Tanoan /təˈn.ən/, also Kiowa–Tanoan or Tanoan–Kiowa, is a family of languages spoken by indigenous peoples in present-day New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

central North America
Native speakers
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Distribution of Tanoan languages before European contact. The Pueblo languages are at the left; the nomadic Kiowa at right.
Historical distribution of Pueblo Tanoan languages
Current distribution of Pueblo Tanoan languages

Most of the languages – Tiwa (Taos, Picuris, Southern Tiwa), Tewa, and Towa – are spoken in the Native American Pueblos of New Mexico (with one outlier in Arizona). These were the first languages collectively given the name of Tanoan. Kiowa, which is a related language, is now spoken mostly in southwestern Oklahoma. The Kiowa historically inhabited areas of modern-day Texas and Oklahoma.

Languages edit

The Tanoan language family has seven languages in four branches:[citation needed][verification needed]


Kiowa, (Cáuijògà/cáuijò:gyà): 20 speakers

Jemez (or Towa): 3,000 speakers


Taos: 800 speakers

Picuris: 225 speakers

Southern Tiwa: 1,600 speakers

? Piro

Tewa: 1,600 speakers

Kiowa–Towa might form an intermediate branch, as might Tiwa–Tewa.

Name edit

Tanoan has long been recognized as a major family of Pueblo languages, consisting of Tiwa, Tewa, and Towa. The inclusion of Kiowa into the family was at first controversial given the cultural differences between those groups. The once-nomadic Kiowa people of the Plains are culturally quite distinct from the Tiwa, Tewa, and Towa pueblos, which obscured somewhat the linguistic connection between Tanoans and Kiowans. Linguists now accept that a Tanoan family without Kiowa would be paraphyletic, as any ancestor of the Pueblo languages would be ancestral to Kiowa as well. Kiowa may be closer to Towa than Towa is to Tiwa–Tewa. In older texts, Tanoan and Kiowa–Tanoan were used interchangeably. Because of the cultural use of the name Tanoan as signifying several peoples who share a culture, the more explicit term Kiowa–Tanoan is now commonly used for the language family as a whole, with Tanoan being the branch that contains the languages now spoken in New Mexico and Arizona (i.e. Arizona Tewa)[citation needed]

The prehistory of the Kiowa people is little known. As a result, the history is obscure about the separation of the members of this language family into two groups ('Puebloan' and 'Plains') with radically distinct lifestyles.[verification needed][weasel words][citation needed] There is apparently no[dubious ] oral tradition[according to whom?] of any ancient connection between the peoples. Scholars have not determined when the peoples were connected so that the common linguistic elements could have developed. The earliest traditions and historical notices of the Kiowa record them migrating from the north and west, to the territory now associated with the tribal nation. Today this area is within the modern states of Texas and Oklahoma, which they occupied from the late 18th century.[citation needed]

Historical phonology edit

The chart below[1] contains the consonants of the Tanoan proto-language as reconstructed by Hale (1967) based on consonant correspondences in stem-initial position.[citation needed]

Labial Apical Apical
Velar Velar
Plosive voiced *b *d *dz (*ɡ) *ɡʷ
plain *p *t *ts *k *kʷ
glottalized *pʼ *tʼ *tsʼ *kʼ *kʷʼ
aspirated *pʰ *tʰ *tsʰ *kʰ *kʷʰ
Nasal *m *n
Fricative *s *h
Glide *w

The evidence for comes from prefixes; has not been found in stem-initial position and thus is in parentheses above. Hale reconstructs the nasalization feature for nasal vowels. Vowel quality and prosodic features like vowel length, tone, and stress have not yet been reconstructed for the Tanoan family. Hale (1967) gives certain sets of vowel quality correspondences.

The following table illustrates the reconstructed[clarification needed] initial consonants in Proto-Tanoan and its reflexes in the daughter languages.[citation needed]

Initial consonants in proto-language and daughter languages
Proto-Tanoan Tiwa Tewa Towa Kiowa Proto-Tanoan Tiwa Tewa Towa Kiowa
consonant environment
*h h h [2] h *dz j j, z d
ʔ ʔ ʔ *d before oral vowel l d d
*p p p p p before nasal vowel n n n
*pʼ *n n
*pʰ f ɸ *w w w w j
*b m m m b *ɡʷ ɡ
*m m (*ɡ) k ɡ k
*t t t t t *k k k
*ts [3] ts s *kʷ ɡ
*tʰ θ ʃ *kʷʼ kʷʼ kʷʼ
*tsʰ s s *kʼ
*s ɬ c [4] s *kʰ x x h
*tʼ *kʷʰ
*tsʼ tʃʼ [3] tsʼ

As can be seen in the above table, a number of phonological mergers have occurred in the different languages. Cognate sets supporting the above are listed below:

Cognate sets demonstrating initial consonant correspondences[5]
 Tiwa   Tewa   Towa   Kiowa  meaning(s)
*b mɑ̃ mãʔ mĩ́ː "to bring"
*m mæ̃̀n- mãn mãté mɔ̃ː-dɔ "hand"
*d (+ V) līlū- diː délʔɨː "fowl"
*d (+ Ṽ) ˈnæ̃̄m- nãn nṍː dɔ̃-m "sand" (in Taos), "ground" (in Tewa, Kiowa), "space" (in Jemez)
*n næ̃̄ nãː nĩ́ː nɔ̃ː first person singular
*ts ˈtʃī tsíː ta "eye"
*t tũ̀ tṹ tɨ̃́ tõ- "to say"
*tsʰ sũ̀ sũwẽ sɨ̃́ tʰõ-m "to drink"
*tʰ ˈtʰɤ̄ θáː ʃó tʰa- "to break" (in Taos, Tewa, Jemez), "to sever several" (in Kiowa)
*ts’ ˈtʃʼɑ̄- tʼɔ-l "liver"
*t’ tʼɑ́- tʼon tʼaː tʼɔː "antelope"
*dz jɑ̄- zǽː "song" (in Taos, Jemez), "to sing" (in Kiowa)

Notes edit

  1. ^ The original Americanist phonetic symbols differ from the IPA: Amer. ⟨c⟩ = IPA ts, Amer ⟨ʒ⟩ = IPA dz.
  2. ^ The null set symbol ∅ represents the lack of a consonant, i.e. the reconstructed proto-sound was deleted in the daughter language.
  3. ^ a b Taos (and also Picuris) /tʃ, tʃʼ/ varies between post-alveolar [tʃ, tʃʼ] and alveolar [ts, tsʼ].
  4. ^ This consonant is transcribed as a palatalized [tʸ] in Hale (1967) and palatalized [kʸ] in Hale (1962).
  5. ^ The data here is from Hale (1967), which in turn is gathered from G. Trager's publications (for Taos), Harrington's publications (for Kiowa), Dozier in personal communication to Hale (for Tewa), and Hale's own fieldwork on Jemez.

Bibliography edit

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