Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Linguistics (Interdepartmental Program)

First Advisor

Jill Brody


This dissertation comprises the analysis of six extensive texts in Bribri, a Chibchan language spoken in Costa Rica, Central America. The theoretical framework is based mainly on M.A.K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan's social-semiotic perspective of text analysis and on Joseph Grimes' analysis of discourse. In order to characterize this genre within its context of discourse, the three components of context, i.e., field, tenor and mode, have been defined for the corpus of texts. To determine how texture and structure, the basic properties of text, are displayed, one text is analyzed in detail and the results are compared with the other texts of the data base. Texture has been analyzed in terms of the cohesive strategies used by the speaker throughout the texts. Structure has been determined as a continuum from maximal completeness to minimal completeness where the texts are located, according to the structural elements present in each of them. The result of the analysis is the description of a genre, the $s\underline{u}w\underline{o}\sp\prime$, where three kinds of discourse interrelate with each other, namely narrative, descriptive and chanted. Narrative discourse is used in the transmission of participants and events involved in Sibo's (the god) world. Descriptive discourse is used in the description of events and participants involved in the chanters' world, which represent the Bribris' actual world. Chanted discourse, i.e. ritual speech, expresses the connecting thread between the two worlds of discourse involved in the $s\underline{u}w\underline{o}\sp\prime$. The definition of this type of discourse as a genre is preliminary, based on Hasan's notion of "contextual configuration" and then reevaluated in light of Richard Bauman's concept of "traditionalization". The genre is finally characterized as the expression of the Bribri system of beliefs. The six analyzed texts are rendered in their original versions with morphemic glosses and English translations.