Luca Ciucci (LCRC, James Cook University)


Old Zamuco was spoken in the 18th century in the Chaco area of southeastern Bolivia and northern Paraguay. It belongs to the Zamucoan family, along with two languages currently spoken: Ayoreo (4,500 speakers) and Chamacoco (2,000 speakers). Old Zamuco was studied by Ignace Chomé in the mission of San Ignacio de Samucos, founded in a remote area of the northern Chaco in 1724 and abandoned in 1745. Chomé wrote a grammar, Arte de la lengua zamuca, and a dictionary, Vocabulario de la lengua zamuca. While the grammar was published by Lussagnet in 1958 (Chomé 1958 [ante 1745]), the dictionary remained inaccessible to scholars. The dictionary was recently re-discovered in La Paz, and now the critical edition of this document is under preparation (Ciucci, forthcoming). From a first analysis of the dictionary (Ciucci 2018), it emerges that it is the main source of information on the language. Combining data from fieldwork with Ayoreo and Chamacoco (Ciucci 2016), with the “new” data from the dictionary, one can obtain new diachronic insights on Zamucoan. The new amount of information available on Old Zamuco also permits to better understand or identify some typological rarities. In this talk I will concentrate on two of them: (i) The threefold system of nominal morphology, which distinguishes between a BASE FORM with predicative value, a FULL FORM used in argument position, and an INDETERMINATE FORM used in argument position with unspecified referents (see Bertinetto 2014; Ciucci 2016). Such a tripartite system is typologically unique, being only documented in Zamucoan; (ii) The marking of gender and number on possessive classifiers. Indeed, classifiers do not involve agreement (Aikhenvald 2000: 126), and this particularly applies to gender agreement. Such an unusual feature is also found in other languages of the area, and it is possibly due to pattern borrowing (Ciucci & Bertinetto, forthcoming 2019).

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