Cocopah language

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Native to Mexico, USA
Region Baja California, Arizona, Sonora
Ethnicity Cocopah
Native speakers
300 (2007–2010)[1]
  • Delta–Californian
    • Cocopah
Language codes
ISO 639-3 coc
Glottolog coco1261[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Cocopah is a Delta language of the Yuman language family spoken by the Cocopah. In an effort to keep the language alive, which was spoken by fewer than 400 people at the turn of the 21st-century, the Cocopah Museum began offering Cocopah language classes to children in 1998.

The language had no alphabet until the 1970s when a scholar developed one for a university dissertation. It proved to be less than ideal, and a new alphabet was developed by the tribe in the early 2000s. As the revival of the language has progressed, it has been necessary to find words for modern objects that didn't exist in the ancient language. These issues are referred to the elders of the tribe for a decision.[3] Cocopah in Mexico use a different orthography designed by the INALI.



Cocopah has 21 consonants:

  Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
plain labial
Nasal m n   ɲ    
Stop p t ʈ k ʔ
Fricative central   s ʂ ʃ x  
lateral       ɬʲ    
Approximant central       j   w  
lateral   l      
Rhotic   r        
  • /r/ is usually a trill [r] but sometimes is a flap [ɾ].
  • /tʃ, ɲ, ʃ/ are postalveolar (palato-alveolar). /lʲ, ɬʲ/ are palatalized alveolar consonants.
  • /ɬʲ/ is usually palatalized, but unlike /lʲ/ it does not contrast with a non-palatalized [ɬ].


Cocopah has 4 vowels.

  Front Back
High i / iː u / uː
Non-High e / eː a / aː

Cocopah has both short and long vowels.

Syllable & phonotactics

The Cocopah syllable:

  • Word-initial two-consonant clusters usually consist of a fricative plus another consonant, e.g. /sp, ʂm, ʃp, xt͡ʃ/. Rarer two-consonant clusters start with a lateral or a stop consonant, e.g. /lt͡ʃ, ɬʲt͡ʃ, ps, t͡ʃp/.
  • Three-consonant clusters are rare, recorded examples include /pxk, pxkʷ, spx/.



  • Crawford, James M. (1970). Cocopa Baby Talk. International Journal of American Linguistics, 36, 9-13.
  • Crawford, James M. (1978). More on Cocopa Baby Talk. International Journal of American Linguistics, 44, 17-23.
  • Crawford, James M. (1989). Cocopa Dictionary. University of California Publications in Linguistics (Vol. 114). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09749-1.
  • Crawford, James M. (1983). Cocopa Texts. University of California Publications in Linguistics (Vol. 100). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09652-5.
  • Crawford, James M. (1998). Classificatory Verbs in Cocopa. In Hinton, L. & Munro, P. (Eds.), American Indian Languages: Description and Theory (pp. 5–9). Berkeley: University of California.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Wares, Alan C. (1968). A Comparative Study of Yuman Consonantism. Janua Linguarum, Series Practica (No. 57). The Hauge: Mouton.


  1. 2007 Golla, 2012 INALI
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Cocopa". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Cocopah language class seeks to keep ancient tongue from dying out" (July 29, 2007) Yuma Sun

External links