The following families of languages indigenous to Mexico belong to the Uto-Aztecan stock:
Corachol family [Cora and Huichol]
Nahuatl (Aztecan) family [Nahuatl]
Tepiman family [O'odham (Papago), Tepehuan and Pima Bajo (Névome)]
Taracahitic family [Huarijío, Mayo, Tarahumara and Yaqui]
The genetic relationship of the languages which are today known as the Uto-Aztecan language stock was recognized by the late 19th century and firmly established by the middle of the 20th century. The internal classification of the Uto-Aztecan languages continues to be debated.
Uto-Aztecan was one of the largest language stocks of Native America at the time of European contact in terms of population, linguistic diversity and geographic distribution. The northernmost Uto-Aztecan language, Northern Paiute, is found as far north as Oregon and Idaho. In the south, members of the Nahuatl family are spoken as far south as Nicaragua and El Salvador. The most famous of these is Classical Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec Empire of central Mexico.
Reasonable estimates of the time depth of the Uto-Aztecan stock range up to 5000 years. That is, about 5000 years ago Proto-Uto-Aztecan, from which all the modern Uto-Aztecan languages are descended, was spoken. This would place it at approximately the same time-depth as Indo-European. Uto-Aztecan is generally thought to be distantly related to the Kiowa-Tanoan family in the United States.
Several families of Uto-Aztecan languages are or were spoken in the western part of the United States. These include Numic (which includes languages such as Paiute, Mono and Shoshoni), Tubatulabal, Hopi and Takic (including such languages as Serrano, Cahuilla and Luiseño). Some of the languages of the Tepiman family are spoken in the United States as well.
Cora, huichol Cora, Huichol
Cora is spoken in the state of Nayarit. There is more than one
Huichol is spoken in the states of Nayarit and Jalisco. The variants that exist are mutually intelligible.
Nahuatl (Aztec, Mexicano)
The Nahuatl (or Nahua) languages form the southernmost family
of the Uto-Aztecan stock. Nahuatl has over a million and a half
speakers, more than any other family of indigenous languages in
Mexico today. The name "Nahuatl" (pronounced
in two syllables, ná-watl) comes from the root nahua ([nawa]) which
means 'clear sound' or 'command'.
The areas marked in green on the map are the traditional Nahuatl homelands where the Nahuatl languages are still spoken today. They include parts of the Federal District (Mexico City) and of the states of Durango, México, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz. Although it does not appear on this map, the southernmost language in the family is Pipil, which is spoken in El Salvador.
Nahuatl is known world-wide because of the Aztecs, also called the "Mexica" (pronounced approximately "may-she-kah"). They lived in Mexico-Tenochtitlan (what is today the center of Mexico City) in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and were the dominant civilization in Mesoamerica at the time of the Spanish conquest. Because they spoke a particular kind of Nahuatl (Classical Nahuatl), both the Nahuatl family and even other individual variants are sometimes called "Aztec" or "Mexicano". (The Uto-Aztecan stock is also sometimes called Uto-Nahuatl.) And of course, it is from their capital city, México [mêxihko], that the modern country of Mexico took its name.
O:b no'ok ("pima bajo"), pápago, pima, tepehuán
Akimel O'odham (Pima), O:b No'ok (Mountain Pima or "Pima Bajo"),
Tohono O'odham (Papago), Tepehuan
The Tepiman family is a group of southern Uto-Aztecan languages spoken in northern Mexico and southern Arizona. The family consists of two subfamilies: the Tepehuan group to the south (Durango and Chihuahua) and the Piman group to the north (primarily Sonora and Arizona). The Piman languages are called by various names, including Tohono O'odham (Papago), Akimel O'odham (Pima), and O:b No'ok (Mountain Pima or "Pima Bajo"). The Summer Institute of Linguistics has worked in all these languages. There are also several extinct members of this family.
The Tepiman languages are distributed in a nearly straight line from southern Arizona south into Sonora, Chihuahua, and Durango, forming what historians call the "Tepiman Corridor". It has long been thought that ideas and goods were exchanged between the American Southwest and Mesoamerica (the ancient cultures of central/southern Mexico and Guatemala) along trade routes such as this.
The Piman groups in Arizona include thousands of speakers of Tohono O'odham (Papago) and Akimel O'odham (Pima). There are also a few hundred Tohono O'odham speakers in the state of Sonora along the border with Arizona. These groups are known as "Pima Alto" or "Upper Pima". Farther south, there are several hundred speakers of O:b No'ok (Mountain Pima) in the Sierra Michi between the states of Chihuahua and Sonora. O:b No'ok is not mutually intelligible with the Pima Alto (O'odham) varieties. (O:b No'ok is sometimes called "Pima Bajo" or "Lower Piman", but the label "Pima Bajo" can also include some extinct Piman languages that were geographically close to O:b No'ok but linguistically more like the O'odham languages farther north.)
Tepehuan has three major variants, one in Chihuahua and two in Durango. Northern Tepehuan is spoken in the municipio (township) of Guadalupe y Calvo, in western Chihuahua by about 5000 people. Southern Tepehuan is spoken in southern Durango by about 20,000 speakers. They are divided between a western variety spoken in the municipio of Pueblo Nuevo and an eastern variety spoken in the municipio of Mezquital. The Tepehuans were not conquered by the Spanish but they were forced to retreat into the mountains from their ancestral homeland in the central Durango plains. Although they once lived in the towns of Tepehuanes and Papasquiaro, today these towns have no Tepehuan speakers.
Like the cultures of most of the indigenous groups of Mexico, that of the Tepiman peoples is a blend of diverse cultural elements, some surviving from pre-Hispanic times and others adopted since the Spanish conquest. Although the influence from Spanish culture is similar throughout Mexico, the pre-Hispanic cultural elements are quite different from those farther south in Mesoamerica, and are more like those of indigenous groups in the southwestern United States.
Though divided by an international border, the O'odham still maintain close connections with each other. For example, many O'odham in Arizona still participate in the pilgrimage of St. Francis to Magdalena, Sonora, every October. They live scattered across the desert in small settlements of a few families each. They have, over the centuries, developed an intimate relationship to the desert, depending on agriculture adapted to its harsh demands as well as some hunting and gathering. The O'odham are especially well-known for their exquisite basketry.
Speakers of O:b No'ok live primarily in small family ranches rather than towns. Their material culture is like that of most of northern Mexico. Unlike many indigenous groups, they never seem to have developed any highly decorative pottery, baskets, or textiles. However, the prehispanic nonmaterial culture is still very much alive, especially the ceremonial system, including such elements as the sacred all-night dance known as the "mitote".
Like the O:b No'ok, the Tepehuan people live on family ranches. They traditionally cultivate several varieties of squash, beans, and corn (maize), and raise farm animals. Since about 1970 the Tepehuans have owned their own sawmills and distributed profits to members of the community. Many areas of the rugged terrain are now accessible by lumber road. Bilingual schools are staffed by native speakers.
Southern Tepehuan women wear intricately tucked blouses and colorful full skirts decorated with ribbons and lace in the Spanish colonial style. Women are veiled with large black shawls whenever outside their homes, and walk behind their husbands. The traditional dress for men consists of embroidered unbleached muslin tunics and trousers, worn with bright neckerchiefs, sandals with soles of cowhide or rubber from tires, and flat-brimmed straw hats. The young often replace this with western wear, similar to traditional "cowboy" dress in the southwestern U.S.
In the Tepiman languages, the verb generally comes first in a clause, unless some other part of the clause is placed in front of it for special prominence. After the verb, there is some flexibility in the order of subject and object, and sometimes one can only identify which is which by context. Similarly, there is flexibility in the order of adjectives, possessors, and other noun modifiers within a noun phrase. Long words with many prefixes and suffixes are common.
An interesting linguistic feature shared by the Tepiman languages is the reduplication (repetition) of part of a noun or adjective to indicate plural. For example, in SE Tepehuan, ban means 'coyote', while baaban means 'coyotes'; the first two letters ba are repeated (with the vowel lengthened) to indicate plural.
Huarijío, mayo, tarahumara, yaqui Huarijío,
Mayo, Tarahumara, Yaqui