Languages of the Amazon

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OUP Oxford, May 17, 2012 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 560 pages
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This is the first guide and introduction to the extraordinary range of languages in Amazonia, which include some of the most the most fascinating in the world and many of which are now teetering on the edge of extinction. Alexandra Aikhenvald, one of the world's leading experts on the region, provides an account of the more than 300 languages, comparing their common and unique features, setting out their main characteristics, and describing the histories and cultures of the people who speak them. The languages abound in rare features and in most cases have been in contact with each other for generations, giving rise to complex patterns of linguistic influence. The author draws on her own extensive field research to tease out and analyse the patterns of their genetic and structural diversity. In the process she shows how they reflect the interrelations of language and culture: different kinship systems, for example, produce different linguistic outcomes. She also explains the roles and workings of their unusual features including evidentials, tones and whistles, and elaborate positional verbs. The book ends with a glossary of terms, and a comprehensive list of references for those interested in following up a language or linguistic phenomenon. Alexandra Aikhenvald's fascinating book is aimed at a wide readership, including linguists and anthropologists. It is unburdened by esoteric terminology, written in her characteristically straightforward style, and brought vividly to life with numerous anaecdotes of her experience in the region. It may be used as reference for research and as an introduction for courses in Latin American studies, Amazonian studies, linguistic typology, and general linguistics.

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About the author (2012)


Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald is Distinguished Professor and Research Leader (People and Societies of the Tropics) at the Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Australia. She is an authority on languages of the Arawak family, from northern Amazonia, and has written grammars of Bare (1995, based on work with the last speaker who has since died) and Warekena (1998), plus A Grammar of Tariana, from northwest Amazonia (CUP, 2003). Her comprehensive grammar, The Manambu Language from East Sepik, Papua New Guinea, was published by OUP in 2008. Other books include Classifiers: a Typology of Noun Categorization Devices (2000, paperback 2003), Language Contact in Amazonia (2002), Evidentiality (2004, paperback 2006), and Imperatives and Commands (2010) all published by OUP. She is co-editor with R. M. W. Dixon of the OUP series Explorations in Linguistic Typology, the fifth volume of which is The Semantics of Clause Linking (2009, paperback 2011).

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