Grammatical archeology: history and contact in the indigenous languages of South America
In this presentation I try to interpret some of the results of the Traces of Contact project relating to the history of the South American languages. The project focused on about 200 structural properties of about 60 South American indigenous languages in four domains: Tense/Aspect/Mood/Evidentiality (TAME), argument marking, noun phrase structure, and subordination. Among the findings of this study is a broad east-west division (which does not coincide with the Andes-Amazon division although all Andean languages are of course part of the western group). The western languages resemble each other much more than the eastern languages, in this study. This finding was the basis for exploring the possibility that some patterns found may actually be retentions rather than innovations, paving the way for some kind of grammatical archeology.