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Yawelmani Yokuts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yaw'lamnin ṭeexil
Yawelmani tomorrow.png
Yawelmani sentence documented by A. L. Kroeber
Native toCalifornia
Native speakers
20–25 fluent and semispeakers (Golla 2007)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Yawelmani map.svg
Historical distribution of Yawelmani
Closeup map of historical Yawelmani distribution
Closeup map of historical Yawelmani distribution

Yawelmani Yokuts (also spelled Yowlumne and Yauelmani) is an endangered dialect of Southern Valley Yokuts historically spoken by the Yokuts living along the Kern River north of Kern Lake in the Central Valley of California.[1] Today, most Yawelmani speakers live on or near the Tule River Reservation.[2]


Academic sources frequently use the name "Yawelmani" while referring to the language, though tribe members more often use the name "Yowlumne."[2]

When referencing their language, modern speakers of Yawelmani use the terms "inyana" (Indian), and "yaw'lamnin ṭeexil" (speech of the Yowlumne).[2]



  Bilabial Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop plain p /p/ t /t/ /ʈ/ k /k/ ʼ /ʔ/
aspirated ph // th // ṭh /ʈʰ/ kh //
ejective // // ṭʼ /ʈʼ/ //
Affricate plain c /t͡s/ č /t͡ʃ/
aspirated ch /t͡sʰ/ čh /t͡ʃʰ/
ejective /t͡sʼ/ čʼ /t͡ʃʼ/
Fricative s /s/ /ʂ/ x /x/ h /h/
Nasal plain m /m/ n /n/  
glottalized /mˀ/ /nˀ/
Approximant plain w /w/ l /l/ y /j/
glottalized /wˀ/ /lˀ/ /jˀ/


Yawelmani has 8 vowel phonemes:

Unrounded Rounded
short long short long
High i u
Non-high a ɔ ɔː
  • There are 4 short-long vowel pairs.
  • Short high vowels may become more centralized in fast speech: /i/ → [ɪ], /u/ → [ʊ].
  • Long high vowels are almost always lower than their short counterparts: /iː/ → [ɛː], /uː/ → [ɔː].
  • All long vowels may be shortened by a phonological process. Thus, a single long vowel has two different phonetic realizations:
    • /iː/ → [ɛ, ɛː],
    • /aː/ → [a, aː],
    • /uː/ → [ɔ, ɔː],
    • /ɔː/ → [ɔ, ɔː].
  • Note that the high long vowel /uː/ is usually pronounced the same as /ɔ/ and /ɔː/.

As can be seen, Yawelmani vowels have a number of different realizations (phones) which are summarized below:

Front Back
short long short long
High i u
Near-high ɪ ʊ
Mid ɛ ɛː ɔ ɔː
Low a

Syllable & phonotactics

The Yawelmani syllables can be either a consonant-vowel sequence (CV), such as deeyi- 'lead', or a consonant-vowel-consonant sequence (CVC), such as xata- 'eat'. Thus the generalized syllable is the following:


Word roots are bisyllabic and have either one of two shapes:

  • CV.CV
  • CV.CVC

Phonological processes

Vowel shortening

When long vowels are in closed syllables, they are shortened:

/p’a.xaː.t’it/ [p’axaːt’it] p̓axaat̕it 'mourn (passive aorist)' (/aː/ remains long)
/p’a.xaːt’.hin/ [p’axat’hin] p̓axat̕hin 'mourn (aorist)' (/aː/ is shortened)
/ts’u.juː.hun/ [ts’ujɔːhun] c̓uyoohun 'urinate (aorist)' (/uː/ remains long)
/ts’u.juːt/ [ts’ujɔt] c̓uyot 'urinate (passive aorist)' (/uː/ is shortened)

Vowel harmony

Yawelmani has suffixes that contain either an underspecified high vowel /I/ or an underspecified non-high vowel /A/.

  • Underspecified /I/ will appear as /u/ following the high rounded vowel /u/ and as /i/ following all other vowels /i, a, ɔ/:
/-hIn/ -hun/-hin (aorist suffix)
/muʈhIn/ [muʈhun] muṭhun 'swear (aorist)'
/ɡij’hIn/ [ɡij’hin] giy̓hin 'touch (aorist)'
/ɡɔphIn/ [ɡɔphin] gophin 'take care of infant (aorist)'
/xathIn/ [xathin] xathin 'eat (aorist)'
  • Underspecified /A/ will appear as /ɔ/ following the non-high rounded vowel /ɔ/ and as /a/ following all other vowels /i, u, a/:
/-tAw/ -tow/-taw (nondirective gerundial suffix)
/ɡɔptAw/ [ɡɔptɔw] goptow 'take care of infant (nondir. ger.)'
/ɡij’tAw/ [ɡij’taw] giy̓taw 'touch (nondir. ger.)'
/muʈtAw/ [muʈtaw] muṭtaw 'swear (nondir. ger.)'
/xattAw/ [xatːaw] xattaw 'eat (nondir. ger.)'

Vowel epenthesis

Yawelmani adds vowels to stems, when suffixes with an initial consonant are affixed to word with two final consonants in order to avoid a triple-consonant-cluster.


Case system

Yawelmani is a primary object language.[2]

A. L. Krober documented the language's case system in his 1907 paper The Yokuts language of south central California.[3]

Case suffixes (per Kroeber)
Objective Noun -a (i)
Demonstrative -n, -in
(plural), Pronoun -wa
Possessive -in
Instrumental ni
Locative u
Ablative nit


A 2011 estimate by Victor Golla placed the number of fluent and semi-fluent Yawelmani speakers at "up to twenty-five"[4]

Revitalization efforts

In 1993, the Master-Apprentice Language Learning Program piloted a series of language programs that included Yawelmani. The program was reportedly effective in teaching conversational Yawelmani to tribal members without prior knowledge and increasing language use among elders.[5]

Selected vocabulary


  1. ^ Whistler, Kenneth W.; Golla, Victor (1986). "Proto-Yokuts Reconsidered". International Journal of American Linguistics. 52 (4): 317–358. doi:10.1086/466028. ISSN 0020-7071. JSTOR 1265536. S2CID 144822697.
  2. ^ a b c d Weigel, William (2005). "Yowlumne in the Twentieth Century". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Kroeber, A. L. (1907). "The Yokuts language of south central California" (PDF). University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnography: 281.
  4. ^ Golla, Victor (2011-08-02). California Indian Languages. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520266674.
  5. ^ "Survival of Endangered Languages: The California Master-Apprentice Program". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 123 (1): 177–191. 2009. doi:10.1515/ijsl.1997.123.177. ISSN 1613-3668.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 December 2020, at 05:24
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