Chimariko is an extinct language isolate formerly spoken in northern Trinity County, California, by the inhabitants of several independent communities. While the total area claimed by these communities was remarkably small, Golla (2011:87–89) believes there is evidence that three local dialects were recognized: Trinity River Chimariko, spoken along the Trinity River from the mouth of South Fork at Salyer as far upstream as Big Bar, with a principal village at Burnt Ranch; South Fork Chimariko, spoken around the junction of South Fork and Hayfork Creek, with a principal village at Hyampom; and New River Chimariko, spoken along New River on the southern slopes of the Trinity Alps, with a principal village at Denny.

Native toUSA
Extinct1950s, with the death of Martha Zigler
Hokan ?
  • Chimariko
Language codes
ISO 639-3cid
Pre-contact distribution of Chimariko
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Genetic relations edit

Proposals linking Chimariko to other languages in various versions of the hypothetical Hokan family have been advanced. Roland Dixon suggested a relationship between Chimariko and the Shastan and Palaihnihan families. Edward Sapir's famous 1929 classification grouped Chimariko with Shastan, Palaihnihan, Pomoan, and the Karuk and Yana languages in a Hokan sub-grouping known as Northern Hokan. A Kahi family consisting of Chimariko, Shastan, Palaihnihan, and Karuk has been suggested (appearing also within Sapir's 1929 Northern Hokan). Most specialists currently find these relationships to be undemonstrated, and consider Chimariko to remain best considered an isolate.[1]

Documentary history edit

Stephen Powers collected the first word list from Chimariko speakers in 1875 (Golla, 2011, p. 89). Soon after, Jeremiah Curtin documented a substantial amount of information (p. 89). Roland Dixon began work on the Chimariko language in the early 1900s, when there were few remaining speakers. Dixon worked with two: Mrs. Dyer and a man who was named Friday.[2] While doing work with nearby Hupa, Edward Sapir collected data and also commented on the earlier Dixon work (Golla, 2011, p. 89). Later, extensive documentation on the language was carried out by J.P. Harrington, who worked with Sally Noble, the last speaker of the language.[3] None of this work has been published, but slides of all of Harrington's work can be viewed on the Smithsonian Institution's website.[4] Harrington's assistant John Paul Marr also made recordings of the language with speaker Martha Zigler.[5] George Grekoff collected previous works of linguistics intending to write a grammar, but died before it was completed (Golla, 2011, p. 89). The last Chimariko speaker was Martha Ziegler who died in the 1950s (Golla, 2011, p. 89). According to Golla, bilingual Hupa-Chimariko speakers native to the South Fork of the Trinity River, Burnt Ranch and New Rivers areas, organized as the Tsnungwe Tribe (from Hupa cʰe:niŋxʷe: 'Ironside Mountain people') and are seeking federal acknowledgement, but emphasize Hupa for purposes of cultural revitalization". There are no programs available to either teach or revitalize Chimariko from its current status of extinct (p. 89).

Phonology edit

Consonants edit

The consonant inventory of Chimariko is:[6]

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stop and
tenuis p t ts ʈ k q
aspirate tsʰ ʈʰ tʃʰ
ejective p’ t’ ts’ ʈ’ tʃ’ k’ q’ ʔ
Fricative s ʃ x χ h
Sonorant m n l, r j w

Vowels edit

The vowel inventory of Chimariko is: i, e, a, o, u.[7]

Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Syllables edit

Chimariko shares syllabic similarities with other languages in Northern California. The most common syllable structures for Chimariko are CV and CVC, with the largest possible structures being CCVC or CVCC.[8]

Morphology edit

Noun incorporation is present in Chimariko.[9] The verbs have prefixes, suffixes and a circumfix.[10]

Verb templates:[11]

Person Root Negative kuna Directional Tense/Aspect Mood
Person Negative x- Root Negative -na Directional Tense/Aspect Mood
Root Person Tense/Aspect Mood

Grammatical characteristics edit

Because the documentary corpus of Chimariko was limited, the description of the grammar of the language was not complete.[2] However, general observations were made.

Among the recorded grammatical characteristics are the following: Chimariko had reduplication in many nominal forms, particularly in the names of fauna (e.g., tsokoko-tci "bluejay", himimitcei "grouse"). Like many American languages (such as Shasta, Maidu, Wintun, as well as Shoshoni, Siouan, and Pomo), Chimariko verbs had a series of instrumental and body-part prefixes, indicating the particular body part or object with which an action was carried out.[2] Instrumentals are attached at the beginning of the verb root and often occur with a suffix which indicates the motion in the verb, such as -ha "up", -hot "down", and -usam "through".[12]

List of instrumentals from Dixon:[12]
a- with a long object
e- with the end of a long object
me- with the head
mitci- with the foot
tcu- with a round object
tu- with the hand
wa- by sitting on

Chimariko does not use numeral classifiers.[13] Also lacking is a clear pattern to indicate control.[14]

Pronominal affixes by verb stem class
i-stem a-stem e-stem o-stem u-stem
1st person singular agent ˀi ye ye yo yu
patient čʰu čʰa čʰo čʰo čʰu
plural agent ya ya ya ya ya
patient čʰa čʰa čʰa čʰa čʰa
2nd person singular me, mi me, ma me, me me, mo me, mu
plural agent qʰo, qʰu qʰo, qʰa qʰo, qʰo qʰo, qʰo qʰo, qʰu
patient qʰa qʰa qʰa qʰa qʰa
3rd person hi ha he ho hu


Numerals edit

According to Carmen Jany, "no other language has the exact same system as Chimariko".[16] Chimariko uses both a decimal and quinary numeral systems.[17] Numerals appear in noun phrases, do not take affixes (except for the determinative suffix -lle), can either follow or precede the noun, and can appear without a noun.[18]

Space, time, modality edit

There are two demonstrative pronouns in Chimariko indicating "here" and "there". Qè- indicates here, or near the speaker, and pa- indicates there, or a distance from the speaker.[12] To indicate "this" and "that", the intensive suffix -ut is added:

This: qèwot, qât
That: pamut, paut, pât[12]
directional suffixes
-ktam/-tam 'down'
-ema/-enak 'into'
-ha 'up'
-hot 'down'
-lo 'apart'
-ro 'up'
-sku 'towards'
-smu 'across'
-tap 'out'
-tku/-ku Cislocative ('towards here')
-tmu/-mu Transmotional ('towards there')
-kh 'motion towards here'
-m 'motion towards there'
-tpi 'out of'
-xun/-xunok 'in, into'
-qʰa 'along'
-pa 'off, away'
-qʰutu 'into water'
-čʼana 'to, toward'
-čama 'in, into'


The modal system in Chimariko is abundant.[20] Modal suffixes attach at the very end of a verb after all other suffixes are applied and generally don't occur with aspectual suffixes.[20] The modal suffixes function as interrogatives, negatives, dubitatives, speculatives, conditionals, emphatics, potentials, potential futures, purposive futures, optatives, desideratives, imperatives, admonitives, intensives, inferentials, resultatives, and evidentials.[21]

Sentence structure edit

The research available indicates a variation in opinion about Chimariko's word order. Dixon claimed that usual word order is SVO or SOV, but in some cases the object precedes the subject, especially when the subject is pronominal.[12] Jany claims that word order is not rigid but is mainly verb-final.[22] The clauses are separated by brackets and the verbs are bolded in the following example:














ʔawaidače xowonat, šičel hiwontat

[ʔawa-ida-če x-owo-na-t] [šičel h-iwonta-t]

home-POSS-LOC NEG-stay-NEG-ASP horse 3-ride-ASP

'She does not stay at home, she goes around on horseback.'[23]

Inside noun phrases, there is variation in order of modifiers and the noun; sometimes the noun comes before other elements of the phrase, sometimes after.[24] When dealing with possession, the subject always precedes the object.[25]

Case edit

Chimariko has an agent/patient case system.[26] For first persons, agent and patient are differentiated in both transitive and intransitive clauses, and third persons are not.[27] Person hierarchy in the argument structure is present as well where speech act participants are favored over third persons.[28]








'Are you going to tattoo her?'[29]

Possession edit

Chimariko differentiates alienable and inalienable possession.[30] Alienable possessions such as objects and kinship are marked by suffix, while inalienable possessions such as body parts are marked by prefix, on the possessed.

1st person singular 'my' čʰ- -ˀe/-ˀi
plural 'our' čʰa- -čʰe
2nd person singular 'your' m- -mi
plural 'you all's' qʰ- -qʰ
3rd person singular 'his/her' h- -ita/-ye
plural 'their' h- -ita


Examples from JP Harrington field notes (Jany 2007) contrasting alienable and inalienable possession:

    čʰ-uweš         'my horn'(deer says)
    noˀot huweš-ˀi  'my horn' (Frank says)

Complementation edit

In Chimariko, there is no grammatical complementation, however there are a few strategies to convey semantic complementation including separate clauses, verbal affixes, the use of attitude words, and using the desiderative imiˀna 'to want'.[31]

Examples from Jany (2007):

Complements with utterance predicates (separate clauses):








himisamdudaˀn sideˀw

[himisamdu-daˀn] [si-deˀw]

devil-INF say-DER

'It must have been the devil, they said.' (complement is bolded; clauses are in brackets)

Desiderative imiˀna ‘to want’ with clausal arguments








yuwom imiˀnan

y-uwo-m imiˀna-n

1SG.A-go-DIR want-ASP

'I want to go home'

Relative clauses edit

In Chimariko, relativization can be done one of two ways – using a special verb suffix -rop/-rot to form internally headed clauses, and or by a headless relative clause. There is a relative pronoun map'un that is sometimes used.[31] JP Harrington field note example found in Jany (2007):













map’un hokoteˀrot yečiˀ ˀimiˀnan

[map’un h-oko-teˀ-rot] y-ečiˀ ˀi-miˀn-an 3-?-DER-DEP 1SG.A-buy 1SG-want-ASP

I want to buy that engraved one.

The relative clause is in brackets. map’un is the head.

Vocabulary edit

Animals edit

  • deer: 'a'a
  • salmon: 'umul
  • bear: čʰisamra
  • coyote: čʰirintoosa
  • wildcat: ṭaknil
  • elk: 'a'eno'
  • wolf: šiičiwi
  • cottontail rabbit: hemuxolla
  • dog or horse: šičela
  • raccoon: yetuwa
  • fox: 'apʰančʰolla
  • mouse: p'usul
  • red-tailed hawk: yekyek
  • duck: xa'xa'čʰei
  • butterfly: ṭamilla
  • ant: pelo'
  • worm: xawin
  • abalone: selhim
  • snail: č'anapa
  • slug: nexatre

Plants edit

Placenames edit

This table lists a few present-day locations in Chimariko territory.[32]

Location Chimariko Gloss
Burnt Ranch č'utamtače 'Place of the fishing hole'
Ironside Mountain čalitan 'awu N/A
Hawkin's Bar 'amaitače 'Place of their land'
Hoboken šiičiwi 'aqʰai 'wolf's water'
Big Bar hičʰeqʰut 'Down at the deer lick'
Big Flat čuntxapmu N/A
Helena 'ak'iče 'Place of the salt'
Junction City hisa'emu 'Road goes uphill'
Weaverville ho'raqtu 'Small owl in water'
Hyampom xawinpom N/A
Hayfork ṭanqʰoma N/A
Salyer qʰa'etxattače 'Place of the rocks everywhere'
Cedar Flat hots'i'nakčʰa xotai 'Three cedars'
Del Loma čʰičʰa'anma 'Red manzanita land'

References edit

  1. ^ Jany (2009)
  2. ^ a b c Sapir, Edward (1911) [1990]. William Bright (ed.). "Review of Roland B. Dixon: The Chimariko Indians and Language". The Collected Works of Edward Sapir V: American Indian Languages. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 185–187. ISBN 0-89925-654-6.
  3. ^ Luthin, Herbert (2002). Surviving through the Days. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-22270-0.
  4. ^ "John P. Harrington Papers". National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
  5. ^ "Chimariko Sound recording n.d". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  6. ^ Carmen Jany, 2009, p. 16
  7. ^ Carmen Jany, 2009, p. 20
  8. ^ Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."
  9. ^ Mithun 44
  10. ^ Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."p.185
  11. ^ p.185
  12. ^ a b c d e Dixon, Roland Burrage (1910). "The Chimariko Indians and Language". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology. 5 (5): 293–380.
  13. ^ Conathan p.11
  14. ^ Jany(2007)"Chimariko..."
  15. ^ Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."p.69
  16. ^ Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."p.114
  17. ^ p114
  18. ^ p.112-113
  19. ^ Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."pp.247–248
  20. ^ a b Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."p.206
  21. ^ Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."pp.206–209
  22. ^ Jany,(2007)"Chimariko..."pp.258–263
  23. ^ p258
  24. ^ p264
  25. ^ p265
  26. ^ Mithun p.213
  27. ^ Jany (2007)
  28. ^ Jany (2007)p.266
  29. ^ Jany (2007)p.270
  30. ^ a b Jany 2007
  31. ^ a b Jany, 2007
  32. ^ "Chimariko Place Names: Toponymy and Geolinguistics". Chimariko Language. Retrieved November 20, 2022.

A:agent DER:derivational DIR:directional

Bibliography edit

  • Campbell, Lyle (1997) American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Goddard, Ives (ed.) (1996) Languages. Handbook of North American Indians (W. C. Sturtevant, General Ed.) (Vol. 17). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-048774-9.
  • Golla, Victor (2011) California Indian Languages. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26667-4.
  • Jany, Carmen (2007) "Is there any evidence for complementation in Chimariko?", International Journal of American Linguistics, Volume 73, Issue 1, pp. 94–113, Jan 2007
  • —— (2007) "Chimariko in Areal and Typological Perspective." Order No. 3274416 University of California, Santa Barbara. Ann Arbor: ProQuest.
  • —— (2009) Chimariko Grammar: Areal and Typological Perspective. UC Press.
  • Mithun, Marianne (1999) The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.

External links edit