Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 7-9-2004


This dissertation is a descriptive reference grammar of Wanano, an Eastern Tukano language spoken by approximately 1600 people living on the Vaupes River in northwestern Amazonia (Brazil and Colombia). Typologically, Wanano is a polysynthetic, agglutinating, nominative/accusative language whose prominent characteristics include suprasegmental nasalization and tone, an elaborate system of noun classification, and highly complex verbal morphology involving root serialization and obligatory coding of clause modality. The grammar is organized into seven chapters. Chapter 1 provides important sociolinguistic background information on the Wanano people: their location, demographics, and social organization, which is grounded in a marriage system based on linguistic exogamy. It also outlines current language maintenance efforts, which include the development of an orthography and materials for a Wanano bilingual education program. Chapter 2 discusses phonology, giving the phonemic inventory and presenting the basic features of suprasegmental nasalization and tonal phenomena. Chapter 3 analyzes grammatical categories: types of morphemes and criteria by which grammatical and phonological words are distinguished. Chapter 4 describes nouns and noun phrases. It includes an overview of the noun classification system, categories of nominal morphology, and types of modification in noun phrases. Chapters 5-7 address different aspects of Wanano verbs. Chapter 5 presents verbal syntax: the coding of arguments and adjuncts, basic verb phrase structure, and types of modification. Chapter 6 analyzes the semantics and morphology of verbs and shows how different classes of verbs participate in unique ways in the paradigm of verbal morphology. Chapter 7 completes the analysis of verbal morphology with a discussion of the coding of clause modality, which distinguishes statements, questions, and commands. It includes a detailed discussion of the complex system of obligatory evidential coding of realis statements, analyzing the core semantics and extended uses of each of the five evidential categories. It shows that evidential notions also permeate categories of interrogatives and irrealis statements, these latter coded by an alternate paradigm which includes Subject agreement morphology. The conclusion reviews the major typological features of Wanano differs and outlines the directions of future research. An appendix gives 11 fully interlinearized texts.