Book Announcement: Quesada 2007, The Chibchan Languages

Stavros Skopeteas skopetea at
Tue Apr 24 12:20:26 UTC 2007

Quesada, J. Diego. 2007. The Chibchan Languages. Cartago: Editorial
Tecnológica. 262  pages. 
ISBN 9977-66-186-3 Paperback
Price: US$ 30.00 + shipping. 

e-mail: editorial at
Fax:  00-506-552-5354

	Relatively little is known about the languages spoken at the heart
of the American continent, at least in the English-speaking (and hence most
widespread) linguistic literature. As a result, confusion about the
typological, areal and even genetic relationships existing among those
languages and language families is rampant. The languages of Central America
are more often than not regarded as residual languages of either Mesoamerica
or Amazonia, the surrounding linguistic areas of  Central and northern South
America, respectively; and within this tradition, the name Chibchan has
played the role of a “ragbag”; the terms Macro-Chibchan, Chibchan-Paezan
among others represent a case in point. Thus, in the past, languages as
disparate as Paez (Ecuador), Tarasco (Mexico), isolate Warao (Venezuela), as
well as members of other language families (e.g. Carib or Aztec), and even
languages from  as far as Chile (e.g. Atacama) or Argentina (e.g. Allentiac)
have been given the label of “Chibchan”.  Such an easy-going attitude shows
not only the lack of a strong Chibchan linguistics tradition, but,
especially, the need for an up to date, coherent, and modern
linguistics-oriented description of this language family. 
	Prefaced by W. Adelaar (University of Leiden), the book offers a
thorough presentation of the Chibchan family of languages, with data from
all living members of the family, plus extinct Muisca. Chapter 1, The
Chibchan languages in areal perspective, introduces this language family in
its wider areal dimension, a necessary step given the widespread ignorance
in the mainstream literature about both the family per se and its areal
affiliation. Chapters 2 and 3, The languages of Central America and The
languages of Colombia (and Venezuela), respectively, offer a thorough
description of the main structural features of these languages. Each of
these chapters opens with a brief description of the main phonological
aspects, followed by a comparative description of morphological (e.g. word
classes, nominal and verbal categories) and syntactic (word order,
grammatical relations, syntactic operations) patterns. The division of the
family into Central America and Colombia has to do with important
differences that recent archaeological, anthropological and linguistic
research has established between these two geographic zones of the Chibchan
world. Chapter 4, Relevant topics in Chibchan linguistics, treats in
considerable detail three of the most relevant themes of Chibchan:
ergativity, participant-highlighting (how prominence is expressed in
Chibchan), and intermittent marking of grammatical categories. Chapter 5
wraps up the conclusions of the book in terms of the likely relation between
the lack of prominence of grammatical relations and the wealth of
participant-encoding and highlighting strategies. 

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