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Iberian Imperialism and Language Evolution in Latin America$
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Salikoko S. Mufwene

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226126173

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226125671.001.0001

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Historical Development of Nheengatu (Língua Geral Amazônica)

Historical Development of Nheengatu (Língua Geral Amazônica)

(p.108) 4 Historical Development of Nheengatu (Língua Geral Amazônica)
Iberian Imperialism and Language Evolution in Latin America

Denny Moore

University of Chicago Press

The indigenous Tupian language spoken on the east coast of Brazil by the Tupinambá and other tribes at the time of contact by Europeans spread through the early colony of Brazil, becoming known as the Brasílica. This language was an instrument in the conquest of Amazonia by Jesuits, colonial officials, and colonists, beginning in the 17th century. Its evolution over centuries was driven by economics, politics, religious expansionism, demography, geography, and technological change. Its adoption by speakers of other indigenous languages, including tribes that were ‘descended’ into captivity or semi-captivity, resulted in very rapid change in the language due to substratum effects. Lexical and grammatical borrowings from Portuguese increased in the last 120 years of the history of the language, by then known as Nheengatu or Língua Geral Amazônica. There was some model replication and structural diffusion from Portuguese occurring over the centuries. A brief sketch of the modern language is presented, with attention to the language contact effects exhibited in its structure. Aside from the Nheengatu dialect of the Upper Rio Negro, there are other dialects of the language and these are a priority for documentation.

Keywords:   Nheengatu, Língua Geral Amazônica, Brasílica, Tupinambá, language contact, substratum effects, linguistic borrowing

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