Institut für Sprachwissenschaft


Linguistic morphology in time and space -- South America

Fernando Zúñiga and Florian Matter worked in the Sinergia project “Linguistic Morphology in Time and Space (LiMiTS)” [""]. They were active in the South American subproject of this interdisciplinary project hosted by the University of Zurich.


The South American subproject closely investigated patterns of verbal morphology in three geographically widespread families (Quechuan, Cariban, and Tupian) and aimed to account for the evolution of the synchronic distribution of these patterns on the basis of phylo-geographical modeling developed by the methods sub-project and tested for the well-studied families Celtic and Romance. The special challenge of the South American data was to interpret distributional patterns in the absence of a number of (linguistic and extra-linguistic) calibration points. In the light of this challenge, the South American subproject had different types of collaboration potentials with the other sub-projects. The Sino-Tibetan sub-project was its direct sister project with similar challenges, although in completely different geographical and cultural circumstances. The Celtic/Romance sub-project formed the test case for the methodology that was later applied to the Sino-Tibetan and South American data. The Celtic/Romance sub-project was based on better-understood and wider-ranging data, which gave us more tools for interpreting the relation between morphological (genealogical and areal) patterns and geographical space. Understanding the historical processes that have led to the current distributions helped the Sino-Tibetan and South American sub-projects to make better judgments about the relevant factors in shaping morphological structures. In order to do this, the South American project, like the other areal projects, relied on the methodology sub-project and the Celtic/Romance test beds.