Searching for undetected genetic links between the languages of South America

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With more than a hundred phylogenetic lineages, indigenous South America is often highlighted as a region with one of the highest degrees of linguistic diversity in the world. A systematic investigation of the possible phylogenetic relations that may exist between its numerous language families and isolates is overdue. It is argued that the possibilities of discovering such relations are far from exhausted. Previously undetected phylogenetic relations were uncovered by comparing selected sets of basic vocabulary in combination with shared morphosyntactic elements. The selection of vocabulary to be used in this procedure implies the elimination of residual morphology and the recognition of semantic fluctuations proper to the cultural environment of the languages involved. Such techniques can be expected to further reduce the number of phylogenetic units recognized for South America.


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