Southern Tiwa language

Last updated
Southern Tiwa
Native to United States
Region New Mexico
Ethnicity Tiwa
Native speakers
1,600, mostly older adults (2007) [1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tix
Glottolog sout2961
ELP Southern Tiwa
Linguasphere 64-CAA-b
Lang Status 60-DE.svg
Southern Tiwa is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

The Southern Tiwa language is a Tanoan language spoken at Sandia Pueblo and Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico and Ysleta del Sur in Texas.


Genealogical relations

Southern Tiwa belongs to the Tiwa sub-grouping of the Kiowa–Tanoan language family. It is closely related to the more northernly Picurís (spoken at Picuris Pueblo) and Taos (spoken at Taos Pueblo). Trager stated that Southern Tiwa speakers were able to understand Taos and Picurís, although Taos and Picurís speakers could not understand Southern Tiwa very easily. Harrington (1910) observed that an Isleta person (Southern Tiwa) communicated in "Mexican jargon" with Taos speakers as Taos and Southern Tiwa were not mutually intelligible.

Language variation

Southern Tiwa had three dialectal variants

  1. Sandía
  2. Isleta
  3. Ysleta del Sur (Tigua)

Trager reported that Sandía and Isleta were very similar and mutually intelligible.

In August 2015, it was announced that the Tiwa language would be taught to children at Isleta Elementary School in Pueblo of Isleta, as a part of the school's transfer from federal to tribal control. [2]

Sound system

Southern Tiwa has 29 consonants:

Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lateral plain lab. plain lab.
Plosive voiced bdɡ
voiceless ptkʔ
glottalized kʼʷ
Affricate voiceless
glottalized ʼ
Fricative fsɬʃh
Rhotic ɾ
Nasal mn
Approximant wlj
Stops /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ/ and /b, d/ may be fricated in different positions as [f, θ, x] and [β, ð] respectively.
/ɾ/ can also be heard as a trill [r] and a retroflex [ɽ].

Southern Tiwa has five vowels that have both an oral and nasal contrast.

Front Central Back
High iĩɨɨ̃uũ
Mid ɛɛ̃
Low ɑɑ̃
Sounds /i, ɨ, u, ɑ/ may also be heard as [ɪ, ɯ, ʊ, a].

Southern Tiwa has three tones: high, mid, and low.

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  1. Southern Tiwa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. Boetel, Ryan (August 2, 2015). "A new beginning for education at Isleta Pueblo". Albuquerque Journal . Retrieved 2015-10-03.