A first analysis of Tense-Aspect constructions in Yawarana (Cariban) (Cáceres Arandia & Gildea 2022)

Cadernos de Etnolingüística
volume 10, número 7, outubro/2022, e100107 (2022)

A first analysis of Tense-Aspect constructions in Yawarana (Cariban)

Natalia Cáceres Arandia & Spike Gildea

This paper provides a first analysis of the tense-aspect system of Yawarana (yar), a Cariban language spoken in Amazonas State in Venezuela. The data analyzed stems from a documentation collection consisting of recordings of 13 of about 30 known conversational speakers of Yawarana. The inflectional morphology of Yawarana is relatively simple in comparison to nearby Cariban languages, with many fewer person prefixes, fewer inflectional suffixes, and no splits in alignment; in compensation, syntactic collocations with auxiliaries, clitics, and particles play a larger role in creating tense-aspect distinctions. Main clause verbs in Yawarana have a single suffix slot for inflectional tense-aspect morphology, the same slot that holds all category-changing derivational morphology. The inventory of inflectional suffixes in this slot includes three past tense suffixes, two that are identical to synchronic nominalizers (-sapë, -jpë) and one to an adverbializer (-se). This paper illustrates problems encountered in determining whether each of these forms primarily encodes tense or aspect. Crucial to answering this question is an examination of how the meaning of a given tense-aspect suffix combines with the inherent lexical aspect (especially telic vs. states) of different verbs. Examining all examples of these suffixes in our text corpus, we conclude that the suffix -se encodes past perfective, -jpë encodes past tense with no aspectual value, and -sapë is heterogeneous, with a perfect reading on lexical verbs and a simple past tense reading on the copula. Further, the two past tense forms of the copular auxiliary (one with -jpë, the other with -sapë) are specialized to occur in different constructions, chi-jpë with the progressive and wej-sapë with all other compound tense-aspects.

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