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American Indian Languages

The Chumashan Language Family

Chumashan is a family of languages that were spoken on the southern California coast (from San Luis Obispo to Malibu), in neighboring inland regions (San Joaquin Valley), and on three nearby islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz). The entire Chumashan family is now extinct. The last speaker of a Chumashan language was Mary Yee who died in 1965 and spoke Barbareño.

Chumashan consists of 6 languages. Ineseño and Barbareño may have been dialects of the same language. Obispeño, Purisimeño, Ineseño, Barbareño, and Ventureño are named after the Franciscan missions where they were moved.

Genetic relations

Roland Dixon and Alfred L. Kroeber suggested that the Chumashan languages might be related to the neighboring Salinan in a Iskoman grouping. Edward Sapir accepted this speculation and included Iskoman in his classfication of Hokan. Afterwards, Kathryn Klar (1977) found 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). As a result, the inclusion of Chumashan into Hokan is now disfavored by most specialists.


The Chumashan languages are well-known for their consonant harmony (regressive sibilant harmony).

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American Indian Language Family Trees

Goddard (1996) & Mithun (1999)



6. Chumashan [chúmash]
  • Chumash (7)
    • Barbareño (USA)
    • Chumash (USA)
    • Cruzeño (USA)
    • Ineseño (USA)
    • Obispeño (USA)
    • Purisimeño (USA)
    • Ventureño (USA)


    Today's Mail Bag: I am trying to find out how to register on the Creek Indian registry.I am also trying to find out what website or telephone number to call so I can get this info.
    --Submitted by Jon T.

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