Native American Languages

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Native American Languages

Postby culúrien » 2006-08-20, 10:30

I've noticed the increased support for native american languages here. A little known fact: I am 1/8 native american. However, I know nothing about these languages and was hoping someone could provide me with general information, which are the most common, where are they spoken, etc and etc. I am very interested in this subject, as it's the only real heritage I have.
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Postby pastorant » 2006-08-20, 12:32

Well, this is a huge subject, which I've dedicated the majority of my life pursuing.
You said you are 1/8th American Indian? Do you know which tribe?
There are over 350 languages spoken in the US, from Eskimo (Inuit) and Tlingit in Alaska, to Creek in Florida.

The languages are about as different from each other as Basque is from Chinese.

The majority of them have highly complex sound system that would make the click languages of South Africa and the Caucasian languages blush in embarassment.

They also have highly complex agglutinative grammars that make Hungarian and Finnish seem like a walk in the park.

There are over 20 Linguistic families, including Algonquian, Athapascan, Uto-Aztecan, Tanoan, Siouan, Iroquoian, Penutian, Eskimo-Aleut and Andean.

I specialized in Athapaskan which included Squamish, Tlingit, and Tsimshian.

The most popular languages are Navajo (which has over 100,000 speakers), Cherokee, Lakota (otherwise known as Dakota or Sioux), Apache, Mohawk, Eskimo, Cree, Yucatec (Mayan), Quechua (Inca), Guarani, Aymara, Hopi, Zuni (famous for the Kachina dolls) and Tlingit (famous for the totem poles).

Most of the Indians live in Oklahoma and Arizona. The US forced most native people to migrate to Oklahoma. While there are tribes in every state, most of them are located in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Alaska.
Your state of Ohio has the Shawnee nation (located in Champaign and Logan counties).

Most indians under 60 do NOT speak their language.
The languages of the Native American people are quickly dying out.

It's upto us to help keep them alive.
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Nero

Postby Nero » 2006-08-20, 14:51

Yep. There are not many speakers left of the native american languages, in comparison to the millions that european speakers have. Because they have no sovereign lands, and because almost all native americans now speak english too (there are few monolinguals), the languages are slowly losing their necessity.

which are the most common


I picked out a hanful from ethnologue:
Arapaho: 1,038
Cherokee [chr] 15,000 to 22,500. 130 monolinguals
Cheyenne [chy] 1,721
Choctaw [cho] 9,211
Comanche [com] 200
Dakota + Lakota: 25,000. at least 31 monolinguals
Hopi [hop] 5,264. 40 monolinguals
Mohawk [moh] 3,000
Muskogee [mus] 4,300. 43 monolinguals
Navajo [nav] 148,530. 7,616 monolinguals
Tlingit [tli] 700

The numbers don't look good, and most of them are just going to go downhill. However, there are language revitalization acts and immersion classes taking place in many (if not all) of the native american tribes.

The languages are so beautiful too when spoken. Pastorant and I know this first-hand :)

They also have highly complex agglutinative grammars that make Hungarian and Finnish seem like a walk in the park.


Polysynthetic Cherokee will make a Finlander faint.
Agglunating Eskimo will put a hungarian in his grave.

The languages of the Native American people are quickly dying out.

It's upto us to help keep them alive.


This is part of the reason why I asked for a Lakota forum. I'm no member of the tribe, but it is such a beautiful spoken language. I'm planning to teach it to my kids....
ᎳᎪᏔ ᎦᏬᏂ Ꮎ ᎠᏲᎵ (Lagota gawoni na ayoli) 8)

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Postby Sarabi » 2006-08-20, 16:34

The majority of them have highly complex sound system that would make the click languages of South Africa and the Caucasian languages blush in embarassment.


Now why would you say that? I've listened to a few click languages, and Zulu sounded much harder than Nahuatl and Mayan. :P And I had a South African teacher who told me there's a small tribe in South Africa that speaks completely in clicks... :shock:

I want to learn a Native American language, and I'm also 1/8 Native American, according to my trustworthy (not) grandma, though I don't know which tribe. But the Comanche tribe was very rude to me once for telling them I wasn't Comanche or Christian, so I gave up on that language. Also, I don't think I could stay in America just to study a language unless the tribe were very inviting. But none of them seem to be. The smaller ones don't even realize that there are people out there who want to learn their languages besides their own tribe members.
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Postby Le Serpent Rouge » 2006-08-20, 20:56

Queen Ehlana wrote:Also, I don't think I could stay in America just to study a language unless the tribe were very inviting. But none of them seem to be. The smaller ones don't even realize that there are people out there who want to learn their languages besides their own tribe members.

Yeah, this might be one of those weird cases where some native speakers would rather see the language die than have it spoken by the ‘wrong’ people. :P

I know a Lakota speaker (who’s under 30!), who describes himself as only being able to “understand a little”. Mind you, I’ve never heard him so much as stutter when speaking Lakota to his parents. At worst, I would classify him as a high-proficiency semi-speaker; though, my observations may be pointless since I’m not a fluent speaker myself. Anyway, as he explained it to me; he learned the language from his family, but he himself was never raised in or involved with a more extensive Lakota speech community, so, using the language with anyone outside his immediate family would feel, to him, rather awkward and pretentious. Hence, I practically have to threaten his life to get him to teach me anything.

I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon at work where several of our physicians speak Bengali, however, they only ever address each other in English, even when they’re just talking casually amongst themselves. I wonder if, in a certain context, it’s seen as a rather ‘personal’ gesture, kind of like how you wouldn’t put your arm around someone until you’ve earned the right, or reached that level of understanding, or had a really good reason to do so anyway. Just speculating…
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Postby Sarabi » 2006-08-20, 21:47

How frustrating. People don't care about you and your cause; they just care about some social boundary that to us is ludicrous. I can't stand people accusing others of being pretentious just because they've decided that [action] = pretentious. I've faced people like that all my life because others feel intimidated by something I do that they don't out of sheer laziness or lack of interest. :roll:

Anyway. What you suggest is interesting, that they see it as a personal gesture. I guess if they just aren't interested in speaking the language for the simple reason of speaking it, then that's just what you'll get. Some people have a preference for their native language, some have a preference for the language of habitual use.

pastorant - so you're on a quest to preserve Native American languages? :wink: Besides learning and trying to spread learning resources, what do you do to help?
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Nero

Postby Nero » 2006-08-20, 23:04

Le Serpent Rouge wrote:I know a Lakota speaker (who’s under 30!), .


Can I meet him? :lol:

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Postby zhiguli » 2006-08-20, 23:34

Queen Ehlana wrote:
The majority of them have highly complex sound system that would make the click languages of South Africa and the Caucasian languages blush in embarassment.


Now why would you say that? I've listened to a few click languages, and Zulu sounded much harder than Nahuatl and Mayan. :P And I had a South African teacher who told me there's a small tribe in South Africa that speaks completely in clicks... :shock:


i, too, think he's exaggerating just a little tiny bit...indeed the world of north american indigenous languages is a fascinating one, but there's no need to resort to these sweeping generalizations to make your point.

pastorant wrote:The languages are about as different from each other as Basque is from Chinese.


first of all - all 300-odd languages? or just the 29-odd families they belong to?
in any case this is the same as saying that arabic and english are as different from each other as vietnamese is from zulu - a complete non-starter.

pastorant wrote:The majority of them have highly complex sound system that would make the click languages of South Africa and the Caucasian languages blush in embarassment.


do you have some figures to back this up? just looking at the sound system of inuktitut (not inuit - which is the name of the people speaking this language, but surely you'd know this if you'd studied it before) one gets the impression it has fewer phonemes than *english* . a cursory glance at the alphabets of languages like cheyenne, mi'kmaq, chickasaw, mohawk
gives a similar impression. to my knowledge the only ones that have really impressive sound inventories are various languages (of various families) in the pacific northwest coast region - halkomelem, dakelh, tlingit, haida, and so on.
and last time i checked it was a bushman language that held the world record for most sounds. the previous record-holder was ubykh - a caucasian language.

pastorant wrote:They also have highly complex agglutinative grammars that make Hungarian and Finnish seem like a walk in the park.


i can't speak to this but again - every single last one of them?

pastorant wrote:There are over 20 Linguistic families, including Algonquian, Athapascan, Uto-Aztecan, Tanoan, Siouan, Iroquoian, Penutian, Eskimo-Aleut and Andean.


according to wikipedia they can be classified into 29 families, plus isolates.

pastorant wrote:I specialized in Athapaskan which included Squamish, Tlingit, and Tsimshian.


that must have been some time ago. according to current classification, none of the languages you listed belong to athapaskan , and only one has any genetic relationship to it (athabaskan+eyak+tlingit=na-dene)

pastorant wrote:Most indians under 60 do NOT speak their language.
The languages of the Native American people are quickly dying out.

It's upto us to help keep them alive.


ultimately, it's up to the "indians" themselves.

Nero

Postby Nero » 2006-08-20, 23:47

About Agglunation:

English: We are the knights who say, Nee! (7 words)
Eskimo: Niiiguqpoq unatartuqsaq (2 words)


English: I truly don't pronounce Cheyenne well: (6 words)
Cheyenne: náohkêsáa'oné'seómepêhévetsêhésto'anéhe (1 word)

English: Your Grandmother ran away from him (6 words)
Cherokee: Tsalisi ulitisi (2 words)

I trust you will explain agglunation furthur, Pastorant? I can only address the topic lightly because I don't have the knowledge which you know.


do you have some figures to back this up? just looking at the sound system of inuktitut (not inuit - which is the name of the people speaking this language, but surely you'd know this if you'd studied it before) one gets the impression it has fewer phonemes than *english* . a cursory glance at the alphabets of languages like cheyenne, mi'kmaq, chickasaw, mohawk
gives a similar impression.


That is the problem: you cannot judge the sound of a language by what is written on paper (or in this case, in text online). You have to hear them to judge their sound.

Lakota

Cheyenne Cheyenne 2

Mohawk Mohawk 2

Cherokee

Blackfoot

Arapaho


etc etc

to my knowledge the only ones that have really impressive sound inventories are various languages (of various families) in the pacific northwest coast region - halkomelem, dakelh, tlingit, haida, and so on.
and last time i checked it was a bushman language that held the world record for most sounds. the previous record-holder was ubykh - a caucasian language.


Yes, The Tlingits have the most explosive consonant sounds, if I remember correctly, out of any language in the world.

ultimately, it's up to the "indians" themselves.


I don't agree. Anyone can learn the languages, just as non-russians can learn Russian :) . I am only 1/16th Cherokee and have no Lakota in me, but I am learning Lakota. Pastorant has no Inuit in him either (correct me if I'm wrong :lol: )

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Postby pastorant » 2006-08-21, 3:54

It is true that Tsimshian is Penutian, Squamish is Mosan (I wrote a dissertation on why I believed that Mosan belongs to the Wakashan family, and shouldn't be included in Algonquian.)
I was doing research on Athapaskan, Penutian and Hokan.

I still believe Tlingit is Athapaskan (agreeing with Greenberg) and Mithun doesn't believe in Penutian and wants to group the Northwest Salishan group in with Athapaskan.

Quechua, Aymara and Guarani have simpler grammars (in comparison to Eskimo-Aleut).

The person who is questioning my generalities is looking at the "textbook" descriptions, and not field research. While Arapaho might have fewer phonemes than Russian, the combination of phonemes is the issue.

For exampple: In Arapaho chiibehchih'iitisee is "Don't walk through here" in Russian is Не погуляйте до конца здесь.[Nye pogulyaytye do kontsa zdyes.
In Apache it's doo at'ee da hinaaɬ bilahyu dakude' and in Eskimo it's
pisukpoqitngi tagvanikut. The q is Eskimo is one of the hardest sounds to reproduce if it's not been heard. One word w/ five glottal stops is hard to pronounce.
If those were easy, try this one in Tsimshian: ɫmwaalxs maxɫa sgüüɫa gwa̱'a̱. [Don't walk through here], a̱ is pronounced deep throated like Somali or Amharic.It think the word
ɫmwaalxs is extra fun to pronounce. :)
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Postby Alcadras » 2006-08-21, 10:37

Cheyenne: náohkêsáa'oné'seómepêhévetsêhésto'anéhe (1 word)

what the hell..? :lol:

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Postby Alcadras » 2006-08-21, 18:55

By the way i like Native American Languages. I'm learning Quichua,Lakota and Nahuatl. They're great and Nero helps me. :P

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Postby Nero » 2006-08-21, 19:30

Alcadras wrote:Cheyenne: náohkêsáa'oné'seómepêhévetsêhésto'anéhe (1 word)

what the hell..? :lol:


ná- 'I'
ohke- 'regularly'
sáa- 'not' (this also requires the -he at the end of the word)
oné'seóme- 'truly'
pêhéve- 'good, well'
tsêhést- 'Cheyenne'
-o'ane 'pronounce'

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Postby Alcadras » 2006-08-21, 19:33

Why aren't they written seperately? :roll: Like Eskimo?

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Postby Nero » 2006-08-21, 19:37

Alcadras wrote:Why aren't they written seperately? :roll: Like Eskimo?


I can only guess :lol: . Maybe pastorant knows?

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Postby pastorant » 2006-08-21, 23:55

@Alcadras...the particles are not written seperately because they are not individual words. It's like the Turkish word kitap. Now for the plural would you write kitaplar or kitap lar? It's like Lakota pr Cheyenne. -lar doesn't have a meaning by itself.
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Postby alois » 2006-09-08, 0:24

Good to see all of this growing interest in American native languages. :)

Some nice stuff:
http://home.unilang.org/main/forum/view ... 254616#top
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Postby alois » 2006-09-08, 1:12

If you want to know what Paraguayan Guaraní sounds like then here is the page. Click on the story and then on the sound icon. The files are impressively clear.

This is for Quechua.

This language I couldn't identify.
Last edited by alois on 2006-09-08, 1:21, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Nero » 2006-09-08, 1:17

alois wrote:If you want to know what Paraguayan Guaraní sounds like then here is the page. Click on the story and then on the sound icon. The files are impressively clear.


this guarani really reminds me of lakota :shock:
(well, that is, without the background music :lol: )

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Postby alois » 2006-09-08, 1:39

alois wrote:This language I couldn't identify.


Found out. It's Mapuche.

And this is Aymara.
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