Academic Study of Cabécar Indigenous Language – University of Costa Rica

Here’s a section from a proofreading and correction that I did for Guillermo Gonzalez Campos of the University of Costa Rica.  The editing was fairly detailed in some portions of this paper.


Guillermo González Campos
University of Costa Rica
1. General introduction to the language
Cabécar is one of five indigenous languages still spoken in Costa Rica.1 Currently it is the language with the largest number of speakers in this country.2 In the national census of 2011, 16,985 personsidentified themselves as members of this people group. Approximately 85 percent of all of these speak Cabécar as their mother tongue.3 Like other indigenous languages still alive in Costa Rica, Cabécar is a Chibchan language. It is classified by Constenla (2008) as belonging to the West Isthmian group with Bribri, Naso and Boruca. The Chibchan family is the largest among the indigenous genealogical groups in southern Central America.3 Adolfo Constenla (2002, 2005) demonstrated in recent times that Chibchan is part of a larger group with Misumalpan and the two Lencan languages, which he named the “Lenmichian Micro-phylum”.

Cabécar has two well-differentiated dialects: the northern one spoken in Chirripó and Valle de La Estrella, and the southern one spoken in Talamanca and Ujarrás. The differences between these dialects are mostly in phonology. Northern Cabécar has a vowel sound [ɤ] and aspirated consonants, which are not present in the southern[PP1]  variety of the language.

The main typological features of this language5 are the following:
1.      It is an ergative language. The canonical word order in a transitive clause is erg-abs-verb.
2.      The possessor precedes the possessed, and descriptive adjectives follow the noun. 
3.      Cabécar uses postpositions, not prepositions.
4.      It is a tonal language, with two different tones: low and high.
As regards the morphological features, Cabécar is an inflectional language that depends entirely upon suffixation. The following word categories are inflected: nouns, adjectives, verbs, some adverbs and numeral quantifiers. There is no grammatical gender marker. Number is distinguished by the plural marker – on human nouns and a few domestic and farm animals (dogs, cats, hens, horses and on the like). In the verbal morphology, tense, aspect and mood are marked by suffixes and clitics.
With respect to orthography, Cabécar uses the Latin alphabet, based on its employment in SpanishThe letters have the same phonetic value as in Spanish with the exception of vowels with umlauts, ä [ɤ], ë [ɪ] and ö [ʊ], the consonants l [ɺ] and y [ʤ], and the aspirated consonants that are represented by digraphs(kjtj and pj). There are two diacritical signs: the macron below (_) marks nasality in the vowels, and the acute accent (´) is used for marking the high tone.
2. A sketch of Cabécar evaluative morphology
In Cabécar, as in other indigenous languages of Costa Rica,  evaluative morphology is very poor. This is due to the fact that evaluation is done, to a great extent[PP2] , using syntactic strategies. For example, with nouns and verbs, diminution or augmentation is expressed through adjectival and adverbial modification. Evaluative morphology is found only in the adjectives and a few adverbs. It is related to the property of specifying various degrees, which are measured or estimated by the speaker’s subjective experience. Specifically, there are two concepts involved in this process: attenuation and intensification.

 [PP1]Sugiero las mayúsculas solamente cuando el adjetivo es seguido por el sustantivo Cabécar.

 [PP2]Me gustaría saber cuál es la expresión original española.