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Opción (Maracaibo)

versão impressa ISSN 1012-1587

Opción (Maracaibo) v.1 Maracaibo  2006


Comparative constructions in Guajiro/Wayuunaiki*


Construcciones comparativas en guajiro/wayuunaiki



José Álvarez

Universidad del Zulia. E-mail:

Replicated from Opción (Maracaibo), Maracaibo, v.21, n.47, p.9-36, Aug 2005.




We describe comparative structures like Müliashi ma'i Luuka nuulia Kamiirü 'Lucas is poorer than Camilo' in Guajiro/Wayuunaiki within a typological approach. Dixon (2004) proposes a prototypical comparative scheme using the notions of (in the English translation): COMPAREE Lucas, STANDARD OF COMPARISON Camilo, PROPERTY or PARAMETER (is) handsome, INDEX -er and MARK than. In the basic comparative construction of Guajiro, the PARAMETER is commonly a stative verb (and less frequently active verbs and adverbs) with the COMPAREE as subject. Although the INDEX can be zero, its presence frequently ensures a comparative reading with active verbs, where it can even have two exponents (in the verbal morphology and as an adverb). The INDEX is thus a discontinuous property with several exponents, one of which may even be suffixed to the MARK. The direct object can be the COMPAREE, while another object is the STANDARD. The subjective conjugation seems to be employed more often than the objective conjugation in comparative structures. The comparison of equality requires a biclausal construction where the PARAMETER is expressed as the verb of a clause with the COMPAREE as subject, and the verb maa heading a second clause with the STANDARD as subject. The comparison of inequality is formed by simple negation of the predicate. The expression of superlativity uses three strategies: a comparative construction with the STANDARD specified as a large/total set, a cleft construction, or the mere absence of the STANDAR but presence of INDEX (for absolute superlatives). When comparing two PARAMETERS in one PARTICIPANT, the INDEX is suffixed to the MARK. Finally, we examine correlative comparisons.

Key words: Comparison, comparative, superlative, typology, Arawak languages.


Se describen las estructuras comparativas como Müliashi ma'i Luuka nuulia Kamiirü 'Lucas es más pobre que Camilo' en guajiro/wayuunaiki dentro de un acercamiento tipológico. Dixon (2004) propone un esquema comparativo prototípico que utiliza las nociones de (en la traducción española): COMPARADO Lucas, ESTANDÁR DE COMPARACIÓN Camilo, PROPIEDAD o PARÁMETRO(es) pobre, ÍNDICE más y MARCA que. En la construcción comparativa básica del guajiro, el PARÁMETRO es comúnmente un verbo estativo (menos frecuentemente verbos activos y adverbios) con el COMPARADO como sujeto: Aunque el ÍNDICE puede ser cero, frecuentemente su presencia asegura una lectura comparativa con verbos activos, donde puede incluso tener dos exponentes (en la morfología verbal y como adverbio). EL ÍNDICE es así una propiedad discontinua con varios exponentes, pudiéndose  sufijar a la MARCA. El objeto directo puede ser el COMPARADO, siendo otro objeto el ESTÁNDAR. La conjugación subjetiva parece emplearse más a menudo que la conjugación objetiva en estructuras de comparación. La comparación de igualdad utiliza una construcción biclausular donde el PARÁMETRO se expresa como verbo de una cláusula cuyo sujeto es el COMPARADO, con el verbo maa encabezando una segunda cláusula cuyo sujeto es el ESTÁNDAR, formándose la comparación de desigualdad mediante simple negación del predicado. Para expresar superlatividad se usan tres estrategias: una construcción comparativa con el ESTÁNDAR especificado como conjunto grande/total, una construcción hendida, o la simple ausencia de el ESTÁNDAR pero presencia de el ÍNDICE (superlativos absolutos). Al compararse dos PARÁMETROS en un PARTICIPANTE, el ÍNDICE se sufija a la MARCA. Finalmente examinamos las comparaciones correlativas.

Palabras clave: Comparación, comparativo, superlativo, tipología, lenguas arahuacas.




Guajiro or Wayuunaiki is an Arawak language spoken by about 400,000 people in the northernmost tip of South America, in Venezuela and Colombia.  The Arawak language family is one of the most widespread groups in South America, having members as far as Brazil and Peru. Within the family, Guajiro is closely related to near-extinct Paraujano/Añú, and a little less closely related to Lokono (or Arawak proper). Although it is also related to the Arawakan languages of the Río Negro basin (Baniwa, Piapoko, Yavitero, Warekena, Kurripako, Baré, etc.), the differences in morphological and syntactic structures are striking. Some of these differences are probably due to areally diffused patterns (Cf Aikhenwald 1999, 2002) in these languages. Guajiro has various dialects, with almost non-existent problems of mutual intelligibility. The Guajiro people seem to have had great mobility in the past, and this mobility is increasing due to migration to urban centres like Maracaibo. The main dialect division is between Abajero and Arribero dialects, the main difference being the shape of the ubiquitous 3rd person feminine prefix (- versus -), as well as the corresponding pronoun (shia versus jia). There are also minor differences in the vocabulary. The traditional Guajiro society has had a stratified, pastoralist backbone for around five centuries (from cattle originally stolen from the Spaniards). Wealth is traditionally measured on the basis of the numbers of heads of cattle in the herds, and cattle, along with precious and semi-precious stones, has been used to make payments for offence compensation and brides 1.



Guajiro is a polysynthetic language with head-marking morphology. Guajiro is agglutinating with little fusion, but in most cases such 'fusion' seems to be explainable in terms of transparent phonological processes. It only has 11 prefixes. Of these, 7 are person/number/gender prefixes which can be used with active verbs, nouns and prepositions: ta-ya'lajü-in 'I bought it', ta-japü 'my hand', ta-maa 'with me'. They also appear in personal pronouns ta-ya 'I/me'. These prefixes always cross-reference the object of a preposition in a prepositional phrase: nü-maa Luuka 'with Lucas', and the possessor in a possessive noun phrase: nü-tüna Luuka 'Lucas' arm'. There is also 1 person/number/gender prefix a- used for zero or unspecified. There are 2 productive derivational prefixes ka- 'ATTRIBUTIVE' and ma- 'NEGATIVE' which are mainly used to derive (positive and negative) possessive verbs from nominal themes, and a fossilised one pa- 'DUAL'. There are dozens of suffixes. The verb can exhibit a very particularly complex morphological structure, where one or more of the following categories can be represented: arguments, tense, valency (passive, causative), modality, and an impressive array of other categories such as desiderative, collaborative, permansive, untimely, counter-expectancy, immediacy, here/there, celerity, excess, additional, augmentative, diminutive, fiction, transient, etc. Due to this complexity, in Guajiro any transitive verb can literally have thousands of forms, and very complex forms are not rare. Guajiro verbs can also have dozens of infinitives, which are not just citation forms, based on themes of increasing complexity.

The open classes are nouns and verbs. Loanwords are generally adapted to the phonology and morphology of the language. In Guajiro there does not seem to be a class of adjectives. There are around 6 adjective-like words (laülaa 'old', mulo'u 'big', etc.) that do not take a verbal suffix when used in the general tense, but which take normal verbal morphology elsewhere. There are no verbless clause complements. Nouns used in the predicative slot behave as stative verbs and take all the appropriate elements of verbal morphology. There is no copula, although there is a verb eewaa 'be, exist' which behaves like any other stative verb and has no special functions in the language. As there is no copula, no copula complement structure is possible.

Nouns are divided into two neat classes: alienable nouns and inalienable nouns. The latter are basically body-parts and kinship terms, as well as some cultural items and most deverbal nouns. They are always possessed and do not need additional morphology to indicate possession other than the indication of the possessor (even in an indefinite form): tatüna /ta-tüna/ [1S-arm] 'my arm'. With alienable nouns the possessor is also indicated with the person/number/gender prefixes, but an additional lexically-specified possessive suffix -se ¥ -in ¥ -ya, the first being the most productive: tachajaruutase /ta-chajaruuta-se/ [1S-machete-POSS] 'my machete'. There is not an absolute or unpossessed form for inalienable nouns, as in other Arawak languages. However, Guajiro has developed a very singular procedure for indicating impersonal/indefinite possession, which is parallel to the formation of infinitives for verbs, with the root preceded by the indefinite prefix: a-japü-ü ´(someone's) arm'.

Grammatical relations are marked by means of one set of 7 person/number/gender prefixes  (ta- 1S, - 2S, - 3SM, jü-/sü- 3SF, wa- 1P, jü-/ja- 2P, and na- 3P) or by means of several sets (used according to tense/aspect) of 3 gender/number suffixes (for example: -shi M, - F, -shii P for the general tense). Verbs can be divided into two neat classes: active verbs and stative verbs. The former are always prefixed, the latter are never prefixed. This means that stative verbs cannot participate in constructions where the prefixes are required. All stative verbs are intransitive and can be equated with inaccusative predicates. Active verbs can be further divided into transitive and intransitive verbs. But active intransitive verbs are easily transitivised through causativisation or incorporation. It is important to stress that the same verbal roots can show up in stative, active intransitives and active transitive verbs.

There are two conjugations: subjective and objective. The subjective conjugation can be used with all types of verbs (stative, active intransitive and active transitive), in both transitive or intransitive clauses. This conjugation only marks the subject, be it A, or S with one of the gender number suffixes in agreement with it: Atunkeechi Piipa. 'Pipo will sleep'; Aya'lajeechi Piipa awarianta. 'Pipo will buy booze'. The objective conjugation behaves more or less as in Finno-Ugric languages, as it requires that the object be specific. In this latter conjugation, the prefix will refer to A and the suffix will refer to O: ya'lajeechi [Tareesa]A [chi kaa'ulakai]O. 'Teresa will buy the goat'.

The order of the clause constituents is basically one in which the verb is initial, while the order of the other constituents varies: VS, VAO, VOA. In pragmatically-marked contexts, both S and A, as well as O, can be fronted, with the corresponding intonational break. However, it seems to be the case that due to the influence of Spanish, the rigid verb-initial pattern is loosing its obligatoriness.



For the description of Guajiro comparatives, we shall be following the model suggested by Bob Dixon, who has presented a prototypical comparative scheme (Dixon, 2004:2-3) in which there are Participants (the Comparee and the Standard of Comparison), a Property or Parameter, an Index and a Mark, as illustrated in [01]:


           John        is more    handsome       than         Felix

3.1. The Parameter

Following Dixon's classification of schemes of comparison, Guajiro has a basic Type A2 comparative construction. The properties expressed in some languages by adjectives are expressed in Guajiro by words going into the same slot as verbs 2. In most cases, the parameter is a stative verb [02]. This stative verb, in many respects, behaves in the same way as any active verb in a non-comparative construction [03].




































poor –M







Lucas is poorer than Camilo.

































0-dance  -M   







Lucas dances with my sister.




They exhibit almost all the morphological and syntactic properties of verbs: they will be clause-initial, exhibit all the inflection as in [04], be negated in the same fashion [05], etc.

[04]   Mülieechi           Luuka nuulia        Kamiirü.

         mülia-ee-chi      Luuka nü-ulia       Kamiirü

         poor –FU-M       Luuka 3M-from     Camilo

          Lucas will be poorer than Camilo.

[05]   Nnojoleechi        müliain       Luuka nuulia       Kamiirü.

         nnojolu-ee-chi   mülia-in      Luuka nü-ulia      Kamiirü
 –FU-M    poor –CS    Lucas 3M-from    Camilo

          Lucas will not be poorer than Camilo.

When pragmatic conditions arise, as the comparee is the subject, it can be fronted [06] and given the appropriate intonational contour.
















wayuu -ka-li 









poor -M





As for this man, he is poorer than Camilo.


It is not clear whether we should postulate verbless clause complements, as the very few unsuffixed 'adjectives' like laülaa 'old', mulo'u 'big', etc., as well as nouns in the predicative slot, show up without gender/number suffixes only in the general (present/past) tense, as seen in [07-08]. In the remaining tenses, all other elements of morphology suitable for stative verbs will be present [09].

[07]   Laülaa  taya  nuulia        Luuka.

        laülaa   taya  nü-ulia       Luuka

        old       I       3M-from     Lucas

          I am older than Lucas.

[08]  Wayuu   ma´i    Kamiirü   juulia      jiakana.

        wayuu   ma´i    Kamiirü   jü-ulia     jia-ka-na

        person   much   Camilo   2P-from   ye -SP-PL

          Camilo is more Guajiro than you all.

[09]  Laülaajeechi    Kamiirü   juulia       Jusepiina.

       laülaa-ee-chi   Kamiirü   jü-ulia      Jusepiina

       old   -FU-M     Camilo    3F-from    Josefina

         Camilo will be older than Josefina.

3.2. The Index

The index in Guajiro comparative constructions can be zero. But although optional, it is frequent and sometimes crucial when choosing between a comparative and a non-comparative reading. It can even be double, appearing as a modifier within the predicate, both in the morphological structure of the verb (the suffix –lee ~ -le'e 'TOTALLY') and as the independent adverb ma'i ~ ma'in 'much/very', as in [10]. Other elements, such as emphatic –ya can accompany the predicate in the verb morphology [11]. It is probably better to analyse the index as a discontinuous property having several exponents, rather than as a modifier within the predicate. In fact, in Guajiro it can even be suffixed to the MARK [12].




















poor –TOT-M






Lucas is poorer than Camilo.






















bog   -TOT-EMP






Lucas is bigger than Camilo.














chi nuwalakai.






chi nü-wala -ka-li


0-grow   -M




DEM.M 3M-sibling-SP-M


Lucas has grown up more than his brother.

This suffix –lee 'TOTALLY' is not restricted to this function, as it shows in a number of non-comparative structures [13-15] to indicate completeness (full achievement) of the predicate.

[13]   Atunkaleejeenaya                    waya piichipa'amüin.

         a-tunka-lee-ee-na-ya              waya piichi-pa'a-müin

         0-sleep-TOT-FU-PL-EMP           we house-area-to(wards)

         We will sleep at home finally.

[14]   Wattaleeshia            o'unuin        atpanaakai.

         watta-lee-shi-ya      a-'una-in      atpanaa-ka-li

         distant-TOT-M-EMP   0-go-CS      rabbit –SP-M

          The rabbit went away completely.

[15]   O'unusu      wayuukoluirua;         taya  makataleeka        alijunama'ana.

          a-'una-sü  wayuu -ka-lü-irua     taya  makata-lee-ka     alijuna-ma'ana

          0-go-F     person-SP-F –PLU     I        remain-TOT-SP    creole -among

          The Guajiros went away; it was me the one who remained among creoles wholly.

This adverb ma'i 'much/very' is also frequent in non-comparative structures [19]. One of the most common uses of ma'i is that of reinforcing of the augmentative suffix–shaana, which is commonly attached to verbs of all types [17-19].

[16]   Kamaneesü        ma'in tü           talüinyuukolu.

        ka-manee-sü      ma'in tü            ta-lüinyuu-ka-lü

        AT-kindness-F    much DEM.F

          My sister-in-law is very kind.

[17]   Jashichishaanashi         ma'in jümüin            samutkoo.

         jashichi-shaana-shi       ma'in jü-müin             samulu -ka-lu

         angry   -AUGMEN-M       much 3F-to(wards)    vulture-SP-F

          He was indeed very angry with the vulture.

[18]   Talatashaanashi            taya aka te'rüichipain pia.

         talata-shaana-shi           taya aka ta-'ra-i-chi-pa -in pia

         happy –AUGMEN-M          I as 1S-see-I-M-TER-CS you

          I am very happy indeed because I have just seen you.

[19]   Ni'rashaanain           piichikalü        jümaa   lumakalü.

         nü-'ra-shaana-ni       piichi-ka-lü     jü-maa  luma-ka-lü

         3M-see-AUGMEN-CS  house -SP-F  3F-with shelter-SP-F

          He saw the house and the shelter very well.

3.3. The Mark

The STANDARD alongside its MARK constitutes a prepositional phrase in which the preposition ouliaa 'from' has a person/number/(gender) prefix which agrees with the following NP if there is any: 1S toulia, 2S puulia, 3M nuulia, 3F suulia/juulia, 1P woulia, 2P joulia/juulia, 3P noulia. But the NP, that is, the STANDARD, need not be expressed by means of a full NP, as in [20]. However, the STANDARD is always present in this prefix (even if it takes the indefinitive form ouliaa 'from/than someone'). In this case, STANDARD and MARK can be interpreted as being amalgamated in the same word.

















poor –TOT-M





Lucas is poorer than him.


This preposition is amply used outside the comparative construction, where ouliaa can have a wide range of meanings mostly within the ablative range [21-23] 3.

[21]   Nnojoishi     yalejeeyaain          juulia      ja'waliirua.

         nnojolu-shi  yala-jee-yaa-ni      jü-ulia     ja'wali-irua
 -M   there-from-IRR-CS  3F-from   night-PLDR

          He didn't go away from his wife during the nights.

[22]   Jamüshi    pu'luwajakalaka      kaa'ulakana      juulia    Jusepiina?

         jama-shi   pü-'luwaja-kalaka   kaa'ula-ka-na   jü-ulia    Jusepiina

         how-M     2S-steal-CONSEC   goat-SP-PL      3F-from  Josefina

         Why did you steal the goats from Josefina?

[23]   Akanajünüsü       nuulia    Luuka süpüshi tü         nünneetshekalü.

         a-kanaja-na-sü   nü-ulia    Luuka sü-püshi tü       nü-nneerü-se-ka-lü

         0-win-PASS-F     3S-from  Lucas 3F-part DEM.F   3S-money-POSS-SP-F

           Part of his money was won from Lucas (by someone).

Ouliaa can also be used with more idiosyncratic meanings, including a negative meaning of exclusion, in certain contexts [24-26].

[24]   Ko'utushi     wayuukai         nuulia.

         ko'uta-shi   wayuu -ka-li     nü-ulia

         silent-M      person-SP-M    3S-from  

        The man become quiet before him. (ie He didn't speak to/before him.)

[25]   Mojune'e pia,       tayeechi       washitka      puulia!

          moju-ne'e pia     taya-ee-chi   washirü-ka   pü-ulia

          poor-LIMI you    I-FU-M          rich-SP        2S-from

       You just stay poor, I will be me the one to become rich (leaving you behind in poverty)!

[26]   Ojo'looichi       taya   juulia    ashajaa.

         a-jo'laa-i-chi   taya   jü-ulia    a-shaja-a

         0-cease-I-M   I       3F-from  0-write-INF

          I have just stopped writing. (I have just desisted from writing.)

These various meanings of ouliaa can be found alongside the comparative use in [27].

[27]   Ma'aka   müle'uyuule       toulian,        taka'inraa    oulialü,

         ma'aka   müle'u-yuu-le    ta-ulia-n       ta-ka'inraa   a-ulia-lü

         be.thus  big-COL-HYP     1S-from-PR    1S-retreat   0-from-F

          If they were bigger than me, I would keep them away,

          onjulaashi     taya   juulia.

          a-njulaa-shi  taya   jü-uulia

          0-hide-M      I        3F-from

          I would hide from them.

One of the most important functions of ouliaa is that of introducing subordinate final clauses in the negative (like English LEST). In this case, the third person feminine form suulia/juulia 'from it' is used. When both clauses have the same subject (S1=S2), an infinitive form is used in the subordinate clause [28]. If they have different subjects (S1¹S2), then a subordinating suffix –in is used and the verb of the subordinate clause must have a person/number prefix if it is an active verb [29].

[28]   Waraitüshi    taya  waneepia   jotpünaa    wopukolu,

         waraita-shi   taya  waneepia   jü-tpünaa   wopu-ka-lü

         walk-M         I        always     3F-border   road-SP-F

          I always walked along the edge of the road,

          juulia        e'nnaa                jutuma wayuu.

          jü-ulia     a-'ra-na-a         jü-tuma wayuu

          3F-from  0-see-PASS-INF  3F-by person

          so as not to be seen by the people. (S1=S2)

[29]   Kakulaatsesü               juulia     jikerojüin      mürülü   julu'upünaa.

         Ka-kulaala-se-sü         jü-ulia    jü-keroja-in     mürülü    jü-lu'u-pünaa

         AT-fence   -POSS-F    3F-from  3F-enter –CS  animal    3F-inside-TRANS

         It had a fence so that the animals couldn't get inside. (S1¹S2)

3.4. An Active Verb as Parameter

We have seen that in Guajiro the PARAMETER is normally a stative verb. But the PARAMETER can also be an active, both intransitive [30] and transitive [31].

[30]   A'tunkaleeshi   ma'in    Kamiirü   nuulia      Luuka.

         a-tunka-lee-shi ma'in    Kamiirü    nu-ulia    Luuka

          0-slep-TOT-M  much    Camilo    3M-from  Lucas

          Camilo slept more than Lucas.

[31]   Ekaleeshia                ma'in   taya   jime  nuulia    Jusee.

         a-ka –lee-shi-ya         ma'in   taya   jime  nü-ulia   Jusee

         0-eat-TOT-M-EMP      much   I        fish  3S-from  José

          I ate more fish than José.

As the preposition ouliaa can also have a negative meaning, in certain contexts the construction can be ambiguous between a comparative reading and a non-comparative reading. Thus, the above sentences could also be interpreted as: [30] 'Camilo slept without Lucas./Camilo slept, but Lucas didn't'. and [31] 'I ate fish and left José nothing./I ate fish but José didn't.'

As both verbs proper and adjective-like verbs can function as predicate heads expressing the PARAMETER, the possibility of being the parameter in a comparative construction cannot be used a criterial property for distinguishing between verbs and adjectives as different word classes, as it is in other languages.

However, active verbs, and in particular transitive ones, seem to require the presence of the (single or multiple) expresion of the index in order to disambiguate (not fully) in favour of a comparative reading [32]. Moreover, the subjective conjugation seems to be preferred over the objective conjugation for expressing comparison.

[32]   Eküsü      ma'i   Jusepiina   nuuliale'eya           chi          wayuukai.

         a-ka-sü   ma'i    Jusepiina   nü-ulia-lee-ya        chi          wayuu-ka-li

         0-eat-F   much  Josefina    3M-from-TOT-EMP  DEM.M     person-SP-M

          Josefina eats more than the man.

3.5. Comparison with Implicit Standard

We have seen that following Dixon's classification of schemes of comparison, Guajiro has a basic Type A2 comparative construction. But Guajiro also has a Type A2-si comparative construction. In Guajiro the STANDARD need not be stated because it can be implicit in the comparative construction if its identity can be retrieved from information already present in previous clauses in the discourse. The presence of the discontinuous INDEX makes this reading straightforward [33-35].

[33]   Analeeshi       ma'in   liiwurokai        chi.

         ana-lee-shi     ma'in    liiwuro-ka-li     chi

         good-TOT-M   much    book-SP-M      DEM.M

          This book is better (than the others we are talking about).

[34]   Mulo'ule'eya       ma'in   tepia.

        mulo'u-lee-ya      ma'in     ta-pia

        big–TOT-EMP      much    1S-house

          My house is bigger (than Camilo's house).

[35]   Cho'ujaashi      tamüin   wanee ama    eekai     kakuwaleein          ma'in.

         cho'ujaa-shi    ta-müin  wanee ama    eekai     ka-kuwa–lee-in       ma'in

         necessary-M   1S-for    one horse      which    AT-speed-TOT-CS   much

          I need a faster horse (than the one I have now).

3.6. A Marginal Type of Comparison

Guajiro also has a marginal Type E comparative construction. This is due to the fact that in Guajiro there is a general, almost unrestricted process of noun/preposition incorporation whereby the head of a possessive noun phrase, the possessee noun [36], or the head of a prepositional phrase, the preposition [37], can be incorporated into the verb. In the first case, we will have cases of the so-called 'possessor raising', as the complement of the possessee noun phrase (the possessor left behind) has ascended from constituent of the phrase to constituent of the clause or argument of the verb (as an object, inheriting the grammatical relation of the original phrase), as in [38]. In the second case, we will have cases of the so-called 'applicative', as the complement of the prepositional phrase has gone up in the grammatical hierarchy. It was an oblique in an intransitive clause, but now it is the object of a transitive clause (the valency of the verb has increased), as in [39].

[36]   [Tachotooin]aVo   [nukuluutse         Luuka] O.

         Ta-chotoo-ni        nü-kuluulu-se       Luuka

         1S-cut   -CS        3M-textile-POSS   Lucas

         I cut Lucas' fabric.

 [37]   [Ayonnajüshi]V   [taya]S   [jümaa      Jusepiina]OBL.

          a-yonnaja-shi     taya       jü-maa       Jusepiina

          0-dance  -M       I            3F-with      Josefina

          I danced with Josefina.

[38]   [Tachotoo    akuluutsechi]aVo      [Luuka]O.

          ta-chotoo   a-kuluulu-se -chi        Luuka

          1S-cut       0-textile-POSS-M       Lucas

          I cut Lucas' fabric.

[39]   [Tayonnaja     amaalü]aVo    [Jusepiina]O.

          ta-yonnaja    a-maa  -lü        Jusepiina

          1S-dance      0-with-F          Josefina

          I danced with Josefina.

Being an unrestricted process, preposition incorporation can also happen in prepositional phrases headed by ouliaa. This takes place mainly with active intransitive verbs, which become transitive due this incorporation, as in [41], [43] and [45], related to [40], [42] and [44], respectively. In this case, we would expect that the PARAMETER would be the head of the predicate with the mark (the incorporated ouliaa) being integrated with it. However, in theses cases the favourite reading will always be one in which the second term is excluded, rather than a comparative one (“>” = “is the preferred meaning over”):

[40]  Awataashi       ma'i  Jusee  nuulia(le'eya)         chi         ka'lairakai.

        a-wataa-shi    ma'i  Jusee  nü-ulia-lee-ya        chi         ka'laira-ka-li

        0-run  -M       much  José  3M-from-TOT-EMP  DEM.M     tiger-SP-M

          José ran more than the tiger.

[41]   Nuwataa__ouliachi       Jusee  chi         ka'lairakai.

          nü-wataa a-ulia-chi    Jusee  chi         ka'laira-ka-li

          3M-run   0-from-M     José    DEM.M    tiger-SP-M

          José ran and/but the tiger didn't.  > José ran more than the tiger.

[42]   Atunkushii       ma'i    naya   woulia(le'eya).

         a-tunka-shii    ma'i    naya   wa-ulia-lee-ya

         0-sleep-P       much  they   1P-from-TOT-EMP

          They slept more than us.

[43]   Natunka__ouliachii        waya.

         na-tunka  a-ulia-chii     waya

         3P-sleep  0-from-P       we

          They slept and/but we didn't. > They slept more than us.

[44]   Ayonnajüshi     ma'i   taya   juulia(le'eya)         Jusepiina.

         a-yonnaja-shi  ma'i   taya   jü-ulia-lee-ya        Jusepiina

         0-dance  -M    much  I       3F-from-TOT-EMP  Jusepiina

          I danced more than Josefina.

[45]   Tayonnaja__oulialü          Jusepiina.

          ta-yonnaja  a-ulia-lü      Jusepiina

          1S-dance    0-from-F     Jusepiina

          I danced and/but Josefina didn't. > I danced more than Josefina.

The reason for this preference of a non-comparative reading may due to the fact that it is not possible to insert any material between the initial person/number prefix and the closing gender/number suffix when the preposition ouliaa (or indeed any other preposition) is incorporated (indicated here by the underscore “___”). This means that it is also not possible to have the expression of the INDEX ma'i, which tends to block a non-comparative reading with transitive verbs. This matter needs further investigation.



Guajiro also has a Type F comparative construction, that is, a bi-clausal comparison. In Guajiro three homophonous verbs maa exist. The first maa is translated as 'say', the second maa is an untranslatable auxiliary which takes the inflection certain verb themes cannot take, the third maa is the stative verb 'be thus/such/in this manner'. This third verb maa is used in various combinations with what appears to be a fossilised form of the preposition aka 'with (INSTRUMENTAL)' in the expression of comparison of equality. These are bi-clausal constructions because the PARAMETER is expressed as the predicate of a first clause with the COMPAREE as its subject, while the verb maa heads the second clause with the STARDARD as its subject, as illustrated in [46]. This construction, used only in what traditional grammars call 'comparative of equality', is the inverse of Pilagá (Vidal, 2001:350-352), where there is a verb -ena'am 'be like' which has the COMPAREE as its subject.










Clause 1


Clause 2






































ma   -shi




fat -M







Lucas is as fat as Camilo. (Lucas is fat, Camilo is like this.)

As in the majority of languages, a difference is made in Guajiro between a grammatical construction for 'more than' and a grammatical construction for 'the same as'. For the former, Type A2 is regularly used. For the latter, some form of the stative verb 'be thus' is used in various combinations with aka. The comparatives where the verb maa is used are the so-called 'comparatives of equality'. This verb maa and the erstwhile preposition aka are very frequently contracted to ma'aka and müinka. It deserves to be mentioned that these contracted forms (with müleka) are also the ones which are equivalent to if in conditional clauses.














fat  -M




Lucas is as fat as Camilo.

However, both parts will recover their independent status if the verb has to be used with tensed forms other than the general tense, or having other suffixes [48]. This verb maa also shows up accompanying the coordinating conjunction oo'ulaka 'and'.

[48]   Koisü       nüto'uta    oo'ulaka   müsüya          tü       nu'upünaautakalü,

        ka-oli -sü  nü-ta'uta  oo'ulaka   ma-sü-ya         tü       nü-'upünaauta-ka-lü

        AT-hair-F  3S-skin    and       be.thus-F-EMP  DEM.F  3S-complexion-SP-F

          His skin and his complexion were hairy,

          mashaanasü                aka    joi        wüchii.

          ma-shaana-sü             aka   jü-oli    wüchii

          Be.thus-AUGMEN-F       as   3F-hair   bird

          very much like the hair (feather) of birds.

Comparatives of inequality are formed by simple negation of the predicate. This negation can be accomplished either with the auxiliary negative verb nnojoluu and the main verb receiving the common subordinating suffix –in [49, 50], or with derived negative verbs using the prefix ma-.

[49]   Nnnojoishi      ma'in    mamainain    Luuka  müin         aka   Kamiirü.

          nnnojolu-shi    ma'in    mamaina-in     Luuka  ma-in        aka   Kamiirü

  –M      much   insane -CS     Lucas be.thus-CS   as    Camilo

          Lucas is not so insane as Camilo.

[50]   Luuka  nnojoishi    ma'in  mulo'usheyuuin    müinka          Kamiirü.

        Luuka  nnojolu-shi   ma'in  mulo'usheyuu-in      müinka          Kamiirü

        Lucas –M    much  tall-CS             Camilo

          Lucas is not so tall as Camilo.

In elicitation and in texts, no examples were found in which an equivalent of 'less' could be pinpointed. All the forms with 'less X than' were given as Type A2 comparatives in which the predicate is a negative one (that is, instead of the STARDARD being 'fast', it is rather 'slow'):

[51]   Makuwasai           püliikü   nuulia       ama.

         ma-kuwa -sa-li     püliikü   nu-ulia      ama

         NG-speed-NA-M   donkey  3M-from    horse

          The donkey is less fast than the horse. (The donkey is slower than the horse).



In English, although the comparative and superlative forms seem to belong to the same morphological paradigm (and their analytic versus synthetic shapes appear to be decided by the same phonological restrictions), their syntactic behaviour is different. One of the main elements of the superlative is the inclusion of the definite article in the construction which expresses it. But European languages differ on whether the INDEX in the superlative is the same (Spanish, Italian, French, etc.) or different (English) from the INDEX used in the comparative. It is clear that both constructions are semantically very close, and it is common for languages to have a common construction for both, the standard in the superlative specified as 'all' (Dixon, 2004:25).

Three strategies appear to be in use in Guajiro. One of them, illustrated in [52-54], is just the same comparative construction with the STNADARD somehow specified as a large (perhaps total) universe/set, with the same MARK ouliaa. This is roughly equivalent to the relative superlative of Romance languages.

[52]   Jutpunale'eya     Kamiirü   juulia    jupushuwa'a      wayuukoluirua.

         jutpuna-lee-ya   Kamiirü   jü-ulia    jü-pushuwa'a    wayuu-ka-lü-irua

         tall-TOT-EMP     Camilo    3F-from  3F-totality       person-SP-F-PLU

          Camilo is the tallest among all the Guajiro. (Camilo is taller than all the Guajiros.)

[53]   Anasü     pünülia,    anasü     suulia    anüliee         eekai       eein.

         Ana-sü   pü-nülia    ana-sü   sü-ulia    a-nülia-a       eekai       ee-in

         Good-F   2S-name   good-F  3F-from   0-name-INF   whatever  exist-CS

          Your name is good, it is the best name there is.

[54]   Pülashi       ma'i    Jesucristo      suulia    eekai        eein.

         püla-shi     ma'i    Jesucristo      sü-ulia    eekai        ee-in

         mighty-M   much  Jesus-Christ   3F-from  whatever   exist-CS

          Jesus is the most powerful of all.

A second strategy implies a cleft construction. This strategy clearly mirrors the strategies of European languages using the definite article. In Guajiro the article appears as the specifier without gender/number as –ka [55, 56], or marked for masculine, feminine and plural as -ka-i, -ka-lü, -ka-na, respectively [57]. This set of three complex forms is known in Guajiro grammars as 'the article' (the feminine form has several variants: -kalü ~ -kat ~ -kaa ~ -kolu ~ -koo). This strategy can be used for both absolute and relative superlatives.

[55]   Nia   mulo'usheyuuka    ma'in   Luuka.

         nia   mulo'usheyuu-ka    ma'in   Luuka

         he    tall-SP                 much  Lucas

          Lucas is the tallest. (The one who is very tall, that is Lucas.)

[56]   Nia    nütünajutuka      ma'i     Luuka,  Kamiirü.

         nia    nü-tünajutu-ka    ma'i     Luuka  Kamiirü

         he    3M-friend-SP       much   Lucas  Camilo

          Camilo is Lucas' best friend. (The one who is Lucas' [best] friend, that is Camilo.)

[57]   Jierü      anasüchonkaa,        jia   Tareesa.

         jierü      ana-sü-chon-ka-lü   jia    Tareesa

         woman  good-F–DIMI-SP-F   she   Teresa

          Teresa is the most beautiful woman. (The woman who is the pretty one, that's Teresa.)

For relative superlatives, the STANDARD can be specified in terms of spatial relationships, most commonly with the help of prepositions such as alu'uu 'inside' [58] and a'akaa 'among' [59].

[58]   Shiaja'a    tü        jierü     ku'lamiakalü       anasüchonkoo         ma'in

        shia-ja'a    tü       jierü     ku'lamia-ka-lü     ana-sü-chon-ka-lü   ma'in

       she-EMPH  DEM.F  woman  yougster-SP-F    good-F-DIMI-SP-F   much

          She is the most beautiful young lady (= She is the beautiful young lady)

          sulu'u        shipishuwa'a      reinokoo.

        sü-lu'u       sü-pishuwa'a      reino-ka-lü

        3F-inside    3F-totality         kingdom-SP-F

          in the whole kingdom.

[59]   Kamiirü nia mulo'usheyuukai    ma'in  na'akajee      wayuu  nepishuwa'a.

        Kamiirü nia mulo'usheyuu-ka-li  ma'in  na-'aka-jee     wayuu  na-pishuwa'a

        Camilo he  tall-SP-M              much  3P-among-from person 3P-totality

          Camilo is the tallest among all the Guajiro. (Camilo, he is the tall among all Guajiros.)

Finally, when no STANDARD is expressed but an INDEX is present [60], it is common to obtain readings as absolute superlatives.

[60]   Jutpanale'eya     Luuka.

         jutpuna-lee-ya    Luuka

         tall-TOT-EMP       Lucas

          Lucas is the tallest.



What can be a parameter in Guajiro? We have seen that the most common case of parameter involves a stative verb with an adjectival-type meaning. However, as seen above in Section 3.4, the other verb types, active intransitives and active transitives, are also attested in this function.

Sometimes the object of a transitive verb can be the COMPAREE with another object (perhaps with some sort of ellipsis assumed) acting as the STANDARD, as in [61].

[61]   Te'raajüin       niikat                  Lucas   nuulia       nüshikai.

         ta-'raaja-in     nü-i-ka-lü            Lucas   nü-uulia    nü-shi-ka-li

         1S-know-CS   3M-mother-SP-F   Lucas   3M-from   3M-father-SP-M

          I know Lucas' mother more than (I know) her father.

An adverb can also be the parameter, as in [62, 63].

[62]   Atunkamaatüshi       pia   maalü   woulia.

         a-tunka-maata-shi   pia   maalü   wa-ulia

         0-sleep-IMMED-M    you  early    1P-from

          You went so sleep earlier than us.

[63]   Ekatüjülia                      taya   palajana    puulia.

         a-ka-tüjü-li-ya              taya   palajana    pü-ulia

         0-comer-ANTIC-M-EMP     I      firstly       2S-from

          I had already eaten earlier than you.

In all the cases examined thus far, a single property is evaluated in terms of the different degrees it shows in minimally two participants. But there are instances of two properties being compared in terms of the different degrees they show in just one participant. The second property, being the complement of the preposition, exhibits the common suffix -in rather than gender/number suffixes. Notice also that in the examples we have in [64, 65], the MARK has the manifestation of the INDEX suffixed to it (juuliale'eya) 4.

[64]   Anashi     ma'i    Luuka    juuliale'eya               washirüin.

        ana -shi    ma'i    Luuka    jü-ulia-lee-ya            washirü-in

        good-M     much  Lucas   3F-from-TOT-EMP       rich-CS

          Lucas is more honest than (he is) rich.

[65]   Wayuu     ma'i     Luuka    juuliale'eya              alijunain.

         wayuu      ma'i     Luuka    jü-ulia-lee-ya          alijuna-in

         person      much   Lucas    3M-from-TOT-EMP   creole-CS

          Lucas is more Guajiro than creole.

There are also instances of two properties expressed clausally being compared in terms of the different degrees they show in just one participant. However, the tendency seems to be for the second clause to show up in a nominalised form, in the infinitive [66] or in the deverbal instrumental noun with -ya [67].

[66]   Yootüshi   ma'i     Luuka   juuliale'eya            tü        naa'inrakaa.

          yooto-shi  ma'i     Luuka   jü-ulia-lee-ya        tü        nü-a'inra-ka-lü

          talk-M      much   Lucas   3F-from-TOT-EMP  DEM.F   3M-do/make-SP-F

          Lucas speaks more than he does (Lucas speaks more than what he does/his doing).

[67]   Nike'eja___aa'inchi  ma'i   taya Luuka  juuliale'eya             nükaliijia.

         nü-ike'eja a-a'in-chi   ma'i   taya  Luuka  jü-ulia-lee-ya         nü-kaliija-ya

         3M-bother  0-soul-M  much  I      Lucas 3F-from-TOT-EMP    3M-help-NLR

          Lucas bothers me more than he helps (me) (literally: his help).

Another possibility is to have both clauses nominalised, as in [68], where the notional subject as the possessor.

[68]   Anasü       jiyonnajia       Jusepiina   juulia     ji'yataaya.

         ana -sü    jü-yonnaja-ya   Jusepiina   jü-ulia    jü-'yataa-ya

         good-F     3F-dance-NLR   Josefina    3F-from  3F-work-NLR

          Josefina dances better than she works (Josefina's dancing is better than her working).

Ambiguity can arise whenever the comparison involves some sort of ellipsis, as the reduced element can have different readings. This happens particularly when the object of a transitive verb can be interpreted as the COMPAREE as well as the STANDARD, as [69] illustrates.

[69]   Te'raajüin      niikat                  Lucas    nuulia       nüshikai.

         ta-'raaja-in    nü-i-ka-lü           Lucas    nü-uulia    nü-shi-ka-li

         1S-know-CS  3M-mother-SP-F   Lucas   3M-from   3M-father-SP-M

          IA know [Lucas' mother]O more than (IA know) [her father]O  OR [his father]A (does).

The ambiguity tends to disappear in those cases where the gender/number of the object is marked on the verb, as is the case in [70], where the feminine object marker - makes us expect the feminine object 'Lucas' mother', rather that 'Lucas' father'.

[70]   Te'raajee        niikat                   Lucas   nuulia      nüshikai.

         ta-'raaja-ee-lü   nü-i-ka-lü             Lucas   nü-uulia   nü-shi-ka-li

         1S-know-FU-F   3M-mother-SP-F    Lucas   3M-from  3M-father-SP-M

          IA will know [Lucas' mother]O more than (IA will know) [her father]O.



Correlative comparisons, where the same comparative morphology is present, occur in English, where more/-er  can appear with the article in two clauses as in The more I run, the healthier I feel; or in Spanish, where the first clause is introduced by mientras 'while' and the second clause has the comparative más 'more' as in Mientras más corro, más saludable me siento. Constructions equivalent to the correlative constructions of Indo-European languages have been detected, where the same comparative morphology is present (use of maa 'be.thus', -lee 'TOTALLY', ma'i 'much', etc.). Notice that in one strategy the suffix -yaa 'IRREALIS' accompanies the verb maa 'be.thus' (71-73].

[71]   Mayaasü          nikashaanain              Luuka,     kaüsüleeshi       ma'in.

         ma-yaa-sü        nü-ka-shaana-in         Luuka,     kaüsü-lee-shi    ma'in

         be.thus-IRR-F    3M-eat-AUGMEN-CS   Lucas       fat-TOT-M       much

          The more Lucas eats, the fatter he gets.

[72]   Mayaasü          ma'in     piyonnajüin,      mariaawashaanaleesü         pia.

         ma-yaa-sü        ma'in     pü-yonnaja-in   mariaawa-shaana-lee-sü     pia

         be.thus-IRR-F    much    2S-dance-CS    dizzy-AUGMEN-TOT-F         you

          The more you dance, the more lightheaded you get.

[73]   Mayaasü          te'rüin       ma'in  pia,   aisü      ma'in  pia    tapüla.

         ma-yaa-sü        ta-'ra-in     ma'in  pia    ali -sü   ma'in  pia   ta-püla

         be.thus-IRR-F   1S-see-CS  much  you  dear-F  much  you  1S-for

          The more I see you, the more I love you.

However, alternative forms occur which are introduced by wanaa jümaa 'whenever, simultaneously with' (literally 'equal/simultaneously with it'), as the examples in [74-76] show.

[74]   Wanaa   jümaa   niküin        ma'i    Luuka,   kaüsishi     ma'i.

         wanaa   jümaa    nü-ka-in    ma'i    Luuka,   kaüsi-shi   ma'i

         equal   3F-with   3M-eat-CS  much  Lucas,   fat-M      much

          The more Lucas eats, the fatter he gets.

[75]   Wanaa   jümaa    piyonnajüin       ma'i,     mariaawashi    ma'i    pia.

          wanaa   jü-maa   pü-yonnaja-in   ma'i,      mariaawa-shi  ma'i    pia

          equal    3F-with   2S-dance-CS   much      dizzy-M         much  you.

          The more you dance, the more you get dizzy.

[76]   Wanaa   jümaa     te'rüin        ma'i    pia,   müliashi      ma'i   taya  pii'ree.

         wanaa   jümaa      ta-'ra-in      ma'i    pia,   mülia -shi    ma'i   taya  pü-i'ree

         equal    3F-with    2S-see-CS  much   you   suffer-M     much  I       2S-cause

          The more I see you, the more I love you.

Yet another construction, illustrated in [77], involves a conditional clause (usually the first) as one of the clauses.

[77]   Teküle          ma'i    juriicha,   jemetüsü    ma'i     jaa'in       tamüin.

         ta-ka-le        ma'i    juriicha,   jemeta-sü   ma'i     jü-a'in     ta-müin

         1S-eat-HYP  much  friche       tasty-F      much   3F-soul    1S-to(wards)

          The more I eat friche, the more tasty it seems to me. (If I eat friche, …)



In Keenan & Comrie (1977) a proposal was presented of an Accessibility Hierarchy (AH) in relative clauses. Languages were said to vary in terms of which grammatical relations could be relativised. Taking “>” as “it is more accessible than”, this AH predicts SUBJECT > DIRECT OBJECT > INDIRECT OBJECT > OBLIQUE > GENITIVE > OBJECT OF COMPARISON. It also predicts that a given language will relativise a continuous stretch of this AH.

In Guajiro, noun phrases having all sorts of grammatical functions exhibit a surprising capacity for being relativised. Thus is due to the fact that incorporation moves noun phrases up in the scale, so that they end up in one of the two positions which can be directly relativised, namely, SUBJET and OBJECT. All positions in the hierarchy other than subject and object are formally expressed by means of a phrase whose head can be incorporated to the verb, as shown schematically in [78].

[78]   INDIRECT OBJECT:                   nü-müin  Kamiirü  'to/for  Camilo'

        OBLIQUE:                                nü-maa   Kamiirü  'with  Camilo'

        GENITIVE:                              nü-shi   Kamiirü  'father  of  Camilo'

        OBJECT OF COMPARISON:          nu-ulia  Kamiirü  'than  Camilo'

Thus, all the positions in the AH can be relativised in Guajiro (discussion and additional examples can be found in Álvarez 1994), even the object of comparison, that is, the STANDARD of comparative constructions, as in [79, 80].

[79]   Te'raajüin       chi      wayuu   [mamainakai      ma'in  oulia       Jusepiina]RC.

         ta-'raaja-in      chi    wayuu    mamaina-ka-li    ma'in  a-ulia     Jusepiina

         1S-know-CS  DEM.M  person   insane -SP-M     much   0-from   Josefina

          I know the  man [that Josefina is more insane than him].

[80]   Te'raajüin        chi     wayuu   [jutpünakai        ma'in  oulia      Jusepiina]RC.

         ta-'raaja-in     chi      wayuu   jutpüna-ka-li     ma'in   a-ulia     Jusepiina

         1S-know-CS  DEM.M  person   tall-SP-M          much   0-from    Josefina

          I know the man that Josefina is taller than him.

Perhaps because it is pragmatically very marked, this type of relativisation is difficult to arise and we have obtained them only through elicitation. This difficulty has nothing to do with the possibility of incorporating ouliaa to the verb and using the complex verb it in relative clauses. I must be remembered that this preposition is amply used outside  comparative constructions, where ouliaa can have a wide range of meanings mostly within the ablative range. The examples in [81-83] illustrate this interplay of incorporation and relativisation where ouliaa is involved.

[81]   Awataashi      Jusee  nuulia       chi           ka'lairakai.

         a-wataa-shi   Jusee  nü-ulia     chi           ka'laira-ka-li

         0-run-M       José    3M-from   DEM.M      tiger-SP-M

          José is running away from the tiger. [no incorporation]

[82]   Nuwataa__ouliachi     Jusee    chi            ka'lairakai.

         nü-wataa   a-ulia      Jusee    chi            ka'laira-ka-li

         3S-run       0-from     José     DEM.M       tiger-SP-M

          José is running away from the tiger. [INCORPORATION OF ouliaa]

[83]   Pu'uta__naa'in       chi           ka'laira     [nuwataakai         oulia    Jusee]RC.

        pü-'uta  nü-a'in      chi            ka'laira    nü-wataa-ka-li      0-ulia    Jusee

        2S-kill   3M-soul   DEM.M         tiger       3S-run-SP-M         0-from   José

          Kill the tiger from which José is running away. [INCORPORATION+RELATIVISATION]

In [81] we have one such use of ouliaa, with 'the tiger' as oblique, while in [82] the preposition has been incorporated to the verb and 'the tiger' has become the object. In [83] we have a relative clause 'from which José is running away' modifying 'the tiger'. Thus, most of these cases are interpreted as being used in the other senses of ouliaa.



The lexical components used in the comparative constructions encountered in Guajiro are clearly related to other components of the language and used in non-comparative  constructions. However, it should be stressed that, although Guajiro has both an augmentative suffix -shaana and a diminutive suffix -chon, these seem to play no special role in comparative constructions. Particularly interesting is the use of the preposition ouliaa as mark. This preposition is used, beyond the ablative range of meaning, as a kind of general negator (as in final clauses). It is as if the STARDARD of comparison did always imply negative evaluation, even absence of the property. This creates a certain level of ambiguity in a good number of comparative constructions.

The Guajiro comparative constructions do not seem to involve elements borrowed from Spanish, the national language with which it is in contact. Spanish forms like más, menos, que, etc. do no seem to have ever been used to that effect. If calque has been the source of some of these constructions, we cannot ascertain that this has been the case. The fact that the verb maa and the erstwhile preposition aka are very frequently contracted to ma'aka and müinka may be due to Spanish influence, where invariable como 'as' exists.

The traditional Guajiro society has had a stratified, pastoralist backbone for around five centuries. Wealth is measured on the basis of the size of the herds, and cattle, along with precious and semi-precious stones, has been used to make payments for offence compensation and brides. A well-developed numbering/counting system has evolved, although it is being eroded by the Spanish number system. It is assumed that these comparative mechanisms have been in use in the Guajiro language for a long time.



* A first version of this paper was presented in the Workshop on Comparative Constructions, Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, July 28, 2004. I thank Bob Dixon and Sasha Aikhenvald for comments and suggestions. A second version was presented in the XVII Jornadas Lingüísticas de la Asociación de Lingüística y Filología de la América Latina, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, December 9-12, 2004.

1. The phonemic inventory of Guajiro is relatively simple, with values very similar to those of  Latin America Spanish (the special cases are indicated in parentheses): VOWELS: a, e, i, o, u, ü (central high vowel); CONSONANTS: p, t, k, ' (glottal stop), j (glottal fricative), s, sh (voiceless alveopalatal fricative), ch (palatal affricate), m, n (realised as velar before velar consonants and word-finally), l (lateral flap), r (trill), w (as in English), y (as in English). Double vowels represent long vowels, while double consonants are hetero-syllabic. The assignment of stress is fully predictable. The stressed syllable is the second syllable if the first syllable is light: 'to lay down', ka.shá.ja.laa 'to have writings'. If the first syllable is heavy (that is, it has a long vowel, a diphthong, or is checked), then this very initial syllable receives stress: áa.sha.ja.waa 'to speak', é 'to lie down', ón.ju.laa.sü 'she hid herself'. If at the beginning of a word there is a short vowel followed by a glottal stop, the syllable containing such vowel does not count for stress assignment and the two former rules are applied from the second syllable: (sha').wa.táa 'to be standing', (a').la..jaa.sü 'she cooks'.

2. For the interlinear glosses I have used the following abbreviations:


0: zero person/indefinite

DE: desiderative

INTE: intentional future


1P: 1 plural

DEM.F: demonstrative feminine

IRR: irrealis


1S: 1 singular

DEM.M: demonstrative masculine

LIMI: limitative


2P: 2 plural

DEM.P: demonstrative plural

M: masculine


2S: 2 singular

DIMI: diminutive

NA: negative augment


3F: 3 singular feminine

ECCE: presenter 'behold'

NG: negative derivative


3M: 3 singular masculine

EMP: emphatic

NLR: nominaliser


3P: 3 plural

EMPH: emphasis

PASS: passive


ANTIC: anticipative

EXCLAM: exclamation

PL: plural


AT: attributive

F: feminine

PLDR: pluraliser


AUGMEN: augmentative

FU: future

POSS: possessive


AUX: auxiliary

HABI: habitual

RC: relative clause


CAU: causative

HYP: hypothetical

SP: specifier


COL: collective

I: imminent

TER: terminated


CONSEC: consecutive

IMMED: immediate

TOT: total


CS: common gender/number

INF: infinitive

TRANS: transient

3. In Jusayú & Olza (1986:282) we read that ouliaa: “… indica rechazo, exclusión. Sirve para indicar comparación no unitiva sino distanciadora. Ana'sü tepi'a júlia pipi'akalü mi casa es mejor que la tuya (mi casa es buena la tuya no)... el término que sigue a júlia queda excluido de lo que se afirma del primero.”

4. No inherently comparative lexemes, thatis, lexemes in which there is fusion of PARAMETER and INDEX, have been detected in Guajiro. The verb alataa '(sur)pass', in its forma alanawaa [61, 62] very often requires ouliaa.

Nuu'ulakajüin       numüralu'uirua             alanaasü     suulia   pütchikaa.

nü-u'ulakaja-ni    nü-müla-lu'u-irua          a-lanaa-sü    sü-ulia   pütchi-ka-lü

3S-imitate-CS     3S-throat-inside-PLUR   0-surpass-F   3F-from  word-SP-F

He imitates voices which surpass words. (Verse from José Ángel Fernández's Iitakaa)

Alanaasü        sujutu      suulia    piama   shikii       woliiwarü.

a-lanaa-sü       sü-jutu    sü-ulia   piama    sü-kii       woliiwarü

0-surpass-F      3F-value  3F-from  two     3F-head   bolívar

Its price surpasses the twenty bolivars.



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Recibido: 10 de enero de 2005 Aceptado: 18 de mayo de 2005