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Utian (also Miwok-Costanoan, previously Mutsun) is a family of indigenous languages spoken in the central and north portion of Californiamarker, United Statesmarker. The Miwok and Ohlone peoples both spoke languages in the Utian linguistic group. It has recently been argued that the Utian languages and Yokuts languages are sub-families of the Yok-Utian language family (Callaghan 1997, 2001; Golla 2007:76-77). Utian and Yokutsan have traditionally been considered part of the Penutian language stock or phylum (Goddard 1996:313-319; Mithun 1999; Shipley 1978:82-85).

All Utian languages are severely endangered.

Family Division

The Utian family consists of 15 languages (or dialects) with two major branches, Miwokan and Costanoan. The classification below is based primarily on Callaghan (2001). Other classifications list Northern Costanoan, Southern Costanoan, and Karkin as single languages, with the following subgroups of each considered as dialects:

I. Miwokan (a.k.a. Miwok, Miwuk, Moquelumnan) -
A. Eastern Miwok
: 1. Plains Miwok
: 2. Bay Miwok (a.k.a. Saclan) (†) - Bay Miwok is now extinct.
: i. Sierra Miwok
:: 3. Northern Sierra Miwok
:: 4. Central Sierra Miwok
:: 5. Southern Sierra Miwok.
B. Western Miwok
: 6. Coast Miwok (†) - Coast Miwok is now extinct, was probably a single language with two variant dialects.
:: a. Bodega Miwok
:: b. Marin Miwok
: 7. Lake Miwok

II. Ohlone (a.k.a. Costanoan) (†) - The entire Ohlone (Costanoan) family is now extinct. Chochenyo, Tamyen, and Ramaytush were quite similar and were probably a single language with several dialects.

A. Northern Costanoan (†)
: 8. Chalon (a.k.a. Cholon, Soledad) (†) (?) - Chalon may be a transitional language between Northern and Southern Costanoan.
: 9. Awaswas (a.k.a. Santa Cruz Costanoan) (†) - There may have been more than one Costanoan language spoken within the proposed Awaswas area, as the small amount of linguistic material attributed to Mission Santa Cruz Costanoans is highly variable.
: 10. Tamyen (a.k.a. Tamien, Santa Clara Costanoan) (†)
: 11. Chochenyo (a.k.a. Chocheño, Chocheno, East Bay Costanoan)
: 12. Ramaytush (a.k.a. San Francisco Costanoan)
B. Southern Costanoan (†)
: 13. Mutsun (a.k.a. San Juan Bautista Costanoan) (†)
: 14. Rumsen (a.k.a. Rumsien, San Carlos, Carmel) (†)
C. Karkin
: 15. Karkin (a.k.a. Carquin) (†)

Dialect or language debate

Regarding the eight Costanoan branches, sources differ on if they were eight language dialects, or eight separate languages.. Richard Levy, himself a linguist, contradicted himself on this point: First he said "Costanoans themselves were a set of tribelets [small tribes] who spoke a common language... distinguished from one another by slight differences in dialect"; however after saying that, he concluded: "The eight branches of the Costanoan family were separate languages (not dialects) as different from one another as Spanish is from French" (Levy, 1978:485, "Language and Territory"). Randall Milliken (1995:24-26) stated in 1995 that there were eight dialects, citing missionary-linguist Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta to the effect that the idioms seemed distinct as one traveled from mission to mission, but actually formed a dialect chain from one neighboring local tribe to another. Catherine Callaghan (1997, 2001), a linguist who steeped herself in the primary documents, offered evidence that the Costanoan languages were distinct, with only Ramaytush, Tamyen, and Chochenyo possibly being dialects of a single language. Milliken (2008:6), himself an ethnohistorian and not a linguist, shifted his position in 2008 to follow Callaghan, referring to separate Costanoan languages rather than dialects.

See also



  • Broadbent, Sylvia. (1964). The Southern Sierra Miwok Language. University of California publications in linguistics (Vol. 38). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Callaghan, Catherine. (1997). Evidence for Yok-Utian. International Journal of American Linguistics, 63, pages 18-64.
  • Callaghan, Catherine. (2001). More evidence for Yok-Utian: A reanalysis of the Dixon and Kroeber sets International Journal of American Linguistics, 67 (3), pages 313-346.
  • Goddard, Ives. (1996). "The Classification of the Native Languages of North America." In Languages, Ives Goddard, ed., pp. 290-324. Handbook of North American Indians Vol. 17, W. C. Sturtevant, general ed. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-048774-9.
  • Golla, Victor. (2007). "Linguistic Prehistory" in California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity, pp. 71-82. Terry L. Jones and Kathryn A. Klar, editors. New York: Altamira Press. ISBN 978-0-7591-0872-1.
  • Levy, Richard. (1978). Costanoan, in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 8 (California). William C. Sturtevant, and Robert F. Heizer, eds. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. ISBN 0-16-004578-9 / 0160045754, pages 485-495.
  • Milliken, Randall. (1995). A Time of Little Choice: The Disintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769-1910. Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press Publication. ISBN 0-87919-132-5.
  • Milliken, Randall. (2008). Native Americans at Mission San Jose. Banning, CA: Malki-Ballena Press. ISBN 978-0-87919-147-4.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Shipley, William F. (1978). Native Languages of California, in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 8 (California). William C. Sturtevant, and Robert F. Heizer, eds. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-004578-9 / 0160045754, pages 80-90.
  • Teixeira, Lauren. (1997). The Costanoan/Ohlone Indians of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area, A Research Guide. Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press Publication. ISBN 0-87919-141-4.

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