Washo language

Washo language

name=Washo, Washoe
states=United States
region=Nevada (Washoe County)
speakers=USA: 252 (2000)


The Washo language (also Washoe) is an endangered Native American language isolate spoken by the Washo on the CaliforniaNevada border in the drainages of the Truckee and Carson Rivers, especially around Lake Tahoe. While there are very few speakers of Washo today (only 10 according to some; 252 according to the 2000 US Census [http://www.mla.org/map_data_snapshot&state_id=99&county_id=&mode=state_tops&zip=&place_id=&cty_id=&snap_id=890 Language Map Data Center ] ] ), there are Washo-language programs aimed at increasing the number of proficient speakers.

The speakers of Washo include 64 individuals between the ages of 5 and 17, 4 of whom have limited English proficiency.

Washo belongs to the Great Basin culture area and is the only non-Numic group of that area. The language has borrowed from the neighboring Uto-Aztecan, Maiduan and Miwokan languages and is connected to both the Great Basin and California sprachbunds.

Regional variation

Washo has can be divided into two groups of linguistic varieties: a northern group of dialects, and a southern group. However, the difference between these groups is relatively small.

Genetic relations

Washo is not in the same language family as any of its three direct neighboring languages (Northern Paiute is a Numic language (Uto-Aztecan), Maidu is Maiduan, and Miwok is Utian), and no strong relation with any other language has been found. Washo is often placed in the theoretical Hokan stock, but if Washo is a member of this family, it is only a distant relationship. The first connection of Washo with Hokan appeared when J. P. Harrington suggested a connection between Washo and the Chumashan family (which was already placed under Hokan). Following Harrington, subsequent statements of Hokan (especially "core Hokan") have included Washo. However, even one of the originators of the Hokan hypothesis (Alfred L. Kroeber) finds that the relationship between Washo and Hokan "cannot be close". A 1988 reappraisal of Hokan by Terrence Kaufman considers Washo a probable Hokan member (although he considers Chumashan to be doubtful). Because of this lack of a strong connection and doubts about the validity of a Hokan family itself, Washo is currently considered a language isolate.


Washo has regressive vowel harmony (or umlaut). The mechanics of vowel harmony differ between the northern and southern varieties.


Washo also uses reduplication of verbs iconically to indicate repetitive aspect or plural number.

Word order is SOV.

Washo uses both prefixation and suffixation on nouns and verbs. Verbal inflection is rich with a large number of tenses.

ee also

* Washoe tribe
* Native American languages

External links

* [http://washo.uchicago.edu University of Chicago Washo Revitalization Project]
* [http://www.rosettaproject.org/archive/was The Rosetta Project]
* [http://www.greatbasinweb.com/millennium/washoe.html Speaking the Language of the Land]
* [http://www.turtletrack.org/Issues01/Co12292001/CO_12292001_Washoe_Language.htm Reno Linguist Foremost Expert on Washoe Language]
* Ethnologue: [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=was Washo]



* Campbell, Lyle. (1997). "American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America". New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
* 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.
* Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (Ed.). (2005). "Ethnologue: Languages of the world" (15th ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. ISBN 1-55671-159-X. (Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com).
* Jacobsen, William H. 1996. "Beginning Washo". Occasional Papers 5: Nevada State Museum.
* Mithun, Marianne. (1999). "The languages of Native North America". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
* Sturtevant, William C. (Ed.). (1978-present). "Handbook of North American Indians" (Vol. 1-20). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. (Vols. 1-3, 16, 18-20 not yet published).

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