Families in Mexico and Central America
families of languages are native to Mexico
and Central America. Some of these families, such as Uto-Aztecan,
overlap into North America, and others, such as Chibchan
and Maipurean, extend from South America into Middle America.
Maya family consists of 31 languages
spoken principally in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.
Chol was the main language during the Classic
period of Maya civilization, from about AD 300 to 900.
It was joined later by Yucatec Maya. Several Mayan languages
have many speakers, including K'iche' with 675,000, Yucatec
Maya with 500,000, Mam with 400,000, and Kaqchikel with
people speak each of these languages than speak all the
Native American languages in Canada and the United States
other languages in the Mayan family have very few speakers;
two are already extinct.
Otomanguean family contains about 30 languages, in a geographic
area that extends from northern Mexico to Nicaragua. The
most widely spoken Otomanguean languages are Otomi with
300,000 speakers, Zapotec with 300,000, and Mixtec
Mixe-Zoquean family is of special importance because the
Olmecs, who founded the first great
civilization of Middle America about 1200 BC, appear to
have spoken a language in this family.
a dozen or so Mixe-Zoquean languages are spoken in southern
large family is Uto-Aztecan, which extends from the Western
United States through Mexico and into Central America. It
includes Nahuatl, the language of the ancient civilizations
of the Toltecs, which lasted from
the 10th to 13th centuries, and the Aztecs,
which lasted from the 14th to 16th centuries, and their
than 1 million people speak Nahuatl today.
languages of the Chibchan family are spoken in lower Central
America, including Paya, Rama, Bribri, and Guaymi, while
most Chibchan languages are found in northern South America.
A number of smaller families and isolated languages are
also found in Middle America. They include the Tequistlatecan
family in Mexico, the Xincan family in Guatemala, the Jicaque
family in Honduras, and the Lencan family in Honduras and
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