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Spike Gildea

Phone: 541-346-3906
Office: 381 Straub Hall
Office Hours: Currently on sabbatical


Ph.D., Linguistics. 1992. University of Oregon.

M.A., Linguistics, Applied Linguistics Concentration.  1989.  University of Oregon.

Peace Corps/Nepal TEFL Training.  Sept-Dec, 1983.  Nepal.

B.A., cum laude, English Literature.  1983.  University of Oregon.


My primary interests are descriptive and documentary fieldwork, historical/functional/typological syntax, and historical/functional phonology.

I have been working in South America with languages of the Cariban family since 1988, when I began fieldwork on Panare in Venezuela. In all, I have worked with speakers of 15 Cariban languages, collecting comparative wordlists and morphosyntactic information for all 15, working (off and on) towards descriptive grammars of three (Werikyana, Akawaio, and †Tamanaku), and serving as dissertation advisor for four students working with Cariban speech communities: Meira’s 1999 reference grammar of Tiriyó, Fox’s 2003 sociolinguistic/anthropological study of Akawaio, Tavares’ 2005 reference grammar of Wayana, and Yamada’s 2010 thesis on collaborative language documentation and revitalization in the Aretyry Kari’nja (a.k.a. Carib of Suriname).  I have also served as an outside member on the dissertation committee for Souza Cruz’s 2005 reference grammar of Ingarikó (Free University of Amsterdam) and Cáceres’ 2011 grammatical description of Ye’kwana (Université Lumière, Lyon 2). I am currently engaged in a new NSF-funded collaborative project to create a documentary corpus and dictionary of the Werikyana (kbb) language.

Outside the Cariban family, I have worked briefly on Rama (Chibchan), Kiché (Mayan), Lhasa Tibetan and Kurtoep (Tibeto-Burman).  I have served as dissertation advisor for Guirardello's 1999 reference grammar of Trumai (isolate), Fleck’s 2003 reference grammar of Matses (Panoan), Oliveira’s 2005 grammar of Apinajé (Jê), Vallejos’ 2010 reference grammar of Kokama-Kokamilla (Tupían creole), Valdez’ 2013 description of topics in the grammar of Urique Tarahumara (Uto-Aztecan), Hall's 2021 study of indigenous methodologies in the revitalization of Nuu-wee-ya', and Taylor-Adams' 2022 exploration of L2 motivation in language revitalization contexts. 

My historical and comparative work is primarily in the Cariban family (in collaboration with Sérgio Meira, Natalia Cáceres and Racquel Sapién), and (in collaboration with Flávia Castro Alves) northern Jê, with brief forays into the Tupí-Guaraní family.  I have also collaborated with Raquel Guirardello on the internal reconstruction of main clause grammatical patterns in Trumai (Isolate, Brazil), with Katharina Haude on the internal reconstruction of main clause grammatical patterns in Movima (isolate, Bolivia), with Fernando Zúñiga on the reconstruction of patterns of hierarchical main clause grammar, and with Jóhanna Barðdal on Diachronic Construction Grammar, grammaticalization, and the reconstruction of syntax. I continue to be fascinated by the diachronic typology of main clause alignment patterns, especially ergativity and hierarchical alignment — i.e., the origins and evolutionary pathways by which ergative and hierarchical main clause grammar is created.


Recent Publications (for full list, see CV)

Edited volumes

Barðdal, Jóhanna, Eugenio Luján, & Spike Gildea (eds). 2020. Reconstructing Syntax. Brill Series in Historical Linguistics. Leiden: Brill Press.

Guillaume, Antoine & Spike Gildea (eds). 2018. The evolution of argument coding patterns in South American languages. Special Issue, Journal of Historical Linguistics 8.1.

Overall, Simon, Rosa Vallejos, & Spike Gildea (eds).  2018. Nonverbal Predication in Amazonian Languages.Typological Studies in Language, John Benjamins.

Mattiola, Simone & Spike Gildea. 2023. The pluractional marker -pödï of Akawaio (Cariban) and beyond. International Journal of American Linguistics 89(4): 457-491.

Journal Articles

Gildea, Spike & Jóhanna Barðdal. 2023. From Grammaticalization to Diachronic Construction Grammar: A Natural Evolution of the Paradigm. Studies in Language: 47(4): 743-788. | Published online: 19 December 2022

Gildea, Spike & Natalia Cáceres Arandia. 2022. A first analysis of tense-aspect constructions in Yawarana (Cariban). Cadernos de Etnolinguística 10 (7) e100107, 1-22. (

Douglas-Tavani, Jordan A. G. & Spike Gildea. 2022. A lexical class as construction: On the origins of Cariban postpositions. Cadernos de Etnolinguística 10 (1) e100106, 1-24. (

Chapters of volumes

Sapién, Racquel-María, Natalia Cáceres, Spike Gildea & Sérgio Meira. 2021. Antipassive and semantic classes of verbs in the Cariban family. The Multifaceted Nature of Antipassive, ed. by Katarzyna Janic & Alena Witzlack, 65-96. Typological Studies in Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 

Gildea, Spike, Eugenio Luján, & Jóhanna Barðdal. 2020. The curious case of reconstructing syntax. Reconstructing Syntax, ed. by Eugenio Luján, Jóhanna Barðdal, & Spike Gildea, 1-44. Brill Series in Historical LinguisticsBrill Series in Historical Linguistics. Leiden: Brill Press.

Gildea, Spike & Flávia de Castro Alves. 2020. Reconstructing the Source of Nominative-Absolutive Alignment in Two Amazonian Language Families. Reconstructing Syntax: Cognates and Directionality, ed. by Eugenio Luján, Jóhanna Barðdal, & Spike Gildea, 47-107. Brill Series in Historical Linguistics. Leiden: Brill Press.

Gildea, Spike. 2018. Reconstructing the copulas and nonverbal predicate constructions in Cariban. Nonverbal predication in Amazonian Languages, ed. by Simon Overall, Rosa Vallejos, & Spike Gildea, 365-402. Typological Studies in Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Overall, Simon, Rosa Vallejos, & Spike Gildea. 2018. Non-verbal predication in Amazonian languages: Introduction. Nonverbal predication in Amazonian Languages, ed. by Simon Overall, Rosa Vallejos, & Spike Gildea, 1-49. Typological Studies in Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Gildea, Spike & Joana Jansen. 2018. The development of referential hierarchy effects in Sahaptian. Typological Hierarchies in Synchrony and Diachrony, ed. by Sonia Cristofaro & Fernando Zúñiga, 131-189. Typological Studies in Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.