The lexicon of metallurgy: A means for investigating the linguistic past of Purépecha
Purépecha, spoken by around 110,000 people in Michoacán, West Mexico, has long been considered a language isolate. Of the unsuccessful attempts to find its linguistic relatives, Swadesh’s proposal linking Purépecha to Quechua is perhaps the most suggestive since it lends support to the pre-Columbian relations between cultures of West Mexico and South America found in the archaeological record. The most convincing of these connections is metallurgy, a technology that was transferred from the Pacific coast of South America (Ecuador) to West Mexico from 600AD onwards. Through a comparative study of the lexical domain of metallurgy, its materials, processes and tools, I am testing the hypothesis that there was contact, possibly even leading to genetic (linguistic) relatedness, between the peoples and languages of these two regions, with a focus on Purépecha.