In spite of the importance of landscape for linguists, ethnobiologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and humans in general, landscape terminology is an understudied phenomenon. Both methodologically and theoretically, linguistic systems of landscape classification remain a largely uncharted territory. By applying experimental methods from ethnoecology and psychology, I offer an innovative outlook on the study of ecotope terms, particularly those of endangered languages. I explore the meaning of two derivational suffixes that form names of ecotopes in Lokono, a critically endangered Arawakan language of the Guianas. These suffixes are added to plant-denoting nouns to coin two types of plant-based ecotope terms (i.e., names for areas indicated by a particular floral taxon). The results of three experiments involving ecotope vocabulary (free listing, triadic comparison, and pile-sorting) show that the two suffixes correlate with the differences in water saturation of the ecotopes and that the ecotopes are secondarily judged on the density of vegetation. I discuss the Lokono landscape terms, their cultural significance, importance for coordinating subsistence practices, and the spiritual life of the people. The Lokono data serve as a test case for the developed methods and add to the body of knowledge on indigenous landscape classification systems.
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Vol. 37 • No. 2