An overview of Arawak comparative studies

Sidney Facundes & Ana Paula B. Brandão
Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil
The work presents a panoramic view of the research on Arawak languages, focusing on the current results, problems and prospects for the future. Arawak languages spread over 12 countries, from Central America do South America. Although postulated since 1782, proposals for Arawak constituting languages have varied considerably, including from 67 up to 154 languages. Only in the early nineties comparative studies grounded on the historical comparative method and with representative data of various languages have been undertaken. Factors underlying the slow development of such studies vary and may be intrinsic or extrinsic to the specifities of the family. The current state of knowledge of Arawak languages, however, allows for more advanced and conclusive results to be obtained if the historical comparative method is applied today to data made available from recent language descriptions. Furthermore, it will be shown that a combination of the results acquired through historical comparative method plus the methods of contact linguistics and paleolinguistics are a productive way to improve our knowledge of this language family.