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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 and the Andes, 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. Reading material for this course consists of two set books, one for each area, and additional reading material in the form of relevant articles pertaining to a given topic.

Course objectives

Course objective 1: To acquire a deep knowledge of the linguistic diversity of South America and its historical and genetic background.

Course objective 2: To be able to identify a general typology of Amerindian languages.

Course objective 3: To compare and evaluate current research trends in Amerindian linguistics.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the 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 presentation, exam and/or write a paper (includingreading/research): 176 hours

Assessment Method

Students are required to actively participate in class (20%), give two presentations each during class (30%),and to write two essays (10-15 pages each), one on a topic of Andean linguistics, the other on a topic of Amazonian linguistics (50%).

Resit: students who fail the course may resit (one of) the essays.


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2012). The Languages of the Amazon. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (NB: Thanks to Oxford University Press, students of this course will be able to buy this book at a special reduced price at van Stockum bookstore on the Breestraat in Leiden.)

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


Students should register through uSis . If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail

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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration via Studeren à la carte
Registration via Contractonderwijs


MA Linguistics departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;