Languages of North America

The languages of North America reflect not only that continent's indigenous peoples, but the European colonization as well. The most widely spoken languages in North America (which includes Central America and the Caribbean islands) are English, Spanish, and French, and, especially in the Caribbean, creole languages lexified by them.

Indigenous languages

North America is home to a large number of language families and some language isolates. In the Arctic north, the Eskimo-Aleut languages are spoken from Alaska to Greenland. This group includes the Aleut language of the Aleutian Islands, the Yupik languages of Alaska and the Russian Far East, and the Inuit languages of Alaska, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Greenland. [ [ Eskimo-Aleut Language Family] , accessed 2007-08-31.]

The Na-Dené languages, of which the most numerous and widespread are the Athabaskan languages, include the languages of central and eastern Alaska and northwestern Canada, as well as the Apachean languages of the Southwestern United States. [ [ Athabaskan (Na-Dene) Language Family] , accessed 2007-08-31.] The Algic languages, including the large Algonquian branch, are widespread across Canada and the United States; they include Cree, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe), Mi'kmaq, and Blackfoot. [ [ Algonquian Language Family] , accessed 2007-08-31.] The Iroquoian languages dominate the area around the Saint Lawrence River and the eastern Great Lakes, but also include Cherokee. [ [ Iroquoian Languages] , accessed 2007-08-31.] The Siouan-Catawban languages, including Crow and Sioux, dominate the Great Plains. [cite book|last=Parks|first=Douglas R.|coauthors=Robert L. Rankin|year=2001|chapter=The Siouan languages|editor=R. J. DeMallie (ed.)|title=Handbook of North American Indians: Plains| series=Vol. 13, Part 1|pages=94–114|location=Washington, D.C.|publisher=Smithsonian Institution|id=ISBN 0-16-050400-7] A large number of small language families are spoken in the Pacific Northwest from British Columbia to California. [cite book|last=Mithun|first=Marianne|authorlink=Marianne Mithun|year=1999|title=The languages of Native North America|publisher=Cambridge University Press|id=ISBN 0-521-23228-7]

The Uto-Aztecan languages are found throughout the Western United States, northern and central Mexico, and as far south as El Salvador; they include Hopi, O'odham, and Nahuatl (descended from Aztec). [ [ Uto-Aztecan Language Family] , accessed 2007-08-31.] Other large families in Mexico include the Mayan languages (also spoken in Belize and Guatemala), [ [ Mayan Language Family] , accessed 2007-08-31.] the Mixe-Zoque languages, [ [ Mixe-Zoque Language Family] , accessed 2007-08-31.] and the Oto-Manguean languages. [ [ Otomanguean stock] , accessed 2007-08-31.] In the Caribbean, the Arawakan languages were formerly widespread, but are now limited to Garifuna on the Central American mainland; the family is still well represented in South America, however. [ [ Tronco de lenguas Arawak o Arahuaco] , accessed 2007-08-31. es icon] The Chibchan languages are spoken in Costa Rica and Panama as well as South America. [ [ Macro-Chibchan] , accessed 2007-08-31.]

Immigrant languages

The three most widely spoken languages in North America - English, Spanish, and French - reflect the three most important powers in the Age of Discovery: England, Spain, and France. English is the predominant language of Canada, the United States, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands, and is spoken alongside English-based creole languages in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Virgin Islands. [cite book|last=Holm|first=John A.|title=Pidgins and Creoles|publisher=Cambridge University Press|year=1989|id=ISBN 0521359406|pages=444–84] It is also the official language of Dominica and Saint Lucia, where the French-based Antillean Creole is spoken.

Spanish is the dominant language in Mexico and all of Central America apart from Belize, as well as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico (where English is spoken as well); it is also widely spoken in the United States. [ [ Ethnologue report for Spanish] , accessed 2007-08-31.] French is the dominant language in Quebec and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and is spoken in Ontario, New Brunswick, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Louisiana. It is spoken alongside French-based creole languages in Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, and the French side of Saint Martin. [ [ Ethnologue report for French] , accessed 2007-08-31.]

Other immigrant languages include Danish in Greenland [ [ Ethnologue report for Greenland] , accessed 2007-08-31] and Dutch in Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, where it is spoken alongside the Portuguese Creole language Papiamento. [ [ Ethnologue report for Aruba] , [ Ethnologue report for Netherlands Antilles] , accessed 2007-08-31.]

ee also

*North American English
*Mexican Spanish
*Caribbean Spanish
*Central American Spanish
*Spanish in the United States
*Canadian French
*French in the United States


External links

* [ Languages of the Americas] at Ethnologue

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