A Survey of Contemporary Research on Amazonian Languages

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Abstract

Amazonian languages have long confounded linguists. The languages represent a large number of linguistic families, including Tupí, Jê, Carib and Arawak, and the languages exhibit a wide variety of typologically-remarkable structural characteristics. Since the inception of the European colonization of Amazonia over four hundred years ago, missionary linguists have attempted to document the languages of the region. It is only relatively recently, however, that a large number of linguists at academic institutions have undertaken in-depth field research in the region. The author examines the current state of Amazonian linguistics. The history of language research in the region is first outlined, though the majority of attention is devoted to surveying significant field research that has been undertaken in the last decade. Some recent studies on morphology, syntax, phonetics, and psycholinguistics are highlighted. The reader’s attention is drawn to trends, related to both the methodology and content of the research. Despite some possible areas for improvement, it is suggested that much of the recent work is of excellent quality, as evidenced by the fact that much of the research in question has drawn attention within linguistics and the cognitive sciences more generally.

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