Languages of the Pacific coast of South America

Aikhenvald, Alexandra (2007) Languages of the Pacific coast of South America. In: Miyaoka, Osahito, Sakiyama, Osamu, and Krauss, Michael E., (eds.) The Vanishing Languages of the Pacific Rim. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 183-205.

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The degree of linguistic diversity in South America is comparable only to that in New Guinea (see Ch. 13, this volume). This genetic diversity is refl ected in the sheer number of language families and isolates, many of which are now extinct or on the verge of extinction. In his classification, Loukotka (1968) established 117 languages families besides a large number of unclassifi ed isolates, while Tovar and Tovar (1984) postulated over 170 groups. Many of the linguistic families are discontinuous. For instance, Arawak languages are spoken in over ten areas north of the river Amazon, and over ten to the south. Even though there is no doubt as to the genetic relationship between Arawak languages, the geographic diversity, and the extensive and prolonged language contact with genetically unrelated groups, have by and large created a situation whereby languages became restructured to various extents, and their subgrouping within the family—using conventionalhistorical-comparative methodology—is problematic (see Aikhenvald 2001). The impact of long-term areal diffusion often makes it next to impossible to unequivocally state whether languages are related or not. This makes any attempts at establishing long-distance genetic relationships especially dubious^1.

Item ID: 9069
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-019-926662-3
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Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2010 04:11
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2004 Linguistics > 200407 Lexicography @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture @ 100%
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