Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Teela Huff Humanities and Social Science

Je Language Documentation: Xavante

My research involves the collection and analysis of linguistic data on the Central Je language Xavante, an Amazonian language of central Brazil. Like many Amazonian languages, Xavante is under-documented and undergoing major changes due to increasing contact with Brazilian government and society. It contains unique qualities that are of special interest to the research community, such as a lack of velar consonants (e.g. [g, k]) and the presence of glottal consonant clusters (e.g. [p]). Documentation of these characteristics is key to expanding the field’s understanding of what is possible within the world’s languages. This research is especially relevant in Brazil, where there exist 170 indigenous languages; as recently as 2001, however, only 28 are well-documented with full grammatical descriptions. In Summer 2019, I gathered data on lexical items during in situ fieldwork, and my research as a SURF fellow will consist of a phonetically informed description of Xavante using this data. This analysis will support my long term goal of producing a phonological historical reconstruction of the Je language family.

Message To Sponsor

I want to extend my deepest thanks to the Leadership Fund for enabling me to continue my research throughout this summer. Without the Leadership Fund's generosity I would not have been able to complete a preliminary dictionary for the Xavante language, which has been slated for publishing as well as distributed to teachers with whom I continue to work for and with. Through this process I learned so much about what it means to pursue research in academia, and my wonderful experience with SURF has helped reinforce my goal of becoming a full-time researcher. It is with great excitement that I plan to apply to PhD programs in linguistics this fall, and I look forward to continuing my fieldwork and documentation work in the years to come.
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Major: Linguistics
Mentor: Professor Larry Hyman
Sponsor: Leadership Fund
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