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Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Wilson Silva

faculty photoAssistant Research Professor

I am a field linguist with formal training in theoretical linguistics and language documentation. I have carried out research projects (including fieldwork) in Amazonian languages (Sateré-Mawé [Tupian], Tikuna [isolate], and Desano, Arapaso and Karapanã [Eastern Tukanoan]). My research on these languages covers a variety of topics of theoretical interest. Besides the scientific contribution to linguistic theory, my research projects are also committed to endangered language documentation (i.e., adequate grammar, dictionary, and abundant texts to represent the language in many of its use), and linguistic and cultural revitalization.

My Ph.D. dissertation is a typologically informed description of the phonology and morphosyntax of Desano, entitled A Descriptive Grammar of Desano, under the supervision of Dr. Lyle Campbell. Currently, I am working on a Reference Grammar of Desano, an Eastern Tukanoan language of Upper Amazon, in the Vaupés Region of Brazil and Colombia.

Research Interests

Language contact in Northwest Amazonia; structure and functions of evidentials; noun class and classifier systems; nasal harmony; tone in Amazonian languages; multilingualism and comparative linguistics within the Tukanoan language family; language typology, description and revitalization.

My research interests include language contact in Northwest Amazonia, the structure and functions of evidentials, noun class and classifier systems, nasal harmony, tone in Amazonian languages, multilingualism and comparative linguistics within the Tukanoan language family, language typology, language description, and language revitalization.


"Desano Collaborative Project: Collection of Audio-Video Material and Texts" (National Endowment for the Humanities, PD-50023-12)
"Desano Documentation Project" (Museu do ├Źndio/UNESCO)

Courses Offered (subject to change)

ANTH 220 Language and Culture
ANTH 489 Special topics: investigating Language Change
ANTH 489 Language and Sexuality

Selected Publications

2009. "Introduction," in Revista Virtual do Estudo da Linguagem – ReVEL. Special Edition 3, 'Linguistic Studies on the Indigenous Languages of Brazil'.

2008. "Acoustic analysis of voiceless obstruents and nasal harmony in Desano". In Amerindia: revue d’ethnolinguistique amérindenne. Special edition on La structure des langues amazoniennes, pp. 301-19.

2007. "A Typology of the Nominal Classifiers of the Eastern Tukanoan Languages," in Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society. University of California at Berkeley.

Selected Presentations

"Development of the Desano Orthography" at the Conference for Endangered Languages and Cultures of Native Americas (CELCNA), University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. April 2010.

"The glottal stop and glottalization in Desano" at the Amazonicas III: Phonology and Syntax, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, Colombia. April 2010.

"Empowering language speakers to develop their own orthography: two case studies" at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Berkeley, CA. February 2010.

"The unusual linguistic traits of Desano" at the Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting”, Baltimore, MD. January 2010.

"Evidentiality and Clause Modality in Desano" at the Annual Meeting of the Society of the Studies of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA). Baltimore, MD. January 2010.

"An overview of Evidentiality in Desano" at The Endangered Languages Information and Infrastructure Workshop, University of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT. November 2009.