazonian languages." This project, which I helped to design, is assembling a large pan-Tukanoan lexical database to support new work on the internal classification of the family using traditional and computational methods. My BA thesis provided a new phonological reconstruction and internal classification of the Western branch of the family.
My BA thesis on classification and reconstruction in Western Tukanoan is here (pdf).
- Note: Since 2013, colleagues and I have gathered a substantial amount of new lexical data on two of the subject languages of this paper. The linked paper does not reflect the new data.