Archive for the ‘language families’ Category

Mashco-Piro make an appearanace

20 August 2013

Last year, for unknown reasons, the Mascho-Piro killed the only person capable of interpreting between them and the rest of the world (Mashco-Piro linguistically isolated, this blog).

Voluntarily isolated, the Mascho-Piro made a rare appearance from June 24-26, asking for supplies such as rope and bananas. Their appearance may be due to increasing encroachment on the itinerant people’s territory by oil and drug interests, and the low rainfall of the season may also be a factor.

The group speaks Mascho-Piro (cuj), a language of the Piro group, which includes Yine (pib). They are among 15 groups in Peru that are prohibited by law from being contacted, primarily to protect them from disease.

See “Peru’s isolated Mashco-Piro tribe ‘asks for food,'” (has video of the Masco-Piro), “Isolated Mashco-Piro Indians appear in Peru” and “Peru’s Mashco-Piro Indians Make Tense Attempt At Contact.”


Cree broadcast wins journalism award

11 May 2013

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC, has dozens of locations in Canada and around the world, including CBC North, which provides TV and radio broadcasts in languages such as Chipewyan (chp), Cree (cre), Dogrib (dgr), Gwich’in (gwi), Inuktitut (ike), Inuvialuk (ikt), North Slavey (scs) and South Slavey (xsl).

This past weekend, the Canadian Association of Journalists held their annual conference, including an awards ceremony. Among the winners was the episode “Breaking the mold,” broadcast on the Cree-language Maamuitaau program.

Learn more in the article “Serving Canada’s north – excellence in 8 aboriginal languages” on the Editor’s Blog of CBC News.

Language education funding cut in Taiwan

26 April 2013

According to “DPP lawmakers riled by language funding cuts,” funding has been cut for Hoklo, Hakka and aboriginal languages.

The dominant language of Taiwan is Mandarin (cmn), the official language of China. That is followed by Hoklo (Taiwanese Hokkien (nan)) and Hakka Chinese (hak), both of which are spoken on the Chinese mainland as well.

It appears that of 21 Austronesian languages in Taiwan, 17 are still spoken and four are silent.

BBC Quiz!

30 May 2012

The online BBC News Magazine posted a quiz today on less-spoken languages.

The quiz features some tough questions on languages such as: Aka or Hruso (hru), Aramaic (family) and Romansh (roh), as well as four UK languages: Breton (bre), Cornish (cor), Irish (gle) and Manx (glv).

Readers of this blog will probably score far higher than most. With two lucky guesses (whoops!), I scored five out of seven. What’s your score? Post below!

Cumpulsory Ijaw in Bayelsa Schools

15 September 2011

As the coastline of West Africa turns south, it runs along the border of Bayelsa, a state in Nigeria. As in the rest of Nigeria, the official language is English; however, Ijaw (Ijoid family) languages are widely spoken in Bayelsa by the Ijaw people.

According to “Ijaw language to be made compulsory in Bayelsa’s schools,” in a move to protect Ijaw against the erosion by Western culture, the State House of Assembly passed a resolution making Ijaw learning mandatory in schools. As the State House of Assembly is apparently the only legislative body in the state, the majority vote makes the resolution law.

According to the Ethnologue, there are 10 Ijoid languages with 1.75 million speakers:

  • Biseni (ije) – 4,800 speakers (1977)
  • Defaka (afn) – 200 speakers (2001)
  • Ibani (iby) – 60,000 speakers (1989)
  • Izon (ijc) – 1.1 million speakers (1989 to 1991)
  • Kalabari (ijn) – 258,000 speakers (1989)
  • Kirike (okr) – 248,000 speakers (1995)
  • Nkoroo (nkx) – 4,550 speakers (1989)
  • Okodia (okd) – 3,600 speakers (1977)
  • Oruma (orr) – 5,000 speakers (1995)
  • Southeast Ijo (ijs) – 71,500 speakers (1977)

Of these, Defaka is the most endangered at only 200 speakers (according to a report a decade ago), and the Wikipedia article reports all children grow up speaking Nkoroo. While Izon, Kalaari and Kiriki each have more than 200K speakers, all of the Ijoid languages have only a small population.

According to “Bayelsa Makes Ijaw Language Compulsory,” the resolution includes language for a campaign to “encourage the speaking of the Ijaw native languages in homes,” so hopefully all of the Ijoid languages will receive support.

For a glossary of perhaps more than 1000 Ijaw words, see The Ijaw Dictionary Online.

Khoe-Khoegowab film to premiere on July 15

12 July 2011

Known for her award winning film “Hip Hop Revolution” and other productions, filmmaker Weaam Williams has turned her skills to Khoe-Khoegowab or Khoekhoe (family), a language continuum once commonly referred to as “Hottentot” but now considered derogatory.

Although South Africa has 11 official languages, Khoekhoe is not one of them and it is in danger of dying.

On July 15, the first of Williams’s three-part series, “A Khoe Story Part 1: Reclaiming the Mother Tongue” will be screened at the Labia in Cape Town, South Africa.

Read the article “New SA doc explores dying indigenous language” on the ScreenAfrica website for more information.


Official status for Berber on ballot

1 July 2011

Today, Moroccans are voting on a new constitution, which includes a provision for Berber (family) as an official language. According to “Moroccans vote on king’s new constitution,” the constitution is expected to pass, and if so, Morocco will be the first North African nation with an official indigenous language.

According to Ethnologue, Morocco has the following Berber languages:

  • Ghomara (gho) – 1000 people (Wikipedia) or extinct (Ethnologue),
  • Senhaja de Srair (sjs) – definitely alive (Wikipedia) or extinct (Ethnologue),
  • Tachelhit or Shilha (shi) – 3 million speakers,
  • Central Atlas Tamazight (tzm) – 3 to 5 million (Wikipedia) or 3.1 million (Ethnologue), and Tachelhit
  • Tarifit or Riff (rif) – 4 million people (Wikipedia) or 1.7 million (Ethnologue).

Read or listen to the NPR story at “Moroccans Vote on New Constitution.”

UPDATE: The new constitution was passed. See “Moroccan voters approve constitutional changes” in the Los Angeles Times.

Double shift in language with shift in political events

20 June 2011

Spoken on a long archipelago of small islands south of the main islands of Japan, Okinawan (family) is a language family comprising two to eleven languages (depending on who you ask).

In the post “Language revitalization and liberation,” Ingrid Piller describes how language has been used in Okinawa as a political statement, and how a switch occurred from Okinawan to Japanese with the occupation of the US army after World War II.

For more information about Okinawa, see the International Association of Ryûkyûan/Okinawan Studies (IAROS).


Not all Mexican immigrants in the US speak Spanish

28 May 2011

A story about emigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries in the US who do not speak Spanish or English is in many newspapers online, such as the article “Some NY immigrants cite lack of Spanish as barrier” on the Seattle PI website.

One man cited tells of facing mockery from fellow Mexicans for his inability to speak Spanish. To combat this, many Latin American emigrants are attending Spanish classes. A number of languages are cited in the article, most of which refer to language families. They include:

  • Mixtec languages (family), a family of 52 languages spoken in Mexico included in the MIxtecan,
  • Trique languages (family), a group of three languages spoken in Mexico also included in the Mixtecan family,
  • Chinantecan languages (family), a group of 14 languages spoken in Mexico included in the Oto-Manguean family,
  • Otomi languages (family), a group of 11 languages spoken in Mexico also included in the Oto-Manguean family,
  • Nahuatl languages (Aztec family), a group of 28 languages spoken in Mexico
  • Quechua languages (Quechuan family), a group of 46 languages spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, and
  • Garifuna (cab), a language spoken in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

As this list makes apparent, Mexico is a hotbed of languages, and is one of the world’s language hotspots with 238 languages.

The story is also available in Spanish. See “Indígenas latinoamericanos doblemente marginados en EEUU” on (the) El Nuevo Herald website.

Athabaskan Languages Conference program available

25 May 2011

The  Athabaskan Languages Conference will be held in Whitehorse, Canada, from June 27 to 29 at the High Country Inn. The program is now available.

The registration fee has not been announced.