|Linguistic classification:||Mosetén–Chon ?
Het, Gününa Yajich (Puelche), and Chon proper.
The Chonan languages were spoken in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. Two Chon languages are well attested: Selk'nam, spoken by the people of the same name who occupied territory in the northeast of Tierra del Fuego; and Tehuelche spoken by the people of the same name who occupied territory north of Tierra del Fuego. The name 'Chon', or Tshon, is a blend of 'Tehuelche' and 'Ona'.
The Selk'nam people were widely studied by anthropologists such as Martin Gusinde and Anne Chapman throughout the 20th century; however, their language was not preserved. It went extinct in 2003. The Tehuelche language is also near extinction.
The northern Tehuelche were conquered and later assimilated by the Mapuche during the Araucanization process. Some 900,000 Mapuche continue to live in Chile and Argentina. Further south they traded peacefully with Welsh settlers. Some Tehuelche learnt Welsh and left their children with the Welsh settlers for their education. A solid photographic record was made of this people. However, they were later nearly exterminated in the late 19th-century government-sponsored genocides of Patagonia. Of some 5,000 speakers in 1900, as of 2005[update] there are about 20 speakers left.
The Haush people spoke a language similar to Ona. Some scholars also add to the family the Teushen language —once spoken by the Teushen people, located between the Tehuelche and Puelche —though it is poorly attested.
Viegas Barros (2005) attempts to demonstrate that Puelche to the north is related to the Chon languages, and would constitute one branch of an extended Chonan family. This proposal has been picked up by Lyle Campbell. Based on the scanty evidence that is available, Het (or at least Didiuhet) may be part of the Puelche branch.
If this is correct, the Chon family would be as follows:
- Brenzinger, 2007. Language diversity endangered. Walter de Gruyter.
- Campbell, Lyle. (in preparation) "The classification of South American languages. In Campbell & Grondona (eds.), South America. Mouton de Gruyter.
- Alain Fabre, 2005, Diccionario etnolingüístico y guía bibliográfica de los pueblos indígenas sudamericanos: CHON
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