Salinan language

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Native toUnited States
Regioncentral coast California
EthnicitySalinan people
  • Salinan
Language codes
ISO 639-3sln
Salinan lang.png

Salinan was the indigenous language of the Salinan people of the central coast of California. It has been extinct since the death of the last speaker in 1958.

Narrative in Salinan recorded in 1910

The language is attested to some extent in colonial sources such as Sitjar (1860), but the principal published documentation is Mason (1918). The main modern grammatical study, based on Mason's data and on the field notes of John Peabody Harrington and William H. Jacobsen, is Turner (1987), which also contains a complete bibliography of the primary sources and discussion of their orthography.

Two dialects are recognized, Antoniaño and Migueleño, associated with the missions of San Antonio and San Miguel, respectively. Antoniaño is "sometimes also termed Sextapay, associated with the area of the Franciscan Mission of San Antonio de Padua in Monterey County."[2] There may have been a third, Playano dialect, as suggested by mention of such a subdivision of the people, but nothing is known of them linguistically.

Salinan may be a part of the Hokan family. Edward Sapir included it in a subfamily of Hokan, along with Chumash and Seri.[3] This hypothetical classification (which has had many skeptics) found its way into several encyclopedias and presentations of language families before much supporting evidence for this subfamily had been presented, but is currently fairly well established.[4][5]

Salinan vocabulary from a 1910 recording


The charts of consonants and vowels in the Salinan language based on J.P. Harrington's notes:


Bilabial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lab. plain lab.
Plosive voiceless p k ʔ
aspirated t̪ʰ t̠ʰ
ejective t̪ʼ t̠ʼ
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative s ʃ x h
Affricate voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tʃʰ
ejective tsʼ tʃʼ
Nasal plain m n ŋ
glottalized ˀm ˀn
Lateral voiced l
glottalized ˀl
Trill r
Approximant plain w j
glottalized ˀw ˀj


Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a



  • Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian languages: the historical linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195094275.
  • Mason, John Alden (1918). The language of the Salinan Indians. University of California Press. pp. 436–. Retrieved 24 August 2012.University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 14.1-154.
  • Sitjar, Fr. Buenaventura (1861) Vocabulario de la lengua de los naturales de la mission de San Antonio, Alta California. Shea's Library of American Linguistics, 7. Reprinted 1970 at New York by AMS Press.
  • Turner, Katherine (1987). Aspects of Salinan Grammar, Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. University of California at Berkeley.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Salinan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ "A Glossary of Proper Names in California Prehistory: Ethnolinguistic Groups". Society for California Archaeology. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  3. ^ Sapir, Edward. (1925) The Hokan affinity of Subtiaba in Nicaragua. American Anthropologist 27: (3).402-34, (4). 491-527.
  4. ^ Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world. Brown, E. K., Ogilvie, Sarah. (1st ed.). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier. 2009. pp. 504. ISBN 9780080877754. OCLC 318247422.CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ Native languages of the Americas. Sebeok, Thomas A. (Thomas Albert), 1920-2001. New York: Plenum Press. 1976. pp. 440–446. ISBN 030637157X. OCLC 2388194.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ Turner, Katherine (1987). Aspects of Salinan Grammar. pp. 14–15.

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