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Sahaptian (also Sahaptianic, Sahaptin, Shahaptian) is a two-language branch of the Plateau Penutian family spoken by Native American peoples in the Columbia Plateau region of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho in the northwestern United States.

Pacific Northwest
Linguistic classificationPlateau Penutian
  • Sahaptian

Family divisionEdit

Sahaptian includes 2 languages:

1. Nez Perce (Niimi'ipuutímt, AKA Nez Percé, Nezperce)
  • Upper Nez Perce
  • Lower Nez Perce
2. Sahaptin (Sħáptənəxw)
  • Northern Sahaptin group
  • Northwest Sahaptin dialect cluster
  • Northeast Sahaptin dialect cluster
  • Southern Sahaptin group (AKA Columbia River cluster)

Nez Perce has two main varieties (Upper and Lower). Sahaptin has considerably greater internal diversity with several different varieties.

Note that the terms Sahaptian (the family) and Sahaptin (the language) have often been confused and used interchangeably in the literature.



  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sahaptian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


  • Aoki, Haruo. (1966). Nez Percé vowel harmony and proto-Sahaptian vowels. Language, 42, 759-767.
  • Aoki, Haruo. (1970). Nez Percé grammar. University of California publications in linguistics (Vol. 62). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09259-7.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Rigsby, Bruce. (1965). Continuity and change in Sahaptian vowel systems. International Journal of American Linguistics, 31, 306-311.
  • Rigsby, Bruce; & Silverstein, Michael. (1969). Nez Percé vowels and proto-Sahaptian vowel harmony. Language, 45, 45-59.
  • Rude, Noel. (2012). Reconstructing Proto-Sahaptian Sounds. University of British Columbia Working Papers in Linguistics, Vol. 32, pp. 292–324. Papers for the Forty-seventh International Conference on Salish and Neighbouring Languages, Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, August 3–5, 2012, edited by Joel Dunham, John Lyon & Natalie Weber.