Diachrony of the perfect paradigm in Mayan languages



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The purpose of this dissertation is to reconstruct the history of perfect aspect morphology in the Mayan language family of Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. Using data from descriptive grammars, I reconstruct the form of the proto-Mayan perfect suffix for transitive and intransitive verbs, and I show how this paradigm changed in the descendant languages as suffixes were innovated, lost, or changed function. In doing this, I highlight how language contact has affected the picture of Mayan perfect marking. This dissertation contributes to the understanding of Mayan linguistic prehistory and, more broadly, provides a case study of reconstructing derivational morphology by comparing language-specific contexts of use. A major claim of this dissertation is that the proto-Mayan perfect was not a canonical inflectional category and instead had derivational characteristics. I argue that the proto-Mayan active and passive transitive perfect constructions were both synchronically based on a patient nominalization, marked with the suffix *(-o)-’m. The widespread perfect suffix -b’il, which Kaufman (2015: 319) reconstructed as the proto-Mayan passive perfect participle, I take to be a Western Mayan innovation that spread to other Mayan languages by contact. Among other specific claims, this dissertation accounts for the areal spread of the Eastern Mayan -maj perfect suffix, which I argue was innovated in Poqom and spread to other Eastern Mayan languages by way of a previously unrecognized contact zone, the Sacapulas Corridor. I also discuss the proto-Central Mayan *-ooj/-uuj derivational suffix, which has infinitival reflexes in most Mayan languages but marks perfect aspect in Poqom, Tseltalan, and Tojol-ab’al; I reconstruct it as an infinitive and account for its development into a perfect suffix in these subgroups.



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