Faculty profile: Myriam Lapierre

Submitted by Joyce Parvi on

Assistant Professor Myriam Lapierre joined the Department of Linguistics in Autumn 2021.  For her 2021 U.C. Berkeley dissertation, Towards a Theory of Subsegmental and Subfeatural Representations: The Phonology and Typology of Nasality, she collected and analyzed phonetic and phonological data on nasality from two unrelated languages spoken in the Brazilian Amazon, Panãra (Jê family) and Kawaiwete (Tupí-Guaraní family), working directly with speakers of these two languages.

Lapierre first got involved with fieldwork in Brazil as an undergraduate in a University of Ottawa field methods class in 2015. Luckily, she already knew Portuguese, essential for travel and fieldwork in Brazil, as her best friend in high school spoke Portuguese.  Both were students in the same Spanish class, and Lapierre quickly learned the language from her friend.

Lapierre got involved with the Panãra community at the request of a syntactician who had been invited to design a writing system for the community.  However, the system of nasality was quite tricky, and so the phonologist Lapierre was recruited to help. 

In 2016 Lapierre was accepted to graduate school in the Department of Linguistics at UC Berkeley. Between 2015 and 2020 she made yearly trips to Brazil, where she spent about 3 months of the year. She worked with the Panãra community each year, and worked with the Kawaiwete community in 2018 and 2019.

Covid-19 forced Lapierre to take a break from fieldwork in 2021 and 2022, but in 2023 she will be returning to the field.  One of her goals is to record narratives from the oldest Panãra speakers in the community, as the language has undergone rapid changes since 1971.

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