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.
She sets out their main characteristics, compares their common and unique features, and describes the histories and culturesof the people who speak them. The languages abound in rare features. Most have been in contact with each other for many 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.
She shows how these patterns reveal the interrelatedness of language and culture; different kinship systems, for example, have different linguistic correlates.
Professor Aikhenvald explains the manyunusual features of Amazonian languages, which include evidentials, tones, classifiers, and elaborate positional verbs.
She ends the book with a glossary of terms, and a full guide for those readers interested in following up a particular language or linguistic phenomenon. The book is free of esoteric terminology, written in its author's characteristically clear style, and brought vividly to life with numerous accounts of her experience in the region.
It may be used as a resource in courses in Latin American studies, Amazonian studies, linguistic typology, and general linguistics, and as reference for linguistic and anthropological research.