Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

An area with study groups for various languages. Group members help each other, share resources and experience. Study groups are permanent but the members rotate and change.
User avatar
Deinonysus
Blue Belt
Posts: 733
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Salem, MA, USA
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Intermediate: French,
   German, Spanish
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Indonesian,
   Hebrew
x 2178

Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby Deinonysus » Fri Sep 18, 2020 6:15 pm

The dominant languages on the planet with the best resources are Eurasian languages, so naturally that is what most folks on this forum are studying. But some folks like to go off the beaten path and go for the weird, hard, and impractical languages. If you're a weirdo like me, this may be the place for you.

You may be interested in an indigenous language of the Americas for non-weirdo reasons. Maybe it is your heritage or ancestral language. Maybe you live in a place in the Americas where an indigenous language is widely (or non-widely) spoken, or maybe you have visited or want to visit such a place. Rest assured, you are welcome here even if you are not a weirdo. I won't judge.

I won't attempt to list all of the languages that are indigenous to the Americas (there are thousands) or even all of the language families (there are dozens at least, likely hundreds). I am not an expert in indigenous languages so I won't attempt to define what that term means, but what I had in mind were languages from pre-Columbian language families rather than languages such as Pennsylvania German or Guadalupean Creole which are certainly of these continents but are descended or largely derived from Eurasian languages.

I am currently studying ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ (Inuktitut), an Inuit language spoken in Northeastern Canada. I don't know exactly how much longer I'll be studying it, but this is my second time studying it this year so if I drop it I'm sure I'll pick it back up later. I have also briefly studied Diné Bizaad (Navajo), but don't know if or when I'll return to it.
11 x
العربية
: 12 / 19 FSI Levantine Arabic Phonology
: 61 / 230 Duolingo Arabic
: 9 / 77 Assimil L'arabe
: 1 / 6 Ahlan wa Sahlan Workbook

User avatar
eido
Brown Belt
Posts: 1169
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2018 8:31 pm
Languages: EN*, ES (C1)
x 2099

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby eido » Fri Sep 18, 2020 11:45 pm

I'll be along for the ride. I've studied a bit of Navajo and Cherokee. I find both fascinating and extremely cool. Looking forward to sharing this space with fellow indigenous language learners. :)
1 x

lichtrausch
Orange Belt
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:21 pm
Languages: English, Japanese, German
Learning: Mandarin, Korean, French
x 373

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby lichtrausch » Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:23 am

Deinonysus wrote:or even all of the language families (there are dozens at least, likely hundreds).

Given how (relatively) recently the Americas were populated from Siberia, and how apparently few the migration events from Siberia were, it seems unlikely that the indigenous American languages ultimately descend from more than a handful of language families.
1 x

User avatar
Deinonysus
Blue Belt
Posts: 733
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Salem, MA, USA
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Intermediate: French,
   German, Spanish
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Indonesian,
   Hebrew
x 2178

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby Deinonysus » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:18 am

eido wrote:I'll be along for the ride. I've studied a bit of Navajo and Cherokee. I find both fascinating and extremely cool. Looking forward to sharing this space with fellow indigenous language learners. :)

Awesome! Did you learn the Cherokee syllabary? And if so, how big of a problem were the symbols that look like European letters but sound completely different? Did that cause a lot of confusion?
0 x
العربية
: 12 / 19 FSI Levantine Arabic Phonology
: 61 / 230 Duolingo Arabic
: 9 / 77 Assimil L'arabe
: 1 / 6 Ahlan wa Sahlan Workbook

User avatar
eido
Brown Belt
Posts: 1169
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2018 8:31 pm
Languages: EN*, ES (C1)
x 2099

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby eido » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:45 am

Deinonysus wrote:Awesome! Did you learn the Cherokee syllabary? And if so, how big of a problem were the symbols that look like European letters but sound completely different? Did that cause a lot of confusion?

I actually shelled out the dough for Your Grandmother's Cherokee courses, and they don't teach the syllabary 'til the end of the sequence, so I haven't learned it yet... but I suppose for a brief (check that... "not so brief") deviant experiment I could learn it for you and report back ;)
1 x

User avatar
Deinonysus
Blue Belt
Posts: 733
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Salem, MA, USA
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Intermediate: French,
   German, Spanish
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Indonesian,
   Hebrew
x 2178

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby Deinonysus » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:53 am

lichtrausch wrote:
Deinonysus wrote:or even all of the language families (there are dozens at least, likely hundreds).
Given how (relatively) recently the Americas were populated from Siberia, and how apparently few the migration events from Siberia were, it seems unlikely that the indigenous American languages ultimately descend from more than a handful of language families.
Well sure, there could have been as few as three migrations from Siberia into the Americas. But I don't think "recent", even relatively, applies. Even if most of the indigenous languages of the Americas are ultimately descended from one language, that would be something very deep into prehistory. Even by conservative estimates of how early the first migration was, it would make Proto-Indo-European look like an absolute whipper-snapper.

Here is a great summary of the migrations from Mick Mallon's Inuktitut - The Hard Way (There Is No Easy Way). After the first two paragraphs it only deals with the Eskimo-Aleut languages, but it's a good read so I put in basically the whole chapter:
There are two general questions that we are often asked: "Where did the Inuit come from?", is one, and "What languages is Inuktitut related to?" is the other. Both questions have engaged the minds of scholars over the centuries, and a consensus seems to have emerged. I'm going to simplify things, of course, and who knows whether some dazzling archaeological discovery next month is going to cause all our present castle of suppositions to come tumbling down.

First of all, we believe that all the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas made their way here from Siberia, either across the land bridge that once existed between Siberia and present-day Alaska, or by island-hopping across Bering Strait. It is also thought that there were at least three main waves of immigration. Forty thousand or so years ago the ancestors of most of the Indian groups flowed onto this continent, and gradually spread south, right to Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America. Fourteen thousand years ago the ancestors of the Dene arrived. Most of them stayed in the woodlands of Alaska and northern Canada, but one branch ended up in present-day New Mexico and Arizona. They are the Navajo, traditionally a society of desert herders whose language is closely related to that of the Canadian and Alaskan Dene. The Apache are also Dene. According to this schedule the ancestors of the Inuit were the last to arrive, somewhere around seven and eight thousand years ago. Four thousand years ago this group split into two. One group headed off towards the Aleutian Islands: they became the Aleuts. In the intervening forty centuries their language has become incomprehensible to modern Inuit, but a careful study of its grammar shows the definite family connection. Two thousand years ago, while the remainder were still in Alaska, there was another split. One group is today known as Yupik.

Although modern Inuit and Yuit cannot understand each other's conversation, there are definite similarities is vocabulary as well as grammar. That leaves us with the Inuit, whose immediate ancestors started a great migration eastwards about a thousand years ago. In that brief space of time they have spread from the northernmost shores of Alaska to the southern tip of Greenland with excursions in Canada as far south as Labrador, rarely however settling below the treeline. In that thousand years the language has split into various dialects, all intercomprehensible to a greater or less degree.

At this point, if you are a northerner with the usual odd scrap or two of pre-historical knowledge, you may ask, "But what about the Dorset people, the ones the Inuit call Tuniit? Were do they fit in?" The trouble is, we know where they fit in chronologically, but not linguistically. The Inuit, Yuit, and Aleut all exist today, as do their languages (some of them in dire straits). But preceding the Inuit in the Arctic were groups of what we call the Paleo-Eskimos, the latter branch of whom are known to us as the Dorset culture, and to the Inuit as the Tuniit. Traces of Paleo-Eskimo campsites date back 4,000 years, but the language died with the last Tuniq, possibly as recently as 500 years ago. Skeletal remains suggest that the Tuniit were of the same physical type as Inuit and Siberians, but we have no way of knowing from what we have found of their material possessions whether they were culturally Inuit. Some archaeologists hypothesize that they may have been Chutchki, Siberians of a different language group to the Inuit, but no final proofs are as yet forthcoming.

Before we summarize the facts about the Eskimo-Aleut language family, we should pause to deal respectfully with one minute branch, which is very close to extinction. There was a small Siberian group called the Sirinikski (actualli Siqinirmiut "people of the sun"). Until recently it was thought that their language was one of the Yupik languages, but in the last few years linguists have decided that it actually should be considered as a separate sub-branch all on its own. Now comes the sad part. Surrounded by Yupik speakers of the Naukanski language, with their linguistic base slowly diminished by inter-marriage and assimilation, the Sirinikski, despite efforts to maintain their language, have now been reduced to only two speakers, two elderly ladies. And the crowning touch of irony is this: the old ladies will not talk to each other: they will only talk to linguists! Think about that cautionary tale as you watch, or even participate in, the Inuit efforts to keep their language vital throughout the critical years of the twenty-first century.

Back to the main themes of this chapter. We know where the Inuit came from: Siberia. We know roughly when their ancestors arrived on this continent: round about 7-8,000 years ago. We know when the Inuit language emerged as a separate one: about two thousand years ago. And we know when the Inuit started that great movement across the top of North America, spreading right through Greenland: a thousand years ago.

The second question was, "What language is Inuktitut related to?". People are ready to hear that it has connections with Chinese, or Japanese, or some other well-known oriental language. But that is not the case. The Eskimo-Aleut family of languages, with all their close-knit inter-connections, have no immediate or obvious relationship to any other group of languages. The Chutchki of Siberia look like Inuit. They are the closest neighbors to the Siberian Eskimos, and they are also arctic hunters, with many similar cultural features. But the two languages are entirely distinct. Incidentally, there is an interesting false clue to the possibility of a linguistic connection between Chutchki and Eskimo. Linguists discovered some very Eskimo-like features of southern Chutchki, and some of them advanced the plausible hypothesis that there was indeed a family relationship. But Michael Fortescue has argued convincingly that these Eskimo features in Chutchki come from the speech habits of original Eskimo speakers assimilated into Chutchki society. As speakers of a second language they learned Chutchki imperfectly, and their Eskimoan grammatical "mistakes" have become part of the Southern Chutchki language.


Mallon's timeline of 40,000 years ago for the first migration is about the extreme earliest of all the estimates, but even considering more conservative estimates, it was an extremely long time ago. How long can a language family even survive? Well, I think NativLang has a good answer to that:


Proto-Afroasiatic is a big exception because Akkadian and Egyptian are some of the oldest languages in history, and they had already diverged significantly by that time. Other than that, there is no language family that we can date back to a timeframe matching even the latest estimates of the first migration into the Americas. So such a proto-language would be no more useful to us than a theoretical proto-world. Any trace of relation would be completely lost in the sands of time.

Considering that, here is a map of the language families of North America from Wikipedia, and you can see a couple dozen language families, and that doesn't even show all of Mexico which has plenty of its own language families, let alone all of the Americas.

Image
9 x
العربية
: 12 / 19 FSI Levantine Arabic Phonology
: 61 / 230 Duolingo Arabic
: 9 / 77 Assimil L'arabe
: 1 / 6 Ahlan wa Sahlan Workbook

vonPeterhof
Blue Belt
Posts: 564
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2015 1:55 am
Languages: Russian (N), English (C2), Japanese (~C1), German (~B2), Kazakh (~B1), Norwegian (~A2)
Studying: Chaghatai, Turoyo, Chuvash, Old Turkic, Basque
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1237
x 1730
Contact:

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby vonPeterhof » Sat Sep 19, 2020 9:08 am

I guess I'll be keeping an eye on this thread. The lockdown has driven me to extremes of Wanderlust as well as finally trying out Duolingo. I've almost completed their English-based Navajo course (which is... well, let's just say calling it "bare bones" would be a massive overstatement :D ) and am also doing their Spanish-based Guaraní course (which got a significant overhaul recently, fixing quite a few bugs and shifting the focus heavily away from Spanish loanwords to native vocabulary and possibly neologisms). Incidentally, since the Guaraní course was developed with Paraguayan Spanish in mind, it's also a good way of practising your voseo ;)

I'm also dabbling in Ojibwe using the Pimsleur course, assisted by the lesson notes on this blog and this Canadian syllabics converter. I'm aware that Canadian syllabics aren't really used by the Red Lake Band whose dialect is the basis for the Pimsleur course, but hey, I'll use any excuse I can get to learn a new writing system :D

And speaking of those, I've also been using the Cherokee Syllabary Now app for a while now, though I'm not sure when I'll begin to study the actual language. And I also have a Quechua textbook (Корнилов О.А. Язык инков - кечуа: экспериментальное учебное пособие по языку и культуре кечуа. 2019) stashed away for later.
5 x

księżycowy
Orange Belt
Posts: 147
Joined: Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:26 pm
Location: Earth
Languages: Known: English (N), German (~A1), Polish (~A1), Japanese (~A1),
Learning: Japanese
Academic Interests: Biblical Greek & Hebrew, Latin
Next Up: Sorbian, Northern Frisian, Irish, Polish, German, Korean, Chinese, Cayuga, Seneca
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=11281
x 213

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby księżycowy » Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:30 pm

eido wrote:
Deinonysus wrote:Awesome! Did you learn the Cherokee syllabary? And if so, how big of a problem were the symbols that look like European letters but sound completely different? Did that cause a lot of confusion?

I actually shelled out the dough for Your Grandmother's Cherokee courses, and they don't teach the syllabary 'til the end of the sequence, so I haven't learned it yet... but I suppose for a brief (check that... "not so brief") deviant experiment I could learn it for you and report back ;)

Given my interest in Iroquoian languages, I've naturally crossed paths with Cherokee. So far all I have is Beginning Cherokee by Holmes and Smith. How is the course your talking about? Is it still available?

Also, for anyone interested, I just posted my mega-list of North American resources here.
2 x

nooj
Blue Belt
Posts: 923
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:59 pm
Languages: english (n)
x 2136

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby nooj » Sun Sep 20, 2020 12:13 pm

lichtrausch wrote:Given how (relatively) recently the Americas were populated from Siberia, and how apparently few the migration events from Siberia were, it seems unlikely that the indigenous American languages ultimately descend from more than a handful of language families.
That's speculative.

But as it stands, the current American linguistic diversity in terms of major order language families (comparable to the Indo-European, Uralic families etc of Europe) makes Europe pale into comparison. It's undeniable that America is extremely rich in languages.
3 x
زندگی را با عشق
نوش جان باید کرد

User avatar
Cèid Donn
Green Belt
Posts: 394
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2018 10:48 pm
Languages: en-us (n)
x 1234

Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby Cèid Donn » Tue Sep 22, 2020 6:11 am

nooj wrote:But as it stands, the current American linguistic diversity in terms of major order language families (comparable to the Indo-European, Uralic families etc of Europe) makes Europe pale into comparison. It's undeniable that America is extremely rich in languages.


The linguistic diversity of the Americas is absolutely mind-boggling, even with the languages that have managed to survive past the 19th century.

Anyhow, I study Navajo on and off, and have also studied Ojibwe and Mi'kmaq in the past. Currently I'm spending the time I would be spending on Navajo on Hawaiian, which is not a North American language, I know, but somewhat adjacent, at least in contemporary political and cultural spheres, even though it has no linguistic relative indigenous to the Americas.

My interest in Navajo stems largely from it being the most commonly spoken Native language in the region of the US where I currently live. As for Ojibwe and Mi'kmaq, my interest in those stem from my father's family connections to Canada, although we're French Canadian/New England French and not First Nations. While I doubt I'll be studying Ojibwe or Mi'kmaq again any time soon, I do plan to return to Navajo this November for Native American Heritage month, and to spend more time with it in 2021, if there's 2021.

As for Hawaiian, that's part of a project I started at the beginning on this year, my "Californian Project" as I call it. I'm originally from California and very badly wish I could move back, but can't, mainly due to money problems. So I decided I'd bring a bit of California to me through my language studies. Sadly most of California's indigenous languages are poorly documented and severely endangered so I have given up trying to study one as a remote learner. Instead I am focusing on California's other language communities, both American-born and immigrant, and choose certain languages from those communities to study this year at varying degrees of intensity, based on my interest and how accessible I found that particular language, and Hawaiian was one of the languages that made my short list. And honestly, the more I study it, the more I just love it.
4 x


Return to “Study Groups”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests