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Review of A Typological Grammar of Panare: A Cariban Language of Venezuela (Thomas E. Payne & Doris L. Payne)

  • Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana
reviews 387
Casad emphasizes that the path by which these grammatical elements have become
reanalyzed into prex sequences in the verb is rather complex (p. 83). A detailed
account of a grammaticalization path is given for the form á’u ‘where’, a common
locative subordinator introducing oblique relative clauses, which is claimed to be the
source of the prex sequence á’u-, itself the combination of two of the prexes in
gure 1: a’- ‘distal’, ‘out of sight’ and u- ‘inside’ (pp. 89–92). Evidence supporting
Casad’s analysis is the fact that á’u is part of the interrogative pronoun á’u ni ‘where’.
Thus NC behaves as predicted by grammaticalization theory, since the development of
relative pronouns from interrogative pronouns is a very common grammaticalization
pattern in languages worldwide. However, the several rounds of morphologization
processes required to make the analysis work are unique to NC and PC.
Chapter 5 discusses the aspectual senses of the two highlighted prexes in gure 1.
Wa- is analyzed both as a completive and perfective marker and ta- also has a perfec-
tive sense (p. 142). So it appears that two of the 18 NC locative-directional prexes
were also a source of aspect markers.
A nal note on phonology: Betty Casad, the author’s widow, reports in the prologue
that spectrographic analysis veried that it is indeed tone, rather than stress, that is
phonologically relevant in NC. Thus all the examples of NC are written with high and
low tones. This is an area of Cora which requires more work. It is dicult to tell to
what extent tone or stress, or maybe both, are phonetic correlates, are phonemic, or
are crucial for understanding Cora morphophonemics.
This book is a gold mine for a large audience of researchers. Linguists working
on diachrony, semantic typology, cognitive theories, and grammaticalization patterns
in Uto-Aztecan languages, particularly the Corachol branch, will nd the subject
matter interesting. While the book could have beneted somewhat from more editing
by other Cora experts, we remain deeply grateful to Eugene Casad for his insightful
documentation of NC, his reliable data, and the intellectual legacy of his stimulating
verónica vázquez soto, Seminario de Lenguas Indígenas, Instituto de
Investigaciones Filológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
griMes, Joseph e. 1964. Huichol Syntax. The Hague: Mouton.
a typological graMMar of panare: a cariBan language of venezuela. By
Thomas E. Payne and Doris L. Payne. Brill’s Studies in the Indigenous
Languages of the Americas, vol. 5. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Pp. xviii + 467.
$171.00; €125.00.
Despite its size and long history of study, the Cariban language family remains
poorly described (Meira 2006:199). The present volume, the rst descriptive grammar
published in Brill’s Studies in the Indigenous Languages of the Americas series, helps
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international journal of american linguistics
ll this lacuna by providing a 467-page “starting point” (p. ix) in the description of the
Panare language. The book is in fact extremely thorough, providing discussions on a
range of theoretical, historical, and typological issues. These discussions, woven into
the grammatical description, are both helpful in understanding the grammar and give
the book broad appeal. The publisher’s blurb is correct that anyone with an interest
in typology, constituent order, functional linguistics, language change, or Cariban
languages will nd much of interest and utility in this book, perhaps making its high
price worthwhile for non-specialists as well.
The book adheres to the canonical organization of a descriptive grammar, with
an introductory chapter providing ethnographic and academic context, followed by a
progression of chapters from phonology to multi-clausal constructions. In addition,
the book contains “extra” chapters that highlight some of the typologically unique or
especially complex aspects of the grammar. For example, entire chapters are devoted
to past perfective and non-past perfective aspects, since this distinction is a central
organizing feature of the grammar. Not included are chapters on phonetics or discourse-
level phenomena such as prosody. The grammar is lacking in phonetic detail, as it
contains no spectrograms or pitch traces, even when these would be particularly help-
ful, such as regarding intonation. However, two naturalistic texts are included at the
end of the grammar (one Pear story and one traditional text), with occasional notes,
giving the reader a sense of discourse conventions in the language.
A welcome feature of the book, which I perceive to be increasingly common in
grammatical descriptions, is the inclusion of the relevant morphemes in the list of
glossing abbreviations. A reverse lookup or morpheme index would have also been
useful. I also found it gratifying that the authors always glossed morphemes in in-
terlinear examples with their sense in context, rather than with the most unmarked
sense. This made parsing and understanding the examples easier.
One feature that makes this grammar noteworthy is its strong functional-typological
perspective. This of course raises the question, “What does it mean for a grammar to be
typological?” The functional-typological approach is salient throughout this grammar
in several respects. First, each section includes a brief typological overview of that
grammatical topic, providing a background against which the reader can situate the
following descriptive details of Panare. For typologists, obviously, this is especially
helpful, since the authors answer exactly the kinds of questions a typologist would
want to know, e.g., whether the function of the Panare passive is primarily to pro-
mote a patient or demote an agent, and whether the agentive by-phrase is obligatory
or optional. But more importantly, the typological backdrop is extremely useful for
understanding which parts of Panare grammar contribute, like every language does
in some way or another, to the growing explananda of linguistics, challenge existing
theories in some way, or exhibit grammatical patterns not seen elsewhere. It becomes
quite clear that Panare is a typologically remarkable language. I suspect that if more
linguists wrote grammars in such a typologically informed fashion, we would become
much more cautious in our claims of universality and structural uniformity.
The second typological-functional characteristic of this grammar is that it rst
denes grammatical categories functionally and only then examines the particular
morphosyntactic means by which those categories are realized. In the chapter on modi-
cation, for example, the authors state, “We emphasize that modication is a function,
and not a word class or syntactic category type” (p. 119). This approach is very much
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reviews 389
in line with Haspelmath’s (2010) notion of comparative concepts in typology. This
approach also gives the book a valuable degree of nuance concerning grammatical
categories, so that the focus is on fully describing the behaviors associated with a
function rather than tedious arguments for categorization and subcategorization that
ignore grammatical behaviors not considered criterial for the category.
Third, the grammar is functionally oriented in that diachrony is often utilized as
a tool for better understanding the synchronic distribution of dierent constructions.
Panare is rife with polygrammaticalization, whereby one morpheme diverges into
several dierent functions, and these disparate functions in turn grammaticalize or
change in function further (Craig 1991 and Hopper and Traugott 2003:114–15). These
polygrammaticalization processes have littered the grammar of Panare with many
homophonous forms, such that knowledge of the historical processes that give rise to
them is crucial for capturing generalizations concerning when, for example, a given
set of inectional axes does or does not appear.
Another noteworthy feature is that the authors prefer textual data over elicited data,
whenever possible, and are comfortable with grammatical variation and idiosyncrasy.
What emerges from the description are a number of grammatical features of Panare
that should be of intense interest to theorists of various persuasions. A few of those
features are: “split-inverse marking”; “transitivity-sensitive aspect”; strong structural
similarities between nouns and verbs; the lack of intransitive verb roots (intransi-
tive verbs are almost always derived from transitives); “discontinuous dependencies
between person prex and aspectual sux paradigms, and multiple morphological
markings of stem transitivity” (p. 151); tighter syntactic integration between V and
S/A than between V and O; and rampant non-autonomous morphology, i.e., a given
grammatical category is conveyed not through a single morpheme but rather through
a conuence of constructions whose simultaneous use has become conventionalized.
In conclusion, Panare seems destined to further stimulate the intense typological and
theoretical interest garnered by the Cariban family since Derbyshire (1985). From a more
general theoretical point of view, Payne and Payne’s thorough typological approach
enhances the volume signicantly, and they thus provide would-be grammar writers
with an exemplary model of what a typologically informed grammar might look like.
Daniel w. hieBer, University of California, Santa Barbara
craig, colette G. 1991. Ways to go in Rama. Approaches to Grammaticalization, ed. Elizabeth
Closs Traugott and Bernd Heine, vol. 2, pp. 455–92. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
DerByshire, DesMonD c. 1985. Hixkaryana and Linguistic Typology. Dallas: Summer Institute
of Linguistics.
haspelMath, Martin. 2010. Comparative concepts and descriptive categories in crosslinguistic
studies. Language 86:663–87. <doi:10.1353/lan.2010.0021>.
hopper, paul J., anD elizaBeth closs traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. 2nd ed. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Meira, sérgio. 2006. Cariban languages. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd ed., ed.
Keith Brown, pp. 99–203. Oxford: Elsevier.
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