Esselen language

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Native to USA
Region Big Sur (California)
Ethnicity Esselen
Extinct 19th century
Hokan ?
  • Esselen
Language codes
ISO 639-3 esq
Glottolog esse1238[1]
Esselen lang.png

Esselen was the language of the tiny Esselen (or self-designated Huelel) Nation, which aboriginally occupied the mountainous Central Coast of California, immediately south of Monterey (Shaul 1995). It was probably a language isolate, though has been included as a part of the hypothetical Hokan proposal.

Esselen may have been the first California language to become extinct. Although it was spoken by many of the early converts at Mission Carmel, its use rapidly declined during the Hispanic period. Very little information on the vocabulary and grammar of Esselen was preserved beyond a few word lists and a short bilingual catechism (for a summary see Mithun 1999:411–413 and Golla 2011:114). By the beginning of the 20th century the only data on Esselen that investigators such as Kroeber and Harrington could collect were a few words remembered by speakers of other Indian languages in the area.


  1. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Esselen". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian Languages. University of California Press.
  • Mithun, Marianne. 1999. The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge University Press.
  • Shaul, David L. 1995. "The Huelel (Esselen) Language." International Journal of American Linguistics 61:191-239.

External links