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Yokuts language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

RegionSan Joaquin Valley, California
Native speakers
20–25 fluent and semispeakers (Golla 2007)
  • Yokuts
Language codes
ISO 639-3yok
Yokutsan langs.png
Pre-contact distribution of the Yokuts language

Yokuts, formerly known as Mariposa, is an endangered language spoken in the interior of Northern and Central California in and around the San Joaquin Valley by the Yokuts people. The speakers of Yokuts were severely affected by disease, missionaries, and the Gold Rush. While descendants of Yokuts speakers currently number in the thousands, most of the constituent dialects are now extinct.

Map of Yokuts with dialects indicated
Map of Yokuts with dialects indicated

The Yawelmani dialect of Valley Yokuts has been a focus of much linguistic research.


The Yokuts language consists of half a dozen primary dialects. An estimated forty linguistically distinct groups existed before Euro-American contact. The following classification appears in Whistler & Golla (1986).

Poso Creek

General Yokuts (all others)

  • Nim
Yawdanchi (also known as Nutaa)
Yokutsan family "bush" (i.e. multi-branching tree) (Whister & Golla 1986)
Yokutsan family "bush" (i.e. multi-branching tree) (Whister & Golla 1986)
  • Northern Yokuts
Ayitcha (also known as Aiticha, Kocheyali)
Choynimni (also spelled Choinimni)

Speakers and language revitalization

Most Yokuts dialects are extinct, as noted above. Those that are still spoken are endangered.

Until recent years, Choinimni, Wikchamni, Chukchansi, Kechayi, Tachi and Yawelmani all had a few fluent speakers and a variable number of partial speakers. Choynimni went extinct in 2017. Wikchamni, Chukchansi, Tachi, and Yawelmani were being taught to at least a few children during the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Chukchansi is now a written language, with its own alphabet developed on a federal grant. Chukchansi also has a phrase book and dictionary that are partially completed. In May 2012, the Linguistics Department of Fresno State University received a $1 million grant to compile a Chuckchansi dictionary and grammar texts,[1] and to "provide support for scholarships, programs, and efforts to assemble native texts and create a curriculum for teaching the language so it can be brought back into social and ritual use."[2]

Genetic relations

Yokutsan is a key member in the proposed Penutian language stock. Some linguists consider most relationships within Penutian to be undemonstrated (cf. Campbell 1997). Others consider a genetic relationship between Yokuts, Utian, Maiduan, Wintuan, and a number of Oregon languages to be definite (cf. DeLancey and Golla 1997). Regardless of higher-order disagreement, Callaghan (1997) provides strong evidence uniting Yokuts and the Utian languages as branches of a Yok-Utian language family.

The term "Delta Yokuts" has recently been introduced in lieu of the longer "Far Northern Valley Yokuts" for the dialect spoken by the people in the present Stockton and Modesto vicinities of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, California, prior to their removal to Mission San Jose between 1810 and 1827. Of interest, Delta Yokuts contains a large number of words with no cognates in any of the other dialects, or for that matter in the adjacent Utian languages, although its syntax is typically Northern Valley Yokuts (Kroeber 1959:15-17). This anomaly has led Whistler (cited by Golla 2007:76) to suggest, "The vocabulary distinctive of some of the Delta Yokuts dialects may reflect substratal influence from pre-proto-Yokuts or from an extinct Yok-Utian language." Golla (2007:77) suggests that a "pre-proto-Yokuts" homeland was in the Great Basin, citing a rich plant and animal vocabulary for a dry environment and a close connection between Yokuts basketry styles and those of prehistoric central Nevada.


Reconstruction ofYokuts languages

Proto-Yokuts reconstructions from Whistler and Golla (1986):[3]

gloss Proto-Yokuts
acorn *pʰutʰuʂ
beaver *t’ɨːpɨkʰ ~ *ʈ’ɨːpɨkʰ
blood *hɨːpa-ʔ
bone *c’iy
child *witʰip
child (diminutive) *wicʰip
coyote *kʰay’iw
eight *mun’us
eye *sasa-ʔ
fingernail *xiːsix
fire *ʔoʂitʰ
fish *lopʰiʈʰ
flea *p’aːk’il
friend *noːcʰi
head louse *tʰihiʈʰ
heart *ʔuʂik’
horn *ɨʂɨl’
mountain *lomitʰ
mouth *sama-ʔ
north *xosim
nose *ʈʰɨŋɨk’
shaman *ʔaŋʈʰiw
skunk *cʰox
sky *ʈʰipʰin
star *c’ayatas
string *c’ikiy
tears *maŋal
three *ʂoːpʰin
two *poŋiy
water *ʔilik’

See also


  1. ^ "Chukchansi language to be preserved with grant". 2:14 minutes in. Retrieved 2012-09-01. Missing or empty |series= (help)
  2. ^ "Fresno State Receives $1 Million to Preserve, Revitalize Chukchansi Language". Foundation Center Philanthropy News Digest. 2012-05-13. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  3. ^ Whistler, Kenneth; Golla, Victor (1986). "Proto-Yokuts Reconsidered". International Journal of American Linguistics. 52 (4): 317–358. doi:10.1086/466028.
  • Callaghan, Catherine (1997). "Evidence for Yok-Utian". International Journal of American Linguistics. 63: 121–133. doi:10.1086/466313.
  • Callaghan, Catherine (2001). "More Evidence for Yok-Utian: A Reanalysis of the Dixon and Kroeber Sets". International Journal of American Linguistics. 67 (3): 313–345. doi:10.1086/466461.
  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historic Linguistics of Native America. New York, Oxford University Press.
  • DeLancey, Scott; Golla, Victor (1997). "The Penutian Hypothesis: Retrospect and Prospect". International Journal of American Linguistics. 63: 171–202. doi:10.1086/466318.
  • Gamble, Geoffery (1988). "Reconstructed Yokuts Pronouns". Diachronica. 5 (1–2): 59–71. doi:10.1075/dia.5.1-2.04gam.
  • Golla, Victor. (1964). Comparative Yokuts Phonology. University of California Publications in Linguistics (No. 34); Studies in Californian Linguistics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Golla, Victor. (2007). "Linguistic Prehistory" in California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity, pp. 71–82. Jones, Terry L. and Klar, Kathryn A., editors. New York: Altamira Press. ISBN 978-0-7591-0872-1.
  • Golla, Victor. (2011). California Indian Languages. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26667-4.
  • Hockett, Charles (1973). "Yokuts As a Testing Ground for Linguistic Methods". International Journal of American Linguistics. 39 (2): 63–79. doi:10.1086/465244.
  • Kroeber, A. L. (1959). Northern Yokuts. Anthropological Linguistics 1(8):1-19. Bloomington, Indiana.
  • Kroeber, A. L. (1963). Yokuts Dialect Survey. University of California Anthropological Records 11(3):177-251. Berkeley.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Newman, Stanley S. (1944). Yokuts Language of California. Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology No. 2. New York.
  • Newman, Stanley S. (1946). The Yawelmani Dialect of Yokuts. Linguistic Structures of Native America, pp. 222–248, C. Osgood, ed., Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology No. 6. New York.
  • Powell, John Wesley Powell. (1891). Indian Linguistic Families of America, North of Mexico, Washington: Government Printing Office, pages 90–91.[1]
  • Whistler, Kenneth; Golla, Victor (1986). "Proto-Yokuts Reconsidered". International Journal of American Linguistics. 52 (4): 317–358. doi:10.1086/466028.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 December 2021, at 02:59
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