Amazonicas, the international conference on the languages of the Amazon region, will hold its 7th edition in Baños, Ecuador, from May 28 to June 1, 2018. The conference consists of four symposia on specific topics in the area of syntax, phonology, language families, and language and society. This edition's topics are:

The preliminary program may be downloaded from here.

The general contact address for the conference is .

Symposium on Tense and Aspect (Morphosyntax)

Organizers: Martine Bruil, Anne Schwarz, and Andrés Pablo Salanova

Every edition of Amazonicas contains one symposium dedicated to Morphosyntax. The topic of this year's syntax symposium is Tense and Aspect.

Anchoring propositions in time expressed through a grammaticalized tense system has long been held by theoretical linguists to be a universal property of languages, and tense is still considered to have a privileged link with finiteness, defined as what a clause needs to have to be independent. In recent times, it is becoming clear that distinctions in how the structure of events is presented (i.e., an aspect system) are probably even more widespread, despite having received less attention.

Relatively little is known about tense and aspect systems in the Amazon region, as existing descriptions seldom give details of the semantics of verbal inflectional categories. Dixon and Aikhenvald (1999:9) list as an areal trait the fact that verbal categories such as tense are expressed by optional suffixes, or, one would have to add, through optional particles that cluster in various parts of the clause.

Though it is impossible to determine the pervasiveness of this trait from the available descriptions, it does indeed seem to be the case that many Amazonian languages (with many exceptions, e.g., the Tukanoan languages) are weakly tensed languages, i.e., languages where tense may be left unexpressed. This might contrast in a given language with the obligatoriness of evidentiality or aspectual marking.

Even in the absence of overt tense systems, however, temporal interpretation is almost invariably a very subtle phenomenon that involves interaction with other categories. In languages that have been described as lacking tense, aspectual distinctions on the one hand, and modal distinctions on the other will often be deployed to encode temporal anchoring (as Vellupilai points out, the former typically to distinguish past from nonpast, the latter to distinguish future from nonfuture).

In the other extreme, some Amazonian languages possess tense marking paradigms that make distinctions of temporal distance (e.g., Chácobo, Matsés). The exact nature of such graded tense systems is a matter of much current debate, though it is clear that distance distinctions are not always parasitic on aspectual categories, as is often assumed.

Though by now aspect is a well-known notion for descriptive linguists, the exact inventory of distinctions that fall within the category remains somewhat controversial. Terms such as inchoative, durative, iterative, habitual, persistive, completive, prospective, terminative, aorist, a.o., while generally recognized as aspectual, have varying and overlapping definitions. In addition, many categories (e.g., the perfect) are simultaneously temporal and aspectual, and there are gray areas between viewpoint aspect and lexical aspect, or between aspect and tense, that can be described differently by different analysts. All of these factors contribute to making comparative work quite difficult.

Aspect can often be stacked (e.g., perfect plus progressive) or not indicated at all (in which case a predicate’s inherent aspect dominates), and is often hard to classify as inflectional, derivational or (semi-)lexical. As Verkuyl first noted, aspect much more than tense is a property of the whole predicate, with traits of noun phrases affecting aspectual interpretation in complex ways.

As already mentioned above, temporal and aspectual notions are intimately connected with modality. Another link for which there is increasing cross-linguistic evidence is between aspect and evidentiality. Perhaps the most well-known case of this concerns the relation between resultative perfects and inferential evidentials. Evidential uses of future tense are possibly just as frequent. Other categories that are known to occur in Amazonian languages, such as the frustrative, likely have just as much of an intimate connection to tense and aspect.

In addition to the connections between tense and aspect and other notional categories, the two notions often interact with other modules of the morphosyntax, such as case marking. The preferential association of ergative alignment with certain aspects such as perfect and perfective is well-known cross-linguistically, as is the fact that split-intransitivity is often based on a contrast in aspect rather than agentivity or other factors. The relation between nominal or adjectival forms of predicates and aspectual notions are also well-known, and often underlie the contrasts in case marking.

Well-established theoretical approaches to tense and aspect (e.g., Klein 1993) see them as essentially of the same nature: operators that link temporal intervals in various ways with a limited set of relations. Aspect would link event times with a reference or topic time, whereas tense would link one of these times to the utterance time, making it a deictic category. More recent research has emphasized components of the meaning of tense and aspect that are modal in nature (Arregui et al. 2014), noting on the one hand that categories that are primarily temporal or aspectual (i.e., the imperfective past of Romance or Slavic languages) often have associated uses that are modal, and on the other that even meanings that were considered straightforwardly aspectual lead to paradoxes that are only properly solved if their meaning packs a modal element.

Many other phenomena fall under the purview of this symposium. Among some of these that are not considered here for reasons of space are: nominal tense, sequence of tense, the role of tense and aspect in foregrounding and backgrounding in discourse, the relation between marking of (in)visibility or direction in noun phrases and temporal interpretation, among many others.

We invite abstracts on any matter related to tense or aspect or their relation to other semantic or morphosyntactic notions in Amazonian languages, coming from a descriptive, comparative, or theoretical point of view.

Instructions for submitting abstracts


Symposium on Verbal Art (Language and Society)

Organizers: Simeon Floyd and Lev Michael

This year Amazonicas launches a fourth major symposium, Language and Society, which will focus  on research that contextualizes Amazonian languages in their broader social contexts, and examines the interaction between the structural aspects of these languages and the cultural processes and social organization of the societies in which they are spoken. The theme of the inaugural Language and Society Symposium is Verbal Art, and we invite abstracts for talks that examine verbal art forms in Amazonian societies from structural, social, and cultural perspectives.

Verbal art emerged as a major research focus for linguists and linguistic anthropologists in the 1980s (Urban and Sherzer 1986), with the subsequent decades seeing important work on diverse Amazonian societies from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives (e.g., Basso 1995, Briggs 1990, Graham 2000, Hill 1993, Reichel-Dolmatoff 1993, Uzendoski 1999). This growing body of research focuses on varied aspects of Amazonian verbal art genres, including their structural organization, their role in mediating broader linguistic processes, and their role in social and cultural processes. Today many field linguists are engaged in documenting verbal art genres and local repertoires of "ways of speaking" (Hymes 1989, Sherzer 1983) in Amazonia as important elements of linguistic and cultural documentation (see Woodbury 2003, Gippert et al 2006, Austin 2010, etc.).

Research on the structural properties of Amazonian verbal art has focused on both the large- and small-scale artistic and poetic organization of Amazonian verbal art genres, such as parallelism (e.g., Urban 1991), line structure (e.g., Floyd 2005, Michael 2006), and specifically poetic phonological and morphological processes (e.g., Skilton 2016). This area of research also intersects with work on music in Amazonian societies (e.g., Fausto 2013, Meyer and Moore 2013, Seeger 2004).

Verbal art and conventionalized discourse forms more generally may sometimes play an important role in Amazonia in mediating lexical borrowing and structural convergence (Beier et al. 2002). It has been observed that incipient linguistic convergence in the Xingú area (Chang and Michael 2014) was historically preceded by widespread borrowing of ritual practices and discourse genres (Seki 1999), suggesting that shared discourse genres may have paved the way for structural convergence. Likewise, Epps (2016) has argued that parallelistic shamanic discourse has played an important role in overcoming cultural obstacles to lexical borrowing in northwest Amazonia.

Verbal art plays an important role in social processes and organization, being capable of both maintaining social forms, and contesting them (Hill 1993, Urban 1986). It also intersects with the area of metaphor and figurative language (Dancygier and Sweetser 2014) and related questions of cognitive and linguistic diversity in Amazonian societies.

We invite abstracts on Amazonian verbal art, which we define broadly as discourse genres with heightened aesthetic or performative properties (Baumann 1975), that addresses these and other questions. Areas of focus may include both the structural aspects of speech genres (e.g. narrative, oratory, songs, stories, shamanic language, wailing, and many others) and the ethnography of their social contexts, humor and play languages, music and ethnomusicology, metaphor and figurative language, and a range of other topics related to poetic and performative aspects of language in Amazonian societies.

Instructions for submitting abstracts


Small language families and isolates of the eastern foothills in north Peru and south Ecuador (Language Families and Areas)

Organizers: Simon Overall, Pilar Valenzuela and Martin Kohlberger

Within the Amazonicas series of conferences there has traditionally been a session dedicated to a single language family. At Amazonicas 4 (Lima, 2012) this session was dedicated to exploring the possibility of a Pano-Takanan family, recognising the fact that deeper genetic relations are not always clearly or uncontroversially distinct from contact effects, and in 2018 we aim to pursue further this search for hitherto unrecognised or unproven genetic or areal relationships, by including some of the many small language families and isolates that are found throughout Amazonia. The theme for the session at Amazonicas 7 is “small language families and isolates of the eastern foothills in north Peru and south Ecuador”, focusing on this (loosely) geographically constrained area within which to work (in the spirit of Wise 1999).

The selected area is significant because of its relatively high linguistic diversity. Small families and isolates restricted to this zone include Chicham (formerly known as Jivaroan); Kawapanan; Zaparoan; Kandozi-Chapra and Urarina. These languages co-exist with members of larger families, including: Kukama-Kukamiria from the Tupian family, Chamicuro from Arawak, and Pastaza Kichwa from the Quechuan family. Colonial documentary evidence shows that various languages, now extinct, were spoken in the Marañón valley and highlands to the West; these may also have belonged to genetic groups endemic to the zone (Adelaar with Muysken 2004).

While attempts to link the small families and isolates into larger genetic units have not resulted in convincing evidence (cf. Payne 1981, 1990 on Chicham and Kandozi-Chapra, for example), recent work has addressed the possibility of an areal grouping involving the eastern foothills of the Andes (Wise 2011; Valenzuela 2015; Overall and Vuillermet 2015). It remains to be seen whether this area can be considered “a trait sprawl area” in the sense of Campbell (2017); nevertheless, it is of great importance and interest to understand the distribution of traditionally-defined “Andean” and “Amazonian” features in this region (cf. Dixon and Aikhenvald 1999). (Note that the area with which we are especially concerned is a subset of this wider “Eastern foothills” region.)

We welcome papers that address the theme of the session, which may include:

  • new data on languages spoken in the Eastern foothills of north Peru and south Ecuador;
  • contributions towards identifying genetic relations linking the languages of this area to one another or to wider genetic units spoken outside the area;
  • contributions identifying contact effects between languages of this area or with languages spoken outside the area.

Instructions for submitting abstracts


Prosody of Stress, Tone and Intonation in Amazonian Languages (Phonetics and Phonology)

Organizers: Thiago Chacon, Gessiane Picanço, and Katherine Bolaños

This symposium welcomes papers that bring new contributions to the study of prosody of stress, tone and intonation in Amazonian languages. The topic of papers can vary from the description of un(der)documented languages, the comparative and diachronic analysis of prosody in geographical regions or linguistic families, as well as new findings of typologically relevant prosodic properties.

Much remains to be investigated in the prosody beyond the word level in Amazonian languages. We would like to see proposals that discuss the prosody of different clause types (interrogative, declarative, imperative, etc.), the prosody of focus, topicalization, emphasis or other communicative intents, as well as how the properties of stress, tone and intonation map into prosodic and morphosyntactic constituents.

At the word level, we are interested in any proposals that describe word prosody in detail, but specially those that show complex interactions of stress and tone systems as well as the correlation of word prosody and morphology.

The study of stress remains a fertile area of investigation. Many studies have shown the effects and interactions of stress on both segmental and nonsegmental properties (Schourup 1973, Liberman and Prince 1977, Beckman 1986, Krakow 1993, Hayes 1995, Ladd 1996, Yip 2001, etc.). The phonetic correlates of stress in Amazonian languages, specifically pitch, duration, intensity, vowel quality and phonation properties remain an understudied topic (cf. Storto and Demolin 2005, Hintz 2005, Gordon and Rose 2006, Elías-Ulloa 2010). In addition, the phonological properties of stress systems in Amazonian languages can contribute substantially to the typology and theory of word prosody, specifically by highlighting how stress in these languages diverge from most prototypical stress properties (Hyman 2012, Hayes 1995).

Tonal systems in Amazonia have usually been described as restricted or simple tone systems, usually presenting one or two underlying tones (Maddieson 2013, Hyman 2016). Nevertheless, for several reasons, the analysis of tonal systems is quite complex in this region of the world. Hence, we specially encourage proposals that highlight how these systems can be quite complex, such as by tonal coarticulations, the interaction with the phonetics of stress, metrical structure, syllable quantity, intonation, laryngeal features, morphology, etc. We welcome papers addressing any types of interactions of tones with segments and features, synchronically or diachronically (eg., Hombert et al. 1976, Matisoff 1973, Silverman 1995, Gordon and Ladefoged 2001, etc).

Diachronically, we are particularly interested in studies that focus on the coevolution of tone and stress systems. Tonogenesis, in general, and how tones condition changes in other domains of phonology are specially welcome. As for stress systems, we are interested in papers analyzing how independent phonological properties or reanalyses of surface patterns lead to changes in stress patterns, possibly creating concurrent stress (and tone) systems within a language, and altering the parameters of metrical phonology.

Papers are expected to have a clear and strong phonetic grounding, ideally with acoustic as well as statistical analysis.

Instructions for submitting abstracts


Instructions for submitting abstracts

Abstracts must be anonymous and should not surpass one A4-size page, with an additional page for examples and references; they should be presented in 12 point font (Times font family) and a minimum of 2cm margins. They should be sent in PDF format as e-mail attachments. In the e-mail body, the following pieces of information should be provided: abstract title, name and academic affiliation of the authors, and whether the abstract is for a 20-minute talk or for a poster presentation. The subject of the message should be ABSTRACT, followed by SYNTAX, PHONOLOGY, PIEDEMONTE or ART, followed by the authors' names.

Abstracts should be sent to one of the following addresses:

  • Tense and aspect: .
  • Verbal art: .
  • Languages of the foothills: .
  • Tone, accent and intonation: .

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is January 15th, 2018 (postponed from the original December 1st date).


Adelaar, Willem F.H. con Pieter C. Muysken. 2004. The Languages of the Andes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dixon, R.M.W. and Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald. 1999. Introduction. In R.M.W. Dixon y A.Y. Aikhenvald (eds.), The Amazonian Languages, 1–21. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Campbell, Lyle. 2017. Why is it so hard to define a linguistic area? In Raymond Hickey (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Areal Linguistics. 19–38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Elías-Ulloa, José, 2010. An acoustic phonetics of Shipibo-Conibo (Pano), an endangered Amazonian language a new approach to Documenting Linguistic Data. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Gordon, Matthew y Peter Ladefoged, 2001. Phonation types: A crosslinguistic overview. Journal of Phonetics 29: 383-406.

Gordon, Matthes y Françoise Rose, 2006. Émérillon Stress: A Phonetic and Phonological Study. Anthropological Linguistics, 48(2), 132-168.

Halle, M. y J.-R. Vergnaud, 1987. An Essay on Stress. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Hayes, Bruce, 1995. Metrical Stress Theory: Principles and Case Studies. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Hombert, J.M., J.J. Ohala y W.G. Ewan, 1976. Tonogenesis: theories and queries. Report of the Phonology Laboratory 1, Berkeley: 48-77.

Hyman, Larry, 2012. Towards a Canonical Typology of Prosodic Systems. UC Berkeley: Department of Linguistics. Obtenido de:

Hyman, Larry, 2016. Amazonia and Typology of Tone Systems. In Heriberto Avelino, Matt Coller Leo Wetzels (eds.), The Phonetics and Phonology of Laryngeal Features in Native American Languages. Brill: Leiden and Boston. 235-257.

Hyman, Larry, 1977. On the nature of linguistic stress. In Larry Hyman (ed.), Studies in stress and accent [Southern California Occasional Papers in Linguistics 4], 37-82. Los Angeles: USC Linguistics Department.

Hintz, Diane, 2006. Stress in South Conchucos Quechua: a phonetic and phonological study. International Journal of American Linguistics 72: 477-521.

Krakow, R. A., 1993. Nonsegmental influences on velum movement patterns: syllables, sentences, stress, and speaking rate. In M. K. Huffman and R. A. Krakow (eds.), Nasals, Nasalization, and the Velum, pp. 87-113. New York: Academic Press.

Ladd, D. Robert, 1996. "Intonational phonology." Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 79. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Liberman, Mark, y Alan Prince, 1977. On stress and linguistic rhythm. Linguistic Inquiry 8, 249-336.

Maddieson, Ian, 2013. ‘Tone’. In The World Atlas of Language Structures Online, edited by Matthew S. Dryer and Martin Haspelmath. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Matisoff, James, 1973. Tonogenesis in Southeast Asia. In: Consonant Types and Tone, Southern California Occasional Papers in Linguistics. No. 1. edited by L. H. Hyman. pp. 71-95. The Linguistics Program, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Overall, Simon E. and Marine Vuillermet. 2015. The Eastern foothills as a contact zone: evidence from non-canonical switch-reference. Presentado en REELA, Leiden.

Payne, David L. 1981. Bosquejo fonológico del Proto-Shuar-Candoshi: Evidencias para una relación genética. Revista del Museo Nacional 45: 323–377.

Payne, David L. 1990. Some widespread grammatical forms in South American languages. In D. Payne (ed.), Amazonian Linguistics, 75–87. Dallas: University of Texas Press.

Schourup, Lawrence, 1973. A cross-language study of vowel nasalization. Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics15:190–221.

Silverman, D., 1995. Phasing and recoverability. University of California, Los Angeles Ph.D. Dissertation.

Storto, Luciana y Didier Demolin, 2005. Pitch accent in Karitiana. In Cross Linguistic Studies of Tonal Phenomena, Shigeki Kaji (ed), 329–355. Tokyo: ILCAA.

Valenzuela, Pilar M. 2015. ¿Qué tan “amazónicas” son las lenguas kawapana? Contacto con las lenguas centro-andinas y elementos para un área lingüística intermedia. Lexis 39(1): 5–56.

Wise, M. R. 1999. Small language families and isolates in Peru. In R.M.W. Dixon y A.Y. Aikhenvald (eds.), The Amazonian Languages, 307–340. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wise, M. R. 2011. Rastros desconcertantes de contactos entre idiomas y culturas a lo largo de los contrafuertes orientales de los Andes del Perú. In W. F. H. Adelaar, P. Valenzuela Bismarck y R. Zariquiey Biondi (eds.), Estudios sobre lenguas andinas y amazónicas: Homenaje a Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino, 305–326. Lima: Fondo Editorial PUCP.

Yip, Moira, 2001. The complex interaction of tone and prominence. NELS 31. 531-545.