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Thiago Chacon

Assistant Professor
University of Brasilia - (FIAS Program)
Modeling language descent and diffusion in Amazonia
01 September 2021 -
30 June 2022

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.

In September 2021, he joined the Paris IAS as part of the French Institutes for Advanced Study fellowship program - FIAS - co-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 945408. His fellowship also benefits from the support of the RFIEA+ LABEX, with a national funding (Grant ANR-11-LABX-0027-01).

Research interests

Historical Linguistics of Native Amazonian language

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.


Key publications

Chacon Thiago, “Arawakan and Tukanoan Contacts in Northwest Amazonia Prehistory,” in PAPIA: Revista Brasileira de Estudos do Contato Linguístico, vol 27, n°2, 2017, p. 237– 265.

Chacon Thiago, “A revised proposal of Proto-Tukanoan consonants and Tukanoan family classification”, in International Journal of American Linguistics, vol 80, n°3, 2014, p. 275 – 332.

Chacon Thiago, “On Proto-Languages and Archaeological Cultures: Pre-History and Material Culture in the Tukanoan Family”, in Revista Brasileira de Linguística Antropológica, vol 5, n°1, 2013, p. 217–245.

Talk by Thiago Chacon (University of Brasilia, 2021-2022 Paris IAS Fellow) as part of the series "Language and the human past" (Universiteit Leiden)
08 Jun 2022 10:30 -
08 Jun 2022 12:00,
Models of linguistic diversity and Amazonian pre-history: a view from the Northwest Amazon
17 May 2022 10:00 -
17 May 2022 13:00,
What creates, shapes and sustains linguistics diversity?
Central and South America