Mesoamerican languages tend to share similar features, forming a geographic clade where the languages tended to rub off on each other. The result is that the languages in Central America, even when genetically unrelated, resemble each other. We call this location of mutual feedback the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area (MLA).
|Traditional folk: A P'urhépechan musician plays the Pirekua, a|
folk style of music, on the violin.
Image credit: UNESCO
Like the languages of northern Canada and Alaska, P'urhépecha is polysynthetic (I wrote more about what what polysynthesis is, and how the northern languages use polysynthesis, here), yet unlike those languages, P'urhépecha cannot compound nouns. P'urhépecha involves double marking like Spanish. Most languages use cases to modify the meaning of a noun (like the 's in the sentence Paul's house is a possessive genitive case marker) and many languages use positionals to do that task (such as prepositions in English), but P'urhépecha uses both case markings and postpositions simultaneously. The verbs of P'urhépecha can be suffixed according to shape, position, or body part.
The language is spoken by roughly 250,000 people in Mexico, so we are fortunate that this is one isolate not in immediate danger of extinction.
* = Korean is often classified as a language isolate, easily making it the most famous isolate in the world, but its place is too controversial to casually classify in a post. First, some linguists include it in the Altaic language family and, second, some consider the Jeju dialect to be divergent enough to be a separate language, making two Korean languages under a Koreanic language family.