Klamath–Modoc, Lutuamian
Native toUnited States
RegionSouthern Oregon and northern California
Ethnicity170 Klamath and Modoc (2000 census)[1]
Extinct2003, with the death of Neva Eggsman[2][1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kla
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.

Klamath (/ˈklæməθ/),[3] also Klamath–Modoc (/ˈklæməθ ˈmdɒk/) and historically Lutuamian (/ˌltuˈæmiən/), is a Native American language spoken around Klamath Lake in what is now southern Oregon and northern California. It is the traditional language of the Klamath and Modoc peoples, each of whom spoke a dialect of the language. By 1998, only one native speaker remained,[4] and by 2003, this last fluent Klamath speaker who was living in Chiloquin, Oregon, was 92 years old.[5] As of 2006 there were no fluent native speakers of either the Klamath or Modoc dialects;[6] however, as of 2019, revitalization efforts are underway with the goal of creating new speakers.[7]

Klamath is a member of the Plateau Penutian language family, which is in turn a branch of the proposed Penutian language family. Like other proposed Penutian languages, Plateau Penutian languages are rich in ablaut, much like Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages. Further evidence for this classification includes some consonant correspondences between Klamath and other alleged Penutian languages. For example, the Proto-Yokuts retroflexes */ʈ ʈʼ/ correspond to Klamath /tʃ tʃʼ/, and the Proto-Yokuts dentals */t̪ t̪ʰ t̪ʼ/ correspond to the Klamath alveolars /t tʼ/.



Front Back
short long short long
Close i ~ ɪ
Open-mid æ ~ ɛ æː ɔ ~ u
Open ə ~ ɑ ɑː


Bilabial Alveolar Palato-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain lateral
Plosive unaspirated p t k q ʔ
aspirated tʃʰ
ejective tʃʼ
Fricative s h
Sonorant voiced m n l j w
voiceless ȷ̊
Klamath alphabet [8]
Spelling a aa b c d e ee g ɢ h i ii j k l L m M n N o oo p q s s? t t’ w W w’ y Y ?
Phoneme ə ɑː p tʃʰ tʃʼ t ɛ æː k q h ɪ l m n ɔ s t’ w j ȷ̊ ʔ

Plosives in Klamath, aside from /ʔ/, come in triplets of unaspirated, aspirated, and ejective sounds.[9] Sonorant triplets are voiced, voiceless, and glottalized sounds.[10]

Most consonants can be geminated. The fricative /s/ is an exception, and there is evidence suggesting this is a consequence of a recent sound change.[11] Albert Samuel Gatschet recorded geminated /sː/ in the late 19th century, but this sound was consistently recorded as degeminated /s/ by M. A. R. Barker in the 1960s. Sometime after Gatschet recorded the language and before Barker did the same, */sː/ may have degeminated into /s/.


Klamath word order is conditioned by pragmatics. There is no clearly defined verb phrase or noun phrase. Alignment is nominative–accusative, with nominal case marking also distinguishing adjectives from nouns. Many verbs obligatorily classify an absolutive case. There are directive and applicative constructions.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b Klamath at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Lane, Valeree. "Chiloquin man helps Klamath Tribal members embrace first language". Herald and News. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ Chen, 1998; Maudlin, 1998,
  5. ^ Haynes, Erin F. "Obstacles facing tribal language programs in Warm Springs, Klamath, and Grand Ronde" (PDF). Coyote Papers. 8: 87–102. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-09. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  6. ^ Golla, Victor. (2011). California Indian Languages. Berkeley/Los Angeles, California : University of California Press. ISBN 9780520266674
  7. ^ Dupris, Joseph (2019). "maqlaqsyalank hemyeega: Goals and expectations of Klamath-Modoc revitalization". Language Documentation & Conservation. 13: 155–196. hdl:10125/24851. ISSN 1934-5275.
  8. ^ "Language - Klamath Tribes". klamathtribes.org. The Klamath Tribes. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  9. ^ Blevins, 2004, p. 279.
  10. ^ Blevins, 2004, pp. 279–80.
  11. ^ Blevins, 2004.
  12. ^ Rude, 1988.


Online texts