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Contributions to Chibchan Historical Linguistics

On December 5th, Matthias Pache succesfully defended his doctoral thesis and graduated. The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics congratulates Matthias on this great result.

Matthias Pache
05 December 2018
Leiden University Repository


Investigating prehistoric, intercontinental relationships between Mesoamerica and South America by means of linguistic evidence, the Chibchan language family is of major interest, given its geographic position at the heart of the double-continent: this family dominates an area extending some 1,500 kilometres on an east-west axis, from eastern Honduras to western Venezuela. One of the major unresolved and controversial issues discussed for over a hundred years is the original homeland of the Chibchan language family, and whether it must be localized in Central America or South America. The present thesis aims to answer this question. Accordingly, it is divided into two parts. Part one provides a thorough reconstruction of Proto-Chibchan, based on data from all known 23 Chibchan languages. The reconstructed data have been compared with data from nearly 130 other Native American languages and language groups. The second part of the thesis offers linguistic evidence suggesting the possibility of a genealogical connection between Chibchan and the Macro-Jê languages of eastern South America, and an original homeland for Chibchan in Lowland South America. Chibchan is thus among the few language groups to demonstrably reflect migratory movements from the South American continent into Central America.

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