Native Language Families
The first and largest Amerindian language family is the Algonquian family. In this family there are 35 separate languages that range from the Abenaki-Penobscot in the southeastern region of Canada and the northeastern region of the United States to the Yurok language based mainly in the state of California.
Due to the size of native Amerindian speakers within the Algonquian language family, many common American English words are derived from this Amerindian group. Plant names, animal names and even political terms such as caucus are now apart of the American English language. In the image to the left is the Algonquian word for good person/friend and is used to describe a friend that is not of one's tribe.
The second largest Amerindian language family is the Uto-Atec family. In this family there are 17 languages that begin with the Numic Languages such as Comanche and Shoshone in the northern and central middle United States to the Yaqui language of the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. It is interesting to note, that many of the southern and southwestern tribes of the United States speak a branch of Amerindian language that stems from the Aztec language group of Nahuatl.
The smallest Amerindian language family is the Mixe-Zoque. Within the Mixe-Zoque group there is the Mixe, Zoque and the Popoluca. All three languages that are based out of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico. This language family is also an ancestor of the Aztec Nahuatl group but is more closely aligned with Nahuatl in its current language state than that of the Uto-Aztec Amerindian language family.
For more information on Native American languages, see Native American Languages and Tribes.