This dissertation examines morphosyntactic variation and change in the modern Caribbean
Northern Arawak (CNA) languages in the domains of argument-marking and alignment.
CNA is the northernmost group of the Arawak language family, whose members are spoken
primarily in South America. The modern CNA languages include Garifuna, Lokono, A~nun,
and Wayuu, spoken on the Caribbean coasts of Central and South America. Members of the
subgroup that are currently not spoken include Shebayo, Island Carib, and Taino.
Chapter 1 of this work introduces the CNA languages and provides background information
about current language vitality and documentation status for each CNA language. In this
chapter, I also discuss internal subgrouping for the branch, incorporating the results of a
lexical phylogenetic study I carried out for the CNA languages. I then compare the results to
earlier classications of the language family and show that my novel subgrouping proposal is
well supported. Subsequently, I examine comparative morphological evidence for subgrouping
and nd it to be compatible with the structure I propose. The chapter concludes with a
description of argument marking and active-stative alignment in the CNA languages.
Chapter 2 examines a process of alignment change attested in the CNA languages that has
been facilitated by the reanalysis of a suxal subject nominalizer employed in relative clauses
as agreement morphology encoding a syntactic subject. Properties of the modern subject
construction are related to properties of nominalizations cross-linguistically. Nominalized
verbs in predicate position in non-verbal predicate constructions are proposed as a bridging
construction in this reanalysis, and a suxal paradigm involved in encoding objects and
stative subjects is shown to have provided an analogical template for the reanalysis of the
nominalizer as agreement morphology for at least Garifuna. Finally, I demonstrate that
the sole CNA language that does not exhibit the suxal subject agreement construction,
Lokono, exhibits properties that rule out the diachronic pathway I propose for the other
CNA languages | only those CNA languages that lack a copula and exhibit verb initiality
developed the suxal person marking morphology examined here.
Chapter 3 investigates a shift in lexical category from adposition to auxiliary in two Northern
Caribbean Arawak languages, Wayuu and Garifuna. While the emergent auxiliaries bear
striking similarities in terms of distribution and argument marking | both occur post-verbally
and carry prexal and suxal verbal agreement morphology | I argue that the innovation is
not joint, but independent. I draw on comparative evidence from the adpositional systems
of the other modern CNA languages to support my proposal. While Garifuna and Wayuu
share a similar typological prole, comparative morphological evidence, along with extant
knowledge of relatedness for the family, generally, suggests they do not form a subgroup
independent of the other Caribbean Northern Arawak languages, providing support for an
analysis where each language independently innovated its auxiliary system. As in the case of
the development of suxal person morphology, properties of proto-CNA appear to have made
such a development available. The change from adposition to auxiliary is typologically rare,
and has not been previously described or analyzed in the literature on grammaticalization. I
argue here that insubordination and analogy are the formal mechanisms that allowed for this
change in the CNA languages.
Chapter 4 concludes and discusses avenues for future comparative morphosyntactic research
involving the CNA languages.