Luca Ciucci

James Cook University
Collegium de Lyon
10 months

Research interests: Language documentation, Amerindian languages, historical linguistics, linguistic typology, missionary linguistics, morphology, syntax, descriptive linguistics

Research Project

Descriptive linguistics meets philology: A critical edition of Chomé’s Old Zamuco dictionary and the reconstruction of Proto-Zamucoan

This project will provide a critical edition of the only extant dictionary of Old Zamuco, an Indigenous language spoken in the 18th century in some Jesuit missions of southeastern Bolivia. Old Zamuco was described by the French Jesuit Ignace Chomé and is the earliest documented language of the small Zamucoan family, which also includes two endangered languages, Ayoreo (4,500 speakers, Bolivia and Paraguay) and Chamacoco (2,000 speakers, northern Paraguay).

Although Chomé was one of the most remarkable scholars of his time on Indigenous languages, most of his production is still unpublished. The dictionary also offers a wealth of information on the 18th-century historical and ethnographical context, flora, and fauna.

The edition will be preceded by a historical and linguistic study. The new data from the Old Zamuco dictionary will be compared with those from Ayoreo and Chamacoco (including data from my fieldwork) to complete the reconstruction of their common ancestor, Proto-Zamucoan.


Luca Ciucci is Adjunct Research Fellow in Linguistics at James Cook University (Australia). Since 2009 he has been doing fieldwork on Ayoreo (Bolivia, Paraguay), Chamacoco (Paraguay), and Chiquitano (Bolivia). His Ph.D. thesis (Pisa, 2013) concerned the inflectional morphology in the Zamucoan languages of Bolivia and Paraguay. He combines the documentation of endangered languages with the study of their historical sources to better understand the related cultural and linguistic changes.