Program

Preservation and Access: Documenting Endangered Languages - Preservation

Period of Performance

9/1/2019 - 8/31/2024

Funding Totals

$323,717.00 (approved)
$323,717.00 (awarded)


Documentation of Nadeb (mbj), a Naduhup language of Brazil

FAIN: PD-266994-19

University of Texas, Austin (Austin, TX 78712-0100)
Patience L. Epps (Project Director: November 2018 to present)

The documentation and description of Nadeb, an endangered language spoken in northwest Brazil.  The project would produce an annotated collection of digital recordings in audio and video, a grammatical description, lexicon, and collection of texts, in collaboration with the Nadeb community, as well as a comprehensive reference grammar, a dictionary (Nadeb-English-Portuguese), and a set of pedagogical materials for community use.

This project will undertake the documentation and description of Nadeb, a member of the small Naduhup family (formerly known as Maku), spoken in northwest Brazil.  The principal goals are to produce an annotated collection of digital recordings in audio and video, a grammatical description, lexicon, and collection of texts, in collaboration with the Nadeb community. Documentation will focus on natural discourse and will span a range of genres, with particular emphases on traditional verbal art forms involving song, narrative, and incantation; conversation; and knowledge concerning Nadeb traditional territory. Secondary outcomes will consist of a comprehensive reference grammar, a dictionary (Nadeb-English-Portuguese), and a set of pedagogical materials for community use. Materials will be archived in the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America at the University of Texas at Austin.





Associated Products

‘Nadëb Collection’ (Database/Archive/Digital Edition)
Title: ‘Nadëb Collection’
Author: Nian Pissolati
Author: Patience Epps
Author: Karolin Obert
Abstract: This collection contains Nadëb language materials. Nadëb belongs to the Naduhup language family and has about 500 speakers. Most of these materials were recorded in Roçado community, Uneiuxi River, Amazonas, Brazil.
Year: 2018
Primary URL: https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla%3A257602
Primary URL Description: Location of Nadëb collection within AILLA
Access Model: Open access

Dos Makú aos povos Naduhup - sobre o papel de Theodor Koch-Grünberg na classificação e documentação linguística dos povos Naduhup (Article)
Title: Dos Makú aos povos Naduhup - sobre o papel de Theodor Koch-Grünberg na classificação e documentação linguística dos povos Naduhup
Author: Danilo Paiva Ramos
Author: Karolin Obert
Abstract: No abstract required (book chapter).
Year: 2020
Format: Other
Periodical Title: Martius Staden Jahrbuch 63
Publisher: São Paulo: Oikos

The diachrony of argument marking in Naduhup (NW Amazonia). (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The diachrony of argument marking in Naduhup (NW Amazonia).
Author: Patience Epps
Abstract: The Naduhup language family, located in northwest Amazonia, has four members: Hup, Yuhup, Dâw, and Nadëb, of which Nadëb is the most distantly related sister (Epps & Bolaños 2017). Despite a strong signal of cognacy in basic vocabulary, the four languages are highly divergent in their grammatical profiles and morphological forms – particularly so for Nadëb. This divergence probably has much to do with their diverse contact histories, and has likely been facilitated by structural properties that feed grammaticalization, such as noun incorporation and verb serialization. This structural divergence is clearly evident in argument marking across the four languages. In light of the diversity of its argument marking resources, the Naduhup family offers an intricate historical puzzle in its own right, which in turn provides insights into the diachrony of argument marking more generally. Despite their apparent recency, the historical sources of the core argument markers are not fully clear; however, those in Hup and Nadëb may represent an extension of directional and locational functions, respectively. For non-core arguments, the development of a more generic oblique suffix (-Vt) in Hup and Yuhup has probably been areally motivated via contact with Tukanoan languages (see Aikhenvald 2002 for a similar development in Tariana, Arawakan), and may derive from hut, a variant still attested in Yuhup. Similarly, Nadëb’s development of pronominal subject-marking is a likely reflection of contact, involving Arawakan languages. Several postpositions show some evidence of cognacy across the family, while others may be innovations, although there is little evidence for non-adpositional sources. Finally, Nadëb has undergone a further historical stage in which the incorporation of a number of postpositions into the verb phrase has given rise to a set of verbal prefixes (see Weir 1986).
Date: 11/12/2020
Conference Name: Workshop on Diachrony, Adpositions, Nuclear and Oblique Arguments (University of Sonora)

Phonological re-analysis: Classifying a problematic vowel in Nadëb (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Phonological re-analysis: Classifying a problematic vowel in Nadëb
Author: Mark Simmons
Abstract: Nadëb (Naduhup language family) stands out among other northern Amazonian languages for its large vowel inventory, which distinguishes ten contrastive vowels, at least seven of which contrast for length. The analysis of the vowel inventory has changed little since Helen Weir’s (1984) initial work. Recent pilot fieldwork, however, has identified a new vowel contrast previously unaccounted for. This contrastive vowel is problematic with respect to our understanding of the Nadëb phonological system – it only manifests as long, while other vowels manifest as both long and short or only short, and consultants cannot identify a short equivalent. Moreover, preliminary formant analyses suggests that its central tendency is near-identical to that of another vowel, /əː/; most words that attest this vowel are written as /əː/ or /ɨː/ in other works on Nadëb (Martins 2005, Barbosa 2005, Weir et al. 2011). The lack of an orthographic representation for this vowel is troubling for the community, who have an active bilingual school and prioritize an effective orthography. I propose that /ə:/ is best analyzed phonologically as a long /ʌ:/ (note that [ʌ:] does not occur in contemporary Nadëb), which has raised and merged phonetically with /?:/, phonemically /ə:/. Due in part to morphological patterns, speakers still perceive /?:/ and /ə:/ as separate phonemes.
Date: 10/10/2019
Conference Name: Conference on Indigenous Languages of Latin America – IX (UT Austin)

Tesouros linguísticos escondidos nas histórias e nas conversas: Boas e a importância na documentação e descrição de língua e cultura. (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Tesouros linguísticos escondidos nas histórias e nas conversas: Boas e a importância na documentação e descrição de língua e cultura.
Author: Epps, Patience
Author: Obert, Karolin
Abstract: n/a
Date: 12/03/2021
Conference Name: ‘Colóquio Franz Boas – Etnografia e Linguagem’, co-organized by K. Obert and D. Paiva Ramos.

Footprints of pre-Columbian trade networks? Linguistic clues from Nadëb. (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Footprints of pre-Columbian trade networks? Linguistic clues from Nadëb.
Author: Nian Pissolati
Author: Epps, Patience
Author: Obert, Karolin
Author: Emily Luedke
Author: Mark Simmons
Abstract: Early colonial records suggest that an extensive trade network linked the two major branches of the Amazon River, the Rio Negro and the Solimões, with the Jurubaxí River and adjacent southern tributaries of the Rio Negro playing a key role as connecting interfluvial routes. The area of the Rio Negro was dominated by Arawakan peoples, most notably the powerful Manao, who controlled the lower to middle reaches of the Rio Negro, as well as by allied groups inhabiting the upper reaches and various tributaries (Sweet 1975, Wright 2005). The Solimões, in turn, was controlled nearly to its mouth by the Tupi-Guaranian Omagua and Yurimagua peoples. However, the degree to which these exchange networks incorporated local peoples is not well understood, and most of the groups involved had already been decimated and absorbed into the local caboclo population by the mid-18th century, in the wake of epidemics, slaving, and wars of extermination carried out by the Portuguese. Similarly, the majority of the languages once spoken throughout this region have had no speakers for centuries, and disappeared with no or minimal documentation. A key exception is the Nadëb, a people who still inhabit the interfluvial zone in the region of the Jurubaxí and neighboring rivers, and whose language belongs to the Naduhup family, associated with forest-dwelling hunters throughout the region. In this paper, we draw on our current work with Nadëb to consider linguistic clues to their role as intermediaries in past systems of exchange, informed by triangulation with historical and ethnohistorical evidence. As we explore here, indications of extensive lexical and grammatical borrowing from Tupi-Guaranian and Arawakan sources suggest that the Nadëb were deeply involved in local networks, and provide further insights into the dynamics of those networks themselves.
Date: 06/29/2021
Conference Name: Meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America

Naduhup languages and the typology of nominal classification (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Naduhup languages and the typology of nominal classification
Author: Obert, Karolin
Author: Epps, Patience
Abstract: Nominal classification is a robust feature in many Amazonian languages, and aspects of these systems offer significant challenges to our broader conception of the phenomenon. Yet a clear characterization of Amazonian classification systems must be firmly grounded in detailed descriptive analysis on one hand, and in a principled definition of classification as a typological category on the other – and a failure to do so may lead to spurious claims of typological rara. This paper offers a case in point through an exploration of nominal classification phenomena in the small Naduhup family (aka Makú; Brazil/Colombia): while several aspects of these systems have been highlighted in the typological literature as rare or otherwise remarkable, a reconsideration of these phenomena in the light of more data and analysis suggests significant revisions. We consider nominal classification phenomena across the four languages (Hup, Yuhup, Dâw, Nadëb) from synchronic and diachronic perspectives, and reassess their relevance for a broader typology of classification.
Date: 06/02/2021
Conference Name: Amazonicas VIII conference, Universidade de Brasília

Constituent disorder? Community perspectives on sentence structure in Nadëb. (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Constituent disorder? Community perspectives on sentence structure in Nadëb.
Author: Mark Simmons
Author: Patience Epps
Author: Emily Luedke
Author: Karol Obert
Abstract: In northwestern Amazonia and beyond, many minority language communities are experiencing profound cultural and linguistic change. Such change often takes the form of language endangerment, most obviously in cases where the community language ceases to be passed on to children. However, processes of endangerment are complex: even where the everyday language is robustly transmitted, other aspects of language form and usage may still undergo change and/or loss in the context of external pressure – genres, registers, styles, and even structural features, all of which are components of global linguistic diversity and of speakers’ cultural and linguistic heritage. Such is the situation of Nadëb, a member of the small Naduhup family with about 400 speakers, as it is spoken in the community of Roçado (Amazonas state, Brazil). While Nadëb is still being passed robustly to children in Roçado, community members are well aware that transmission is faltering in some neighboring communities. They are also aware of changes in discursive practice in their own community, some of which are associated with a recent shift to evangelical Christianity, accompanied by a full translation of the New Testament into Nadëb. In this talk, we draw on collaborative fieldwork with the Nadëb people of Roçado to consider speakers’ experiences with endangerment and contact-driven change as realized in grammatical structure – an area which tends to be less salient to speakers than are other targets of shift and change (see e.g. Silverstein 1981). As we explore here, speakers may nonetheless attend to structural changes, and may assess them in light of the contexts and practices that drive them. From a typological perspective, one of Nadëb’s most striking structural features is its preference for OAV constituent order, which is cross-linguistically very rare (see Weir 1984, 1986; Dryer 2013). As contact with Portuguese increases, one might anticipate pressure for Nadëb’s secondary order – AVO – to
Date: 04/30/2021
Conference Name: Workshop on American Indian Languages

The diachrony of argument marking in Naduhup (NW Amazonia). (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The diachrony of argument marking in Naduhup (NW Amazonia).
Author: Epps, Patience
Abstract: The Naduhup language family, located in northwest Amazonia, has four members: Hup, Yuhup, Dâw, and Nadëb, of which Nadëb is the most distantly related sister (Epps & Bolaños 2017). Despite a strong signal of cognacy in basic vocabulary, the four languages are highly divergent in their grammatical profiles and morphological forms – particularly so for Nadëb. This divergence probably has much to do with their diverse contact histories, and has likely been facilitated by structural properties that feed grammaticalization, such as noun incorporation and verb serialization (see e.g. Epps & Ananthanarayan forthcoming). In light of the diversity of its argument marking resources, the Naduhup family offers an intricate historical puzzle in its own right, which in turn provides insights into the diachrony of argument marking more generally. Despite their apparent recency, the historical sources of the core argument markers are not fully clear; however, those in Hup and Nadëb may represent an extension of directional and locational functions, respectively. For non-core arguments, the development of a more generic oblique suffix (-Vt) in Hup and Yuhup has probably been areally motivated via contact with Tukanoan languages (see Aikhenvald 2002 for a similar development in Tariana, Arawakan), and may derive from hut, a variant still attested in Yuhup. Similarly, Nadëb’s development of pronominal subject-marking is a likely reflection of contact, involving Arawakan languages. Several postpositions show some evidence of cognacy across the family, as indicated in Table 2 above, while others may be innovations, although there is little evidence for non-adpositional sources. Finally, Nadëb has undergone a further historical stage in which the incorporation of a number of postpositions into the verb phrase has given rise to a set of verbal prefixes (example 1; see Weir 1986).
Date: 11/12/2020
Conference Name: Workshop on Diachrony, Adpositions, Nuclear and Oblique Arguments, University of Sonora

Reconstructing Naduhup Prosody (Report)
Title: Reconstructing Naduhup Prosody
Author: Simmons, Mark
Abstract: A reconstruction of Proto-Naduhup prosody.
Date: 05/05/2021
ISBN: N/A

Prizes

George H. Mitchell Award
Date: 5/15/2021
Organization: UT Austin

The mass/count distinction in Nadëb (Article)
Title: The mass/count distinction in Nadëb
Author: Obert, Karolin
Abstract: Languages differ with respect to if and how they categorize their nouns based on specific lexical or grammatical criteria. A well-studied example is the mass/count distinction, which groups nouns according to their ability to be counted or measured. Cross-linguistic comparison on this noun-categorization system provided evidence that the mass/count distinction is not a reflection of pre-linguistic perceptions, rather it is a language internal grammatical distinction showing how countability and measurability can be grammatically encoded on different nouns. This work focuses on how the mass/count distinction surfaces in the grammar of Nadëb (Naduhup family; ISO 639-3: mbj) – an endangered and under-described indigenous language of Northwest-Amazonia (Brazil). Results from Lima and Rothstein’s (2016) “The count/mass distinction questionnaire” show that the ability (or inability) to be syntactically juxtaposed with a numeral expression is one of the cut-off points for the division of mass and count nouns in Nadëb. Moreover, I show that mass and count nouns combine with distinct sets of quantifiers and that the possibility of having a (semi-)suppletive plural form can also be considered a possible strategy in the assignment of Nadëb nouns to the count noun category.
Year: 2021
Primary URL: http://doi.org/10.20396/liames.v21i00.8661367
Access Model: Open access
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: LIAMES: Línguas Indígenas Americanas
Publisher: LIAMES: Línguas Indígenas Americanas 21: 1-20.

Number marking in Nadëb. (Article)
Title: Number marking in Nadëb.
Author: Karolin Obert
Author: Epps, Patience
Abstract: One of the most robust sources of fresh insights into typological categories comes from our growing knowledge of the indigenous languages of South America, a region that until recently has been significantly under-represented in typological studies. This paper offers a case in point through the investigation of number in Nadëb, a member of the small Naduhup family of the northwest Amazon, which reveals several typologically intriguing features. One of these is Nadëb’s emphasis on verbal number as opposed to nominal number, even while any registering of event number appears to be secondary to that of participant number. Nadëb also relies heavily on suppletive or semi-suppletive stem pairs in encoding number distinctions in both nouns and verbs. Finally, Nadëb’s resources for expressing number are quite different from those seen in its three sister languages, in which number is primarily a feature of the noun phrase, suggesting a significant reorganization of number-marking within the language family. The Nadëb case underscores the considerable diversity evident in number-marking strategies typologically, and how this diversity may emerge even within a single language family of limited time-depth.
Year: 2021
Primary URL: https://revistas.unicartagena.edu.co/index.php/visitasalpatio/issue/view/242?fbclid=IwAR1c__W5AOqiPmY8f3OSYF0fFiG-BiPBLOLnlYi-VJkVeRhIsXtowpNeugY
Primary URL Description: Link to article
Format: Journal
Publisher: Revista Visitas al Patio de la Universidad de Cartagena 15(2). 255-273.

Naduhup Languages and the Typology of Nominal Classification (Article)
Title: Naduhup Languages and the Typology of Nominal Classification
Author: Karolin Obert
Author: Epps, Patience
Abstract: Nominal classification is a robust feature in many Amazonian languages, and aspects of these systems offer significant challenges to our broader conception of the phenomenon. Yet a clear characterization of Amazonian classification systems must be firmly grounded in detailed descriptive analysis on one hand, and in a principled definition of classification as a typological category on the other – and a failure to do so may lead to spurious claims of typological rara. This paper offers a case in point through an exploration of nominal classification phenomena in the small Naduhup family (aka Makú; Brazil/Colombia): while several aspects of these systems have been highlighted in the typological literature as rare or otherwise remarkable, a reconsideration of these phenomena in the light of more data and analysis suggests significant revisions. We consider nominal classification phenomena across the four languages (Hup, Yuhup, Dâw, Nadëb) from synchronic and diachronic perspectives, and reassess their relevance for a broader typology of classification.
Year: 2022
Primary URL: http://www.etnolinguistica.org/article:vol10n1-4
Primary URL Description: Link to article
Format: Journal
Publisher: Cadernos de Etnolingüística, 10(1): e100104.

Exploring innovation in grammatical morphology: A view from the Amazon (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Exploring innovation in grammatical morphology: A view from the Amazon
Author: Epps, Patience
Abstract: This paper considers ways in which dynamics and mechanisms of language change may make crucial reference to spatially and temporally variable aspects of typological structure and sociolinguistic practice. Focusing on languages of the Amazon basin, and particularly those of the Naduhup language family, I present evidence for rates and pathways of grammaticalization that appear cross-linguistically unusual or extreme – relating to the rapid generation of new grammatical forms, lack of stability in inflectional and derivational morphology, evidence of ‘debonding’ processes, synchronically flexible behavior of functional elements as more morphological or more syntactic, and relative promiscuity of grammatical elements’ association with different word classes. Many of these phenomena can be linked to areally relevant structural characteristics, particularly the prevalence of verb serialization and noun incorporation, and an emphasis on nominalization as a subordination strategy. Many can also be shown to be grounded in locally salient sociolinguistic practices, most notably relating to zones of intensive, stable multilingualism, in which language contact has had a heavy hand in shaping rates and processes of change.
Date: 10/22/2021
Conference Name: Invited colloquium talk, University of Oregon

The mechanics of structural reorganization: The case of Nadëb prefixes. (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The mechanics of structural reorganization: The case of Nadëb prefixes.
Author: Patience Epps
Author: Obert, Karolin,
Author: Emily Luedke
Abstract: The degree to which languages may retain components of a typological profile over time has significant implications for our understanding of deep-time family relationships and of the dynamics of language contact and change (cf. Nichols 1992, Dunn et al. 2005, Donohue et al. 2011, Dunn et al. 2011). Indeed, some language families have developed extensive internal typological diversity, even where their lexicons retain a clear signal of genealogical relationship. While language contact is often an obvious driver, internal processes of change are also crucially involved, such that new categories and structures emerge through processes of reanalysis and grammaticalization (e.g. Heine & Kuteva 2005). Yet we still have much to understand regarding the mechanisms of these processes of change, especially where such restructuring affects many different components of the grammar. A key question in such cases is the following: to what extent are wide-ranging structural changes an assortment of relatively independent developments, versus an interconnected set within which specific catalysts may be identified? We consider these questions through the lens of Nadëb, a member of the small Naduhup language family of the northwest Amazon (Epps & Bolaños 2017), drawing on our collaborative fieldwork with community members (initiated 2018) and on prior work by Weir (principally a 1984 MA thesis). Nadëb is the most structurally divergent member of the Naduhup family, with a number of features that stand out not only in contrast to its three sister-languages, but also as typologically noteworthy in their own right. In fact, however, as we explore here, the diachronic emergence of several of these features can be understood as closely interconnected – and apparently predicated primarily on the development of prefixes.
Date: 01/30/2022
Conference Name: Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas annual meeting

Constituent disorder? Community perspectives on sentence structure in Nadëb (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Constituent disorder? Community perspectives on sentence structure in Nadëb
Author: Mark Simmons
Author: Epps, Patience
Author: Emily Luedke
Author: Karol Obert
Abstract: From a typological perspective, one of Nadëb’s most striking structural features is its preference for OAV constituent order, which is cross-linguistically very rare (see Weir 1984, 1986; Dryer 2013). As contact with Portuguese increases, one might anticipate pressure for Nadëb’s secondary order – AVO – to become more prominent, particularly in material like the New Testament that has been translated directly from Portuguese. Here we consider this question through the lens of a discussion that took place in a community linguistics workshop during our fieldwork in 2019. When the topic of constituent order came up, community members launched into a heated debate: some observed that the OAV order was frequent in the speech of elders and was thus the “only and right” order, while others spoke out in favor of AVO because “the New Testament [in its Nadëb translation] speaks like this”. Still others voiced acceptance for both patterns. This discussion among Nadëb community members highlights how speakers may experience language endangerment and change: While a full break in transmission or the loss of particular genres may be especially salient, speakers may also be aware of structural change, and of its connections to shifting domains of experience and to different views of authority as instantiated by elders, the state, or the church. Ultimately, these perceptions on the part of speakers are relevant in directing choices about what and how to document and revitalize in work with endangered languages.
Date: 04/30/2022
Conference Name: Workshop on American Indian Languages, UC Santa Barbara

Split ergatives or splitting hairs? Alignment in Nadëb (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Split ergatives or splitting hairs? Alignment in Nadëb
Author: Patience Epps
Author: Obert, Karolin
Author: Emily Luedke
Abstract: Unlike its sister languages, Nadëb (Naduhup family) displays ergative-absolutive alignment, and Martins & Martins (1999:263) even assess it as “one of the most ergative languages of Amazonia”. However, new data from recent fieldwork suggest that ergativity is less pervasive in Nadëb than has been previously implied, and that neutral, nominative-accusative, and even tripartite alignment are also attested. Here, we assess Nadëb alignment across morphology and syntax, as attested in pronominal prefixing on verbs, constituent order and deletion patterns, and other phenomena. Diachronically, we argue that a number of these patterns are probably innovative, motivated by contact with neighboring Arawakan languages.
Date: 04/02/2022
Conference Name: Fourth Symposium on Amazonian Languages (SAL 4), UC Berkeley