Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Andrew Cowell

Second Advisor

Javier Rivas Rodríguez

Third Advisor

Zygmunt Frajzyngier

Fourth Advisor

David Rood

Fifth Advisor

Mans Hulden


Wixárika, also known as Huichol, is an endangered Uto-Aztecan language spoken in Mexico. Published works on Wixárika include articles and brief sketches on different aspects of the grammar; however, much about the language remains unknown. This dissertation presents a systematic description of simple clauses in Wixárika, based on eight hours of naturally recorded speech and elicited materials. Using a functional-typological perspective, I explore Wixárika’s morphosyntactic devices to express different types of events. In keeping with the study of clause types, I also explore the language’s morphological devices for modifying the number of arguments. Wixárika has five devices that add a core argument into the clause: causatives -tɨa, -ta, -ya, applicative -ri(e), vowel alternation, lability, and suppletion. Similarly, the language has five devices that reduce the number of arguments: reflexive/reciprocal pronoun prefixes, passive suffixes (-rie, -ya, -wa, -rɨwa, -tsie), middle voice prefix (yu-), and noun incorporation.

The overall analysis discusses the implications of the language’s system in existing typological theories. Wixárika shows to be devoid of any clear-cut boundary between clause types, as proposed in typological studies (Hopper & Thompson 1980; Givón 1984; Stassen 1997; Næss 2007; Kittilä 2002). Of particular interest are the prefixes ta-/ti- since they provide more evidence of this scalar nature; the speakers use these prefixes to encode the ‘effectiveness’ of the action (Cf. Grimes 1964; Iturrioz & Gómez 2006). These prefixes are explored in relation to other components of transitivity (e.g., the number of arguments and their encoding, tense/aspect/mood, polarity, the individuation of actor and undergoer, and the prefixes ti-/te- ‘distributive subject’) in expressing different degrees of transitivity. I show that these components lack co-variation (Cf. Hopper & Thompson), particularly with the prefixes ta-/ti-. However, the presence or absence of the prefixes ta-/ti- and/or the (de)transitivization devices express different degrees of transitivity. Particularly interesting is the fact that Wixárika has a tendency to polysynthesis, not common in Southern Uto-Aztecan languages. Therefore, this study not only contributes to a growing understanding of the grammatical system of Wixárika but also will clarify the evolution and intra-genetic relations of the Uto-Aztecan family.


Advisor 6. Zarina Estrada Fernández

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