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Linguistic Structures of Native America


Admission requirements

BA in Linguistics or related discipline.


This course is designed to give a thorough overview of the distinguishing characteristics and intricacies of the native languages of South America. We focus on two main areas, Amazonia (Block 1) and the Andes (Block 2), looking at the spread and the diversity of the native languages, as well as the results of language contact situations. We will hone in on specific themes of descriptive, historical, and typological interest. Among others we will address such issues as demonstrative and classifier systems, nominal tense, truth and knowledge markers, evidentiality, verb formation and noun incorporation; ergativity and complex clauses; nominalizations; adpositions of time and space.

Course objectives

  1. To acquire a deep knowledge of the linguistic diversity of South America and its historical and genetic background.
    1. To be able to identify a general typology of Amerindian languages.
    2. To compare and evaluate current research trends in Amerindian linguistics.


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Time spent on attending lectures and seminars: 26 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature and preparing for class: 78 hours

  • Time to prepare for the presentations and write the papers (including reading/research): 176 hours

Assessment method

Students are required to:

  • Actively participate in class (20%)

  • Give two presentations each during class (30%)

  • Write two essays (10-15 pages each), one on a topic of Amazonian linguistics, the other on a topic of Andean linguistics (50%)

The final grade consists of weighted average of the above components

Resit: students who fail the course may resit the exam and/or course paper.


Course materials will be distributed using Blackboard

Reading list

Reading material for Amazonian languages in Block 1 will be announced on Blackboard two weeks before the beginning of class. A good overview book (optional) is:

  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2012). The Languages of the Amazon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Basic text for Andean languages in Block 2 is:

  • Adelaar, Willem F.H. with the collaboration of Pieter C. Muysken (2004). The Languages of the Andes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Other reading materials will be announced during class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the “coordinator of studies”:

Students other than MA Linguistics need permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof for questions.