Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Languages with only one speaker

28 April 2013

According to “World’s 18 most endangered spoken languages,” there were 18 languages listed in the UNESCO Atlas of Endangered Languages with only one speaker in April 2010. (Thanks to LoL for the link to this article.)

According to the Atlas, there are now 19, but in many cases, the Ethnologue has different information. The languages listed in the Atlas with only one speaker are (by continent):


1. Bikya (byb) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

2. Bishuo (bwh) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers


3. Pazeh (uun) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

North America

4. Patwin (pwi)

5. Tolowa (tol)

6. Wintu-Nomlaki, or Wintu (wnw) – the Ethnologue says there are no known native speakers

Oceanian, including Indonesia

7. Dampelas (dms)

8. Lae, or Aribwatsa (laz) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

9. Laua (luf) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

10. Volow (mlv) – the Ethnologue lists this and Dagmel as dialects, each with one speaker

11. Yarawi, or Suena (sue) – the Ethnologue says there are 3,600 speakers

South America (other than Brazil)

12. Chaná – it appears to not be listed in the Ethnologue (gqn appears to be different); (qs1 – Linguist List code)

13. Pémono, or Mapoyo-Yabarana (pev)

14. Taushiro (trr)

15. Tinigua (tit) – the Ethnologue says there are two speakers

16. Yaghan, or Yagán (yag)


17. Apiaká (api)

18. Diahói, or Parintintín (pah)

19. Kaixána, or Kawishana – it appears to not be listed in the Ethnologue; (qsw – Linguist List code)

AICLS in the news

24 July 2012

Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival is in the Oakland North in an article titled “Native Americans work to revitalize California’s indigenous languages.”

California, once the most linguistically dense area of what is now the United States, is today home to about 45 or about half the original number. To revitalize languages, the AICLS has developed their Breath of Life workshops and their Master Apprentice program.

To learn more about the language history of Southern California, see Joseph Henderer’s excellent film:

Southern California Indigenous Languages Pilot Film

Review of “Telling Stories In the Face of Danger” and Kumeyaay

21 May 2012

In “BOOKS: Can language preservation battle be won?,” Richard L. Carrico reviews “Telling Stories in the Face of Danger: Language Renewal in Native American Communities,” published earlier this year by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Edited by Paul V. Kroskrity, professor at UCLA, the paperback is a compilation of stories, commentary on the stories and academic discourse.

The offerings include a piece by Margaret Field, a professor at San Diego State University working to revitalize Kumiai. Listed as Kumeyaay (dih) on Wikipedia, this language is listed by the Ethnologue as having 330 speakers. Although controversial, many break Kumeyaay into three languages: Ipai (dih-ipa), Kumeyaay proper and Tiipai (dih-tiidih-tip), with the number of speakers ranging from 25 to 200 for each. Eight Kumeyaay lessons by Field and others are available on the website of San Diego State University’s Language Acquisition Resource Center.

Language revitalization in California

10 May 2012

At least traditionally. California is the most linguistically state in the United States. Casey Capachi, a reporter at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, posted a video titled “Native American language revitalization” on YouTube yesterday. The video documents the spirit of the people learning and using their living languages.

“California Indian Languages” published

3 October 2011

According to “HSU Author Publishes Indian Language Encyclopedia,” on the Humboldt State Now blog, Victor Golla’s encyclopedia of California languages is now available for purchase.

According to the book’s description on, “California Indian Languages” is 400 pages long. It also says that California was once home to seventy-eight languages, the most linguistically diverse area in the New World.

According to the Now blog, “Golla’s compendium cites everything known about the languages of California as they have been recorded and transcribed by linguists and anthropologists since the 1880s” and includes other earlier sources as well.

For language maps of California, see “California Indians Root Languages and Tribal Groups” and “Native Tribes, Groups, Language Families and Dialects of California in 1770.”

New hope for Hupa

12 May 2011

Possibly the first dissertation written for a linguistics department (a relatively new discipline) was on Hupa (hup), a language spoken in northern California. According to “Home drives — and pulls — a UC Berkeley student” on the Contra Costa Times site, that was in 1903 at the University of California, Berkeley.

While Wikipedia cites the US census in saying there were 64 people between the ages of 5 and 17 who spoke Hupa in 2000, the Ethnologue has eight speakers as of 1998, and a grant description on the HRELP site states there are fewer than five native speakers.

Despite those troubling statistics, there is a new hope for the language: Graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, are studying Hupa, and their number includes Kayla Carpenter, a Hoopa Valley Tribe member.

One of their projects is a password-protected online dictionary of Hupa, which looks like it will be useful in many ways as can be seen in “An online multimedia dictionary of Hupa (Athabaskan),” a presentation about the project. According to Andrew Garrett’s page at the University of California, Berkeley, graduate students Amy Campbell, Ramón Escamilla, Andrew Garrett, Lindsey Newbold, and Justin Spence are working with Victor Golla to create the resource, not yet available to the public, which is based on Golla’s dictionary, probably referring to the second edition of the Hupa Language Dictionary.

Although some of the links are now old, an excellent resource for Hupa links is Danny Ammon’s Hupa Language Web Site.