Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

J. Albert Bickford


This thesis argues against a nominal classification analysis of orientation verbs in Damana, A Chibchan language of northern Colombia. As shown through a careful analysis of eleven verbs, the verbal system of Damana primarily encodes spatial relations and does not classify objects by shape.

The evidence for this conclusion proceeds from several areas. First, I show that Damana does not meet the requirement for a noun class system. Secondly, I show that the same object can be freely associated with various verb stems depending on the object's orientation. Thirdly, in metaphorical extensions involving these 'noun class' verbs, it is a spatial relation which is extended and not shape, illustrating the core meaning or sense of the verb. Finally, other verbs are given that describe additional spatial relations, yet have a lexical form which is independent of an object's shape. These verbs are used freely in metaphorical extensions in ways similar to 'noun class' verbs, forming a natural group of verbs that encode spatial relations as part of the verb's lexical meaning. Because the arguments include extensive discussion of metaphorical extensions, this thesis provides a glimpse into the rich semantic system of Damana.

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