Chumashan languages

Chumashan languages
Spoken in southern coastal California
Extinct since the 1960s
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 variously:
boi – Barbareño
crz – Cruzeño
inz – Ineseño
obi – Obispeño
puy – Purisimeño
veo – Ventureño
Chumash langs.png
Pre-contact distribution of Chumashan languages

Chumashan is a family of languages that were spoken on the southern California coast by Native American Chumash people.

From the Coastal plains and valleys of San Luis Obispo to Malibu), neighboring inland and Transverse Ranges valleys and canyons east to bordering the San Joaquin Valley; and on three adjacent Channel Islands: (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz).[1]

All of the Chumashan languages are now extinct, although they are well documented in the unpublished fieldnotes of linguist John Peabody Harrington. Especially well documented are the Barbareño, Ineseño, and Ventureño dialects. The last first-language speaker of a Chumashan language was Barbareño speaker Mary Yee, who died in 1965.


Family division


Chumashan consists of 6 languages.

I. Northern Chumash

1. Obispeño (also known as Northern Chumash) (†)

II. Southern Chumash

a. Island Chumash
2. Island Chumash (also known as Ysleño, Isleño, Cruzeño) (†)
b. Central Chumash
3. Purisimeño (†)
4. Ineseño (also known as Inezeño) (†)
5. Barbareño (†)
6. Ventureño (†)

Obispeño was the most divergent Chumashan language. Ineseño and Barbareño may have been dialects of the same language. There is very little documentation of Purisimeño. There were several different subdialects of Ventureño. Island Chumash had different subdialects spoken on Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island, but all its speakers were relocated to the mainland in the early 19th century. John Peabody Harrington conducted fieldwork on all the above Chumashan languages, but obtained the least data on Island Chumash, Purisimeño, and Obispeño.


The languages are named after the local Franciscan Spanish missions in California where Chumashan speakers were relocated and aggregated between the 1770s and 1830s:

Genetic relations

Roland Dixon and Alfred L. Kroeber suggested that the Chumashan languages might be related to the neighboring Salinan in a Iskoman grouping.[2] Edward Sapir accepted this speculation and included Iskoman in his classification of Hokan.[3] More recently it has been noted that Salinan and Chumashan shared only one word, which the Chumashan languages probably borrowed from Salinan (the word meant 'white clam shell' and was used as currency).[4] As a result, the inclusion of Chumashan into Hokan is now disfavored by most specialists, and the consensus is that Chumashan has no identified linguistic relatives.[5]


The Chumashan languages are well-known for their consonant harmony (regressive sibilant harmony). Mithun presents a scholarly synopsis of Chumashan linguistic structures.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Grant 1978
  2. ^ Dixon and Kroeber 1913
  3. ^ Sapir 1917
  4. ^ Klar 1977
  5. ^ Mithun 1999:390
  6. ^ Mithun 1999:390-392


  • Applegate, Richard. (1972). Ineseño Chumash Grammar. (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley).
  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Dixon, Roland R.; & Kroeber, Alfred L. (1913). New Linguistic Families in California. American Anthropologist 15:647-655.
  • Goddard, Ives (Ed.). (1996). Languages. Handbook of North American Indians (W. C. Sturtevant, General Ed.) (Vol. 17). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-048774-9.
  • Klar, Kathryn. (1977). Topics in historical Chumash grammar. (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, 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.
  • Grant, Campbell. (1978). Chumash:Introduction. In California Handbook of North American Indians (William C. Sturtevant, General Ed.) Vol. 8 (Robert F. Heizer, Volume Ed.). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Sapir, Edward. (1917). The Position of Yana in the Hokan Stock. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and ethnology 13:1–34. Berkeley: University of California.
  • Wash, Suzanne. (1995). Productive Reduplication in Barbareño Chumash. (Master's thesis, University of California, Santa Barbara; 210 + x pp.)
  • Wash, Suzanne. (2001). Adverbial Clauses in Barbareño Chumash Narrative Discourse. (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara; 569 + xxii pp.)

External links

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