Mojave language

Jump to navigation Jump to search
RegionArizona and California, U.S.
Ethnicity2,000 Mohave people (2007)[1]
Native speakers
200 (2015 census)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mov Mohave
Glottologmoha1256  Mohave[3]

Mojave or Mohave[Note 1] is the native language of the Mohave people along the Colorado River in northwestern Arizona, southeastern California, and southwestern Nevada. Approximately 70% of the speakers reside in Arizona, while approximately 30% reside in California. It belongs to the River branch of the Yuman language family, together with Quechan and Maricopa.

The 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 even with their parents when they occasionally visited home; while many parents did not speak English.[7][8][9]


All claims and examples in this section come from Munro (1974) unless otherwise noted. Mojave phonology is similar to that of Maricopa. One difference is that 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.[10][11]


Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain rounded plain rounded plain rounded
Plosive p t ʈ k q ʔ
Affricate t͡ʃ
Fricative voiceless θ s ʂ h
voiced v ð
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ
Liquid l, r
Glide j w

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


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

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


Poet and Mojave language activist Natalie Diaz at Arizona State University

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."[12] The project is also bringing elders together with younger people to teach the traditional Mojave "bird songs."[13]

The language preservation work of poet Natalie Diaz on the reservation was featured on PBS News Hour in March 2012.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mohave" as per Ethnologue ("alternate name Mojave"),[1] Glottolog,[3] Merriam-Webster Dictionary ("less commonly Mojave"),[4] American Heritage Dictionary ("also Mojave"),[5] and Collins English Dictionary ("or Mojave").[6]


  1. ^ a b Mojave language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Mohave at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  3. ^ a b Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mohave". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ "Mohave". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  5. ^ "Mohave". American Heritage Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  6. ^ "Mohave". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  7. ^ Penfield, S. D. (2005). Mohave remembered. Journal of the Southwest, 81-105.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Munro, P. (1976). Subject copying, auxiliarization, and predicate raising: the Mojave evidence. International Journal of American Linguistics, 99-112.
  11. ^ Munro, P. E. L. (1974). Topics in Mojave syntax (Doctoral dissertation, UMI Ann Arbor).
  12. ^ Mary Shinn (2010-11-29). "ASU center bringing new life to Native languages". The State Press. Arizona State University. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
  13. ^ Pete Zrioka (2012-03-26). "Cultural conservation: keeping languages alive". Arizona State University News. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
  14. ^ Mary Jo Brooks (2012-06-20). "On Wednesday's NewsHour: Poet Natalie Diaz". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
  • Hinton, Leanne. 1994. Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages. Heyday Books, Berkeley, California.

External links[edit]