The Shasta language is a nearly extinct Shastan language formerly spoken from northern California into southwestern Oregon. It was spoken in a number of dialects, possibly including Okwanuchu. By 1980, only two first language speakers, both elderly, were alive. Today, all ethnic Shasta people speak English as their first language. According to Golla, there were four distinct dialects of Shasta:
- Ikirakácˑu (Oregon Shasta)
- Iruhikwáˑcˑu (Klamath River Shasta)
- Uwáˑtuhúcˑu (Scott Valley Shasta)
- Ahútˑireˀeˑcˑu (Shasta Valley Shasta)
|Native to||United States|
|Region||primarily northern California|
|Extinct||by end of 20th century|
|Stop||ejective||pʼ pʼ||tʼ tʼː||tsʼ t͡sː||t͡ʃʼ t͡ʃː||kʼ kʼː|
|unaspirated||p pː||t tː||ts t͡sː||t͡ʃ t͡ʃː||k kː||ʔ ʔː|
|Fricative||s sː||x xː||h hː|
|Nasal||m mː||n nː|
The length of a consonant distinguishes meaning in Shasta words. All stops, fricatives and nasals can occur as long or short in Shasta, but approximants /r j w/ only occur as short consonants. Minimal pairs and near minimal pairs are shown below:
- /t͡ʃákàráx/ a gnat vs. /t͡sàkːírʔ/ a board
- /ʔátʼùʔ/ nothing vs. /ʔátʼːùʔ/ wild sunflower
- /ʔìsíkʼːàʔ/ a person vs. /ʔìsːíkʼ/ cold
Shasta has four vowels, /i e a u/, with contrastive length, and two tones: high and low.
Silver (1966) devised a system to write words in Shasta. Long phonemes are represented with the symbol ⟨ˑ⟩ following the character (e.g. ⟨cˑ⟩ and ⟨eˑ⟩ for/ t͡sː/ and /eː/, respectively); ejectives are indicated by an apostrophe written over the character (e.g. ⟨p̓⟩ for /pʼ/). The phoneme /j/ is represented by ⟨y⟩, and the glottal stop /ʔ/ is represented by the superscript IPA symbol ⟨ˀ⟩. The letters ⟨b d f g j l q v z⟩ are not used to represent Shasta sounds.
|A a||Aˑ aˑ||C c||Cˑ cˑ||C̓ c̓||C̓ˑ c̓ˑ||Č č||Čˑ čˑ||Č̓ č̓||Č̓ˑ č̓ˑ||E e||Eˑ eˑ||H h||Hˑ hˑ||I i||Iˑ iˑ||K k||Kˑ kˑ||K̓ k̓||K̓ˑ k̓ˑ||M m||Mˑ mˑ|
|N n||Nˑ nˑ||P p||Pˑ pˑ||P̓ p̓||P̓ˑ p̓ˑ||R r||S s||Sˑ sˑ||T t||Tˑ tˑ||T̓ t̓||T̓ˑ t̓ˑ||U u||Uˑ uˑ||W w||X x||Xˑ xˑ||Y y||ˀ||ˀˑ|
Shasta vowels can have low or high tones. High tones are marked by an acute accent ⟨′⟩ in the orthography devised by Silver (1966), whereas low tones are left unmarked. Examples for the vowel /u/ are given below:
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Shasta". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Golla, Victor (2011). California Indian languages. University of California Press. pp. 90–91. ISBN 9780520266674. OCLC 767533019.
- Silver, Shirley (1966). The Shasta Language (Ph.D. thesis). University of California. pp. 37–38.
- Golla, Victor (2011), California Indian languages, Berkeley: University of California Press
- Mithun, Marianne (1999), The Languages of Native North America, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press