Abstract and Keywords
North America is generally regarded as an area rich in polysynthetic languages. Structures usually associated with the type are indeed pervasive, but the variety they show indicates that neither polysynthesis itself, nor any of the characteristics typically cited, is monolithic or criterial. Each property shows varying degrees of development and robustness, none of which is predictive of any of the others. Nevertheless, a survey of the languages shows that the characteristics do tend to co-occur, and furthermore that particular semantic and structural patterns of development can be seen in major linguistic areas, suggesting that language contact may play a role in shaping the type.
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