Native American languages

Akira Y. Yamamoto, Ofelia Zepeda

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

11 Scopus citations


Some chapters of this book discuss one or several languages imported into the USA and one chapter describes a set of creoles originating in the new world. This chapter focuses on languages that Native Americans were speaking when Europeans first arrived on these shores. Some Native American languages are still spoken, though they are now in imminent danger of dying out. As Akira Y. Yamamoto and Of elia Zepeda explain, many Native American languages are known today only by aging speakers, but children are no longer acquiring them. Some Native American languages are no longer spoken by anyone. With the Native American Languages Act of 1990 and of 1992, federal laws enabled organizations to be established to train native language teachers, carry out research on these languages, and develop teaching materials and other critical resources for documenting and revitalizing these endangered tongues. In terms that can be understood with a little effort and are well worth the time, this chapter illustrates ways in which Native American languages differ so dramatically in structure from more familiar European languages. For example, basic word order in English is SVO; that's shorthand for Subject before Verb and Verb before Object, as in The governor (S) vetoed (V) the bill (O). Besides SVO, Native American languages also display other orders, including SOV, VOS, VSO, and OVS. They are able to utilize these word orders partly because certain information that is carried in English utterances by word order (e.g., which noun is the subject and which noun is the object) is carried in Native American languages by affixes on the words themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLanguage in the USA
Subtitle of host publicationThemes for the Twenty-First Century
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9780511809880
ISBN (Print)9780521771757
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Native American languages'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this