Report of last Yaghan speaker passing along the language

Yagán or Yaghan (yag) is a language isolate (unrelated to other languages) spoken in Tierra del Fuego, off the southern coast of South America.

“Spoken” may be an overstatement, however, as the only speaker of the language is Cristina Calderón, a woman in her eighties who is generally known as abuela or grandmother.

According to a blog post by Jim dated today on the Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd blog, Calderón is teaching her granddaughter, Cristina Zárraga, the language.

According to Wikipedia, the two along with Ursula Calderon, the sister of the older-generation Cristina, published “Hai Kur Mamashu Shis,” a collection of Yaghan stories in 2005.

According to “Hai Kur Mamashu Shis” on the Connections blog, blogger Jacqueline Windh and the younger-generation Cristina published an English-language version, and a new edition is planned for later this year.

The Intercontinental Dictionary Series has an online Yagán dictionary (select simple or advanced browsing to find the languages). The University of Chile also has information on Yagán in Spanish.

5 Responses to “Report of last Yaghan speaker passing along the language”

  1. Jacqueline Windh Says:

    Hello, and thanks for this post.

    Just to clarify: The first edition of Hai kur mamashi shis (I want to tell you a story) was published in both English and Spanish in 2005. It is a collection of stories that Abuela Cristina Calderón and her late sister Ursula heard, told in their native Yaghan tongue, when they were little girls. Cristina Zárraga wrote the stories down in Spanish, and I translated them to English. The stories were illustrated with woodcuts by Jiména Saiter. This first bilingual edition, which was published in Chile quickly sold out.

    I was back on Navarino Island this past January, and Cristina Zárraga and I have decided to publish an English-only edition, this time publishing it in North America. It will still have the same original illustrations. I am doing what I can to have it out for this fall – feel free to contact me if you’d like me to email you when I have more details.

    You can find out more about the book as well as get my contact details form the Hai kur mamashu shis web page (link above).

    Jacqueline Windh

  2. wakablogger Says:

    Thank you for the corrections and clarifications. It’s an exciting project!


  3. Jacqueline Windh Says:

    Just to update – we have published the English version of the book now. There’s lots of info on my website, and it’s available on Amazon or through me.
    Cheers! Jackie

  4. Say No More | kensalzmann Says:

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