Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

John M. Clifton


In previous research on the Embera languages of the Chocó genus of Colombia and Panama, many different terms have been applied to one or all of the morphemes ba, ta and ra that frequently mark noun phrases and dependent clauses, and some of these descriptions have been conflicting. This study summarizes the previous analyses and compares them to language data from a corpus of texts and elicited material. The result is an analysis in which ba has three functions, marking ergative case, instrumental case and reason; ta marks focus on absolutives; and ra marks pragmatic topic and syntactic topics. In addition to conflicting descriptions of their functions, some researchers call them suffixes and some call them enclitics. This disagreement stems from the fact that, like prototypical affixes, they are part of the prosodic word, subject to nasal spreading, affect the stress of the preceding word and even bear stress. However, like prototypical clitics, they mark phrases and clauses, not words.

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