Languages in Change

Authored by: Jonathan D. Hill , Juan Luis Rodriguez

The Ashgate Research Companion to Anthropology

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754677031
eBook ISBN: 9781315612744
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044116


 Download Chapter



Five centuries of European and Euro-American state expansion across South America have diminished indigenous populations of the Amazon Basin and adjacent regions by upwards of 90 percent. Yet in spite of these traumatic losses of population and the extinction of hundreds of indigenous languages, the 400 or so existing languages of Lowland South America encompass greater internal diversity than those found in any other region of the world with the possible exception of Papua New Guinea. The 34 language families into which these languages have been classified are equal to approximately one-third of the total number of language families in the world, and the 20 “language isolates” (i.e., those that do not belong to any recognized family) comprise 60 percent of the total number (36) in the entire world (Dahl, Gillam, Anderson, Iriarte, and Copé 2011). Clearly, for there to be this much linguistic diversity in a region that has undergone such historical violence there must exist deeply rooted cultural and linguistic ideologies and practices that generate linguistic diversification as well as mechanisms for creating political-economic spaces that allow for effective communication across language barriers.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.