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Tongva language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gabrielino or Gabrieleño
Native toSouthern California, United States
RegionLos Angeles, Santa Catalina Island
Extinctca. 1900
Revivalsince 2000s
Language codes
ISO 639-3xgf
Gabrielino language.png
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Tongva language (also known as Gabrielino or Gabrieleño) is an extinct[1][2] Uto-Aztecan language formerly spoken by the Tongva, a Native American people who live in and around Los Angeles, California. It has not been a language of everyday conversation since the 1940s. The Gabrielino people now speak English but a few are attempting to revive their language by using it in everyday conversation and ceremonial contexts. Presently, Gabrielino is also being used in language revitalization classes and in some public discussion regarding religious and environmental issues.[3] Tongva is closely related to Serrano.[4]

The last fluent native speakers of Tongva lived in the early 20th century. The language is primarily documented in the unpublished field notes of John Peabody Harrington made during that time. The "J.P. Harrington Project", developed by the Smithsonian through UC Davis, approximately 6,000 pages of his notes on the Tongva language, were coded for documentation by a Tongva member, who took 3 years to accomplish the task. Alleged native speakers of Tongva who have died as late as in the 1970s have not been verified as having been fluent speakers.

Evidence of the language also survives in modern toponymy of Southern California, including Pacoima, Tujunga, Topanga, Azusa, Cahuenga in Cahuenga Pass and Cucamonga in Rancho Cucamonga. Additionally, the minor planet 50000 Quaoar was named after the Tongva creator god.[5]

Language revitalization

The Gabrielino language is a subgroup of Takic, a subfamily of Uto-Aztecan, which is usually divided into three subgoups: Serrano-Kitanemuk, Gabrielino (including the Fernandeno dialect) and Cupan.[4] As of 2012, members of the contemporary Tongva (Gabrieleño) tribal council are attempting to revive the language, by making use of written vocabularies, by comparison to better attested members of the Takic group to which Tongva belonged, and by offering classes.[6]

In 2004, Pamela Munro, now UCLA emeritus professor of linguistics, was asked to serve as a linguistic mentor to Tongva people who wanted to learn about their language at the Breath of Life Workshop, a biennial event in Berkeley staged by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival.[7] Since then, she has taught monthly Tongva language classes in which adults and children practice pronunciation, master the use of grammatical particles, sing songs and play word games. She calls her work "a reclamation effort" for the language.[8] Munro has compiled a Tongva dictionary of over 1,000 words, and also maintains a Tongva language Facebook page to which she posts Tongva words, phrases and songs.[9] Munro says there are no audio recordings of people speaking the Tongva language, but that there are a few scratched wax cylinder recordings of Tongva songs.[7][10]


Mrs. James Rosemeyre (née Narcisa Higuera), photographed here in 1905, was one of the last fluent Tongva speakers. An informant for the ethnographer C. Hart Merriam, she was the source of the widely used endonym Tongva.[11]
Mrs. James Rosemeyre (née Narcisa Higuera), photographed here in 1905, was one of the last fluent Tongva speakers. An informant for the ethnographer C. Hart Merriam, she was the source of the widely used endonym Tongva.[11]


The following is a list of the consonants and vowels of the Tongva language as used by the Tongva Language Committee, based on linguist Pamela Munro's interpretation of the fieldnotes of J. P. Harrington.[12] In parentheses is the spelling of the specific sound. Note that there are multiple orthographies for the Tongva language.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labio
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ng /ŋ/
Stop voiced (b /b/) (d /d/) (g /ɡ/)
voiceless p /p/ t /t/ ch // k /k/ kw // ʼ /ʔ/
Fricative (f /f/) s /s/ sh /ʃ/ x /x/ h /h/
Approximant v /v/ l /l/ y /j/ w /w/
Tap r /ɾ/

Consonants /b d f ɡ/ are used in loanwords.[12]


Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i /i/ ii // u /u/ uu //
Mid e /e/ ee // o /o/ oo //
Open a /a/ aa //


Tongva is an agglutinative language, where words use suffixes and multiple morphemes for a variety of purposes.


The Lord's Prayer[12]

The Lord's Prayer is called 'Eyoonak in Tongva. The following text was derived from old Mission records.


'Eyoonak, 'eyooken tokuupanga'e xaa;
hoyuuykoy motwaanyan;
moxariin mokiimen tokuupra;
maay mo'wiishme meyii 'ooxor 'eyaa tokuupar.

Hamaare, 'eyoone' maxaare' 'wee taamet,
koy 'oovonre' 'eyoomamaayntar momoohaysh, miyii 'eyaare
'oovonax 'eyoohiino 'eyooyha';
koy xaare' maayn 'iitam momoohaysh,
koy xaa mohuu'esh.
'Wee menee' xaa'e.

Collected by C. Hart Merriam (1903)[13]

(Merriam refers to them as the Tongvā)

  1. Po-koo
  2. Wěh-hā
  3. Pah-hā
  4. Wah-chah
  5. Mah-har
  6. Pah-vah-hā
  7. Wah-chah-kav-e-ah
  8. Wa-ha's-wah-chah
  9. Mah-ha'hr-kav-e-ah
  10. Wa-hās-mah-hah'r
  11. Wa-hā's-mah-hah'r-koi-po-koo
  12. Wa-hā's-mah-hah'r-koi-wěh-hā
grizzly bear
hoon-nah (subject)
hoon-rah (object)
black bear

Collected by Alexander Taylor (1860)[13]

  1. po-koo
  2. wa-hay
  3. pa-hey
  4. wat-sa
  5. mahar
  6. pawahe
  7. wat-sa-kabiya
  8. wa-hish-watchsa
  9. mahar-cabearka
  10. wa-hish-mar

Taylor claims "they do not count farther than ten"

Collected by Dr. Oscar Loew (1875)[13]

  1. pu-gu'
  2. ve-he'
  3. pa'-hi
  4. va-tcha'
  5. maha'r
  6. pa-va'he
  7. vatcha'-kabya'
  8. vehesh-vatcha'
  9. mahar-kabya'
  10. vehes-mahar
  11. puku-hurura
  12. vehe-hurura

Collected by Charles Wilkes, USN (1838-1842)[13]

  1. pukū
  2. wehē
  3. pāhe
  4. watsā

Other sources

  • desert fox: erow[14]
  • Pacoima = from the root word Pako enter, meaning the entrance[citation needed]
  • Tujunga = from the root word old woman tux'uu[citation needed] Tujunga means Mountains of Health according to long-time residents.
  • Azusa = from the word -shuuk 'Ashuuksanga = his grandmother[citation needed]


The table below gives the names of various missions in the Tongva language.[15]

English Tongva
Los Angeles Yaa
San Bernardino Wa'aach
San Gabriel Shevaa
San Pedro Chaaw
Santa Ana Hotuuk
Santa Monica Kecheek
Santa Catalina Pemu

See also


  1. ^ Glottolog 4.4 – Tongva
  2. ^ Gabrielino-Fernandeño –- MultiTree
  3. ^ Jana Fortier (December 2008). "Native American Consultation And Ethnographic Study, Ventura County, California". La Jolla, California: California Department of Transportation: 13–14. Retrieved 17 June 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b Golla, Victor (2011). California Indian Languages. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26667-4.
  5. ^ Byrd, Deborah (19 February 2013). "Quaoar, a rocky world orbiting beyond Neptune". EarthSky. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  6. ^ Plesset, R. (2 June 2012). "San Pedro: Science Center Endangered/Tongva Village Site Revitalization : LA IMC". Archived from the original on 25 June 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  7. ^ a b Munro, Pamela (28 October 2014). "This is how to revive a Native American language spoken before white people came". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  8. ^ Curwen, Thomas (May 12, 2019). "Tongva, Los Angeles' first language, opens the door to a forgotten time and place". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  9. ^ Marquez, Letisia (June 27, 2014). "UCLA linguist, Gabrielino-Tongva Indians use social media to revive extinct language". UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  10. ^ Rosemeyer (Rosemyre), J. V. (1916). "Tongva wax cylinder recordings|Hearst Museum of Anthropology". Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  11. ^ Lepowsky, M. (2004). "Indian revolts and cargo cults: Ritual violence and revitalization in California and New Guinea". In Harkin, M. E. (ed.). Reassessing revitalization movements: Perspectives from North America and the Pacific Island. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 1–61. ISBN 9780803224063. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Munro, Pamela; The Gabrielino/Tongva Language Committee (2008). "Lesson One: Pronouncing and Writing the Tongva Language". Hyaare Shiraaw'ax 'Eyooshiraaw'a: Now You're Speaking Our Language (An Introduction to the Gabrielino/Tongva/Fernandeño Language). OL 25610961M.
  13. ^ a b c d McCawley, William. The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles. Malki Museum Press, 1996
  14. ^ Native Languages of the Americas[year needed]
  15. ^ Munro, Pamela, et al. Yaara' Shiraaw'ax 'Eyooshiraaw'a. Now You're Speaking Our Language: Gabrielino/Tongva/Fernandeño. 2008.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 October 2021, at 19:08
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