Today’s post is about the Wukchumni language, which has received some attention recently for this short documentary:

Wukchumni is a Native American language, which is spoken by the Wukchumni people who now live in California. The only native speaker remaining is the woman featured in the documentary, Marie Wilcox. She has spent the last seven years creating a dictionary for the language, the longest document that currently exists on it. (Google also turns up a result for a ‘Wukchumni Language Book’, which is supposed to be a word list, but this seems inaccessible unless you can get to a place where a physical copy is held.)

There is very little information, aside from this documentary and the articles about it, about the Wukchumni language. Ethnologue and UNESCO appear to have no data on it. However, the documentary shows that Marie’s work is being used in language classes for the Wukchumni people, which will hopefully lead to some development of the language among its people, though this may not be enough to still save it from extinction.

Sources/Further Reading

Wikipedia: Wukchumni
OLAC Language Resource Catalog: Wukchumni language
The New York Times: Who Speaks Wukchumni?
Languagehat: Who Speaks Wukchumni?
Updates, Live: Wukchumni Language (Marie’s Dictionary)


  1. I loved watching this and it’s actually pretty sad how her mother tongue is slowly dying. like it never really occurred to me that a language could one day dissappear

    • Yeah, I never really knew much about endangered languages until my last couple of years of university (my dissertation was on endangered languages in China) and I find North American ones in particular really interesting because it’s been such a drastic and quick change. The video for this one was so fascinating and it’s a shame, I think, that not more people know about this language – or all of the others that are dying out 🙁

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