Overview of the alignment of Arawakan languages

AMERINDIA 40: 135-167, 2018


Abstract: This article compares the alignments of the languages from the Arawakan family,
one of the largest linguistic families of South America; in other words, how these languages
encode the arguments of intransitive and transitive predicates. It had been shown that most of
these languages are characterized by split intransitivity, more precisely by what will be called
nominative-absolutive alignment, where an intransitive predicate takes nominative or
absolutive agreement according to semantic, pragmatic or morphosyntactic factors. Two
major subtypes are observed. In the first, one set of person markers is lexically assigned to a
particular intransitive predicate, while in the second, depending on non-lexical factors, a
predicate can accept one set or the other. After providing some information on the
terminology used, we focus on the different motivations and realizations of this alignment.
We also point to other alignments like nominative-accusative or tripartite and the possible
diachronic changes who could have led to their presence within the Arawakan family. The
study is based on first1 and second hand data.