RegionSan Joaquin Valley, California
Native speakers
50 (2007)[1]
Including semispeakers[1]
  • Yokuts
Language codes
ISO 639-3yok
Pre-contact distribution of the Yokuts language

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

Map of Yokuts with languages and dialects indicated

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

Languages and dialects

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

Yokutsan family tree (Whister & Golla 1986)

Glottolog finds at least four distinct languages: Palewyami Yokuts, Buena Vista Yokuts, Northern Yokuts, Tule-Kaweah Yokuts.[2]

Speakers and language revitalization

Almost all 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 Chukchansi dictionary and grammar texts,[3] 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."[4]

Genetic relations

Yokuts 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):[5]

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

Further reading

  • Adisasmito-Smith, Niken and Guekguezian, Peter and Wyatt, Holly (2022). "Chukchansi Yokuts". Illustrations of the IPA. Journal of the International Phonetic Association: 1–30. doi:10.1017/S0025100321000268((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link), with supplementary sound recordings.


This article includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (May 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
  1. ^ a b Yokuts at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference glotto was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ "Chukchansi language to be preserved with grant". KFSN News. abc30.com. 2:14 minutes in. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  4. ^ "Fresno State Receives $1 Million to Preserve, Revitalize Chukchansi Language". Foundation Center Philanthropy News Digest. 2012-05-13. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  5. ^ Whistler, Kenneth; Golla, Victor (1986). "Proto-Yokuts Reconsidered". International Journal of American Linguistics. 52 (4): 317–358. doi:10.1086/466028. S2CID 144822697.
  • Callaghan, Catherine (1997). "Evidence for Yok-Utian". International Journal of American Linguistics. 63: 121–133. doi:10.1086/466313. S2CID 144374174.
  • 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. S2CID 145406834.
  • 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. S2CID 143844592.
  • 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. S2CID 143585441.
  • 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.
  • Whistler, Kenneth; Golla, Victor (1986). "Proto-Yokuts Reconsidered". International Journal of American Linguistics. 52 (4): 317–358. doi:10.1086/466028. S2CID 144822697.