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The expression of recursion in Pirahã: documentation, description and analysis (Mura)

Grant number: 13/11693-7
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2013
Effective date (End): December 31, 2014
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Linguistics - Linguistic Theory and Analysis
Principal Investigator:Maria Filomena Spatti Sandalo
Grantee:Glauber Romling da Silva
Home Institution: Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem (IEL). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:12/17869-7 - Edges and asymmetries in phonology and morphology, AP.TEM

Abstract

This project has two interconnected objectives: (i) to document and describe the main aspects of the phonology and morphosyntax of Pirahã (Mura family) and (ii) investigate theoretically the expression of recursion in this language. Recently, Pirahã has raised a fierce international debate about the limits and even about the very existence of syntactic recursion (Everett, 2005; Nevins et alii 2009a, 2009b; Everett, 2009), as the cornerstone of the human language capacity (Hauser, Chomsky & Fitch, 2002). Recent findings show that the presence/absence of recursive structures is a fundamental evidence for parametrization during the language acquisition period. (Snyder, 2005; Roeper & Snyder, 2005, (to appear)). Pirahã offers evidence for a limited syntactic capacity (Nevins et alii (2009a, 2009b), Rodrigues & Sandalo, (2013)), because it selects one subset of the grammatical possibilities provided by UG (universal grammar). In this context, we intend to: (i) map the functional and lexical categories which are recursive in Pirahã; (ii) investigate what kind of recursion they express (iii) and in what level they express it; (iv) determine the degree of restriction in which they operate; and especially, (v) determine what are the local restrictions in which they operate. Parallel to these more theoretical goals, we will build a digital collection containing audio and video sessions resulting from recorded spoken events, with annotation (transcription, translation, glosses and notes) and metadata. For that end, we will use the database manager FLEx (sil.org), the metadata generator Arbil (Withers, 2009), the text annotator ELAN (Slotjes & Wittenburg, 2008), and the dictionary formatter Lexique Pro (sil.org). The expected outcomes are a descriptive grammar and a dictionary-shaped lexicon. Part of this collection will be incorporated into Corpus Tycho Brahe (Galves & Faia, 2010) (hereinafter, CTB). The collection architecture can serve as a catalyst for the aggregation and adaptation of other collections of indigenous or underdocumented languages. The advantage of incorporating data into CTB is that it provides syntactic annotation and it is able to generate hypothesis about patterns. Thus, we combine the power of a computational tool for documentation with the theoretical investigation of a human natural language.