The Languages of the "First Nations"
A Comparison of Native American Languages from an Ethnolinguistic Perspective
As yet there is no satisfactory solution for the attempt to study the immense diversity of the languages of the world systematically and to divide them into related groups. On the contrary, there is an embittered, fruitless controversy between, on the one hand, scholars who - unfortunately often with absolutely inadequate methodology - gather the languages into ever increasing "super groups", and on the other hand, scholars who are bogged down in the - justified - criticism towards this approach and have developed an anxious negative attitude especially towards genetic comparative linguistics (the "splitters"). What is now lacking is 1) fresh stock-taking of the meanwhile available descriptive facts, 2) a strict improvement of comparative methods, and 3) an unbiased attitude.
The book aims in this direction. With the example of the languages of the "First Nations", i.e., the Indian peoples of the American twin continent, it attempts a critical stock-taking of the method of language comparison (genetic, areal and typological).
The author lays great emphasis on the points of content between ethnologists and linguists, in order to encourage a cooperation of these disciplines. The book is thus suitable as introductory reading for people interested in these two related disciplines. Comparable works would be desirable for scholars who specialise in other areas (Africanists etc.). These topics have never before been treated in this summary form in the English-speaking world.
ISBN 9783929075250. LINCOM Handbooks in Linguistics 01. 148pp. 2nd edition. 1997.