Toni Pedrós Caballero
The main part of my doctoral dissertation is going to be a sketch grammar of Ucayali-Pajonal (UP) Ashéninka, an Arawakan language of the Campan subgroup spoken in Peru, in the Ucayali Department, between the Eastern Andean foothills and the Amazonian plain. The dissertation will be completed with other topics that study UP Ashéninka in the context of the other Campan languages. My research is based on linguistic data gathered during four field trips to the area where this language is spoken.
Fields of interest
- Amazonian linguistics
- Arawakan languages
- Language change
- Linguistic typology
- Descriptive linguistics
- Campan languages
- Reality status
I am writing a doctoral dissertation under the direction of Mily Crevels and Maarten Mous. I have been gathering linguistic data from native speakers in the small mestizo settlement of Atalaya (Ucayali, Peru) and some nearby Ashéninka communities during four field trips between 2015 and 2019. I have been working with the Ashéninka language as it is spoken on the Ucayali river, given that all my informants came from that area. The main part of my thesis is going to be a sketch grammar of Ashéninka, and other topics will complete it. These topics have in common that they study aspects of Ashéninka in comparison with the other Campan languages. Two of these topics have already been published as articles in two different journals. They are described below.
The first article for my thesis, published in May 2018 in ‘Cadernos de Etnolingüística’, tackles the linguistic-dialectal division of the whole Ashé-Ashá (Ashéninka-Asháninka) complex. The present division in seven languages that appears in the Ethnologue is clearly wrong when one studies the scarce literature or does some fieldwork in the area. In my article, I argue that, according to the principle of mutual intelligibility, the whole Ashé-Ashá area can be divided in two languages with no precise limits, but I propose a threefold division because there are clear isoglosses to delimit this division. I have called the group studied in this thesis ‘Ucayali-Pajonal’ (UP) according to its geographical setting (the upper Ucayali River and the Gran Pajonal Plateau).
The second article, published in May 2019 in ‘LIAMES’, compares the reality status system typical of all Campan languages and describes its partial loss in UP Ashéninka. This is an innovation that I discovered through fieldwork and is unique among the Campan languages. The description of this loss is a token of how a grammatical feature starts to disappear in a language, with the implications that it may have for the study of language change and linguistic typology.
Ashéninka is an Arawakan language of the Campan subgroup. The Campan languages are Nanti, Matsigenka, Caquinte, Nomatsigenga, and the Ashéninka-Asháninka complex. The existence of the group can be recognised at first sight, given that the languages are very similar. Ashéninka is a highly agglutinating language, in a degree that can be labelled as polysynthetic, given that a verb can bear a high number of suffixes (until 6 in my corpus). A verb consists of a subject cross-referencing prefix plus the stem and an indeterminate number of suffixes, which can include an object cross-reference, TAM markers, adverbial meanings, directionals, causatives, applicatives… The only obligatory suffix is the one indicating the reality status, which, as I treat in detail in my article, has become fossilised in most cases. A construction with the subject cross-referenced as a suffix also occurs. The subject prefixes are used with nouns to indicate possession. The basic constituent order can be S VO or VSO. The adjective can precede or follow the noun. The possessed precedes the possessor. There are a few prepositions, but most spatial meanings are expressed by a general locative suffix.
According to the 2017 Peruvian census, almost 10,000 persons claim to be able to speak Ashéninka (around three quarters of the individuals self-identified as Ashéninka). However, in some communities in which I know the linguistic situation first-hand, the language is used much less than what one could infer from the census. The language transmission is being interrupted in some places, where it is not transmitted to children. The youngsters’ speech presents a high influence of Spanish, which I have witnessed as a high number of loans, grammatical mistakes and the difference in pronunciation between older and younger speakers, given that the youngsters tend to utter phonemes more Spanish-like.
- 2015-present: PhD. The thesis content is described above. Leiden University.
- 2013-2014: MA in Linguistics, specialisation Language Diversity of Africa, Asia and Native America. Leiden University.
- 2001-2007: 'Llicenciatura' (five-year degree) in Germanistik (German linguistics and literature). Universitat de València.
Grants and awards
Leids Universiteits Fonds grant awarded for the 2019 field trip