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Northern Pomo language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Northern Pomo
Native toUnited States
RegionNorthern California
Native speakers
1 (2007)[1]
  • Western
    • Northern Pomo
Language codes
ISO 639-3pej
Pomoan languages map.svg
The seven Pomoan languages with an indication of their pre-contact distribution within California

Northern Pomo is a critically endangered Pomoan language indigenous to the state of California. The Pomo were a group of people who spoke what was documented as the Pomoan languages, and the speakers of Northern Pomo were those who lived specifically in the northern and largest area of the Pomoan territory. Other communities near to the Pomo were the Coast Yuki, the Huchnom, and the Athabascan.[3][4]


Northern Pomo falls under the Western branch of the Pomoan language family, and it is the only language categorized in this branch that is not part of the Southern group.


The earliest noted documentation of Native Americans in this area was by General Drake in 1579, but it cannot be certain that the people he encountered were what is now considered to be the Pomo.[3] A census was delivered of the people in this area by Colonel Redick M'Kee during an expedition in 1851 putting the Pomo at roughly 1000-1200 people.[3] The language was not documented during either encounters.

Later expeditions by John Wesley Powell[5] in 1891 and Samuel Barrett[3] in 1908 would record accounts of the language family and its branches.

Geographic Distribution

Northern Pomo was spoken in the United States of America in the northern coastal area of California. The Pomo inhabited a massive amount of territory north of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding Clear Lake in northern California, USA.[3][6]

Branches and Subgroups

The Pomoan language was separated into seven different categories:

Each one is a different language that is a subcategory of the Pomoan language family.


Relational Terminology

Northern Pomo normally avoids the use of birth names in conversation, instead using relational terminology such as father, mother, sister, etc. This is especially present in the case of a deceased family member.[7] The avoidance of names is why third person referencing is prevalent in Pomoan speech. If the deceased family member was close to the speaker, they will not speak their name even if a living relative shares that name. Any speaking partner is expected to avoid these names so that the speaker does not hear it. It is seen as a disrespect to their relationship with the deceased.[7] More casual speakers may mention the names of the deceased in conversation that they are not related to.

Possessive Terminology

Northern Pomo switches between regular possession and possessor raising depending upon the term the speaker wants to focus upon. In a regular possession situation, the subject of the sentence remains the focus, whereas with possessor raising the object or person being possessed becomes the focus of the sentence.[8] Depending on which construction is used in Northern Pomo the implications of a given sentence would change. Sentences with possessor raising constructions imply consequences in Northern Pomo, such as the consequences of a possessor affecting a body part or having a certain physical trait.[8]


Bilabial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop Voiced b d
Voiceless Plain p t k ʔ
Aspirated t̪ʰ
Ejective t̪ʼ
Affricate Plain t͡s t͡ʃ
Aspirated t͡sʰ t͡ʃʰ
Ejective t͡sʼ t͡ʃʼ
Nasal m n
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant w l j

Allophones of /kʰ, t͡sʼ/ include [x, sʼ].

Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a


See also


  1. ^ Northern Pomo at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Northern Pomo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e Barrett, Samuel A. (1908). The Ethno-Geography of the pomo and neighboring indians. University of California Publications: American Archaeology and Ethnology. Vol. 6. Berkerley: The University Press. Berkeley, California.
  4. ^ Powers, Stephen, Powell, John Wesley, and Heizer, Robert F. ed.. Letter. N.d. (orig.1875-1882). (pub.1975). Part II: letters of stephen powers to john wesley powell concerning tribes of california. Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
  5. ^ Powell, John Wesley. (1891). Indian Linguistic Families Of America, North Of Mexico. Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 7:1-142. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
  6. ^ Kunkel, P. H. (1974). The Pomo Kin Group and the Political Unit in Aboriginal California. The journal of california anthropology: 7-18. Retrieved from: Kunkel.
  7. ^ a b O'Connor, Mary. (Jul., 1990) Third-Person Reference in Northern Pomo Conversation: The Indexing of Discourse Genre and Social Relations. International journal of american linguistics. Vol. 56, No. 3 , pp. 377-409. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Illinois.
  8. ^ a b O’Connor, M. (1994). The Marking of Possession in Northern Pomo: Privative Opposition and Pragmatic Inference. Annual meeting of the berkeley linguistics society. (387-401). Berkeley Linguistics Society. Berkeley, California
  9. ^ O'Connor, Mary (1987). Topics in Northern Pomo Grammar. University of California, Berkeley.

Further reading

  • Golla, Victor. (2011). California indian languages. Berkeley: U of California. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.
  • Golla, Victor. Moseley, Christoper ed. (2007). North America. In: Encyclopedia of the world’s endangered languages, (1–96). London & New York: Routledge.
  • McLendon, Sarah. Klar, Kathryn ed. Scott Beeler, Madison ed. Langdon, Margaret ed. Silver Shirley ed. (1980). How Languages Die: A Social History of Unstable Bilingualism among the Eastern Pomo. American Indian and Indoeuropean Studies: Papers in Honor of Madison S. Beeler. The Hague: Mouton. N. pag. Print.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • O'Connor, Mary Catherine. (1990). Topics in Northern Pomo Grammar. Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics. Garland Press.
  • Oswalt, Robert L. (1976). "Baby Talk and the Genesis of Some Basic Pomo Words". International Journal of American Linguistics. 42: 1–13. doi:10.1086/465380.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 September 2020, at 23:58
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