On the rise: The expansion of Serial Verb Constructions in Tariana

  • Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald Jawun Research Centre, Central Queensland University, Australia
Keywords: Serial verbs, symmetrical serial verbs, asymmetrical serial verbs, reflexive, reciprocal, emphatic, Tariana, language contact


The emergence and the expansion of serial verbs can be affected by language contact. This paper focuses on a case study from Tariana, a highly endangered Arawak language spoken in the multilingual Vaupés River Basin Linguistic Area in Brazilian Amazonia. Tariana has numerous types of asymmetrical and symmetrical serial verbs highly frequent in discourse of all genres. Two kinds of serial verbs are on the rise. A construction involving a prefixed form -siwa with an emphatic, reciprocal, sociative, and reflexive meaning is developing into a serial verb construction. The motivation for this development lies in intensive language contact with the unrelated Tukano, now the major language in use by the extant speakers of Tariana, where reflexive and reciprocal meanings are expressed through serial verbs. The integration of recapitulating verb sequences with the verb -ni ‘do, make’ into the system of serial verbs is indirectly linked to the impact of Tucano where the verb meaning ‘do, make’ is used as a recapitulating device in bridging linkage. The development of recapitulating serial verbs in Tariana can be partly seen as an independent innovation, and as an outcome of language-internal pressure to create further serial verbs, expanding and extending the productive and much-deployed mechanism in the language.
Part 4: Dynamization of synchrony – Single-language states