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FYI: Amazonian languages at University of Colorado

Author: Alexandra Aikhenvald

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

FYI Body: Special Topics in Linguistics: Language Structures—
Explorations in Linguistic Diversity: Amazonian
Languages and Beyond

Alexandra Aikhenvald will be presenting a series of lectures on Amazonian
languages in typological perspective at the University of Colorado
(Boulder) between 1 June and 2 July 2009.

Abstract for the course
Over 4,000 distinct languages are currently spoken across the globe, many
of them by small tribal communities. More than two-thirds of the world’s
languages are spoken in tropical areas. Of these, the Amazon basin is an
area of great linguistic diversity, comprising around 300 languages grouped
into over 15 language families, plus a fair number of isolates. Amazonian
languages also show diversity in their structure: we find unusual sounds,
tone patterns, ways of classifying nouns, and of putting clauses together
in one sentence. A considerable degree of language contact in the Amazonian
area has resulted in unusual patterns of multilingualism, vast linguistic
areas, and some shared features. The course will address the reasons for
such genetic and structural diversity, and the similarities between
Amazonian languages. We will then look at the ways in which linguistic
diversity in Amazonia compares to other linguistically rich areas—Australia
and New Guinea.

Alexandra Y. Aikenvald is Professor and Research Leader (People and
Societies of the Torpics) at the Cairns Institute, James Cook University,
Australia. She has authored 14 books, co-edited 18 books, and authored or
co-authored 138 papers. Her work includes grammars of several Amazonian
languages, of Manambu, from New Guinea, grammars of Hebrew, and
contributions to the study of Berber languages, in addition to general
typological work on classifiers, evidentiality, serial verbs and
imperatives, and on language contact.. Professor R.M.W. Dixon, a leading
contemporary linguist, will offer guest lectures in this course.

LING 3800, 3 semester hours, Section 100, Call No. 45701
LING 6510, 3 semester hours, Section 100, Call No. 45702
Term A: June 1–July 2, 2009

Further information on the program is at:


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