In indigenous lowland South America there are several discourse forms and processes that are shared by groups of people of distinct genetic linguistic affiliations; this leads us to posit this large region, which we label greater Amazonia, as a discourse area, a concept that parallels the notion of linguistic area. The discourse forms and processes we examine are ceremonial dialogue, dialogical performance, templatic ratifying, echo speech, ceremonial greeting, ritual wailing, evidentiality, speech reporting practices, parallelism, special languages, and shamanistic language use. We hypothesize that in lowland South America, discourse is the matrix for linguistic diffusion, i.e., that linguistic areas emerge within discourse areas. What we propose then is a discourse-centered approach to language change and history, parallel to a discourse-centered approach to language structure and use. Our survey includes a plea for a careful archiving of recorded and written materials dealing with lowland South American discourse.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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