Purépecha language

Purépecha was the main language of the pre-Columbian Tarascan state and became widespread in north western Mexico during its heyday in the late post-classic period (~ 1400-1521). It is a language isolate or small language family spoken by more than 100,000 P’urhépecha people in the highlands of the Mexican state of Michoacán. Even though it is spoken within the boundaries of Mesoamerica, Purépecha does not share many of the traits defining the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area, probably due to a long adherence to an isolationist policy.

Purépecha has long been classified as a language isolate, unrelated to any other known language. There are a number of dialects,which SIL divides into two languages, but Campbell (1997) considers P’urhépecha to be a single language.

The P’urhépecha language is mostly spoken in rural communities in the highlands of Michoacán. The former center of the P’urhepecha state was around lake Pátzcuaro and this remains an important center of the P’urhépecha community. Ethnologue counts P’urhépecha as two languages: a central language spoken by approximately 40,000 people (2005) around Pátzcuaro, and a western highland language spoken by 135,00 speakers (2005) around Zamora, Los Reyes de Salgado, Paracho, and Pamatácuaro, all of which are in the vicinity of the Paricutín volcano.

Due to recent migration there are also communities of speakers in the cities of Guadalajara, Tijuana and Mexico City and in the United States. The total population of speakers is rising (from 58,299 in 1960 to 96,016 in 1990 and 121,409 in 2000[7]) but the percentage of speakers relative to non speakers is falling, and the degree of bilingualism is rising – making the language endangered.

Today the percentage of monolingual speakers is below 10%.