Alsea language

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Pronunciation /ˈæls/
Region Oregon
Ethnicity Alsea people, Yaquina people
Extinct 1942, with the death of John Albert
  • Alsea
  • Yaquina
Language codes
ISO 639-3 aes
Glottolog alse1251[1]
Alsean langs.png
Pre-contact distribution of Alsean
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Alsea or Alsean (also Yakonan) was two closely related speech varieties spoken along the central Oregon coast. They are sometimes taken to be different languages, but it is difficult to be sure given the poor state of attestation; Mithun believes they were probably dialects of a single language.[2]


  1. Alsea (Alséya) (†)
  2. Yaquina (Yakwina, Yakona) (†)

Both are now extinct.

The name Alsea derives from the Coosan name for them, alsí or alsí·, and the Marys River Kalapuyan name for them, alsí·ya. Alsea was last recorded in 1942 from the last speaker, John Albert, by J. P. Harrington.

The name Yaquina derives from the Alsean name for the Yaquina Bay and the Yaquina River region, yuqú·na. Yaquina was last recorded in 1884 by James Owen Dorsey.

Alsea is usually considered to belong to the Penutian phylum, and may form part of a Coast Oregon Penutian subgroup together with Siuslaw and the Coosan languages.[3] Numerous lexical resemblances between Alsea and the Northern Wintuan languages, however, are more likely the result of borrowing about 1,500 years ago when the (Northern) Wintuan speech community appears to have been located in Oregon.[4]



Alsea had 34 consonants:[2]

  Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain lateral plain labialized plain labialized plain labialized
Stop plain p t     k q    
ejective p’ t’     k’ k’ʷ q’ q’ʷ ʔ  
Fricative   s ɬ x χ χʷ h (hʷ)
Affricate plain   ts                
ejective   ts’ tɬ’              
Nasal plain m n                
glottalized m’ n’                
Approximant plain     l j   w        
glottalized     l’ j’   w’        
  • The status of /hʷ/ is uncertain.
  • /s/, /ts/ and /ts’/ are actually between alveolar and post-alveolar.


Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
High i ĩ u ũ
Mid e ə o
Low a ã


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Alsea". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X
  3. ^ Grant, A. (1997). Coast Oregon Penutian: Problems and Possibilities. International Journal of American Linguistics, 63(1), 144-156.
  4. ^ Golla, Victor (1997). The Alsea-Wintu connection. International Journal of American Linguistics, 63, 157-170.

Further reading

  • Alsea Indian Language (Yaquina, Yakona, Alsean, Alse)
  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Frachtenberg, Leo Joachim (1920). Alsea texts and myths. Govt. Printing Office. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  • OLAC resources in and about the Alsea language
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