Description of non-Indo-European languages

Research Projects:


Language Contact and change in Northwesten Amazonia

Description: This project’s mais goal is to describe and compare grammatical aspects of the Dâw language (Nadahup or Maku family) with other languages of the middle Rio Negro (such as Nheengatu (Tupi-Guarani family) and Tukano (Eastern Tukano family)) where Dâw is spoken, and with languages of the upper Rio Negro, where its sister languages Hup and Yuhup (Nadahup family) as well as Tukano are spoken. Some of the themes studied are grammatical aspect, differential object marking, the grammaticalization of space notions and tone and pitch accent. Sanuma, a Yanomami language also spoken in Northestern Amazonia is being investigated with respect to argument structure and valence alternations, to be compared with other Yanomami languages. Nheengatu, the Amazonian Lingua Franca, is being compared with Portuguese and the São Paulo Lingua Franca.

Professors in charge: Luciana Storto(, Evani Viotti (,Esmeralda Negrão (, Patience Epps (U Texas), Danilo Paiva (


The social history of contact between Africans and Europeans and the emergence of Brazilian Portuguese

Description: Undoubtedly, the study on the process of Brazilian colonisation was and is an interesting subject of extensive research of historians and anthropologists, not only in Brazil, but also in Portugal and other countries. However, in these studies, discussion of linguistic issues involved in such a process is quite peripheral. The objective of this research project is to seek the integration of the sociohistorical studies on the colonisation of Brazil and a recent research line that investigates the role of African languages in the constitution of Brazilian Portuguese. Following Chaudenson (2001) and Mufwene (2008), we adopted the theoretical perspective that the study of linguistic contact cannot be dissociated from the knowledge of the sociohistorical conditions of this contact.

Professor in charge: Esmeralda Vailati Negrão (


African languages and their contacts, in Africa and in Brazil

Description: The project focuses on investigation into African languages of the Niger-Congo lineage spoken in West, Central, and Eastern Africa, bearing in mind the following objectives: (i) the description and analysis of these languages, in their phonetic-phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic aspects; (ii) the study of language contacts in Africa, from the point of view of evolutionary sociolinguistics, and (iii) the research of the contact of African languages in Portuguese in Brazil, to explain the possible presence of features of African languages in Brazilian Portuguese.

Professor in charge: Margarida Maria Taddoni Petter (


Fronting of constituents in Portuguese: search for evidence on the hypothesis of African languages involvement

Description: This research has the following objectives: 1) to test the hypothesis that syntactic features that distinguish the Brazilian Portuguese from the European Portuguese and other Romance languages may have arisen from a selection of features process from a features base formed by morphosyntactic traits of the languages in contact in Brazil, throughout its history, among them the European Portuguese and the kimbundu, one of several African languages brought to Brazil; 2) to analyse the grammatical properties of sentences, involving construction of fronting of constituents in historical corpus of texts in Portuguese; 3) to seek for a characterisation of the change in the perspective of conceptualisation of events, from the analysis of these data, to detect the possibility of congruence between the observed features and features of African languages in contact; 4) to seek, if possible, to place the steps of that change in time.

Professor in charge: Esmeralda Vailati Negrão (


Non-finite clauses in Brazilian Indigenous Languages

Description: This project analyses the structure of several types of non-finite clauses in Karitiana and Wayoro (Tupi family), and in Daw (Nadahup Family) languages, seeking to identify their structure and distinguish nominalisations of non-nominalisated clauses. Some clauses to be addressed are the adverbial subordinate clauses, complement clauses of copulas and other matrix verbs, and relative clauses. From the point of view of semantics, one of the phenomena that need to be explained is the possibility of interpreting relative clauses as events or individuals.

Professor in charge: Luciana Raccanello Storto (


Semantic variation in Native American languages: nominal and verbal expression in the concept of number

Description: The project focuses on semantic variation between human languages within the paradigm of Formal Linguistics. The research seeks to prove the hypothesis that the inventory of semantic operations available to languages is limited and probably universal. In particular, the research focuses on semantic operations such as the verbal and nominal number expression in Native American languages.

Professor in charge: Ana Lucia de Paula Muller (