On the Pre-Columbian origin of Proto-Omagua-Kokama


Cabral (1995, 2007, 2011) and Cabral and Rodrigues (2003) established that Kokama and Omagua, closely-related indigenous languages spoken in Peruvian and Brazilian Amazonia, emerged as the result of intense language contact between speakers of a Tupí-Guaraní language and speakers of non-Tupí-Guaraní languages. Cabral (1995, 2007) further argued that the language contact which led to the development of Kokama and Omagua transpired in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, in the Jesuit mission settlements located in the provincia de Maynas (corresponding roughly to modern northern Peruvian Amazonia). In this paper I argue that Omagua and Kokama were not the product of colonial-era language contact, but were rather the outcome of language contact in the Pre-Columbian period. I show that a close examination of 17th and 18th century missionary chronicles, Jesuit texts written in Omagua and Kokama, and modern data on these languages, make it clear that Omagua and Kokama already existed in a form similar to their modern forms by the time European missionaries arrived in Maynas in the 17th century. Moreover, I show that several key claims regarding ethnic mixing and Jesuit language policy that Cabral adduces in favor of a colonial-era origin for Kokama are not supported by the available historical materials. Ruling out a colonial-era origin for Omagua and Kokama, I conclude that Proto-Omagua-Kokama, the parent language from which Omagua and Kokama derive, was a Pre-Columbian contact language. 

Publication date: 
January 1, 2014
Publication type: 
Recent Publication
Michael, L. (2014). On the Pre-Columbian origin of proto-Omagua-Kokama. Journal of Language Contact, 7(2), 309-344.