Southern Athabaskan languages

The various Apache languages ​​or Southern Athabaskan languages, including South Athapaskisch or just Apache, form a sub- unit of the Athabaskan language family, which is a branch of the Na - Dene. They are spoken by about 170,000 members of the Diné ( Navajo) and various Apache tribes in the southwestern United States ( in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, but also in Colorado and Utah). The most important Apache language is Navajo 150,000 speakers.

  • 4.1 consonants
  • 4.2 vowels
  • 4.3 tones
  • 5.1 Typological Overview
  • 5.2 Verbal morphology
  • 5.3 Class forming verbs
  • 5.4 Category soulfulness

Position within the Na - Dene languages

The Apache languages ​​form a subunit of the Na - Dene. The following diagram shows the location of the Apache languages ​​within the Na - Dene ( external classification).

  • Na - Dene Tlingit (single language )
  • Eyak Athapaskisch Eyak (single language )
  • Athapaskisch North Athapaskisch ( including Chipewyan, Dogrib, Slave - Montain - Bear Lake -Hare, Babine - Witsuwit'en, Carrier)
  • Pazik Coast Athapaskisch (almost †)
  • South Athapaskisch ( Apache languages)

Internal classifications

Mithun and Campbell

After Mithun (1999) and Campbell (1997 ), the Apache languages ​​are divided into two groups - the Western Apache ( Western Apache ) and the Eastern Apache ( Eastern Apache), the speaker numbers are based on Ethnologue 2005 and the below web link.

A. Western Apache ( Western Apache)

B. Eastern Apache ( Eastern Apache)

Mescalero and Chiricahua be considered as a dialect of a language forms ( Mithun 1999). Western Apache ( Western Apache) and Navajo are more closely related to each other than with both Mescalero - Chiricahua. Lipan is extinct, Plains Apache has only very few speakers. Also Chiricahua is in great danger. Western Apache, Mescalero and Jicarilla be learned from a part of adolescents, but also they are considered long-term risk. Navajo is by far the largest indigenous North American language, the use among first-graders but has been reduced to 30 % (New York Times, April 9, 1998).

Hoijer and Opler

The linguist and anthropologist Harry Hoijer other hand, divides the seven Apache languages ​​into 2 groups:

The Plains Apache here is the only language in the Plains Group ( Plains group) and the South Western Group (Southwestern group) can be further divided into two subgroups: (A ) Western Apache ( Western Apache) and (B ) Eastern Apache ( Eastern Apache).

I. PLAINS GROUP ( Plains Group )


Hoijer 's classification is based primarily on the differences in the pronunciation of the first consonant of the noun and verb His former (1938, Hoijer and Opler ) classification had only two branches - with Plains Apache on Eastern Apache ( Eastern Apache) branch (along with Jicarilla and Lipan ) was counted.

In contrast to Mithun (1999) and Campbell ( 1997) Mescalero and Chiricahua are considered different languages ​​, even though they are mutually intelligible ( Ethnologue they considered, however, as a language with two dialects. Western Apache (especially the Tonto Apache ( Dilzhę'é ) - variety) and Navajo are closer to each other than to Mescalero or Chiricahua.

Comparative word list

The degree of relatedness of the Apache languages ​​with each other can be seen from the following table, the word equations for the Swadesh list of the languages ​​Navajo, Chiricahua, Western Apache - contains (San Carlos dialect), Jicarilla and Lipan:

{ { { 1} }}


{ { { 1} }}

All Apache languages ​​have a similar phonology, a similar phonological system. The following description focuses on the language of the Western Apaches. It can be of minor variations to this specification in other, related languages. Compare, for example, Navajo, Jicarilla, Chiricahua.


The Apache languages ​​generally have a consonant repertoire that is similar to the set of 33 shown below (mainly based on the language of the Western Apaches ) consonants:

Orthography of consonants

The practical orthography corresponds to the pronunciation of the Southern Athabaskan relatively well ( the writing systems of German or Vietnamese faced ). The following table shows the phonetic spelling with the corresponding orthographic symbol:

Some Buchstabierkonventionen:


Südathapaskische languages ​​have four vowels contrasting tongue position (as described in " practical " orthography ):

These vowels can be long or short and oral ( ie, non- nasal) or nasally. Nasal vowels are ( borrowed from the Polish spelling ) in the language of the Western Apache, Navajo, Chiricahua and Mescalero by an ogonek ( or nasal hook ) ˛ displayed while the nasal vowels appear in Jicarilla by underlining the vowel. This results in 16 different vowels:

IPA equivalents for oral vowels:

I = [ ɪ ], ii = [i ː ], e = [ ɛ ], ee = [ ɛ ː ], o = [ o] oo = [ ʊ ː ], a = [ ɐ ], aa = [ ɑ ː ].

Orthography of the vowels

In the language of the Western Apaches, there is a practice in which the orthographic vowels o and oo are written in certain cases as u. In these cases, no nasalisierten vowels are included, so the nasal u never appears in the orthography. This (perhaps somewhat contradictory ) practice has been maintained to the present day.

Anyway, in Harry Hoijer and other works by American linguists all o- vowels are written as o. Similarly, the Navajo used the orthographic u do not, but writes this vowel consistently as o

In Chiricahua and Mescalero to write this vowel in all cases as u (even when nasalisierten ų ).

In other languages ​​the Apaches other practices may be in use.


The Southern Athabaskan languages ​​are tonal languages ​​. Hoijer and other linguists have determined four tonal qualities: ( American notation):

  • High ( ' characterized by acute accent, for example: á)
  • Deep ( ` characterized by grave accent, example: à )
  • Ascending (indicated by a circumflex, example: â )
  • Descending (indicated by háček, example: ǎ )

Ascending or descending tones come in the language are less common; if so, often before or after morphemes, or on long vowels. Vowels can have sounds, but also the syllabic n: ń.

In practice, this system is simplified by only high tones are marked and remain the deep unchanged:

  • High tone: á
  • Low tone: a

So instead of the previous nìzìz to write niziz now.

In addition, a rising tone on a long vowel unchanged by a written first vowel and a marked acute accent on the second, or vice versa in a descending tone:

  • Ascending: AA ( instead of the actual â · )
  • In descending order: AA ( instead of the actual: ǎ · )

Also nasal vowels can have sounds, which then results in a high tone to two diacritics: ą. Recently de Chartreuse (see below) has found that Western Apache also has a middle tone, which he identifies with a macron (¯ ), eg ō or ǭ. In Chiricahua, a descending tone when syllabic n occur: n

Some contrasting vocal examples with nasalization, tone and length of the Chiricahua Apache:


Typological Overview

From a typological perspective, the Southern Athabaskan languages ​​partially agglutinative ( concatenation of prefixes and suffixes ), but mainly fusional, polysynthetic, nominative - accusative and the start - end - oriented. The canonical word order is subject-object - predicate, as you can see in the following Navajo example:

  • MOSI tsídii yiníł'į ' The cat looks at the bird. '

Southern Athabaskan words are modified primarily by prefixes, which is unusual for subject-object -predicate languages ​​, since they usually use suffixes.

The Apache languages ​​are " verb - heavy" - they often use verbs but relatively few nouns. In addition to verbs and nouns have these languages ​​are other types of words, pronouns, clitics, Numerals, adverbs and conjunctions. Harry Hoijer summarized this all to a Sammelwortart together particles. There is no equivalent to German adjectives. Adjectival concepts are expressed by participles of verbs.

Verbal morphology

The key element in the Southern Athabaskan languages ​​is the verb, and it is notorious for its complexity. Some substantive terms are expressed by verbs, as in Navajo:

  • Hoozdo ' Phoenix, Arizona ' (literally ' the place is hot ') and
  • Ch'é'étiin ' input ' (literally ' something has a horizontal way out ').

Many complex nouns are derived from verbs substantivized (again in Navajo):

  • Ná'oolkiłí ' clock ' (literally, ' one that is moved slowly in circles ')
  • Chidi naa'na'í bee'eldǫǫhtsoh bikáá ' dah naaznilígíí ' army tank ' (literally ' a car on which they sit on top of it, the crawling around with a big thing with which one makes an explosion ).

Verbs are composed of the root word, the flexion and / or derivation is added as a prefix. Each verb has at least a prefix. The prefix is added to the verb in a specific order.

The Southern Athabaskan verb can be divided into different morphological components. The stem of the verb is composed of a root word abstract and a (often bent ) suffix. This root word forms together with a classificatory prefix (and sometimes other thematizing ) the subject of the verb. The subject is then combined with derivationalen prefixes, which in turn make up the base of the verb. Last inflektionale prefixes an sbs be preceded by ( the Young & Morgan " paradigmatic prefixes " call ) - so the verb is then complete. The following table illustrates this schematically illustrates:


The prefixes that are used in a verb, subject to a fixed order. This type of morphology is position class formation (position class template ) or stopgap Education (slot -and -filler template ) called. Here is a table on a system of Navajo Verb is listed (Young & Morgan 1987). Edward Sapir and Harry Hoijer were the first who carried out such a study. Not every verb has a prefix at every possible point; in fact, most Navajo verbs not appear to be as complicated as the original faith.

A verb is in Navajo of three main components:

These components may be further divided into eleven positions, some of which have further sub- stages:

Although prefixes are generally available at a certain point, some prefixes change the order by metathesis.

For example, the prefix a- (3i object pronoun ) usually occurs in Navajo before di -, as in

If, however, a- together with the prefixes di, and Ni appears reversed the order of the a- di -, and the order is di - a- ni, as shown in

Instead of the expected adinisbąąs (a- di -ni - sh- ł - Baas ). Metathesis is triggered by the phonological context ( Young & Morgan 1987:39 ).

Class forming verbs

The Southern Athabaskan languages ​​have verb stems that classify a particular object in addition to its motion or its status according to its shape or other physical properties. This verb stems are classificatory called and marked by the appropriate acronym. There are eleven listed below in the perfect main stems forming class action words in Navajo. Other Southern Athabaskan languages ​​have a slightly different set of word stems.

Compared to the German Navajo has no single word that corresponds to the type German. The word is instead expressed by eleven different verbs, depending on the properties of the given object. To the equivalent Give me some hay! express the Navajo verb níłjool (NCM ) should be used while for Give me a cigarette! the verb nítįįh (SSO ) is used.

In addition to describing the physical properties of an object, the ever - classificatory verb stems can also distinguish between the types of motion of the object. The strains can be grouped into three different categories:

Promoted includes activities such as carrying, lowering and take. Powered involves spinning dropping and throwing. Free fall includes traps and space flight.

With an example from the SRO category comes in Navajo

In addition, the Southern Athabaskan languages ​​have other similar verb stems that call Young & Morgan ( 1987) secondary class forming verbs.

( The term classifier is used in the Athabaskan linguistics for a prefix, the transitivity expresses or serves as a thematic prefix, and is therefore a somewhat misleading term. These transitivity classifiers are not involved in the classification of nouns by the class- forming stems and are in no relation to the term classifier from Chinese or Thai).

Category soulfulness

Like most Athabaskan languages ​​also show the Apache languages ​​have different grammatical levels of soulfulness, with different nouns need certain verb forms depending on the degree of soulfulness. Navajo nouns can not animate ( an abstract concept ) are classified, for example, on a scale of soulfulness very animated ( a person ) to ( Young & Morgan 1987: 65-66 ):

People / Flash → Children / large animals → medium sized animals small animals → → → insects → forces of nature inanimate objects → abstract concepts

In general it is the beseelteste noun in a sentence appear first, while the noun with lesser soulfulness appears as a Second. If both nouns of the same soulfulness are, each of which can come first. Therefore, both example sentences ( 1) and (2) is correct. Yi prefix of the improvement shows that the first noun and Bi that the second noun is the subject.

Example (3) sounds for most Navajo wrong, however, because the less animate noun appears before the more soulful noun:

To express this procedure beseeltere the object must be called, first, as in Example (4):