Thiago Chacon

University of Brasilia
Paris IAS
10 months

Research interests: Historical Linguistics of Native Amazonian language

Research Project

Modeling language descent and diffusion in Amazonia

This project addresses the inter-connected histories of Tukanoan and the Arawakan language families spoken in Amazonia. With an estimated shared history of about 3000 years, Tukanoan and Arawakan languages have been continuously influencing each other in a way that is possible to draw a stratigraphy of contact induced changes throughout different periods in history. As these languages share a deep history of contact, a central challenge is to identify and represent traits shared by descent or diffusion, and how to use these traits to infer past events of social and cultural histories. This project will explore how Historical Glottometry (HG) can be used as way to represent events of descent and diffusion within and across each family. This method is particularly suitable for representing language change events induced by diffusion or contact, as well as the identification of shared innovations between languages, in which sense it is primarily designed to study the internal structure of a language family. An innovative aspect of this project concerns using HG to identify the relative period, measure the degree and infer the social and cultural dynamics of how diffusion has taken place between Tukanoan and Arawakan languages, shading light on their complex and intense co-evolution of these two important language families from Amazonia.


Thiago Costa Chacon is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Brasilia. He received his PhD from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2012 and has specialized in the native languages of the Amazon, with particular emphasis on the documentation and historical linguistics of these languages. His research has an interdisciplinary focus, which brings socio-cultural and environmental issues as central elements for the understanding of the past, present and future of Amazonia's indigenous populations.