Cocopah language

Cocopah is a Delta language of the Yuman language family spoken by the Cocopah. Cocopah is believed to have derived from the Hokan language, and it is related to the other Native American languages of Mojave and Kumeyaay.[4] Cocopah is considered an endangered language, with fewer than 400 speakers at the turn of the 21st century. However, in an effort to keep the language alive, Yuma County's Cocopah Museum began offering classes teaching Cocopah to children in 1998.

Native toMexico, United States
RegionBaja California, Arizona, Sonora
Native speakers
370 in the United States (2015 census)[1]
145 in Mexico[2]
  • Delta–Californian
    • Cocopah
Language codes
ISO 639-3coc
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Much of the Cocopah language was passed down through speaking, rather than through writing. This, in large part, is due to the fact that the language did not have an alphabet for the majority of its existence. It was not until the 1970s that a language was developed, when a scholar decided to approach this task for a dissertation. Although the creation of an alphabet was useful, the original proved to be less than ideal, and so a new one was developed by the tribe in the early 2000s. As the revival of the language had progressed, it became apparent that the language did not have words to fit the advances made in modern society. In turn, the tribe developed new words to attribute to modern objects that did not exist in the ancient language. The elders of the tribe were given the responsibility of developing these new words and/or phrases. [5]

While the Cocopah tribe inhabits parts of Arizona and parts of Mexico, the written language differs based on the location of the tribe. For instance, Cocopah in Mexico use a different orthography than Cocopah in Arizona. The Mexican-based Cocopah use an orthography that was designed by the INALI, an organization that examines and protects the rights of endangered languages.



Cocopah has 21 consonants:

Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lateral plain lateral plain labial
Nasal m n ɲ
Stop p t ʈ k ʔ
Fricative s ʂ ʃ ɬʲ x
Approximant l j w
Trill r
  • /r/ is usually a trill [r] but sometimes is a flap [ɾ].
  • /tʃ, ɲ, ʃ/ are postalveolar (palato-alveolar). /lʲ, ɬʲ/ are palatalized alveolar consonants.
  • /ɬʲ/ is usually palatalized, but unlike /lʲ/ it does not contrast with a non-palatalized [ɬ].


Cocopah has 4 vowels.

  Front Back
Close i / iː u / uː
Mid e / eː
Open a / a:

Cocopah has both short and long vowels.

Syllable & phonotacticsEdit

The Cocopah syllable:

  • Word-initial two-consonant clusters usually consist of a fricative plus another consonant, e.g. /sp, ʂm, ʃp, xt͡ʃ/. Rarer two-consonant clusters start with a lateral or a stop consonant, e.g. /lt͡ʃ, ɬʲt͡ʃ, ps, t͡ʃp/.
  • Three-consonant clusters are rare, recorded examples include /pxk, pxkʷ, spx/.


  • Crawford, James M. (1970). Cocopa Baby Talk. International Journal of American Linguistics, 36, 9-13.
  • Crawford, James M. (1978). More on Cocopa Baby Talk. International Journal of American Linguistics, 44, 17-23.
  • Crawford, James M. (1989). Cocopa Dictionary. University of California Publications in Linguistics (Vol. 114). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09749-1.
  • Crawford, James M. (1983). Cocopa Texts. University of California Publications in Linguistics (Vol. 100). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09652-5.
  • Crawford, James M. (1998). Classificatory Verbs in Cocopa. In Hinton, L. & Munro, P. (Eds.), American Indian Languages: Description and Theory (pp. 5–9). Berkeley: University of California.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Wares, Alan C. (1968). A Comparative Study of Yuman Consonantism. Janua Linguarum, Series Practica (No. 57). The Hauge: Mouton.


  1. ^ Cocopah at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ inali
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Cocopa". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Vocabulary in Native American Languages. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from
  5. ^ "Cocopah language class seeks to keep ancient tongue from dying out" (July 29, 2007) Yuma Sun Archived February 9, 2013, at

External linksEdit