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lun. 29/03/2021 Traces of linguistic contact as a peephole into the past
What can loanwords in Tikuna tell us about the history of the Tikunas?
en ligne (lien ci-dessous)
Conférence de :
  • Denis Bertet

dans le cadre DILIS : Atelier

Tikuna, a language isolate from western Amazonia, features a relatively large number of lexical items that can be identified as loanwords, as was already noted by several authors (see in particular Montes Rodríguez 2002:68-69 and Skilton 2017:20-21). What can these loanwords tell us about the history of the Tikuna human group?

In this talk, I will first show how loans in Tikuna—at least relatively recent ones, i.e. loans possibly dating from the last four centuries—can be easily detected based on their phonological shape (number of syllables and tonal pattern in particular). So far, applying these criteria has allowed me to collect a list of ca. 300 confirmed or suspected loans in data from two varieties of the language (Cushillococha Tikuna and San Martín de Amacayacu Tikuna; data mainly from Anderson & Anderson 2016, Skilton p. c., and my own fieldwork).

I will then discuss how the immediate source languages for these lexical items can be identified. The main source languages of the ca. 200 confirmed loans (i.e. those for which I have already been able to identify a likely source) are Old Omagua, Língua Geral Amazônica, Portuguese, and Spanish, four languages with which Tikuna is known to have been—or still is to this day—in close contact. Conspicuously lacking from this list, however, are Arawakan and Quechuan languages, which are reported to have been formerly influential in the area where Tikuna is spoken.

Finally, I will attempt to make sense of the presence or absence of lexical traces of contact with these languages in Tikuna within the frame of what is said in the existing literature of the history of the Tikunas themselves and of the area they inhabit. How well does our linguistic examination fit within the historical picture? Does it suggest alternative historical scenarios from the ones described in the literature?


Anderson, Doris & Lambert Anderson (eds.). 2016. Diccionario ticuna – castellano. Serie Lingüística Peruana 57. Lima: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano (SIL). [consult online]

Montes Rodríguez, María Emilia (ed.). 2002. Libro guía del maestro. Materiales de lengua y cultura ticuna. Colección Textos. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá. [consult online]

Skilton, Amalia H. 2017. Phonology and nominal morphology of Cushillococha Ticuna. Ph.D. dissertation prospectus. UC Berkeley. [consult online]

Link to videoconference room: https://meet.jit.si/AtelierDiLiS

Link to the slides: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JDRO9Ge0s3x0uVSIMkAm5hwHUFcI8d6P/view?usp=sharing


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