894 - The effects of animacy hierarchies in native languages of the Americas

17.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30
17.07.2012 | 17:30 - 19:30

Convener 1: Terraza, Jimena (University of Toronto , Toronto, Canada / Kanada)
Convener 2: Haude, Katharina (CNRS, Villejuif, France / Frankreich)

The category of animacy shows up in the grammar of many languages. Comrie (1989) characterizes animacy, as it manifests itself linguistically, as a hierarchy whose principal components go from the most to the least animate: human > non-human animate > inanimate. More fine-grained descriptions of such a hierarchy, of which usually only a limited portion is reflected in a given language, have been proposed e.g. by Creissels (2006), who distinguishes the following criteria: 1st/2nd person pronouns > 3rd person pronouns > proper names of persons > kinship terms > other common nouns with human referents > common nouns that refer to familiar animals and/or to animals of significant size > nouns referring to other animate entities > nouns that refer to concrete entities easily perceived as having individual characteristics > other nouns.  

Grammatical reflections of animacy hierarchies can lead to highly complex grammatical systems such as differential argument marking, inverse morphology, or hierarchical agreement. A particularly large number and diversity of animacy-based systems is found in native languages of the American continent (see Zúñiga 2006), with Algonquian languages as the best-known example. Here, the animacy hierarchy determines various properties of the morphosyntax such as obviation (two kinds of third persons are distinguished), transitivity (Algonquian languages show different types of agreement for transitive and intransitive predicates for animate and inanimate entities), impersonal constructions (impersonal constructions have a different realization that depends on the position of the entity of the predication in the animacy hierarchy)  

The effects of animacy on morphosyntactic systems have received increasing attention in typological linguistics over the past years (see e.g. the ESF/EuroBABEL project RHIM), as more descriptions and documentations of languages showing these phenomena have become available.  

At this symposium we will discuss the morphological effects of the animacy hierarchy in geographically and genetically diverse languages and language families of the American continent. Apart from discussing morphosyntactic patterns determined by animacy, we will also address phenomena that run counter the predictions mentioned above and that are found more and more frequently as the investigation proceeds. The symposium will gather linguists with first-hand experience of relevant languages or language families, such as in North America: Algonquian, Eskimo-Aleut, Athapascan, and Sahaptian, and in South America: Cariban, Tupi-Guaraní, Movima, Tacanan, Mataco-Mataguaya, and Mapudungun.  


Comrie, Bernard. 1989. Language universals and linguistic typology. 2nd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago.  

Creissels, Denis. 2006. Syntaxe générale, une introduction typologique. 2 t. Paris: Hermès Lavoisier.  

Zúñiga, Fernando. 2006. Deixis and Alignment. Inverse systems in indigenous languages of the Americas. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.

Keywords: linguistics - Amerindian languages - morphosyntax - animacy hierarchies

Title Author Country Co-Author
11704 - ¿One ¿ or more¿: Optional Plural Marking and the Animacy Hierarchy in Cabécar (Chibchan) Pasamonik, Carolina Germany / Deutschland
11882 - Saliencia y aplicativos en Sikuani Queixalós, Francesc France / Frankreich
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