The Marañón-Huallaga exchange route: ‘Stones’ and ‘grains’ as counting devices

Luis Miguel Rojas Berscia , Rita Eloranta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In this article we claim that stone classifier-based numeral systems in a number of unrelated North-western South American language families/languages such as Kawapanan, Cholón-Hibito, Munichi, and, tentatively, Quingnam emerged due to calquing or loan translation (Weinreich 1963; Epps 2006, 2013). In addition, although the donor language remains unknown, we argue for this to be a case of a poorly attested grammaticalization path of numeral classifiers and numerals, namely stone>classifier, as presented in Conklin (1981), for languages such as Gorontalo, Kam-Muang, White Tai and Western Austronesian languages (Conklin 1981: 233, 234; mentioned in Aikhenvald 2000: 446). Moreover, ethnohistorical and historical evidence (Reeve 1994: 125) suggests that pre-Hispanic societies in the Marañón-Huallaga area shared a salt-stone-based trading system, henceforth SBT. This is remarkable, since other adjacent language families, such as Quechua and Chicham, do not show such a pattern for the formation of their own numerals. We claim, tentatively, that these common trade networks may be the sociohistorical motivation for the diffusion of this calquing pattern in the area.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere019011
Peer-reviewed scientific journalLIAMES : Línguas Indígenas Americanas
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 10.07.2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 612,1 Languages
  • Calquing/loan translation
  • Grammaticalization
  • Numerals
  • Areal diffusion
  • Marañón-Huallaga exchange route


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