LSNAL 31: Phonological Study of the Karo Language (Brazil)

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Phonological Study of the Karo Language (Brazil)

Nilson Gabas, Jr.
Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Belèm

Karo is a Brazilian language spoken in the Amazon region (in Rondônia State) by about 150 Arara Indians.

Even though the Arara are in contact with the white population since the 40's, and most of them understand Portuguese, Karo is exclusively used for communication among themselves.

Preliminary anthropological research shows that the Arara Indians always lived in the same region they live now, although presently they share their reservation, the Área Indígena Igarapé de Lourdes, with the Gavião and Zoró Indians, (speakers of a dialect of Gavião), without any linguistic interference over each other.

As is the case with the majority of the Brazilian Indian languages, there was almost nothing known about Karo in the past besides few wordlists published by some ethnologists (Lévi-Strauss, 1950; Nimuendaju, 1925,1955, Rondon, 1948; and Schultz, 1955). This thesis, thus, is meant as a contribution to the description and documentation of Karo, specially its phonology and part of its morphology. It is presented as follows.

In Chapter 1 the phonetic segments of the language and their patterns of occurrence are presented. By the classic criteria for phonemicization (free variation, complementary distribution and contrasting) an inventory of surface phonemes is then established.

Chapter 2 describes the syllabic patterns, and Chapter 3 deals with the rules of nasalization spread. In Chapter 4 the three types of internal sandhi found in Karo are described. Chapter 5 deals with stress. Basically, it is shown that stress placement is predictable from three distinct phonological factors: tone, nasality, and the onset of the last syllable of the words.

Finally, Chapter 6 is dedicated to tone. It is demonstrated that although Karo has three phonetic tone levels, low, mid and high, only two are contrastive, low and high. It is also described a process of tone assimilation which is conditioned by consonantal segments.

ISBN 9783895865367. LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics 31. 80pp. 1998.

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