Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

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.

Amate paper and Otomí

20 May 2011

The State of Puebla is located in East-Central Mexico. There and in nearby states, the Otomí family of languages is spoken by about 240,000 people according to Wikipedia.

One of the cultural features of Puebla is the traditional craft of making tree bark paper, known as amate (fig) as one of the trees used is the fig tree. Amate has been produced in Mexico for at least 1100 years, and perhaps much longer. Amate was for writing by such peoples as the Maya and the Aztecs, and possibly the Olmecs, and is also used for creating ritual figures known as dahi.

The town of San Pablito is one of the few towns that has maintained the amate production custom. Until the 1960s, only shamans produced it in San Pablito, keeping the process a secret. To learn more about amate, see “Mexican Indigenous Textiles: Otomi of Tenango de Doria Hidalgo.”

In San Pablito, the Otomí language spoken is Tenango Otomi (otn). In September 1996, a video was uploaded to titled “Mexico’s indigenous languages – Otomi of the Sierra of Hidalgo.” The video shows a man providing translations of a few Spanish expressions in Otomí, with subtitles in English.

It appears that an Otomí version of Wikipedia is in the works. A test version can be see on the Incubator at Wp/ote/Ndänxi.

The page has other videos, including one similar to the Otomí titled “Chatino Indian language from Oaxaca Mexico.” The Chatino languages (family) are spoken by 38,000 people in Mexico according to the Ethnologue.

Hope dim for True Voice’s prospects

13 April 2011

The language Nuumte Oote, meaning True Voice, is spoken by only two people, one 69 and one 75. And they do not talk to each other.

Known to us as Tabasco Zoque, or Ayapaneco (zoq), the language was not listed on the English Wikipedia until today. The Spanish Wikipedia has a stub article on the language as well.

Spoken in Tabasco, a Mexican state bordering Guatemala, Ayapaneco was spoken by around 8000 families around a half-century ago, but rapidly diminished after a highway was constructed and many residents moved to larger towns. (Could it be that there are isolated Ayapaneco speakers in other regions somewhere?)

As part of the effort to save Ayapaneco, classes were held in the past, but the initial enthusiasm was not maintained. The Instituto Nacional de la Lengua Indígena (National Indigenous Languages Institute or INALI) is planning on one last attempt to get classes going.

Daniel Suslak, a linguist at Indiana University, Bloomington, in the US has been compiling a dictionary of Ayapaneco which is scheduled for publication later this year. That project is in conjunction with the Project for the Documentation of the Languages of Mesoamerica (PDLMA).

This article was inspired and informed by “Language at risk of dying out – the last two speakers aren’t talking” on the Guardian and “Mexican Indian Language Appears Headed for Extinction” on the Latin American Herald Tribune.

Addition: See also “Dying Language Speakers Won’t Talk To Each Other” on NPR for a short audio clip.