|Native to||Surinam, French Guiana, Brazil|
Wayana (also referenced as Ojana, Ajana, Aiana, Ouyana, Uajana, Upurui, Oepoeroei, Roucouyen, Oreocoyana, Orkokoyana, Urucuiana, Urukuyana, and Alucuyana in the literature) is language of the Cariban family, spoken by the Wayana people, who live mostly in the borderlands of French Guiana, Brazil, and Suriname.
The exact number of Wayana is unclear. The issue is complicated due to the fact that counts are done on a per-country basis. SIL Ethnologue lists 850 users of the language and 1950 ethnic Wayana in all countries, using counts from 2006 and 2007. Instituto Socioambental, a Brazilian NGO, lists 1629 ethnic Wayana, using counts from 2002 and 2014. The count of ethnic Wayana individuals is further complicated due to the close ties that the Wayana share with other ethnic groups in the region, especially the Aparai in Brazil, to the extent that they are sometimes considered one group, the Wayana-Aparai.
- 1 History
- 2 Language Family
- 3 Research on Wayana
- 4 Language Status
- 5 Phonology
- 6 Morphology
- 7 Syntax
- 8 Semantics
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Wayana are considered to be an amalgamation of several smaller ethnic groups, having subsumed the Upurui, Kukuyana, Opagwana, and Kumarawana, among others. They have extremely close ties with the Aparai, with whom they have lived and intermarried for at least 100 years in Brazil, though both the Aparai and Wayana consider themselves separate ethnic groups, differentiating themselves linguistically and through cultural practices. There are few Aparai in Wayana territory outside of Brazil.
This unique situation is a result of European contact and interethnic conflict in the past four centuries. Disease forced dwindling populations of smaller ethnic groups to amalgamate with the Wayana in the 18th century for increased survival. Also in the 18th century, around the time of European arrival in the Brazilian interior, the Wayana, whose original territory is considered to be Northern Brazil, started to migrate to Suriname and French Guiana due to conflicts resulting indirectly from colonization. As a result, there are three distinct Wayana territories today. The remaining Wayana in Brazil forged ties with the Aparai, who had migrated to their territory, and continue to maintain kinship and trade ties with Wayana in Suriname and French Guiana.
The Wayana (and Aparai) were involved heavily with trade, especially with the meikolo (Black Maroons), as well as Brazilian and Surinamese traders until the end of the 19th century. In the 20th century, Wayana started working in rubber extraction, and started to settle in villages, ending their traditionally nomadic way of life. By mid-century, missionaries (including a SIL project from 1962 to 1992) and government institutions started to gain presence in Brazilian Wayana-Aparai territory, implementing government health and education services. FUNAI has maintained a post, and has granted assistance in the region since 1973.
The Cariban languages to which Wayana belongs, are distributed throughout Northern South America, in Northern Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname, with speakers also in Colombia and Central Brazil. There are an estimated 25 remaining Cariban languages, with references to over 100 in the historical literature. Many of the Cariban languages referenced in the literature, and others unknown to Europeans, have gone extinct due to European contact. The number of speakers of all Cariban languages is estimated to be 60 000 to 100 000, though more than half speak the Carib language proper, Makushi, Pemong, or Kapong (the last 3 are closely related). Most Cariban languages have 100 to 3000 speakers.
Documentation of the both the extinct and remaining languages is scant in many cases, consisting of wordlists with flawed phonetic transcription and little grammatical description. Classification of Cariban languages into branches is therefore difficult, though many recent descriptive research projects are rectifying the lack of accurate data of the living Cariban languages. Wayana is considered by Kaufman (1994, as cited by Gildea, 2003) to be part of his proposed central branch, but a more recent classification (Gildea, 2005) considers it still in search of a branch.
Research on Wayana
Wayana, compared to its many of its Cariban peers, is very well described. The first work on Wayana was wordlists by Crevaux (1882, as cited by Tavares, 2005), Coudreau (1892), and De Goeje (1909, as cited by Tavares, 2005). De Goeje also published an incomplete grammar detailing some morphological aspects of Wayana in 1946 (as cited by Tavares, 2005). Walter Jackson’s 1972 “A Wayana Grammar” builds on this grammar and clarifies some of the flaws in De Goeje’s description of morphology and phonology, but still leaves many morphological and syntactic distinctions untouched.
Kenneth Howell’s 1982 MA thesis describes a specific aspect of Wayana syntax – constituent order. The most comprehensive work on Wayana is the 2005 PhD dissertation of Petronila Tavares, “A Grammar of Wayana”, which is a descriptive grammar of Wayana’s phonology, morphology, and syntax. Wayana is morphologically rich, and thus, most emphasis is given to morphology. The grammar provides little theoretical elaboration, “hop[ing] that future researchers will fill this gap” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 6).
Eliane Camargo, who started fieldwork among the Wayana at the same time as Tavares, has also significantly contributed to the study of Wayana language, with many descriptions of specific features of Wayana, such as nominal possession, postpositions, word order, and nominative aspect markers. She wrote a Wayana-Portuguese dictionary in 1997, as well as a Wayana-French dictionary in 2010. Lastly, she has written several works of linguistic anthropology, concerning bi-/multi-lingualism amongst the Wayana.
Much anthropological work has been conducted regarding the Wayana. Early ethnographic studies include de Goeje and Huralt, among others. The Wayana’s relationship with the Aparai has also elicited many ethnographic studies on subjects such as their bilingualism (Camargo 1997), their kinship (Koehn 1975) and their exchange patterns (Barbosa 2007). More recently, the Wayana-Aparai were also part of ProDocult, which is an effort from the Brazilian government to document indigenous culture, by creating digital archives and training indigenous peoples in documentary filmmaking and anthropological research. The Wayana-Aparai project focused on food systems and traditional knowledge of flora and fauna. As well, Karen Hough (2008) published an MPhil thesis in ethnolinguistics on spatial perception in Wayana, taking up Tavares’ urge for more theoretical elaboration of Wayana grammar.
The vitality of the language is also variant in different areas. In Brazil it is considered moribund by Ethnologue, with grandparents being the only active users; however, Tavares (2005) mentions some villages on the Paru river where the language is in active use by children and adults, though the general trend is toward Aparai bilingualism and dominance. While Tavares does not consider the language healthy, it is possibly not moribund everywhere. According to Ethnologue, in French Guiana it is shifting, with active use by adults and little transmission to children. In Suriname, it is developing, with all generations using it and some use of standardized literature.
The phonemic inventory of Wayana’s consonants and vowels are presented below. That is, all distinct phonemes in Wayana. Several other segments are allophonically realized. For example, /h/ is realized as ∫ in some contexts. However, these are only surface realizations, and therefore not phonemes.
Modified from Grimes (1972), p. 48
Modified from Grimes (1972), p. 48
Interestingly, the back vowels /u/ and /o/ are pronounced unrounded, unlike their manifestations in familiar languages, such as French.
Overview of Morphology
Wayana’s morphology, like that of other Cariban languages, is very rich, and makes extensive use of affixes. There are five major speech classes in Wayana: nouns, verbs, postpositions, adverbs, and particles. Each class can be distinguished by the presence (or absence) of specific affixes. Particles take no affixes, and are not morphologically bound. They “expres[s] many different meanings such as evidentiality, negation … [and] emotivity …” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 108). Barring particles, all members of each speech class are clearly recognizable by the affixes that they can take. In her "Grammar of Wayana", Tavares addresses the major aspects of each speech class in-depth. In regards to nouns, she discusses possessive, personal, and number affixes, Wayana pronouns, and special cases such as sound symbolic words. For verbs, she outlines the two “sets” of verbs found in Wayana (“Set I” –on which tense, aspect, and mood are marked through affixes, and t-V-(he) verbs – so-called due to their characteristic ambifix). She also addresses valence-changing morphemes, and gerundive verb forms. For postpositions, Tavares examines the personal prefixes, and spatial suffixes, as well as semantic classes of postpositions (including spatial postpositions). Derivational morphology is addressed for all classes, as class change (e.g. nominalization, verbalization) through affixes occurs often. Derivation is especially important for adverbs, as most adverbs are derived from other speech classes. Tavares presents the few underived adverbs that exist, as well the processes of adverbialization.
Possession in Wayana
Possession in Wayana occurs in only one way. It consists of three elements - the possessed noun, the possessor, and the possessive suffix. The possessor comes before the possessed noun as either a free noun or free pronoun, or a personal prefix, and the possessed noun is necessarily inflected by one of four suffixes. For example, we have:
|1c. *Nila i-malija-n|
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 121
Note: -n indicates the possessive suffix.
As we can see from 1c., the possessor cannot be expressed as both a personal prefix and a noun/pronoun, or else it is ungrammatical. The personal prefixes differ based on the succeeding environment. They are summarized in the table below:
|Preceding a vowel||Preceding a consonant||Preceding [w]|
|1st+2nd person||k-, ik-||ku-||ku-|
|3rd person||ø||i-||a-, o-, e-|
Modified from Tavares (2005), pp. 121
As mentioned previously, there are four allomorphs of the possessive suffix that inflect the possessed noun: -n(u), -(lï), -t(ï), -ø. The full form of the suffixes are realized only in some phonological environments. -n(u) is “the most productive” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 127) allomorph, as it is applied to loanwords (2c.). -t(ï-) can only be applied to three nouns (ëmi, ëlek, ëpi – face, boil, medicine). Both -(lï) and -ø occur after specific nominalizing affixes; each occurs after a different nominalization affix (for example the ones in 3b., 5b, though there are several others).–ø also occurs after some inherently possessed nouns (5a.), and nouns with the devaluative suffix (-tpë, -tpï(lï)) (5c.).
|2b. j-emeku-nu psik
“my small wrist”
(kuje from Port. “colher”)
|3b. tulii epïï pëktulihi epï-ø-lï pëkë
fruit.sp eat.vegetable-SpecEvntNmlz-Pss about
"He was eating tulii"
( SpecEvntNmlz = Specific Event Nominalizer)
(Alawaka 027, as cited by Tavares)
“my object for sleeping”
(CircnstNmlz = Circumstancial Nominalizer)
(Jolokoc 488, as cited by Tavares)
“my old, useless shoe”
(Dvl = Devaluative)
Data from Tavares (2005) pp. 126 – 136
It is important to note that nouns in Wayana fall under three classes, in regards to possessibility: unpossessable, optionally possessable, and inherently possessed. Unpossessable nouns do not take possessive prefixes or suffixes. Optionally possessed nouns are semantically diverse, and can occur in either possessed or unpossessed form (most examples given use optionally possessed nouns). Inherently possessed nouns “denote entities that stand in a stable, intrinsic relationship with another entity” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 136), and must always be possessed. Kinship terms (such as in 5a.) and some body parts fall under this category. Inherently possessed nouns often, but not always, take –ø as the possessive suffix.
Valence Changing Morphemes
Valency refers to the number of participants that a verb takes. In Wayana, the subject of an intransitive sentence (S) is distinguished from subject of a transitive sentence (A) and the object of a transitive sentence (O). The valency on a verb stem can be decreased or increased by using certain affixes. Valence can be decreased by only one affix – the detransitivizing prefix – but can be increased by four different suffixes. Causational morphemes (such as the Wayana –po) are not considered as valence-increasing, since the participants they introduce are optional.
The detransitivizing prefix is realized as e-, ëh-, ët-, depending on the succeeding phonological environment. The prefix can be taken by a transitive verb stem to detransitivize it, so that only one argument can be taken; the verb is then “marked as an SA intransitive verb” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 253), meaning that it only takes one argument, which is the subject and agent. For example, we see, how, in 6a. and b., a verb stem that usually requires another participant, can be satisfied by just one acting as an agent, in the presence of the detransitivizing prefix.
|Verb stem||Gloss||Detransitivized verb stem||Gloss|
|6a. ulu||“talk to O”||ëtulu||“talk”|
|6b. Ma kutamuu nëtulu jepe
maa ku-tamulu-ø n-ët-ulu-ø j-epe-ø
So 1+2-grandfather-Pss 3SA-Det-talk.to.O-RecPst 1-friend-Pss
“So, our grandfather has talked, my friend."
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 254
Conversely, intransitive verbs can be made to take new participants by using transtivizing suffixes: -ka, -nëp(ka), -nïp(ka), ma, and lë. These suffixes only “occur on SO intransitive stems”, “adding a new nuclear participant to the event described by the verb” (Tavares 2005, pp. 254). The new participant becomes the agent and subject of the transitive sentence, and the old S, the object. The suffixes do not occur on SA intransitive verbs (like the ones formed by the detransitivizing suffix), as they cannot be transitivized.
The distribution of these suffixes is not well described, and seems to be mostly based on phonology of the surrounding environment. As can be seen below, the different suffixes behave very similarly.
|Verb stem||Gloss||Suffix||Transitivized verb stem||Gloss|
|7a. utat(ï)||“be/get lost”||-ka||utatka||“make O get lost”|
|7b. uwa||“dance”||-nïp(i)~- nïp(ka)||uwanïp(ï)~uwanïp(ka)||“make O dance”|
|7c. Majpuri meleminëp
“You sang the Maipuli [a song]”
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 255–256
Interestingly, the root “elemi”, seen in 7c. can also take the transitivizing suffix –ka, as well as –nëp(i), but this causes a different meaning, for an unknown reason.
Case and Agreement
Wayana’s case system presents “an … unprecedented type of split ergativ[ity]” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 412), where there are two verb types – Set I and t-V-(h)e. The former presents an unclassified mixed system (sometimes analyzed as active-stative, or inverse) while the latter presents ergative case. In both verb sets, the subject of an intransitive sentence (S) is distinguished from subject of a transitive sentence (A) and the object of a transitive sentence (O), as mentioned previously. Interestingly, there is no grammatical property that seems to trigger the use of one set over the other. Both systems can “occur independent of tense, with all persons … in main clauses, and with all verb stems” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 234), and the choice of verb set is perhaps dependent on discourse factors.
Set I Verbs
Set I verbs in Wayana take a variety of personal prefixes, marking first, second, dual (first and second), and third person. The prefix used differs based on the valency of the verb in question, and person(s) being marked.
For transitive verbs, one prefix marks both subject (A), and object (O). The different prefixes, based on which person A and O are marking, are below.
|Personal Prefixes on Transitive Verbs|
|1st + 2nd-person subject (1+2A)||3rd person subject (3A)|
|1st person object (1O)||2A1O
|2nd person object (2O)||1A2O
|1st + 2nd person object (1+2O)||3A1+2O
|3rd person object (3O)||1A3O
(ku)h-/kut, ku-, k-
Modified from Tavares (2005), pp. 206
When one of the arguments of the transitive verb is a speech act participant (SAP) - either first person, second person or dual person (both first and second person) - and the other argument is a third person, the personal prefix differs based on whether the speech act participant is acting on the third person (is A), or is being acted on by the third person (is O). Often, first situation is termed direct, and the latter inverse. We can see this demonstrated by the differing prefixes for 1A3O (direct) and 3A1O (inverse), as well as 2A3O (direct) and 3A2O (inverse).
This distinction between direct and inverse prefixes is crucial when examining intransitive verbs. While each prefix marks the subject (S), as the chart below shows, there are two distinct sets of personal prefixes for each SAP person. One set matches the direct prefixes in transitive verbs, and the other set matches inverse prefixes. Thus, the S is split, and referred to either as SA or SO, depending on which transitive prefix set the intransitive prefix resembles. SA corresponds to the direct prefixes, and SO, the inverse. For example, 1SA prefix “w-“ is the same as the 1A3O direct transitive prefix.
|Personal Prefixes on Intransitive Verbs|
|1 + 2S||(ku)h-/kut, ku-, k-||(ku)h-/kut, ku-, k-|
To illustrate, below are two example of sentences using Set I transitive (8) and intransitive verbs, with SA (9a) and SO arguments (9b) :
“I heard it”
(RecPst = Recent Past)
8b) Kola ekalë epe ja
kola ekalë-ø øepe-ø ja
necklace give-RecPst 3-friend-Pss Dat
“(She) gave necklace to her friend”
(Dat = Dative)
|9a) w- ëtulu-ø
“Me and you sang”
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 208 & 426
There have been a few analyses proposed to explain Wayana’s person marking, including active-stative. If one focuses on the first and second person prefixes, that might be reasonable, as S is marked either as A or O, a characteristic of active-stative languages. Yet this analysis holds for first and second person only – the other persons (i.e. dual person) “do not present such a binary opposite” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 208); as well, the “semantic basis is lacking” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 208). Other analyses include: inverse (Gildea, 1998, as cited by Tavares) and portmanteau prefixes (Hoff, 1995, as cited by Tavares). Instead, it is likely that the set I verbs in Wayana are of a mixed system that is not fully encompassed by one single analysis.
Verbs in this set, characterized by the ambifix t- -(h)e around the verb root, are less complicated than set I verbs in regards to case. They are not inflected for person, tense, evidentiality, or number, and, as mentioned, present ergative case marking. The intransitive subject, S, and transitive object, O are both unmarked (having absolutive case), while the transitive object is marked for ergative case with the ergative morpheme, ja. Two examples follow:
|10. Malonme ïwokan epuu tëpkëlei pasina ja
malonme ï-woka-nu epulu-ø te-pïkëlë-he pahina ja
then 1-fishhook-Pss pole-Pss T-Break.O-He fish.sp Erg
“Then, a pasina (fish) broke the pole of my fishhook”
|11. Tïkai ïu
(1Pro = First person pronoun)
|12. Kopë telen tumëkhe
kopë telenu t-umëkï-he
rain huge T-come-He
“A huge rain came”
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 231
In the transitive sentence, 10., the A, which is the pasina fish, is marked as such by the ja ergative morpheme. The O, the speaker’s fishhook pole, is unmarked. In the intransitive sentences, 11. and 12., the S (the speaker, and “a huge rain”, respectively) are completely unmarked, just as the O is in 10..
Wayana thus shows split ergativity, with one set of verbs presenting ergative case, and the other, a mixed system. Wayana is a special case in split ergativity, since it seems that the two sets are not grammatically or semantically triggered, and occur freely in discourse. For example, both 13. and 14. use the verb root (“ënepï”/”bring”), yet 13. is marked as a t- -(h)e verb, and 14. is marked as a set I.
|13. Ulu tënephe Kilili ja
ulu t-ënepï-he kilili ja
manioc T-bring.O-he Kilili Erg
“Kilili brought manioc”
“You brought it”
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 201, 202
Even another Cariban language, Tiriyó, with split ergativity (and similar person-marking), “restrict[s]” t-V-(h)e verbs (the Tiriyo cognate) to the remote past” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 234), making Wayana’s case system quite unique, even amongst Cariban languages.
Wayana explicitly marks tense only on set I verbs, where tense morphemes are bound with aspect, modality, and number. Broadly, there are two categories of tenses – non-past, and past, which includes recent past, distant past, and habitual past; all tenses are marked with affixes. Aspect is not marked on Wayana verbs, but is “impl[ied] to different degrees” (Tavares, 2005, pp. 211) in each tense, or else given by context or other morphemes. Below is a chart of the suffixes for each tense.
|Habitual Past||-(j)(ë)mëhneja, -(h)e|
Modified from Tavares (2005), pp. 210
The non-past suffix, -ja can refer to future events, facts about the world, and non-past sentences can encode aspect, such as imperfective habitual or continuous aspect. In the examples below, we see how habitual aspect is marked through another morpheme (15.), how near or distant future is marked through context (saying “in a minute” versus “next year”) (16a., 16b.). We also see in 17. that, since perfective aspect is not explicitly marked, the non-past can be understood as either imperfect and continuous (“I am making bread”), or perfect (“I will make bread”), based on the context of speech.
|15.Pakolon tak hepï wïtëjai
ituwakï pakolo-nu ta-kë hepï w-ïtë-ja-he
indian house-Pss in.permanent.loc-into habitual 1SA-go-NonPst-SapAff
“I always go to the House of the Indians”
(SapAff = Speech Act Affirmative Morpheme)
|16a. ïwenatei pitë
“I am about to vomit”
|16b. Akon wei po, wëhepei Estados Unidos po
akono weji po-ø w-ëh-epa-ja-he estados unidos po-ø
another year on.supported-on 1SA-Det-teach.O-NonPst-SapAff United Sates on.supported-on
“Next year, I will study in the United States”
|17. Ulu wekejai
“I am making bread” or “I will make bread”
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 212–213
The recent past suffix, -ø, refers to “events that took place in the past twenty -four hours”, including “events that have just occurred”, “events that have happened hours ago, and events that happened in the previous day” (Tavares 2005, pp. 215). 11) and 12) provide examples for this tense:
“He just died (a few minutes ago)”
|19. Eluwa pepta kaikui uwe kokone
eluwa pepta kaikuhi uwë-ø kokone
man big jaguar kill.O-RecPst yesterday
“A man killed a big jaguar yesterday”
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 215
The distant past (referring to an event that occurred more than 24 hours before speech) is marked by two different affixes, -ne and kun-. Their distribution is based on the person of the verb’s arguments. –ne occurs when one or both of the verb’s arguments is an SAP, or when there is a free (pro)noun object before the verb in a 3A3O configuration. Kun- “occurs elsewhere” and marks third person as well as distant past. 20. gives an example of the distant past, using the –ne suffix (as there is a preverbal free noun O), and 21 gives an example of kun-.
|20. Jolok enene Anakali
joloko ene-ne anakali
evil.spirit see.O-DistPst Anakali
“Anakali saw a Jolok”
|21. Malonme kunene
“Then, he saw it.”
Data from Tavares (2005), pp. 216
All past affixes only “imply perfective meaning” (Tavares 2005, pp. 212) on their own. However, two habitual suffixes can mark habitual aspect in the distant past. They are -(j)(ë)mëhneja and -(h)e. The former takes the same personal prefixes as non-past forms do, while the latter takes no personal prefixes, though they seem to be identical, semantically – marking a repeated event in the past.
22. and 23. provide examples of -(j)(ë)mëhneja and -(h)e, respectively.
|22. Akuli je ïlëmëhneja malijame
akuli je-ø ïlï-ëmëtneja malija-me
agouti tooth-Pss make.O-HabPst knife-Attrb
“They used to make agouti’s teeth into knives”
|23 Kai kuni
“Grandma used to say.”
Data from Tavares (2005) pp. 218, 237
While set I verbs mark tense, t-V-(h)e verbs do not have morphology to do so. They do, however, refer to events in the past, present, and future, with different aspects. Tavares does not make it clear in her grammar how those events are referred to, but likely it is through context, and other morphemes, such as the habitual morpheme hepï (from the data presented on Tavares 2005, pp. 232).
 This can be a free pro(noun) that is the O on a transitive verb. See (1b) for an example. Also note that the differing realizations of the prefixes are phonologically conditioned or based on tense (in the case of 3A3O)
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