Wiyot Language

The Wiyot language was an Algonquian language related to Yurok.

Wiyot, along with its geographical neighbor, the Yurok, were first identified as relatives of the Algonquian languages by Edward Sapir in 1913, though this classification was disputed for decades in what came to be known as the “Ritwan controversy.”

Due to the enormous geographical separation of Wiyot and Yurok from all other Algonquin languages, the validity of their genetic link was hotly contested by leading American linguists; as Ives Goddard put it, the issue “has profound implications for the prehistory of North America.” 

However, by the 1950s, the genetic relationship between the Algonquin languages and Wiyot and Yurok had been established to the satisfaction of most, if not all, researchers, giving rise to the term “Algic” to refer to the Algonquin languages together with Wiyot and Yurok.

Wiyot (also known as Wishosk) is a extinct Algic language formerly spoken by the Wiyot of Humboldt Bay, California. The language’s last native speaker, Della Prince, died in 1962.

Karl V. Teeter published the first modern descriptive grammar of Wiyot in 1964. His data, supplied by Della Prince soon before her death, was crucial to the establishment of the genetic relationship between Algonquin and Wiyot, and effectively ended the scholarly conflict surrounding the issue. 

With the death of Della Prince in 1962, Wiyot became an extinct language. However, in recent years, the federally recognized Wiyot tribe has been attempting to revitalize the language. The tribe advertises language courses on its website and publishes Wiyot texts for distribution, such as a calendar.

As of 2014, Wiyot does not appear to have any fluent speakers.