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Lake Miwok language

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Title: Lake Miwok language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Southern Sierra Miwok language, Utian languages, History of Lake County, California, False cognate, Miwok
Collection: History of Lake County, California, Miwok, Utian Languages
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Lake Miwok language

Lake Miwok
Native to United States
Region Lake County, California
Ethnicity Lake Miwok
Native speakers
2–3 semi-speakers; no active use  (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 lmw
Glottolog lake1258[2]

The Lake Miwok language is a moribund (or possibly extinct) language of Northern California, traditionally spoken in an area adjacent to the Clear Lake. It is one of the languages of the Clear Lake Linguistic Area, along with Patwin, East and Southeastern Pomo, and Wappo.[3]


  • Phonology 1
    • Vowels 1.1
    • Consonants 1.2
  • Grammar 2
    • Verb morphology 2.1
      • Subject prefixes 2.1.1
    • Noun morphology 2.2
      • Case inflection 2.2.1
      • Possessive prefixes 2.2.2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5



   Short   Long 
 Front   Back   Front   Back 
 High (close)  i u
 Mid  e o
 Low (open)  a


Labial Dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive plain p t [t̻] [t̺] k ʔ
aspirated [t̻ʰ] ṭʰ [t̺ʰ]
ejective [t̻ʼ] ṭʼ [t̺ʼ]
voiced b d [d̺]
Fricative voiceless s [ʃ] ł h
ejective ƛʼ
Affricate voiceless c [t͡s] č [t͡ʃ]
ejective [t͡sʼ] čʼ [t͡ʃʼ]
Nasal m n
Approximant w l (r) j

The consonant inventory of Lake Miwok differs substantially from the inventories found in the other Miwok languages. Where the other languages only have one series of plosives, Lake Miwok has four: plain, aspirated, ejective and voiced. Lake Miwok has also added the affricates č, c, čʼ, ƛʼ and the liquids r and ł. These sounds appear to have been borrowed through loanwords from other, unrelated languages in the Clear Lake area, after which they spread to some native Lake Miwok words.[3][4]


The word order of Lake Miwok is relatively free, but SOV (subject–object–verb) is the most common order.[5]

Verb morphology

Subject prefixes

 Singular   Dual   Plural 
 1st person  ka- ʔic- ma-, ʔim-
 2nd person  ʔin- moc- mon-
 3d person non-reflexive  ʔi- koc- kon-
 3d person reflexive  hana- hanakoc- hanakon-
 indefinite  ʔan-

In her Lake Miwok grammar, Callaghan reports that one speaker distinguishes between 1st person dual inclusive -ʔoc and exclusive ʔic-. Another speaker also remembers that this distinction formerly was made by older speakers.[6]

Noun morphology

Case inflection

Nouns can be inflected for ten different cases:

  • the Subjective case marks a noun which functions as the subject of a verb. If the subject noun is placed before the verb, the Subjective has the allomorph -n after vowel (or a vowel followed by /h/), and after consonants. If it is placed after the verb, the Subjective is -n after vowels and -nu after consonants.
kukú -n ʔin- tíkki -t mékuh
flea -subjective 2sg- forehead -allative sit
"A flea is sitting on your forehead."
  • the Possessive case is -n after vowels and after consonants
ʔóle -n ṣúluk  táj ṣáapa
coyote -possessive skin  man -possessive hair
"coyote skin"  "the man's hair"
  • the Objective case marks a noun which functions as the object of a verb. It has a the allomorph -u (after a consonant) or (after a vowel) when the noun is placed immediately before a verb which contains the 2nd person prefix ʔin- (which then has the allomorph -n attached to the noun preceding the verb; compare the example below) or does not contain any subject prefix at all.
káac -u -n ʔúṭe?
fish -objective -2sg see
"Did you see the fish?"
It has the allomorph before a verb containing any other subject prefix:
kawáj ka- ʔúṭe
horse -objective 1sg- see
"I saw the horse"
If the object noun does not immediately precede the verb, or if the verb is in the imperative, the allomorph of the Objective is -uc:
káac -uc jolúm -mi
fish -objective eat -imperative
"Eat the fish"
  • the allative case is -to or -t depending on the environment. It has a variety of meaning, but often expresses direction towards a goal.
  • the locative case -m gives a less specific designation of locality than the Allative, and occurs more rarely.
  • the ablative case is -mu or -m depending on the context, and marks direction out of, or away from, a place.
  • the instrumental case -ṭu marks instruments, e.g. tumáj-ṭu "(I hit him) with a stick".
  • the comitative case -ni usually translates as "along with", but can also be used to coordinate nouns, as in kaʔunúu-ni kaʔáppi-ni "my mother and my father".
  • the vocative case only occurs with a few kinship terms, e.g. ʔunúu "mother (voc)" from ʔúnu "mother".
  • the Appositive case is the citation form of nouns.

Possessive prefixes

Lake Miwok uses possessive prefixes to indicate the possessor of a noun. Except for the 3d person singular, they have the same shape as the subject prefixes, but show no allomorphy.
 Singular   Dual   Plural 
 1st person  ka- ʔic- ma-
 2nd person  ʔin- moc- mon-
 3d person non-reflexive  ʔiṭi- koc- kon-
 3d person reflexive  hana- hanakoc- hanakon-
 indefinite  ʔan-

The reflexive hana-forms have the same referent as the subject of the same clause, whereas the non-reflexive forms have a different referent, e.g.:

  • hanaháju ʔúṭe – “He sees his own dog”
  • ʔiṭiháju ʔúṭe – “He sees (somebody else’s) dog”


  1. ^ Lake Miwok at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Lake Miwok". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b Campbell 1997, p.336
  4. ^ Callaghan 1964, p.47
  5. ^ Callaghan 1965, p.5
  6. ^ Callaghan 1963, p.75


Callaghan, Catherine A. (1963). A Grammar of the Lake Miwok Language. University of California, Berkeley. 
Callaghan, Catherine A. (1964). "Phonemic Borrowing in Lake Miwok". In William Bright (ed.). Studies in Californian Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 46–53. 
Callaghan, Catherine A. (1965). Lake Miwok Dictionary. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages. The Historical Linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. 
Callaghan, Catherine A. "Note of Lake Miwok Numerals." International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 24, no. 3 (1958): 247.
Keeling, Richard. "Ethnographic Field Recordings at Lowie Museum of Anthropology," 1985. Robert H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley. v. 2. North-Central California: Pomo, Wintun, Nomlaki, Patwin, Coast Miwok, and Lake Miwok Indians
Lake Miwok Indians. "Rodriguez-Nieto Guide" Sound Recordings (California Indian Library Collections), LA009. Berkeley: California Indian Library Collections, 1993. "Sound recordings reproduced from the Language Archive sound recordings at the Language Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley." In 2 containers.

External links

  • Lake Miwok language overview at the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages
  • Lake Miwok audio recordings at the California Language Archive (login required)
  • "Lake Miwok sound recordings". Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  • OLAC resources in and about the Lake Miwok language
  • Lake Miwok basic lexicon at the Global Lexicostatistical Database
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