This doctoral dissertation research project aims to describe and propose an analysis of the structure and meaning of clauses headed by words other than verbs in Mebengokre, a virtually undescribed language from the Je family spoken in the eastern Amazon region of Brazil. In particular, the research focuses on how clauses headed by nouns or adjectives are interpreted in time. The initial hypothesis is that the use of nouns or adjectives derived from verbs to produce certain effects on interpretation is not a peculiarity of Mebengokre, but can actually be seen in many constructions cross-linguistically, and may hold the key to the interpretation of certain tenses of English, such as the present perfect or the present progressive, which involve an "adjectival" form of the verb in a construction with an auxiliary. Mebengokre is especially helpful in understanding such constructions, since their component parts can be seen more transparently than in English and other languages.
The description by means of original fieldwork of languages which are threatened with extinction within a few generations, as is the case with Mebengokre, can be likened, in terms of scientific relevance, to the gathering of information on endangered plant and animal species: such data may provide answers to questions raised by linguistic theory after the extinction of the languages, in addition to being essential to any effort by communities in preserving or revitalizing their languages. The present study, in addition to addressing the theoretical point described above, aims to provide adequate documentation of certain core aspects of the grammar of the Mebengokre language.