American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America

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Oxford University Press, Sep 21, 2000 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 527 pages
Native American languages are spoken from Siberia to Greenland, and from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego; they include the southernmost language of the world (Yaghan) and some of the northernmost (Eskimoan). Campbell's project is to take stock of what is currently known about the history of Native American languages and in the process examine the state of American Indian historical linguistics, and the success and failure of its various methodologies. There is remarkably little consensus in the field, largely due to the 1987 publication of Language in the Americas by Joseph Greenberg. He claimed to trace a historical relation between all American Indian languages of North and South America, implying that most of the Western Hemisphere was settled by a single wave of immigration from Asia. This has caused intense controversy and Campbell, as a leading scholar in the field, intends this volume to be, in part, a response to Greenberg. Finally, Campbell demonstrates that the historical study of Native American languages has always relied on up-to-date methodology and theoretical assumptions and did not, as is often believed, lag behind the European historical linguistic tradition.

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Campbell's book has a vast scope covering all Native American languages, so only it can provide succinct information about each family of languages. It gives the state of art of comparative linguistics of American Indian languages but it lacks for a detailed linguistic typology and grammar of the languages. In addition to the catalogue of languages, it contains a very interesting history of American Indian Linguistics and chapters about genetic relationships with the methods and proposals of linguistics stocks. Campbell assesses these proposals in an idiosyncratic system, by assigning a probability of relationship between languages. However the criteria for such probabilities are not explicit for each proposal (except for three exemplary cases), although there is a chapter devoted to such criteria in general terms. Campbell usually remains skeptical on far-reaching proposals, such Greenberg's Amerind, rejecting the pronoun argument (the widespread pattern n-, m- for 1st and 2nd person) and claiming for stricter demonstrations. In sum, this book is a hallmark in the field of American Indian Linguistics. 


2 The History of American Indian Linguistics
3 The Origin of Native American Languages
4 Languages of North America
5 Languages of Middle America
6 Languages of South America
The Methods
The Proposals
9 Linguistic Areas of the Americas

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Page 36 - ... with the inflections of their nouns and verbs, their principles of regimen and concord, and these deposited in all the public libraries, it would furnish opportunities to those skilled in the languages of the old world to compare them with these, now, or at any future time, and hence to construct the best evidence of the derivation of this part of the human...
Page 36 - A separation into dialects may be the work of a few ages only, but for two dialects to recede from one another till they have lost all vestiges of their common origin, must require an immense course of time; perhaps not less than many people give to the age of the earth. A greater number of those radical changes of Ian* guage having taken place among the red men of America, proves them of greater antiquity than those of Asia.
Page 36 - ... or civilized, with the inflections of their nouns and verbs, their principles of regimen and concord, and these deposited in all the public libraries, it would furnish opportunities to those skilled in the languages of the old world...
Page 49 - Yet it is the confident opinion of linguistic scholars that a fundamental unity lies at the base of all these infinitely varying forms of speech ; that they may be, and probably are, all descended from a single parent language.* For, whatever their differences of material, there is a single type or plan upon which their forms are developed and their constructions made...
Page 36 - Arranging them under the radical ones to which they may be palpably traced and doing the same by those of the red men of Asia, there will be found probably twenty in America, for one in Asia, of those radical languages, so called, because, if they were ever the same they have lost all resemblance to one another.

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