Havasupai–Hualapai language

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Upland Yuman
Region Arizona, United States
Ethnicity 570 Havasupai, 1,870 Walapai (2007)[1]
Native speakers
550 (2010)[1]
90 Havasupai, 460 Hualapai
  • Core Yuman
    • Pai
      • Havasupai–Hualapai
  • Havasupai
  • Hualapai
Language codes
ISO 639-3 yuf Havasupai‑Walapai‑Yavapai
Glottolog hava1248  Havasupai‑Walapai‑Yavapai[2]
hava1249  Havasupai[3]
wala1270  Walapai[4]
Hualapai havasupai res.png
The Hualapai and Havasupai reservations are circled on this map in purple, where most speakers of the language live.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Havasupai–Hualapai (Havasupai–Walapai) is the Native American language spoken by the Hualapai (also spelled Walapai) and Havasupai peoples of northwestern Arizona. Havasupai–Hualapai belongs to the Pai branch of the Yuman–Cochimí language family, together with its close relative Yavapai and with Paipai, a language spoken in northern Baja California. There are two main dialects of this language: the Havasupai dialect is spoken in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, while the Hualapai dialect is spoken along the southern rim. As of 2010, there were 550 speakers of Havasupai-Hualapai. UNESCO classifies the Havasupai dialect as endangered and the Hualapai dialect as vulnerable.[5] There are efforts at preserving both dialects through bilingual education programs.[6]

Regional variation and mutual intelligibility

The modern Hualapai and Havasupai have separate sociopolitical identities, but a consensus among linguists is that the differences in speech among them lie only at the dialect level, rather than constituting separate languages (Campbell 1997:127; Goddard 1996:7; Kendall 1983:5-7; Mithun 1999:577-578), and the differences between the two dialects have been reported as "negligible" (Kozlowski 1976:140).

The language even bears similarity to Yavapai, and sometimes they are grouped together for means of linguistic classification (see Ethnologue[6]). Regarding the relationship of Havasupai and Hualapai to Yavapai, Warren Gazzam, a Tolkapaya Yavapai speaker, reported that "they (Hualapais) speak the same language as we do, some words or accents are a little different".[7]



For illustrative purposes, the following chart is the consonant inventory of the Hualapai dialect of the language, which varies slightly from the Havasupai dialect. Because the two dialects have different orthographies, IPA symbols are used here. For more information about how these sounds are depicted in writing, see the Orthography section of this page.

Consonant sounds in the Havasupai–Hualapai language[8]
Bilabial Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Plosive plain p t k q ʔ
aspirated t̪ʰ
Fricative β f, v θ s h
Affricate plain t͡ʃ
aspirated t͡ʃʰ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Lateral l
Flap ɾ
Approximant w j

As shown from the chart above, aspiration is a contrastive feature in many stops and affricates in Hualapai-Havasupai. Often, consonant sounds are realized in different ways in different phonetic environments. For example, if a glottal stop occurs at the beginning of a word, it may sometimes be replaced by a vowel such as /a/.[8]

The phonemic difference between /β/ and /v/ is widely discussed in the literature. Watahomigie et al poses that the use of /β/ is attributed to older generations of Hualapai dialect speakers[8], and Edwin Kozlowski notes that in the Hualapai dialect, [v] is weakened to [β] in weak-stressed syllables. Thus, the underlying form /v-ul/ "to ride" surfaces as [βəʔul].[9]

Long and short vowels are contrastive in the language. The following is a minimal pair illustrating of the phonemic contrast of Havasupai-Hualapai vowel length: 'pa:ʔ' (meaning person) vs. 'paʔ' (meaning arrow).[10]

Vowel phonemes[8]
Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid e eː o oː
Open æ æː
a aː

Short vowels may sometimes be reduced to [ə] or dropped completely when they occur in an unstressed syllable, primarily in a word-initial context. In addition to this chart, there are four attested diphthongs that are common for this language: /aʊ/ as in 'cow', /aɪ/ as in 'lie', /eɪ/ as in 'they', and /ui/ as in 'buoy'.[8]


Havasupai-Hualapai's prosodic system is stress-timed, which governs many parts of the phonological structure of the language, including where long vowels occur, what kind of consonant clusters can occur and where, and how syllable boundaries are divided. There are three types of stress: primary, secondary, and weak. All vowels can have any of these three types of stress, but syllabic consonants can only have weak stress. Primary stresses occur at regularly timed intervals in an utterance. Secondary stresses occur according to an alternating-stress system, which most commonly dictates that two secondary stresses follow a primary stressed (phonetically long) vowel.[11]

Syllabic structure

The most common syllable structures that occur in Havasupai-Hualapai are CV, CVC, and VC; however, consonant clusters of two or three consonants can and do occur initially, medially, and finally.[12]

At word boundaries, syllabification breaks up consonant clusters to CVC or CV structure as much as is possible. CCC and CCCC clusters occur, but they are always broken up by a syllable boundary (that is, C-CC/CC-C or CC-CC). Syllable-initial CC clusters are either composed of (1) /θ/, /s/, or /h/, followed by any consonant or (2) any consonant followed by /w/. [11]


Morphologically, Hualapai-Havasupai is classified by WALS as weakly suffixing.[13] There are different affixes for nouns, verbs, and particles in Hualapai-Havasupai, and there exist suffixes that can change nouns to verbs and vice versa. The affixes that exist -- apart from word roots -- are generally short in phonemic length, restricted to C, CV, VC, or V in composition.[14]


Verbs are marked for person (first, second, and third) through the prefixes /a-/, /ma-/, and /ø-/, respectively. Many other affixes attach to the verb to reveal information like tense, aspect, modality, number, adverbial qualities, and conjunctivity. The verb suffixes /-wi/ and /-yu/ are divisive for verbs and are weak-stressed by-forms of /wí/, meaning do, and /yú/, meaning be. These occur on all verbs. The three numbers that can be marked in verbs are singular, paucal plural, and multiple plural. There are six types of aspect, and any verb can have as many as three and as few as zero aspect markers. The six types are distributive-iterative, continued, interrupted, perfective, imperfective, and habitual.[14]


Nouns are marked for number, case, definiteness, and demonstrativeness. Havasupai-Hualapai has a nominative-accusative case system, as can be seen by the lists of noun suffixes and prefixes below:

  • Noun prefixes
    • Subordinate: /-ɲi/ 'subordinate to, related to'
    • Intensive: /vi-/ 'very, just'
  • Noun suffixes
    • Number: /-t͡ʃ/ paucal plural, /-uv/ multiple plural, no affix for singular number
    • Demonstrative: /-ɲ/ that, /-v/ this
    • Definiteness: /-a/ the (a certain), /-i/ the (this other), /-u/ the (that other), /-o/, the former (that)
    • Case: /-t͡ʃ/ nominative, /-ø/ accusative, /-k/ allative-adessive, /-l/ illative-inessive, /-m/ ablative-abessive
    • Appellative: /-é/ vocative[14]


Particles exist as interjections, adverbs, possessive pronouns, and articles. There are relatively few particles that exist in the language. They can be marked through prefixes for subordination and intensity in the same way as nouns and through the suffix /-é/, which indicates adverbial place.[14]



Hualapai-Havasupai, like other Yuman languages, is known for its switch-reference. This is a mechanism that illustrates whether the subjects are the same for multiple verbs within a sentence. The marker "-k" states that the subject-references are identical, and the marker "-m" is used when the first and second subjects are different for two verbs.


Havasupai and Hualapai have developed separate orthographies in order to distinguish the two tribes socially and culturally. Hualapai's orthography was developed in the 1970's partly as an effort to preserve the language for pedagogical and historical purposes.[8] Both of the orthographies are adapted from the Latin Script.[6]

Havasupai dialect

Havasupai language class.

This dialect is spoken by approximately 90 people on the Havasupai Indian Reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. According to a 2005 New York Times article, it was considered the only Native American language in the United States spoken by 100% of its tribal members.[15] Also as of 2005, Havasupai remained the first language of residents of Supai Village, the tribal government seat.[16]

As of 2004, "a Wycliffe Bible Translators project ... under way to translate the Old and the New Testaments into the Havasupai language" was progressing slowly.[17]

See also

  • Havasu 'Baaja, the people generally called Havasupai by English-speakers.


  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford University Press.
  • Goddard, Ives. (1996). "Introduction". In Languages, edited by Ives Goddard, pp. 1–16. Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, Vol. 17. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Kendall, Martha B. (1983). "Yuman languages". In Southwest, edited by Alfonso Ortiz, pp. 4–12. Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, Vol. 10. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Langdon, Margaret. (1996). "Bibliography of the Yuman languages". Survey of California and Other Indian Languages 9:135-159.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kozlowski, Edwin. (1976). "Remarks on Havasupai phonology". In International Journal of American Linguistics, pp. 140–149. Vol. 42, No. 2.
  • Watahomigie, Lucille J., Jorigine Bender, Philbert Watahomigie, Sr. and Akira Y. Yamamoto with Elnor Mapatis, Malinda Powskey and Josie Steele. (2001). Hualapai Reference Grammar. (ELPR Publications A2-003). Kyoto, Japan: Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim Project.
  • Watahomigie, Lucille J., Jorigine Bender, Malinda Powskey, Josie Steele, Philbert Watahomigie, Sr. and Akira Y. Yamamoto. (2003). A Dictionary of the Hualapai Language. (ELPR Publications A2-041). Kyoto, Japan: Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim Project.


  1. ^ a b Havasupai‑Walapai‑Yavapai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Havasupai‑Walapai‑Yavapai". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Havasupai". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Walapai". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  5. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 2018-01-23. 
  6. ^ a b c "Havasupai-Walapai-Yavapai". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-01-23. 
  7. ^ http://cla.berkeley.edu/item/16506
  8. ^ a b c d e f J., Watahomigie, Lucille (1982). Hualapai reference grammar. Bender, Jorigine., Yamamoto, Akira Y., University of California, Los Angeles. American Indian Studies Center. Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Center, UCLA. ISBN 0935626077. OCLC 9684147. 
  9. ^ Kozlowski, Edwin (1976). "Remarks on Havasupai Phonology". International Journal of American Linguistics. 42 (2): 140–149. 
  10. ^ Campbell., Wares, Alan (1968). A comparative study of Yuman consonantism. The Hague: Mouton. ISBN 9783111274690. OCLC 647259333. 
  11. ^ a b Redden, James E. (1966). "Walapai I: Phonology". International Journal of American Linguistics. 32 (1): 1–16. 
  12. ^ Redden, James E. (1965). Walapai Phonology and Morphology. Indiana University. 
  13. ^ "WALS Online - Language Hualapai". wals.info. Retrieved 2018-02-14. 
  14. ^ a b c d Redden, James E. (1966). "Walapai II: Morphology". International Journal of American Linguistics. 32 (2): 141–163. 
  15. ^ Cepeda, Raquel (2015-09-04). "Within the Grand Canyon, the Lure of Havasu Falls". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-23. 
  16. ^ "Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau - Havasupai Overview". Cline Library. 2005. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  17. ^ Lynn Arave (2004-04-17). "The farthest church". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 

Further reading

  • "A dictionary of the Havasupai language". Hinton, Leanne. Supai, Arizona 1984.
  • "Gwe gnaavja". Havasu Baaja / Havasupai Tribe, Bilingual Education Program. Supai, Arizona 1985.
  • "Havsuw gwaawj tñudg siitja". Havasupai Bilingual Education Program. Supai, Arizona 1970s(?).
  • "Baahj muhm hatm hwag gyu". Hinton, Leanne et al., prepared by the Havasupai Bilingual Education Program. Supai, Arizona 1978.
  • "Tim: Tñuda Hobaja". Hinton, Leanne et al., prepared by the Havasupai Bilingual Education Program (authors credited as "Viya Tñudv Leanne Hinton-j, Rena Crook-m, Edith Putesoy-m hmug-g yoovjgwi. Clark Jack-j"). Supai, Arizona 1978-1984.
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