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Language Dispersal, Diversification, and Contact$
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Mily Crevels and Pieter Muysken

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723813

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198723813.001.0001

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Patterns of dispersal and diversification in South America

Patterns of dispersal and diversification in South America

(p.253) 15 Patterns of dispersal and diversification in South America
Language Dispersal, Diversification, and Contact

Pieter Muysken

Mily Crevels

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents some of the main issues relating to language diversification in South America. How to explain the large number of genealogical units (107–118) in the continent, in view of its relatively recent human settlement, probably around 15,000 years ago? First the chapter presents the major language families such as Arawakan and Tupian. Then the chapter describes the major typological patterns characterizing the continent and their geographical distribution in terms of linguistic areas and the putative Andean-Amazonian divide, which is questioned here. A number of potential explanations for the diversity are presented: few large empires, geographical barriers, late development of food crops, possible effects of European invasion, ethos of ethnic boundary maintenance, and low population densities until recently. There is no conclusive evidence yet for any single explanation. The chapter concludes with a brief summary of the chapters in the book regarding South America.

Keywords:   South America, language diversification, linguistic diversity, linguistic area, east-west split

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