Mexican Languages

The number of individual languages listed for Mexico is 287. Of these, 283 are living and 4 are extinct. Of the living languages, 280 are indigenous and 3 are non-indigenous. There are over 150 important variants of the indigenous languages spoken in Mexico today.

The indigenous languages of Mexico belong to five major groups, sometimes called "linguistic stocks."

In addition, there are six "linguistic families" that are thought to be not related to other languages. Some of these groups include languages of Guatemala (the Mayan family), and others include languages of the United States and Canada (the Algic stock, the putative Hokan stock, and the Uto-Aztecan stock).

This category about the languages of Mexico is organized around twenty families of indigenous languages. There are also at least two signed languages used by Deaf people in Mexico.

Sixty-eight indigenous languages are official languages of Mexico. While 68 indigenous languages may seem like a large number, in fact over 130 indigenous languages, along with their unique customs and culture, have vanished.

As such, the government has placed a heavy emphasis on the preservation and promotion of the native languages. The Law of Linguistic Rights was created in 2002 to protect the native Mexican languages, and encourage bilingual and intercultural education.

The 1917 constitution that was drawn up after the Revolution also had a strong focus on the preserving the languages of Mexico and the country’s multicultural identity.

The constitution stated that every indigenous group had the right to protect and enrich their own Mexican language.

Nowadays, there are over 6 million speakers of indigenous languages in Mexico. While 10-14% of the population identify themselves with an indigenous group, only 6% of them speak an indigenous language of Mexico.

Some of the most widely spoken languages in Mexico, aside from Spanish, are Nahuatl, which has almost 1.4 million speakers, Yucatec Maya, spoken by over three quarters of a million people, and Mixtec, whose speakers amount to about half a million.

Interestingly, while Spanish is of course the dominant language in Mexico, it is not defined as the official language in Mexican legislation.

This allows for more rights to be given to the remainder of Mexico’s languages, including the right to use indigenous languages in governmental communication and official documents.

Language families with members north of Mexico

  • Algonquian languages: Kikapú
  • Yuman–Cochimí languages: Paipai, Kiliwa, Cucapá, Cochimi and Kumiai
  • Uto-Aztecan languages:
    • Tepiman branch: Pápago, Pima Bajo, Northern and Southern Tepehuán
    • Taracahita branch: Tarahumara, Guarijio language, Yaqui and Mayo
    • Corachol branch: Cora and Huichol
    • Nahuan branch: Nahuatl, dialects

Language families with all known members in Mexico

  • Totonacan languages:
    • Totonac (different varieties)
    • Tepehua (different varieties)
  • Oto-Manguean languages:
    • Oto-pamean branch: Northern Pame, Southern Pame, Chichimeca Jonaz, Otomí, Mazahua, Matlatzinca and Ocuiltec.
    • Popolocan branch: Popoloca language, Chocho, Ixcatec language*, Mazatecan languages
    • Tlapanec–Subtiaban branch: Me'phaa
    • Amuzgoan branch: Amuzgo de Guerrero, Amuzgo de Oaxaca
    • Mixtecan branch: Mixtecan languages, Cuicatec and Trique language.
    • Zapotecan branch: Chatino (and its dialects), Zapotec languages.
    • Chinantec branch: Chinantec (and its dialects)
    • Chiapaneca–Mangue branch: Chiapaneco*
  • Mixe–Zoquean languages:
    • Zoque languages
    • Mixe languages
    • Popoluca (Texistepec Popoluca, Sierra Popoluca (Both Zoquean) and Sayula Popoluca Oluta Popoluca (Both Mixean))

Language family with members south of Mexico

  • Mayan languages:
    • Huastecan branch: Wastek language,
    • Yucatecan branch: Yukatek Maya, Lacandón,
    • Cholan branch: Ch'ol language, Chontal Maya language, Tzeltal language, Tzotzil language,
    • Qanjobalan–Chujean branch: Chuj language, Tojolabal language, Q'anjob'al language, Jakaltek, Motozintlec, Akatek language
    • Quichean–Mamean branch: Mam language, Tektitek language, Ixil, K'iche' language, Kaqchikel and Q'eqchi'.

Language isolates:

  • Seri
  • Tequistlatecan languages: Lowland Chontal, Highland Chontal
  • Purépecha
  • Huave

*In danger of extinction.