Washoe Language

Some linguists tentatively class the Washoe Language as a Hokan language, while others say it is a language isolate, meaning it is not a derivative of any other language, but rather developed independantly.

Washo (or Washoe) is an endangered Native American language spoken by the Washo on the California–Nevada border in the drainages of the Truckee and Carson Rivers, especially around Lake Tahoe.

While there are only 20 elderly native speakers of Washo, since 1994 there has been a small immersion school that has produced a number of moderately fluent younger speakers.

The immersion school has since closed its doors and the language program now operates through the Cultural Resource Department for the Washoe Tribe.

The language is still very much endangered; however, there has been a renaissance in the language revitalization movement as many of the students who attended the original immersion school have become teachers.

Ethnographic Washo speakers belonged to the Great Basin culture area and they were 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.



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Reno linguist foremost expert on Washoe language

William H. Jacobsen Jr. is recognized as the foremost expert on the ancient and complex language of the Washoe tribe that has occupied Carson Valley and surrounding areas for thousands of years.