Mary Yee

Mary Joachina Yee (née Ygnacio, 1897–1965)[1] was an American linguist who was the last first-language speaker of the Barbareño language, a member of the Chumashan languages that were once spoken in southern California by the Chumash people.

Mary Yee
Mary Joachina Ygnacio

Known forLast first-language speaker of the Barbareño language
ChildrenValentina Yee, Josie Yee, John Yee, Angela Yee, and Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto
Parent(s)Mother, Lucretia García
RelativesGrandmother, Luisa Ignacio

Born in an adobe house near Santa Barbara, the home of her grandmother, in the late 1890s, Yee was one of only a handful of children brought up to speak any Chumash language. She memorized several old Chumash stories.[2]

In her fifties, Yee began to take part in the analysis, description, and documentation of her language, for many years working closely with the linguist J. P. Harrington, who had also worked with Yee's mother Lucretia García and her grandmother Luisa Ignacio.[3] Yee and Harrington corresponded with each other in Chumash. After retiring in 1954, Yee worked with Harrington nearly every day.[4] She also worked with linguist Madison S. Beeler.[5] Over the course of her work she became a linguist in her own right, analyzing paradigms and word structure.[3] She also illustrated stories published by her daughter Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto.

Yee's story appears in the documentary film, 6 Generations: A Chumash Family History.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Grant, C. (1978). "Chumash: Introduction". Handbook of North American Indians. 8: 505–508.
  2. ^ Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto, illustrated by Mary Yee, The Sugar Bear Story (Paperback): Introduction.
  3. ^ a b Marianne Mithun (1997), Jane Hill; P. J. Mistry; Lyle Campbell (eds.), "The regression of sibilant harmony through the life of Barbareño Chumash.", The Life of Language., Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 108: 221–242
  4. ^ Poser, William J (2004). "On the status of Chumash sibilant harmony" (PDF). Ms., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Retrieved 2010-09-22. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Madison S. Beeler; Linguistics Scholar, Chumash Expert". 1989-03-07. Retrieved 21 September 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Kettmann, Matt (2011-01-27). "Santa Barbara on Screen". The Santa Barbara Independent. Archived from the original on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2013-05-08. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)