While the literature relating to the languages of North America
is very extensive, that which relates to their classification is
much less extensive. For the benefit of future students in this line
it is thought best to present a concise account of such literature,
or at least so much as has been consulted in the preparation of this
1836. Gallatin, Albert
A synopsis of the Indian tribes within the United States east of the
Rocky Mountains, and in the British and Russian possessions in North
America. In Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian
Society (Archaeologia Americana) Cambridge, 1836, vol. 2.
The larger part of the volume consists of Gallatin’s paper. A short
chapter is devoted to general observations, including certain historical data, and the remainder to the discussion of linguistic
material and the affinities of the various tribes mentioned.
Vocabularies of many of the families are appended. Twenty-eight
linguistic divisions are recognized in the general table of the
tribes. Some of these divisions are purely geographic, such as the
tribes of Salmon River, Queen Charlotte’s Island, etc. Vocabularies
from these localities were at hand, but of their linguistic
relations the author was not sufficiently assured. Most of the
linguistic families recognized by Gallatin were defined with much
precision. Not all of his conclusions are to be accepted in the
presence of the data now at hand, but usually they were sound, as is
attested by the fact that they have constituted the basis for much
classificatory work since his time.
The primary, or at least the ostensible, purpose of the colored map
which accompanies Gallatin’s paper was, as indicated by its title,
to show the distribution of the tribes, and accordingly their names
appear upon it, and not the names of the linguistic families.
Nevertheless, it is practically a map of the linguistic families as
determined by the author, and it is believed to be the first
attempted for the area represented. Only eleven of the twenty-eight
families named in this table appear, and these represent the
families with which he was best acquainted. As was to be expected
from the early period at which the map was constructed, much of the
western part of the United States was left uncolored. Altogether the
map illustrates well the state of knowledge of the time.
1840. Bancroft, George
History of the colonization of the United States, Boston. 1840, vol.
In Chapter XXII of this volume the author gives a brief synopsis of
the Indian tribes east of the Mississippi, under a linguistic
classification, and adds a brief account of the character and
methods of Indian languages. A linguistic map of the region is
incorporated, which in general corresponds with the one published by
Gallatin in 1836. A notable addition to the Gallatin map is the
inclusion of the Uchees in their proper locality. Though considered
a distinct family by Gallatin, this tribe does not appear upon his
map. Moreover, the Choctaws and Muskogees, which appear as separate
families upon Gallatin’s map (though believed by that author to
belong to the same family), are united upon Bancroft’s map under the
The linguistic families treated of are, I. Algonquin, II. Sioux or
Dahcota, III. Huron-Iroquois, IV. Catawba, V. Cherokee, VI. Uchee,
VII. Natchez, VIII. Mobilian.
1841. Scouler, John
Observations of the indigenous tribes of the northwest coast of
America. In Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London.
London, 1841, vol. 11.
The chapter cited is short, but long enough to enable the author to
construct a very curious classification of the tribes of which he treats. In his account Scouler is guided chiefly, to use his own
words, “by considerations founded on their physical character,
manners and customs, and on the affinities of their languages.” As
the linguistic considerations are mentioned last, so they appear to
be the least weighty of his “considerations.”
Scouler’s definition of a family is very broad indeed, and in his
“Northern Family,” which is a branch of his “Insular Group,” he
includes such distinct linguistic stocks as “all the Indian tribes
in the Russian territory,” the Queen Charlotte Islanders, Koloshes,
Ugalentzes, Atnas, Kolchans, Kenáïes, Tun Ghaase, Haidahs, and
Chimmesyans. His Nootka-Columbian family is scarcely less
incongruous, and it is evident that the classification indicated is
only to a comparatively slight extent linguistic.
1846. Hale, Horatio
United States exploring expedition, during the years 1838, 1839,
1840, 1841, 1842, under the command of Charles Wilkes, U.S. Navy,
vol. 6, ethnography and philology. Philadelphia, 1846.
In addition to a large amount of ethnographic data derived from the
Polynesian Islands, Micronesian Islands, Australia, etc., more than
one-half of this important volume is devoted to philology, a large
share relating to the tribes of northwestern America.
The vocabularies collected by Hale, and the conclusions derived by
him from study of them, added much to the previous knowledge of the
languages of these tribes. His conclusions and classification were
in the main accepted by Gallatin in his linguistic writings of 1848.
1846. Latham, Robert Gordon
Miscellaneous contributions to the ethnography of North America. In
Proceedings of the Philological Society of London. London, 1816,
In this article, which was read before the Philological Society,
January 24, 1845, a large number of North American languages are
examined and their affinities discussed in support of the two
following postulates made at the beginning of the paper: First, “No
American language has an isolated position when compared with the
other tongues en masse rather than with the language of any
particular class;” second, “The affinities between the language of
the New World, as determined by their vocabularies, is not less real
than that inferred from the analogies of their grammatical
structure.” The author’s conclusions are that both statements are
substantiated by the evidence presented. The paper contains no new
1847. Prichard, James Cowles
Researches into the physical history of mankind (third edition),
vol. 5, containing researches into the history of the Oceanic and of
the American nations. London, 1847.
It was the purpose of this author, as avowed by himself, to
determine whether the races of men are the cooffspring of a single
stock or have descended respectively from several original families.
Like other authors on this subject, his theory of what should
constitute a race was not clearly defined. The scope of the inquiry
required the consideration of a great number of subjects and led to
the accumulation of a vast body of facts. In volume 5 the author
treats of the American Indians, and in connection with the different
tribes has something to say of their languages. No attempt at an
original classification is made, and in the main the author follows
Gallatin’s classification and adopts his conclusions.
1848. Gallatin, Albert
Hale’s Indians of Northwest America, and vocabularies of North
America, with an introduction. In Transactions of the American
Ethnological Society, New York, 1848, vol. 2.
The introduction consists of a number of chapters, as follows:
First, Geographical notices and Indian means of subsistence; second,
Ancient semi-civilization of New Mexico, Rio Gila and its vicinity;
third, Philology; fourth, Addenda and miscellaneous. In these are
brought together much valuable information, and many important
deductions are made which illustrate Mr. Gallatin’s great acumen.
The classification given is an amplification of that adopted in
1836, and contains changes and additions. The latter mainly result
from a consideration of the material supplied by Mr. Hale, or are
simply taken from his work.
The groups additional to those contained in the Archæologia
8. Selish (Tsihaili-Selish).
1848. Latham, Robert Gordon
On the languages of the Oregon Territory. In Journal of the
Ethnological Society of London, Edinburgh, 1848, vol. 1.
This paper was read before the Ethnological Society on the 11th of
December. The languages noticed are those that lie between “Russian
America and New California,” of which the author aims to give an
exhaustive list. He discusses the value of the groups to which these
languages have been assigned, viz, Athabascan and Nootka-Columbian,
and finds that they have been given too high value, and that they
are only equivalent to the primary subdivisions of stocks, like the
Gothic, Celtic, and Classical, rather than to the stocks themselves.
He further finds that the Athabascan, the Kolooch, the
Nootka-Columbian, and the Cadiak groups are subordinate members of
one large and important class—the Eskimo.
No new linguistic groups are presented.
1848. Latham, Robert Gordon
On the ethnography of Russian America. In Journal of the
Ethnological Society of London, Edinburgh, 1848, vol. 1.
This essay was read before the Ethnological Society February 19,
1845. Brief notices are given of the more important tribes, and the
languages are classed in two groups, the Eskimaux and the Kolooch.
Each of these groups is found to have affinities—
(1) With the Athabascan tongues, and perhaps equal affinities.
(2) Each has affinities with the Oregon languages, and each perhaps
(3) Each has definite affinities with the languages of New
California, and each perhaps equal ones.
(4) Each has miscellaneous affinities with all the other tongues of
North and South America.
1848. Berghaus, Heinrich
Physikalischer Atlas oder Sammlung von Karten, auf denen die
hauptsächlichsten erscheinungen der anorganischen und organischen
Natur nach ihrer geographischen Verbreitung und Vertheilung bildlich
dargestellt sind. Zweiter Band, Gotha, 1848.
This, the first edition of this well known atlas, contains, among
other maps, an ethnographic map of North America, made in 1845. It
is based, as is stated, upon material derived from Gallatin,
Humboldt, Clavigero, Hervas, Vater, and others. So far as the
eastern part of the United States is concerned it is largely a
duplication of Gallatin’s map of 1836, while in the western region a
certain amount of new material is incorporated.
1852. In the edition of 1852 the ethnographic map bears date of
1851. Its eastern portion is substantially a copy of the earlier
edition, but its western half is materially changed, chiefly in
accordance with the knowledge supplied by Hall in 1848.
Map number 72 of the last edition of Berghaus by no means marks an
advance upon the edition of 1852. Apparently the number of families
is much reduced, but it is very difficult to interpret the meaning
of the author, who has attempted on the same map to indicate
linguistic divisions and tribal habitats with the result that
confusion is made worse confounded.
1853. Gallatin, Albert
Classification of the Indian Languages; a letter inclosing a table
of generic Indian Families of languages. In Information respecting
the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the
United States, by Henry E. Schoolcraft. Philadelphia, 1853, vol. 3.
This short paper by Gallatin consists of a letter addressed to W.
Medill, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, requesting his cooperation
in an endeavor to obtain vocabularies to assist in a more complete
study of the grammar and structure of the languages of the Indians
of North America. It is accompanied by a “Synopsis of Indian
Tribes,” giving the families and tribes so far as known. In the main
the classification is a repetition of that of 1848, but it differs
from that in a number of particulars. Two of the families of 1848 do
not appear in this paper, viz, Arapaho and Kinai. Queen Charlotte
Island, employed as a family name in 1848, is placed under the
Wakash family, while the Skittagete language, upon which the name
Queen Charlotte Island was based in 1848, is here given as a family
designation for the language spoken at “Sitka, bet. 52 and 59 lat.”
The following families appear which are not contained in the list of
2. Gros Ventres.
6. Pani, Towiacks.
1853. Gibbs, George
Observations on some of the Indian dialects of northern California.
In Information respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of
the Indian tribes of the United States, by Henry E. Schoolcraft.
Philadelphia, 1853, vol. 3.
The “Observations” are introductory to a series of vocabularies
collected in northern California, and treat of the method employed
in collecting them and of the difficulties encountered. They also
contain notes on the tribes speaking the several languages as well
as on the area covered. There is comparatively little of a
classificatory nature, though in one instance the name Quoratem is
proposed as a proper one for the family “should it be held one.”
1854. Latham, Robert Gordon
On the languages of New California. In Proceedings of the
Philological Society of London for 1852 and 1853. London, 1854, vol.
Read before the Philological Society, May 13, 1853. A number of
languages are examined in this paper for the purpose of determining
the stocks to which they belong and the mutual affinities of the
latter. Among the languages mentioned are the Saintskla, Umkwa,
Lutuami, Paduca, Athabascan, Dieguno, and a number of the Mission
1855. Lane, William Carr
Letter on affinities of dialects in New Mexico. In Information
respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian
tribes of the United States, by Henry R. Schoolcraft. Philadelphia,
1855, vol. 5.
The letter forms half a page of printed matter. The gist of the
communication is in effect that the author has heard it said that
the Indians of certain pueblos speak three different languages,
which he has heard called, respectively, (1) Chu-cha-cas and
Kes-whaw-hay; (2) E-nagh-magh; (3) Tay-waugh. This can hardly be
called a classification, though the arrangement of the pueblos
indicated by Lane is quoted at length by Keane in the Appendix to
1856. Latham, Robert Gordon
On the languages of Northern, Western, and Central America. In
Transactions of the Philological Society of London, for 1856. London
This paper was read before the Philological Society May 9, 1856, and
is stated to be “a supplement to two well known contributions to
American philology by the late A. Gallatin.”
So far as classification of North American languages goes, this is
perhaps the most important paper of Latham’s, as in it a number of
new names are proposed for linguistic groups, such as Copeh for the
Sacramento River tribes, Ehnik for the Karok tribes, Mariposa Group
and Mendocino Group for the Yokut and Pomo tribes respectively,
Moquelumne for the Mutsun, Pujuni for the Meidoo, Weitspek for the
1856. Turner, William Wadden
Report upon the Indian tribes, by Lieut. A. W. Whipple, Thomas
Ewbank, esq., and Prof. William W. Turner, Washington, D.C., 1855.
In Reports of Explorations and Surveys to ascertain the most
practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi
to the Pacific Ocean. Washington, 1856, vol. 3. part 3.
Chapter V of the above report is headed “Vocabularies of North
American Languages,” and is by Turner, as is stated in a foot-note.
Though the title page of Part III is dated 1855, the chapter by
Turner was not issued till 1856, the date of the full volume, as is
stated by Turner on page 84. The following are the vocabularies
given, with their arrangement in families:
I. Delaware. } Algonkin. XI. Navajo. } Apache.
II. Shawnee. } XII. Pinal Leño. }
III. Choctaw. XIII. Kiwomi. }
IV. Kichai. } Pawnee? XIV. Cochitemi. } Keres.
V. Huéco. } XV. Acoma. }
VI. Caddo. XVI. Zuñi.
VII. Comanche. } XVII. Pima.
VIII. Chemehuevi. } Shoshonee. XVIII. Cuchan. }
IX. Cahuillo. } XIX. Coco-Maricopa. } Yuma.
X. Kioway. XX. Mojave. }
XXI. Diegeno. }
Several of the family names, viz, Keres, Kiowa, Yuma, and Zuñi, have
been adopted under the rules formulated above.
1858. Buschmann, Johann Carl Eduard
Die Völker und Sprachen Neu-Mexiko’s und der Westseite des
britischen Nordamerika’s, dargestellt von Hrn. Buschmann. In
Abhandlungen (aus dem Jahre 1857) der königlichen Akademie der
Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Berlin, 1858.
This work contains a historic review of early discoveries in New
Mexico and of the tribes living therein, with such vocabularies as
were available at the time. On pages 315-414 the tribes of British
America, from about latitude 54° to 60°, are similarly treated, the
various discoveries being reviewed; also those on the North Pacific
coast. Much of the material should have been inserted in the volume of 1859 (which was prepared in 1854), to which cross
reference is frequently made, and to which it stands in the nature
of a supplement.
1859: Buschmann, Johann Carl Eduard
Die Spuren der aztekischen Sprache im nördlichen Mexico und höheren
amerikanischen Norden. Zugleich eine Musterung der Völker und
Sprachen des nördlichen Mexico’s und der Westseite Nordamerika’s von
Guadalaxara an bis zum Eismeer. In Abhandlungen aus dem Jahre 1854
der königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Berlin, 1859.
The above, forming a second supplemental volume of the Transactions
for 1854, is an extensive compilation of much previous literature
treating of the Indian tribes from the Arctic Ocean southward to
Guadalajara, and bears specially upon the Aztec language and its
traces in the languages of the numerous tribes scattered along the
Pacific Ocean and inland to the high plains. A large number of
vocabularies and a vast amount of linguistic material are here
brought together and arranged in a comprehensive manner to aid in
the study attempted. In his classification of the tribes east of the
Rocky Mountains, Buschmann largely followed Gallatin. His treatment
of those not included in Gallatin’s paper is in the main original.
Many of the results obtained may have been considered bold at the
time of publication, but recent philological investigations give
evidence of the value of many of the author’s conclusions.
Indian Linguistic Families of America North of