Mojave language

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Region California and Arizona, US
Ethnicity 2,000 Mojave people (2007)[1]
Native speakers
100 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mov
Glottolog moha1256[2]

Mojave (also Mohave) is the native language of the Mohave people along the Colorado River in southeastern California, northwestern Arizona, and southwestern Nevada. Approximately 70% of the speakers reside in Arizona, while approximately 30% reside in California. Mojave belongs to the River branch of the Yuman language family, together with Quechan and Maricopa.

Mojave language became endangered during the 20th century when Mohave children were taken away from their parents to be raised in boarding schools, where they were prohibited to speak the language. They were prohibited from speaking it with their parents when they were on occasional visits home, in spite of many parents speaking no English.[3][4][5]


All claims and examples in this section come from Munro (1974) unless otherwise noted. Mohave phonology is similar to that of Maricopa. One difference is that sometime in the 19th century Mohave speakers shifted the sounds [s] and [ʂ] (similar to sh as in "shack") to [θ] (th as in "thick") and [s], respectively.[6][7]


Bilabial Alveolar Post-Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain rounded plain rounded plain rounded
Plosive p t ʈ k q ʔ
Affricate t͡ʃ
Voiceless fricative θ s ʂ h
Voiced fricative v ð
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ
Liquid l, r
Glide j w

The post-alveolar stops /ɳ/ and /ʈ/ are very infrequent and occur only in few words.


Mohave has five vowel qualities, with length distinction and a weak vowel /ə/.

Front Central Back
High i, iː u, uː
Mid e, eː ə o, oː
Low a, aː

Language revitalization

As of 2012, The Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University "has facilitated workshops for both learners and speakers at the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation in northwest Arizona, California and Nevada. Fort Mojave has about 22 elders who speak some Mojave."[8] The project is also bringing elders together with younger people to teach the traditional Mojave "bird songs."[9]

The language preservation work of poet Natalie Diaz on the reservation was featured on the PBS News Hour in March 2012.[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mojave at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Mohave". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Penfield, S. D. (2005). Mohave remembered. Journal of the Southwest, 81-105.
  4. Penfield, S. D., & Tucker, B. V. (2011). From documenting to revitalizing an endangered language: where do applied linguists fit?. Language and Education, 25(4), 291-305.
  5. Weinberg, J. P., & Penfield, S. D. (2000). Mohave Language Planning: Where has it been and where should it go from here?. Coyote Papers: Working Papers in Linguistics, Special Volume on Native American Languages.
  6. Munro, P. (1976). Subject copying, auxiliarization, and predicate raising: the Mojave evidence. International Journal of American Linguistics, 99-112.
  7. Munro, P. E. L. (1974). Topics in Mojave syntax (Doctoral dissertation, UMI Ann Arbor).
  8. Mary Shinn (2010-11-29). "ASU center bringing new life to Native languages". The State Press. Arizona State University. Retrieved 2012-09-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Pete Zrioka (2012-03-26). "Cultural conservation: keeping languages alive". Arizona State University News. Retrieved 2012-09-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Mary Jo Brooks (2012-06-20). "On Wednesday's NewsHour: Poet Natalie Diaz". Art Beat. PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2012-09-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hinton, Leanne. 1994. Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages. Heyday Books, Berkeley, California.

External links