Mily Crevels (Leiden) will be a guest at the IEAS June 11 & 12. She will present part of her work on indigenous languages in South America in Manfred’s class Introduction to Linguistics 2. The talk will be particularly suited for students, as it does not presuppose prior knowledge on the topic.
South American indigenous languages: The importance of language documentation
Mily Crevels (LUCL, Leiden University)
The official total number of the indigenous population of South America amounts to approximately 13 million, a number that has to be interpreted with some caution. Although many languages have probably disappeared since the first contact with the Spaniards, South America still harbors a great diversity of indigenous language families, much greater than in any other continent. One-third of the world’s linguistic diversity is to be found in South America (Campbell 2012) – with 107 independent language families and language isolates out of a total of c. 340 worldwide. This abundance of language families for a relatively small number of extant languages corroborates the hypothesis that many languages have already gone extinct.
In this lecture I will give a broad overview of the current situation of the South American indigenous languages and discuss the importance of language documentation from an interdisciplinary perspective. It will only be in this way that we can contribute to the solution of the so-called South American Puzzle and find a plausible explanation for a number of recurring linguistic structures amid global typological and phylogenetic diversity.