Languages of the Americas

  Languages studied

  • The Eskimo-Aleut family: Inuit
  • The Otomanguean family: Chocho, Ixcatec, Mazahua
  • Indo-European languages spoken in the Americas: Romani

1. The Eskimo-Aleut family

Associate Professor: Marc-Antoine Mahieu
PhD student: John-Samuel MacKay
Affiliate:  Vladimir Randa

The Eskimo-Aleut (or Eskaleut) language family spreads across the whole of the American Arctic. It corresponds to the last wave of migration from the Old World into the New via the Bering Strait, beginning around 4500 before the present. This family is currently comprised of six languages: the Inuit language (dialects of Greenland, Canada and Alaska), four Yupik languages (Central Alaskan Yup’ik, Central Siberian Yupik, Naukanski Yupik, Alutiiq Yupik), and Aleut.

At Lacito, the research conducted in the Eskimo-Aleut domain focus on two regions of the Eastern Canadian Arctic, where the Inuit dialects referred to as Inuktitut (36.000 speakers according to the Canada 2016 Census) are spoken:
A. Igloolik region, in Nunavut, where Vladimir Randa carries out anthropological research on the relationships between Inuit and animals,
B. he coasts of Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec), where Marc-Antoine Mahieu conducts linguistic research on the forms and structures of Inuktitut.

Carte langues étudiées sur le continent Amériques

Fig.  The languages of the Americas studied at LACITO

(see this page for a key to symbols, and for access to LACITO’s global map)

2. The Otomanguean family

CNRS researcher: Evangelia Adamou
PhD students: Erendira Calderon, Myryam Selene Ortiz-Torres

At LACITO we specialize in the study of the languages of the Otomanguean stock spoken in Mexico.

Evangelia Adamou has been engaged in the documentation and description of Ixcatec, a Popolocan language with only a handful of speakers remaining, most of them in their eighties. The last Ixcatec speakers reside in the municipality of Santa Maria Ixcatlan, in the Mixteca Alta in the State of Oaxaca.

Erendira Calderon is working on the effects of bilingualism on spatial language and cognition in Chocho (Ngigua and Ngiba varieties), a Popolocan language closely-related to Ixcatec. Chocho is severely endangered, having roughly 500–1,000 speakers who live in four municipalities of the Mixteca Alta in the State of Oaxaca. [1]

Myryam Selene Ortiz-Torres is working on Mazahua, an Otopamean language.
[1] According to estimates by the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Geografía (INEGI) and the Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (INALI), as well as by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (USA).

3. Indo-European languages spoken in the Americas

CNRS researcher: Evangelia Adamou
Postdoctoral researcher: Chiara Tribulato
Past PhD students: Pablo Irizarri van Suchtelen, Cristian Padure

Research conducted at LACITO focuses on Romani, an Indic language of the Indo-European stock, as a heritage language spoken in the Americas. Most of the Roma probably migrated to the Americas along various routes in the nineteenth century as part of the more general European migration. It is estimated that there are between 1.5 and 3.5 million[1] Roma in the Americas and yet very little is known about their language and language practices.

We have conducted original fieldwork on Romani spoken in two Latin American countries, i.e., Mexico (E. Adamou and C. Padure) and Chile (P. Irizarri van Suchtelen). In particular, we are interested on Romani-Spanish bilingualism.
[1] The lower estimates are cited in Etudes Tsiganes (2012) and the higher estimates are provided by the Romani organizations SKOKRA.

(update: 2023/03)

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