Information about the Yuman-Cochimi languages
Where are the Yuman-Cochimi languages spoken?
These languages are spoken by indigenous peoples of North America in the valley of the Colorado River in California, and in western Arizona in the United States; and in the north of the states of Sonora and Baja California in Mexico.
Who speaks these languages?
The speakers of Yuman-Cochimi languages are members of the Yuman-Cochimí “First Nations” in North America.
Total number of speakers (estimated):
Approximately 2800 according to UNESCO
The Yuman-Cochimi language family currently consists of 10 languages.
California Delta Branch
California Yuman (alternate name: Diegueño)
‘Iipay (alternate names: Northern Diegueño; Ipai): 6 speakers according to UNESCO
Kumeyaay (alternate names: Central Eastern Diegueño): 40 speakers according to UNESCO
Tiipay (alternate names: Southern Diegueño; tipai): 184 speakers according to UNESCO
Delta Yuman (alternate name: Cocopa): 206 speakers according to UNESCO
Colorado River Branch
Maricopa : 100 speakers according to UNESCO
Mojave (alternate name: Mohave): 100 according to UNESCO
Yuma (alternate names: Kwstan; Kwstaan; Quechan): 150 to 200 people according to UNESCO
Upland Yuman (alternate name: North pai) : 1650 speakers according to UNESCO
Paipai Akwa’ala: 226 speakers according to UNESCO
Kiliwa: 56 speakers according to UNESCO
Comments on the classification of Yuman-Cochimi languages:
The term “Hokan” describes a hypothetical set of language families that would include the Palaihnihan languages, but also Yuman-Cochimi languages and some isolated languages of the western United States (primarily from California and north-western Mexico). The lack of data on many of these languages makes the exact delineation of this proposed family difficult to establish. Mithun (1999) notes that the “Hokan” group is “not yet considered to be a valid language family” (p 304). We follow Mithun’s classification here, and therefore present the Palaihnihan language family independently.
Are Yuman-Cochimi languages in danger?
Yes, Cochin is an extinct language, and ‘lipay is very close to extinction as it is spoken by only a handful of very elderly speakers. All Yuman-Cochimí languages are considered as “critically endangered” by UNESCO (level 4 on a scale of 5) or “seriously endangered” (level 3). That is to say they are threatened with extinction in the decades to come. Only the Northern Pai dialect group is slightly less threatened immediately, but the younger generations no longer learn the different dialects and for most English is their first language.
Mithun, Marianne The languages of Native North America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (1999).
Campbell, Lyle. American Indian languages: the historical linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (1997)
Site devoted to American Indian languages:
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