The indigenous languages of Mexico belong to three major groups, sometimes called 'linguistic stocks', besides six 'linguistic families' that are not related to other languages. Some of these groups include languages of Guatemala (the Mayan family), and others include languages of the United States and Canada (Algonquian family, Hokan stock, and Uto-Aztecan stock).

Uto-Aztecan stock

The following families of languages indigenous to Mexico belong to the Uto-Aztecan stock:

Corachol family [Cora and Huichol]

Nahuatl (Aztecan) family [Nahuatl]

Tepiman family [O'odham (Papago), Tepehuan and Pima Bajo (Névome)]

Taracahitic family [Huarijío, Mayo, Tarahumara and Yaqui]

The genetic relationship of the languages which are today known as the Uto-Aztecan language stock was recognized by the late 19th century and firmly established by the middle of the 20th century. The internal classification of the Uto-Aztecan languages continues to be debated.

Uto-Aztecan was one of the largest language stocks of Native America at the time of European contact in terms of population, linguistic diversity and geographic distribution. The northernmost Uto-Aztecan language, Northern Paiute, is found as far north as Oregon and Idaho. In the south, members of the Nahuatl family are spoken as far south as Nicaragua and El Salvador. The most famous of these is Classical Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec Empire of central Mexico.

Reasonable estimates of the time depth of the Uto-Aztecan stock range up to 5000 years. That is, about 5000 years ago Proto-Uto-Aztecan, from which all the modern Uto-Aztecan languages are descended, was spoken. This would place it at approximately the same time-depth as Indo-European. Uto-Aztecan is generally thought to be distantly related to the Kiowa-Tanoan family in the United States.

Several families of Uto-Aztecan languages are or were spoken in the western part of the United States. These include Numic (which includes languages such as Paiute, Mono and Shoshoni), Tubatulabal, Hopi and Takic (including such languages as Serrano, Cahuilla and Luiseño). Some of the languages of the Tepiman family are spoken in the United States as well.

© 2004 Instituto Lingüístico de Verano, A.C.

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