Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 1999


Published in Great Plains Research 9 (Spring 1999). Copyright © 1999 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


This wide-ranging volume, appropriately dedicated to the pioneering linguist and tireless teacher of American Indian linguistics Mary Haas, proposes "to introduce the general reader to the mosaic of American Indian languages and cultures." It carries off this tall order quite well, presenting a wealth of information about the current usage, history, and structure of the hundreds of indigenous languages of the Americas, their relations with each other and with European colonial languages, and the various ways in which linguists study and classify them. Enough technical linguistic concepts are introduced to allow a determined and serious reader to gain a deep understanding of several individual languages, but these are presented in small enough chunks to keep the book from bogging down in definitions and formulas (some details-the phonetic alphabet, for instance-are relegated to appendices); a less serious reader who skipped most of the technicalities would still gain considerable insight into the subject.