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Many Linguistic Families

 Native American Nations | Linguistic Families                    

There are many linguistic families in North America, and in a number of them there are many tribes speaking diverse languages. It is important, therefore, that some form should be given to the family name by which it may be distinguished from the name of a single tribe or language. In many cases some one language within a stock has been taken as the type and its name given to the entire family; so that the name of a language and that of the stock to which it belongs are identical. This is inconvenient and leads to confusion. For such reasons it has been decided to give each family name the termination “an” or “ian.”

Conforming to the principles thus enunciated, the following rules have been formulated:

I. The law of priority relating to the nomenclature of the systematic philology of the North American tribes shall not extend to authors whose works are of date anterior to the year 1836.

II. The name originally given by the founder of a linguistic group to designate it as a family or stock of languages shall be permanently retained to the exclusion of all others.

III. No family name shall be recognized if composed of more than one word.

IV. A family name once established shall not be canceled in any subsequent division of the group, but shall be retained in a restricted sense for one of its constituent portions.

V. Family names shall be distinguished as such by the termination “an” or “ian.”

VI. No name shall be accepted for a linguistic family unless used to designate a tribe or group of tribes as a linguistic stock.

VII. No family name shall be accepted unless there is given the habitat of tribe or tribes to which it is applied.

VIII. The original orthography of a name shall be rigidly preserved except as provided for in rule III, and unless a typographical error is evident.


Indian Linguistic Families of America North of Mexico, 1891

Linguistic Families


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