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7280 - Lexical reflections of genetic and areal relationships in the Guaporé-Mamoré region

"Lexical reflections of genetic and areal relationships in the Guaporé-Mamoré region" Mily Crevels & Hein van der Voort The Guaporé-Mamoré (G-M) region is characterized by a huge degree of indigenous linguistic diversity, made up by a score of different language families and isolates. This extraordinary linguistic diversity suggests, in general, that the region must be a very old focus of settlement and/or migration. In addition, the high degree of Tupí family-internal diversity suggests the region is the likely place of origin of this language family. With regard to the other language families and (apparent) isolates in the region, much descriptive and comparative research still needs to be done. The discovery of previously unconfirmed genetic linguistic relationships may further reduce the diversity, even though some relationships may be so old that they are unrecognizable. Similarities between languages can suggest either common ancestry or language contact, which can be difficult to disentangle. The procedures for establishing genetic affiliation typically involve a standardized basic wordlist; the more lexical similarities encountered, the closer related the languages are. Also, such similarities must show regular phonological patterns for languages to be considered related. Similarities outside the basic wordlist may point either to genetic or contact relationships, but when found exclusively outside the list, especially in the case of identical forms, they rather suggest language contact. In the G-M region such similarities usually concern animal and domestic plant names and cultural items. In addition to lexical similarities there may be conspicuous grammatical similarities. Here, however, we will mainly discuss lexical similarities and their possible explanations in terms of the ethnohistory of the region, since they suggest that in spite of physical boundaries and distances there must have been extensive contacts.

Keywords: linguistics, lexicon, comparative, areal, borrowings

Author: Crevels, Mily (MPI & RU Nijmegen, Netherlands / Niederlande)
Co-Author: Hein van der Voort

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