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  • Cited by 5
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
March 2014
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Book description

In South America indigenous languages are extremely diverse. There are over one hundred language families in this region alone. Contributors from around the world explore the history and structure of these languages, combining insights from archaeology and genetics with innovative linguistic analysis. The book aims to uncover regional patterns and potential deeper genealogical relations between the languages. Based on a large-scale database of features from sixty languages, the book analyses major language families such as Tupian and Arawakan, as well as the Quechua/Aymara complex in the Andes, the Isthmo-Colombian region and the Andean foothills. It explores the effects of historical change in different grammatical systems and fills gaps in the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS) database, where South American languages are underrepresented. An important resource for students and researchers interested in linguistics, anthropology and language evolution.


‘A truly significant book, a major contribution! It provides many new findings on the history and typology of South American languages, with important implications for linguistics generally.'

Lyle Campbell - University of Hawai'i Mānoa

'The Native Languages of South America is a gold mine of precious specimens within reach of anyone interested in uncovering linguistic treasures. Amerindian languages are still vastly underexplored and continue to reveal phenomena that at times conform to expected universal tendencies and at times surprise and provoke us toward the revision - sometimes radical - of existing descriptive and theoretical models. This book will be useful not only to typologists, but also those who wish to know more about the results of new interdisciplinary research. Archeology and ethnography partner up with historical linguistics, which no longer merely reproduces the classic mold of the historical-comparative method, but revives areal diachronic study, investigating the multiple and complex contacts between societies and languages in the prehistorical and historical times of the indigenous peoples of South America.'

Bruna Franchetto - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro - Museu Nacional

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