vrijdag 14 augustus 2009

who? quién? wie?

Who are they? Even maps can be confusing. The "Culture Areas" maps are clear enough, the "Language" maps are chaotic... But what do you think of this?


Almost as chaotic, a map of all the native languages spoken in Europe.

Although chaotic, we can follow the colors. On this European map, the languages in GREEN are so called Romance languages in the south: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc...
The Germanic languages in the north (English, German, Dutch, Swedish, etc..) are in ORANGE. Slavic languages in the east (Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, etc) are PURPLE/BLUE.

Those are the 3 big language groupings in Europe. They are different from each other but eventually related. The big family of which they all are part is called Indo-European and almost every language in Europe is part of this family. The YELLOW languages (Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian, etc) are not, just like Basque (although on this map in orange).

The Americas are 4 times the size of Europe. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that there are more languages, and more diversity. There's more than 1 big language family in America...

Let's begin in the North. North America has 5 to 8 big language families. Take a look at the map:

NORTH AMERICA
Green (western Canada) , these are the Na-Dene languages. The most famous Na-Dene language is Diné bizaad, better known as Navajo. The Navajo's (Diné) live in the southwestern part of the US and with +/- 300.000 memers, they are the largest indian nation in North America (that is, north of Mexico). The Navajo are closely related to the various Apache ("Inde") nations. Ancestors of these peoples migrated from the north and arrived in the southwest just before the first Europeans came into this area.

Yellow (eastern Canada and much of eastern US), the Algonkians. These were the first peoples to meet the Europeans along the "northeast coast" in the 16th & 17th century. Famous Pocahontas spoke an Algonkian-language, so did the indians who greeted the English Pilgrims around 1620. The Ojibwe (Anishnaabe) and the Cree (Nehilawe) are the largest native nations in Canada (both more than 200.000).

Red (central US), the Siouan languages. Probably originated in the eastern part of the US, but most Siouan speaking nations migrated to the central Plains after the arrival of the Europeans. The "Great Sioux Nation" gave its name to the language family although the word "Sioux" (in English pronounced as "soo", in Spanish and Portuguese as "su", and in Dutch as "soe", from the French pronounciation "sou") itself is not a native word. The native name for all the "Sioux nations" is Lakota (also pronounced with a D or N instead of the L).

Purple (western US), Uto-Aztecan languages. Named after the most northern (not entirely true) nation speaking such a language, the Utes (Nuutsiu), and the most southern one, the famous Aztecs (Nahuah/Mexicah) in Mexico. Another very famous Uto-Aztecan speaking people is the Hopi (Hopituh Shi-nu-mu) nation.

CENTRAL AMERICA
Three big language families of which the first one (blue on the CA-map) is the already mentioned Uto-Aztecan. It is not exactly known how many speakers of Nahuatl (the Aztec language) there were in 1519, when the Spaniards arrived. Probably many millions. Today it is one of the most important (native) American languages with more than one million speakers.

Purple on the Central America Map are the Oto-Mangue languages of which the languages of the Zapotecs (Binizaa) and the Mixtec (Ñuu Savi) both are spoken by about half a million people, mainly in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. A lot of Mixtecs and Zapotecs also live in the US (California).

The languages in (dark) green are the ones spoken by the Mayas. What many people in the Western World often don't realize is that there are many different Mayan peoples. In Guatemala alone, there are more than 20 and they all have their own Mayan-language. The most well known are the largest groups, the K'iche' (more than 1 million), & the Kaqchikel (around 1 million) in Guatemala, the Yucatec Mayas (a million) in Mexico (Yucatán)

SOUTH AMERICA
Linguistic diversity is the south (especially in the western part of the Amazon) was (and still is) very high. The 5 largest families were/are:

Light blue/turquoise: Quechuan, today spoken by about 8 million people in the Andes and bordering Amazonian areas, from south Colombia all the way to northern Chile and Argentina. One of the Quechuan languages was the lingua franca of the Incan empire. Most Quechuan speaking peoples call themselves "Runa"

Green: Cariban. The name comes from a people that lived and lives in the Guyanas and Venezuela: the Kaliña (Kalinha/Kali'na/Kari'na/Carib). It was a word Columbus recorded in his diaries and that very soon became the Spanish word for a "maneating savage", a cannibal. It should be noted however that the word cannibal/carib in most cases actually didn't describe a man eating people but a people that refused to cooperate or to surrender with/to the Spaniards. In a lot of cases rebellious natives who simply resisted Spanish colonization, were specifically called cannibals/caribs to justify war against them or even their complete extermination. A lot of so called caribs didn't even speak a Cariban language. There are about 10.000 Kali'na people today (Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guyana), but there are almost 3 times as many Macuxi (Macushi) in Brazil and Guyana.

Yellow: almost every Ge (actually Macro-Gê) language is spoken in Brazil. Although many people have never heard of the word Ge (or "Jê", the G/J is pronounced as in Portuguese), most people do have an immage of an amazonian indian, and that's because of the +/- 7.000 Kayapó indians (own name Mebêngôkre) who were made famous by singer Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, himself better known as Sting.

Purple: the first people Columbus met in 1492 were Arawakan speaking peoples who lived on the Bahama's, Hispañola (Haiti & Dominican republic), Cuba and other islands in the Caribbean like Puerto Rico. The Arawakan speakers had/have the most widespread population of all South American families. From the Bahama's (some scholars even think Florida), south to Argentina, and from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. The name is derived from the Arawaks (Lokono) who live (+/- 3000) in the Guyana's and Venezuela. The Goajiro (own name and most used one nowadays Wayuu), living in Colombia and Venezuela are half a million people strong.

Red/Orange: Tupian languages. Like the Arawakan languages, spread over almost the whole South American continent. From northern Brazil to Argentina and westwards neighbouring the Andes. Named after the Tupinamba who lived along the coast of Brazil when the Portuguese arrived in 1500. Today they are almost gone (through genocide and absorption into the mainstream Brazilian society). The (different) Guaraní (Avá) peoples (+/- a million) however are one of the largest American nations still alive. They live in southern Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina & Bolivia, but mainly in Paraguay, where one of the Guaraní languages even is -together with Spanish- the official language. It is the only native language on the American continent that is wildely spoken by non-natives (up to 5 million).

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