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Linguistics - United-States

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Linguists have come to realize that an adequate theory of human language requires a broad sampling of diverse languages. Amazonian languages have been identified as a priority in this respect, since they are both poorly documented and highly endangered. This project will investigate Secoya, an endangered Tukanoan language of Peruvian Amazonia. This language is rich in noun categorization devices that have the ability to classify the world. They specify information about the shape, consistency, size, location, or utility of the entities around us. An important question in linguistics is to what extent the noun categorization system of a language mirrors the way speakers see the world they live in. The proposed project can shed light on this question by analyzing new bodies of data from unique settings. The concrete outcome will be a morphosyntactic and semantic account of Secoya’s noun categorization system, situating the analysis in the broader Western Amazonian context. From a theoretical perspective, Secoya provides an excellent case scenario to test current typologies of noun categorization. There has been a traditional belief that the classification of entities can be achieved by either gender systems or classifier systems. Secoya has both gender and classifiers. Thus, this project will contribute to the development of a framework in which gender systems and classifier systems can be analyzed together. Also, a better understanding of Secoya will advance the discussion on language contact in Amazonia. Secoya is one of the few languages of the Tukanoan family that is outside of the well-known Vaupes linguistic area where several contact-induced processes are taking place. Secoya is particularly important to inform debates regarding the direction of influence among systems. More broadly, this project contributes to the documentation of imperiled cultural heritage, while also enriching our understanding of the diversity of the world’s languages.

Activities / Resume


Rosa Vallejos, (PhD 2010, University of Oregon), is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA. Her research focuses on Amazonia and, over the last twenty years, she has conducted several interconnected projects to study and document three typologically distinct languages: Kukama-Kukamiria (Tupían), Secoya (Tukanoan), and Amazonian Spanish. Her doctoral dissertation, a comprehensive reference grammar of Kukama-Kukamiria, was the recipient the 2011 Mary Haas Book Award, an award bestowed upon the best doctoral dissertation on a native language by the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA). Her dissertation also received Honorable Mention for the 2011 Panini Award for outstanding typological studies and reference grammars, a recognition given by the Association for Linguistic Typology (ALT). Dr. Vallejos’s work has been supported by several agencies and international institutions, including the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project. She has published articles and chapters in three areas of linguistics: morphosyntax, language contact, and documentary fieldwork. Her interest in Spanish in contact with Amazonian languages derives from her work with speech communities in a number of language development projects, such as orthography design, teacher-training, production of school materials, among others. She is the author of A Grammar of Kukama-Kukamiria: A language from the Amazon (Brill 2016), the coauthor of Diccionario kukama-kukamiria/castellano (Formabiap 2015), and the co-editor of Nonverbal Predication in Amazonian Languages (John Benjamins 2018).



  • 2018. Overall, Simon, Rosa Vallejos, & Spike Gildea (Eds). Non-verbal predication in Amazonian languages. Typological Studies in Language, TLS 122. John Benjamins.
  • 2016. Vallejos, Rosa. A grammar of Kukama-Kukamiria: A language from the Amazon. Leiden: Brill.
  • 2015. Vallejos, Rosa & Rosa Amías. Diccionario kukama-kukamiria / castellano. Iquitos: Formabiap.


  • 2018. Vallejos, Rosa. Possessive semantic relations and construction types in Kukama. In Overall, Simon, Rosa Vallejos, & Spike Gildea (Eds.), Non-verbal predication in Amazonian languages. Typological Studies in Language 122, 295-313. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • 2018. Overall, Simon, Rosa Vallejos & Spike Gildea. Nonverbal predication in Amazonia: typological and diachronic considerations. In Simon Overall, Rosa Vallejos, & Spike Gildea (Eds.), Non-verbal predication in Amazonian languages. Typological Studies in Language 122, 1-50. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • 2018. Vallejos, Rosa. Functional-typological approaches to Hispanic Linguistics. In Kimberly L. Geeslin (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Spanish Linguistics.
  • 2016. Vallejos, Rosa. Structural outcomes of obsolescence and revitalization: documenting variation among the Kukama-Kukamirias. In Gabriela Perez-Baez, Chris Rogers and Jorge Rosés-Labrada (Eds.), Language Documentation and Revitalization in Latin America, 143-164. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  • 2015a. Vallejos, Rosa. La indexicalidad de género en kukama-kukamiria desde una perspectiva tipológica. In Ana Fernandez, Albert Alvarez, and Zarina Estrada (Eds.), Estudios de Lenguas Amerindias 3: contribuciones al estudio de las lenguas originarias de América, 199-225. Hermosillo (Mexico): Universidad de Sonora.
  • 2015b. Vallejos, Rosa. La importancia de la documentación lingüística en la revitalización de las lenguas: un esfuerzo colaborativo entre los kukama-kukamiria. In Luis Enrique López (Ed.), Pueblos Indígenas y Educación 64. 61-106. Quito (Ecuador): Abya Yala.
  • 2014a. Vallejos, Rosa. Peruvian Amazonian Spanish: Uncovering variation and deconstructing stereotypes. Spanish in Context 11.3: 425-453.
  • 2014b. Vallejos, Rosa. Reference constraints and information-structure management in Kokama purpose clauses: A typological novelty? International Journal of American Linguistics, 80.1: 39-67.
  • 2014c. Vallejos, Rosa. Integrating language documentation, language preservation, and linguistic research: Working with the Kokamas from the Amazon. Language Documentation & Conservation, 8:38-65.
  • 2014d. Cambio de valencia en kukama. In Francesc Queixalós, Stella Telles, and Ana Carla Bruno (Eds.), Incremento de valencia en las lenguas amazónicas, 261-282. Bogota (Colombia): Caro & Cuervo.
  • 2013a. Vallejos, Rosa. El Secoya del Putumayo: aportes fonológicos para la reconstrucción del Proto-Tucano Occidental. Línguas Indígenas Americanas-LIAMES 13:67-100.
  • 2010. Vallejos, Rosa. Is there a ditransitive construction in Kokama-Kokamilla? Studies in Language, 34.1:75–107.
  • 2009. Vallejos, Rosa. The focus function(s) of =pura in Kokama-Kokamilla discourse. International Journal of American Linguistics, 75.3:399-432.
  • 2007. Vallejos, Rosa. Fonología de la variedad cocamilla del río Huallaga. In Tulio Rojas and Yris Barraza, (Eds), Serie Descripciones Lingüísticas: Fonologías, 89-119. Iquitos (Peru): Formabiap.