Brazilian Languages – PART III – Structure of Tupi Languages

Structure of Tupi Lanaguages

by Antônio Neto

Among a lot of aspect to be pointed out, it’s interesting detail  the nature of preffixes and pronouns in Tupi languages, which expresses some cognitive dimensions in this languages and kinship-hypothesis. This language family comprises a great number of SouthAmerica languages, such as Ancient Tupi, Gurani, Nheengatu, Araweté, Tapirapé, etc. Perhaps, Tupi its the most famous brazilian language familiy duo the relation with missionaries and general languages.

Ancient Tupi and Guarani has pluriform preffixes, that can be used according to grammatical categorie, as the following  Ancient tupi examples:

Ka’ioby îmonhang kuei oka. (Kaioby had made these house.)
Xe roka i puku. (My house is high.)

Nde roka i puku. (Your house is high.)
Kó Ka’ioby roka. Soka i puku.(This is Kaioby’s house. His House is high.)

The preffixes R-, S-, means a possessive and anaphorical relations, respectively. The distinction between lexicon and grammar or between morphology and syntax doesn´t matter. Semantics have been most effective to explain language structure.

Now, compare these two examples:

Ka’ioby îmonhang kuei oka. (Kaioby had made these house.) = visible
Ka’ioby îmonhang akuei oka. (Kaioby had made these house.) = not visible

The visible/not visible distinction in demonstrative pronouns brings a complex spatial categorization that is not common in european languages. This is widespread among indigenous languages of America and some regions of Austronesian. Curiously, this is a pattern also found in Basque a controversial language with respect to kinship. Since Basque probably is older than indo-european languages, perhaps there is some genetic relation with some indigenous language. Although etnocentrism bannes important debates about linguistics and archeology, it is ancient populations whose could migrate. 

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