Languages of the Amazon: a bird's-eye view

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald

in The Languages of the Amazon

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199593569
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739385 | DOI:
Languages of the Amazon: a bird's-eye view

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  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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We define the limits of Amazonia, and focus on a potted history of peopling of Amazonia and the issue of how many original inhabitants there were before the disastrous effects of the European Invasion. Environment and subsistence and social structures are briefly discussed. We then turn to the classification of Amazonian languages, names of languages and names of families and the issue of new lingue franche which have emerged since the Invasion. We then turn to profiles and brief histories of major language families—Arawak, Tupí, Carib, Panoan, Tucanoan and Macro‐Jê, smaller families and isolates. We include information on peoples' migrations. Many of Amazonian languages are endangered. The chapter concludes with a brief appreciation of the future of Amazonian languages and Amazonian studies. Appendix to this chapter (Amazonian words) contains a list of most commonly used borrowings from Amazonian languages (from the Arawak, Tupí‐Guaraní and Carib languages) in English (such as canoe, tobacco, hurricane and tapioca). A separate box insert lists the most important events in the history of Amazonian languages. There is a list of further sources on Amazonian languages.

Keywords: linguistic diversity; classification of Amazonian languages; European Invasion; kinship system; slash-and-burn agriculturalists; nomadic hunters and gatherers; linguae franche; endangered languages

Chapter.  27642 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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