Shoshoni language

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Sosoni' da̲i̲gwape, Neme ta̲i̲kwappeh
Native to United States
Region Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Idaho
Ethnicity Shoshoni people
Native speakers
1,000 (2007)[1]
L2: 1,000 non-fluent speakers (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 shh
Glottolog shos1248[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Shoshoni, also written as Shoshoni-Gosiute, and Shoshone (/ʃˈʃni/;[3] Shoshoni: Sosoni' da̲i̲gwape, newe da̲i̲gwape or neme ta̲i̲kwappeh) is a Native American language of the Uto-Aztecan family spoken by the Shoshone people. Shoshoni-speaking Native Americans occupy areas of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho.


Principal dialects of Shoshoni include Western Shoshoni in Nevada, Gosiute in western Utah, Northern Shoshoni in southern Idaho and northern Utah, and Eastern Shoshoni in Wyoming.[4]


The number of people who speak Shoshoni has been steadily dwindling over the last few decades, so there are only several hundred to a few thousand people who speak the language fluently today. An additional population of about 1,000 know it to one degree or another. Because some children are learning it in Duck Valley and Gusiute communities, Ethnologue lists Shoshoni as "threatened," but notes that many of the speakers are 50 and older.[4] The Shoshoni language is defined as "severely endangered" in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming by UNESCO.[5] However, the language still remains one of America's healthier indigenous languages because children are acquiring it as their first language [6] and the Shoshone Nation is involved in keeping the language alive by teaching it in schools on the Wind River Reservation and using technology to preserve it for the future.[7]


There is strong interest in revitalization but efforts to preserve the language are scattered with little coordination. Literacy is increasing, with a Shoshoni dictionary and Bible portions translated in 1986.[8] As of 2012, Idaho State University offers elementary, intermediate, and conversational Shoshoni,[9] with open-source Shosoni audio available online to complement classroom instruction, as part of its long-standing Shoshoni Language Project.[10][11] Shoshoni classes are also taught as a part of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe's Language and Culture Preservation Program.[12] On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, elders have been active in digital language archiving, and Shoshoni is taught using Dr. Steven Greymorning's Accelerated Second Language Acquisition techniques.[13]

A summer program called, Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program (SYLAP), held at the University of Utah's Center for American Indian Languages since 2009 has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition program.[14][15][16] Shoshoni youth serve as interns, assisting with digitization of Shoshoni language recordings and documentation from the Wick R. Miller collection, so that the materials can be made available for tribal members.[14] The program released the first Shoshone language video game in August 2013.[17]

In July 2012, Blackfoot High School in Southeastern Idaho announced it would offer Shoshoni language classes. A Shoshoni charter school has also been proposed for Fort Hall, with a decision expected in September 2012.[18]


Shoshoni is the northernmost member of the large Uto-Aztecan language family, which includes over thirty languages whose speakers originally inhabited a vast territory stretching from the Salmon River in central Idaho down into El Salvador. Shoshoni belongs to the Numic subbranch of Uto-Aztecan. The word Numic comes from the cognate word in all Numic languages for "person". For example, in Shoshoni the word is neme, in Timbisha it is nümü, and in Southern Paiute the word is nuwuvi.


Shoshoni is an agglutinative language, in which words, especially verbs, tend to be complex with several morphemes strung together.



Shoshoni has a typical Numic vowel inventory of five vowels. In addition, there is the common diphthong /ai/, which varies rather freely with [e], although certain morphemes always contain [ai] and others always contain [e].

front back
High i ɨ u
Non-High a o
Diphthong ai


Shoshoni has a typical Numic consonant inventory:

Bilabial Coronal Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lab.
Nasal m n
Stop p t k ʔ
Affricate ts
Fricative s h
Semivowel j w


Shoshoni stops (including the affricate /ts/) and nasals are voiced and lenited between vowels (the stops and affricate becoming voiced fricatives and the nasals becoming nasalized glides), are voiced in nasal-stop clusters, and are lenited (but not voiced) following /h/.

Short vowels are commonly devoiced word-finally and in unstressed syllables preceding /h/.

Writing system

There are two main spelling systems in use. The older system is the Crum-Miller system used in Miller 1972; Crum & Dayley 1993 and 1997; and Crum, Crum, & Dayley 2001.[19][20][21][22] The other system is the Idaho State University system and is used in Gould & Loether (2002).[23] The Idaho State system is more phonetically based while the Crum-Miller is more phonemically based. Both systems use "e" to represent the vowel /ɨ/. There are also dictionaries available for everyday use.[24]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Shoshoni at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Shoshoni". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". Retrieved 2012-09-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Native Languages of the Americas: Shoshoni". Retrieved 2014-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "WyoFile: As elders pass, Wind River Reservation teachers turn to technology to preserve Shoshoni language". Retrieved 2014-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Shoshoni". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2014-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Native American Academic Services – Diversity Resource Center". Idaho State University. Retrieved 2012-08-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Idaho State University Shoshoni Language Project still going strong after 20 years". Idaho State University. Retrieved 2012-08-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language : University Press Catalog". Utah University Press. Retrieved 2012-08-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Language and Culture Preservation Program". Shoshone-Bannock tribe. Retrieved 2012-08-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Tetona Dunlap. "As elders pass, Wind River Indian Reservation teachers turn to technology to preserve Shoshone language". County 10. Retrieved 2012-08-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program". Center for American Indian Languages, University of Utah. Retrieved 2012-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Paul Koepp (2010-07-21). "University of Utah program helps Shoshone youths keep language alive". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Jenny Brundin (2009-07-18). "Ten Teens Study To Guard Their Native Language". Morning Edition, NPR. Retrieved 2012-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "First Shoshone Language Video Game". 2013-08-14. Retrieved 2013-08-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Idaho district to offer Shoshoni classes". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-08-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Miller, Wick R. (1972). Newe Natekwinappeh: Shoshoni Stories and Dictionary. University of Utah Anthropological Papers 94. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Crum, Beverly; Dayley, Jon P. (1993). Western Shoshoni Grammar. Boise State University Occasional Papers and Monographs in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics Volume No. 1. Boise, Idaho: Department of Anthropology, Boise State University. ISBN 978-0-9639749-0-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Crum, Beverly; Dayley, Jon P. (1997). Shoshoni Texts. Occasional Papers and Monographs in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics Volume No. 2. Boise, Idaho: Department of Anthropology, Boise State University.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Crum, Beverly; Crum, Earl; Dayley, Jon P. (2001). Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Drusilla Gould & Christopher Loether. 2002. An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language: Dammen Daigwape. Salt Lake City, Utah: The University of Utah Press.

External links