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Picuris (also Picurís) is a language of the Northern Tiwa branch of Tanoan spoken in Picuris Pueblo, New Mexico.

Native toUnited States
RegionPicuris Pueblo, New Mexico
Native speakers
225 (2007)[2]
  • Tiwa
    • Northern Tiwa
      • Picuris
Language codes
ISO 639-3twf (Northern Tiwa)
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.

Genealogical relationsEdit

Picuris is partially mutually intelligible with Taos dialect, spoken at Taos Pueblo.[4] It is slightly more distantly related to Southern Tiwa (spoken at Isleta Pueblo and Sandia Pueblo).


Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral
Stop voiced (b) (d) (ɡ)
voiceless p t k ʔ
Fricative ɬ s x h
Nasal m n
Approximant w l j
Flap (ɾ)
  • The consonants /b, d, ɡ, ɾ/ are only found in recent Spanish loanwords.
  • G. Trager (1942, 1943) analyzed Picuris as also having aspirated stops /pʰ, tʰ/, ejective stops /pʼ, tʼ, tʃʼ, kʼ/, and labialized /kʷ, kʷʼ, xʷ/. These are considered by F. Trager (1971) to be sequences of /ph, th/, /pʔ, tʔ, tʃʔ, kʔ/, and /kw, kʔw, xw/.[5]
  • Velar /x/ has strong frication.[6]
  • Stops /p, t, ʔ/ are unaspirated while /k/ may be slightly aspirated.
  • The affricate /tʃ/ freely varies with a more forward articulation [tʃ~ts]: for example, F. Trager recorded the word /ˈtʃāˈxʌ̀nē/ "witch" with an initial [tʃ] but the related word /ˈtʃāˈxʌ́ˈɬāwēnē/ "witch chief" with initial [tsʲ].[7]
  • The sequence /kʔw/ is only found in a single word /kʔwìatʃéne/.
  • Alveolar /n/ has an assimilated velar variant [ŋ] when it precedes labio-velar /w/.
  • Nasal /m/ in a low-toned syllable is partially devoiced and denasalized [mp] before a glottal stop /ʔ/, as in /ˈʔʌ̀mʔēnē/ "chokecherry" which is phonetically [ˈʌ̀mpʔɛ̄nɛ̄].
  • Fricative /ɬ/ freely varies between a lateral fricative and a central-lateral fricative sequence [ɬ~sɬ]
  • Lateral /l/ is palatalized [lʲ] before the high front vowel /i/.
  • Only the sonorants /m, n, l, w, j/ can occur in syllable coda position.


Picuris has 6 vowels. Picuris also has nasalized counterparts for each vowel.

Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ʌ
Open a

Picuris has three degrees of stress: primary, secondary, and unstressed. Stress affects the phonetic length of syllable rimes (lengthening the vowel or the syllable-final sonorant consonant).

Additionally, there are three tones: high, mid, and low — the mid tone being the most frequent.


Two sentences with interlinear glosses:

Picuris: ˌʔìˈʔīˌnẽ́ ˌpāˈʔāˌnẽ́ ˌtāˈʔāˌnẽ́ ʔã̄nnã̄ˈpīaˌtʃí ˈmẽˌwíathā-ˌpʔīnˈwēlthā-ʔīˈkʔòˌthʌ̀
English gloss: corn pumpkins beans we.two.will.make at.going.being-at.Picuris-we.good.dwell
Free translation: "Corn, pumpkins, beans, we live happily at Picuris by raising an abundant crop."
Picuris: ˈʔẽ́ kãˈxwẽ́ˌkì
English gloss: you you.have.the.tail
Free translation: "It's your turn."[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tiwa, Northern". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  2. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Picuris Northern Tiwa". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Sources on mutual intelligibility report conflicting information. Mithun (1999): "they [Taos and Picuris] are close but generally considered mutually unintelligible". But, G. Trager (1969): "The facts that there are considerable phonological differences between the two languages [Taos and Picuris], but that the grammatical systems are very much alike and that mutual intelligibility still persists...". G. Trager (1946): "The two Tiwa groups [Northern Tiwa and Southern Tiwa] are fairly homogeneous: Sandía and Isleta [of the Southern Tiwa group] differ very little and are mutually completely intelligible; Taos and Picurís [of the Northern Tiwa group] diverge more from each other. Further, the group as a whole is very similar: Taos and Picurís are each intelligible to the other three, and Sandía and Isleta are understood in the north, though with difficulty". G. Trager (1943): "Taos and Picurís are much alike, and mutually understandable. Sandía and Isleta are almost identical. A speaker of the southern languages can manage to understand the northern two, but the reverse is not true." F. Trager (1971): "[Picuris] is most closely related to Taos; these two languages are in part mutually intelligible."
  5. ^ The consonant cluster analysis is similar to G. Trager's later reanalysis of Taos. (See: Taos phonology: Consonants).
  6. ^ This is unlike the weak frication of Taos /x/.
  7. ^ F. Trager does not give further details about whether the forward articulation is dental or alveolar. If Picuris is like Taos, then the most forward articulation would be alveolar. G. Trager states that the articulation is consistently post-alveolar (and does not mention free variation).
  8. ^ Picuris storytellers hold fox tails when speaking. At the end of a story, the storyteller passes the fox tail on to the next speaker indicating that it is now that other person's turn to speak.


  • Harrington, John P.; & Roberts, Helen. (1928). Picuris children's stories with texts and songs. Bureau of American Ethnology: Annual report, 43, 289-447.
  • Nichols, Lynn. (1994). Vowel copy and stress in Northern Tiwa (Picurís and Taos). In S. Epstein et al. (Eds.), Harvard working papers in linguistics (Vol. 4, pp. 133–140).
  • Nichols, Lynn. (1995). Referential hierarchies and C-command in Picurís. In S. Epstein et al. (Eds.), Harvard working papers in linguistics (Vol. 45, pp. 76–92).
  • Trager, Felicia. (1968). Picuris Pueblo, New Mexico: An ethnolinguistic "salvage" study. (Doctoral dissertation, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY).
  • Trager, Felicia. (1971). The phonology of Picuris. International Journal of American Linguistics, 37, 29-33.
  • Trager, Felicia. (1975). Morphemic change in Picuris: A case of culture contact? Studies in Linguistics, 25, 89-93.
  • Trager, George L. (1942). The historical phonology of the Tiwa languages. Studies in Linguistics, 1 (5), 1-10.
  • Trager, George L. (1943). The kinship and status terms of the Tiwa languages. American Anthropologist, 45 (1), 557-571.
  • Trager, George L. (1969). Taos and Picuris: How long separated?. International Journal of American Linguistics, 35 (2), 180-182.
  • Zaharlick, Ann Marie (Amy). (1975). Pronominal reference in Picurís. Studies in Linguistics, 25, 79-88.
  • Zaharlick, Ann Marie (Amy). (1977). Picurís syntax. (Doctoral dissertation, American University).
  • Zaharlick, Ann Marie (Amy). (1979). Picuris and English: Similarities and differences. In R. J. Rebert (Ed.), Language descriptions from Indian New Mexico (pp. 20–51). Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico, American Indian Bilingual Education Center, pp.
  • Zaharlick, Ann Marie (Amy). (1980). An outline of Picuris syntax. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 345, 147-163.
  • Zaharlick, Ann Marie (Amy). (1981). A preliminary examination of tone in Picuris. Special Issue: Native Languages of the Americas. Journal of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest, 4 (2), 123-129.
  • Zaharlick, Ann Marie (Amy). (1982). Tanoan studies: Passive sentences in Picuris. Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics, 26, 34-48.

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