Klamath language

Native to United States
Region Southern Oregon and northern California
Ethnicity 170 Klamath and Modoc (2000 census)[1]
Extinct 2003[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kla
Glottolog klam1254[2]

Klamath /ˈklæməθ/,[3] also Klamath–Modoc /ˈklæməθ ˈmdɒk/ and historically Lutuamian /ˌltˈæmiən/, is a Native American language that was spoken around Klamath Lake in what is now southern Oregon and northern California. It is the traditional language of the Klamath and Modoc peoples, each of whom spoke a dialect of the language. As of April 1998, it was spoken by only one person.[4] As of 2003, the last fluent Klamath speaker in Chiloquin, Oregon was 92 years old.[5] As of 2006 there were no fluent native speakers of either the Klamath or Modoc dialects. [6]

Klamath is a member of the Plateau Penutian language family, which is in turn a branch of the proposed Penutian language family. Like other proposed Penutian languages, Plateau Penutian languages are rich in ablaut, much like Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages. Further evidence for this classification includes some consonant correspondences between Klamath and other alleged Penutian languages. For example, the Proto-Yokuts retroflexes */ʈ ʈʼ/ correspond to Klamath /tʃ tʃʼ/, and the Proto-Yokuts dentals */t̪ t̪ʰ t̪ʼ/ correspond to the Klamath alveolars /t tʰ tʼ/.



  Front Back
short long short long
Close i ~ ɪ    
Open-mid e ~ ɛ ɛː o ~ ɔ ɔː
Open     a ~ ɑ ɑː


Bilabial Alveolar Palato-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain fricated
Obstruent Stop unaspirated p t k q ʔ
aspirated tʃʰ
ejective tʃʼ
Continuant Voiced l
Unvoiced s h
Sonorant Nasal Voiced m n
Glide Voiced j w
Unvoiced ȷ̊
Klamath alphabet [7]
Spelling a aa b c d e ee g G h i ii j k l L m M m n N o oo p q s s? t t’ w W w’ y Y ?
Phoneme ɑ ɑː p tʃʰ tʃʼ t ɛ ɛː k q h ɪ l m n ɔ ɔː s sʼ ~ sʔ t’ w w’ j ȷ̊ ʔ

Obstruents in Klamath except for /s/ all come in triplets of unaspirated, aspirated, and ejective sounds.[8] Sonorant triplets are voiced, voiceless, and "laryngealized" sounds, except for /h/ and /ʔ/.[9]

Most consonants can be geminated. The fricative /s/ is an exception, and there is evidence suggesting this is a consequence of a recent sound change.[10] Albert Samuel Gatschet recorded geminated /sː/ in the late 19th century, but this sound was consistently recorded as degeminated /s/ by M. A. R. Barker in the 1960s. Sometime after Gatschet recorded the language and before Barker did the same, */sː/ may have degeminated into /s/.


Klamath word order is conditioned by pragmatics. There is no clearly defined verb phrase or noun phrase. Alignment is nominative–accusative, with nominal case marking also distinguishing adjectives from nouns. Many verbs obligatorily classify an absolutive case. There are directive and applicative constructions.[11]

See also


  1. 1 2 Klamath at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Klamath-Modoc". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. Chen, 1998; Maudlin, 1998.
  5. Haynes, Erin F. "Obstacles facing tribal language programs in Warm Springs, Klamath, and Grand Ronde" (PDF). Coyote Papers. 8: 87–102. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  6. Golla, Victor. (2011). California Indian Languages. Berkeley/Los Angeles, California : University of California Press. ISBN 9780520266674
  7. Language. The Klamath Tribes http://klamathtribes.org/language/. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. Blevins, 2004, p. 279.
  9. Blevins, 2004, pp. 279–80.
  10. Blevins, 2004.
  11. Rude, 1988.


Online texts

External links

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