Nivaclé Grammar

This book offers an extensive description of Nivaclé, an indigenous language spoken in the Gran Chaco region of Argentina and Paraguay. Nivaclé’s phonology, morphology, and syntax are complex; the language has no tenses marked on verbs, essentially no prepositions, and a sizable number of lexical suffixes whose content is so concrete they would be expected to be independent words in most other languages. Nivaclé has a unique speech sound, /k͡ l/, known nowhere else. In some locations where it is spoken, multilingual conversations are the norm. These and other rare traits make Nivaclé an especially fascinating language for linguists, with many implications for language typology and linguistic theory. The book is based on dozens of audio and video recordings of narratives and on hundreds of hours of elicitation and analysis with native speakers. Four lengthy texts are included here to demonstrate the language in action. Scholars—whether in anthropology, folklore, geography, history, or language—will find value in the narratives included here and in the insights into Nivaclé life and culture found throughout the book.

Lyle Campbell is emeritus professor of linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He has published more than 200 articles and 22 books, including American Indian Languages and Historical Syntax in Cross-linguistics Perspective, which both received the Linguistic Society of America’s Leonard Bloomfield Book Award. 

Table of Contents:Figures, Maps, and Tables
Abbreviations Used in This Volume
1. Introduction
2. Phonology
3. Nouns
4. Pronouns, Demonstratives, and Quantifiers
5. Adjectives and Adjectival Morphology
6. Verbs
7. Adverbs, Adverbial Expressions, and Adpositions
8. Phrasal Syntax
9. Clausal Syntax and Complex Constructions
10. Nivaclé Language in Its Social and Cultural Setting
11. Texts
Appendix: List of Nivaclé Grammatical Affixes and Clitics
Glossary of Foreign and Unfamiliar Terms

Praise and Reviews:

“This book contains the most detailed and informative descriptive study of the Nivaclé language so far and the only one to be found in English. It stands out by its richness of data, its high standards of analysis and presentation, and its exhaustive character. Logically constructed and well organized, it contains all the language data and analysis one could hope for without indulging in unnecessary digressions. The book is well written and reader friendly.”
—Willem Adelaar, professor emeritus of Native American Languages, Leiden University

“This is a great contribution to the literature on Matacoan languages. It completes other work on the language and offers new insights and analyses. It is clearly written and the choice of the orthography of Nivaclé makes it easy to read.”
—Jimena Terraza, professor of linguistics, Kiuna College 

“The most detailed description of any language of the Gran Chaco. A reference grammar such as this one will be useful to anthropologists, ethnographers, ethnohistorians, typological linguists, and indigenous people who want to write teaching materials or teach classes on their languages. It is a groundbreaking contribution.”
—Willem J. de Reuse, linguist for The Language Conservancy