|Native to||Argentina Chile|
|Region||Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego.|
Part of the Chonan languages of Patagonia, Selk'nam is almost extinct, due both to the late 19th-century Selk'nam genocide by European immigrants, high fatalities due to disease and disruption of traditional society. One source states that the last fluent native speakers died in the 1980s, A Radboud University linguist worked with speaker Herminia Vera-Ona who passed in 2014 to write a reference grammar of the language.
The Selk'nam people, also known as the 'Ona, were an indigenous people who inhabited the northeastern part of the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. They were nomads known as "foot-people," as they did their hunting on land, rather than being seafarers.
The last full-blooded Selk'nam, Ángela Loij, died in 1974. They were one of the last aboriginal groups in South America to be reached by Europeans. Their language, believed to be part of the Chonan family, is considered extinct as the last speakers died in the 1980s.
Based on available data, Selk'nam seems to have had 3 vowels and 23 consonants.
Selk'nam has three vowels: /a, ɪ, ʊ/.
The Ona language is an object–verb–subject language (OVS), this is a rare permutation of word order (only 1% of languages use it as their default word order). There are only two word classes in Selk'nam: nouns and verbs.
- Ona at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Selk'nam". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Adelaar, Willem (2010). "South America".
- Rojas, Luis (2014). A Heritage Reference Grammar of Selk'nam. Manuscript.
- Berscia, Luis Miguel Rojas (2014). A Heritage Reference Grammar of Selk’nam. Radboud University Nijmegen.
- Najlis, Elena (1973). Lengua selknam. Buenos Aires: Universidad de Salvador.
- Guillermo Latorre, Sustrato y superestrato multilingües en la toponimia del extremo sur de Chile, Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades de la Universidad Austral de Chile
- Selk'nam dictionary online (select simple or advanced browsing).
- Selknam (Intercontinental Dictionary Series)