Shoshoni language

Sosoni' da̲i̲gwape, Neme ta̲i̲kwappeh
Native to United States
Region Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Idaho
Ethnicity Shoshoni people
Native speakers
1,000 (2007)[1]
L2: 1,000 non-fluent speakers (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 shh
Glottolog shos1248[2]

Shoshoni, also written as Shoshoni-Gosiute, and Shoshone (/ʃˈʃni/;[3] Shoshoni: Sosoni' da̲i̲gwape, newe da̲i̲gwape or neme ta̲i̲kwappeh) is a Native American language of the Uto-Aztecan family spoken by the Shoshone people. Shoshoni-speaking Native Americans occupy areas of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho.


Principal dialects of Shoshoni include Western Shoshoni in Nevada, Gosiute in western Utah, Northern Shoshoni in southern Idaho and northern Utah, and Eastern Shoshoni in Wyoming.[4]


The number of people who speak Shoshoni has been steadily dwindling since the late 20th century. In the early 21st century, fluent speakers number only several hundred to a few thousand people. An additional population of about 1,000 know it to some degree. The Duck Valley and Gusiute communities have established programs to teach it to their children. Ethnologue lists Shoshoni as "threatened" as it notes that many of the speakers are 50 and older.[4] UNESCO has classified the Shoshoni language as "severely endangered" in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.[5] The language is still being taught to children in a small number of isolated locations. The tribes have a strong interest in revitalization but efforts to preserve the language are scattered, with little coordination. Literacy is increasing. Shoshoni dictionaries have been published and Bible portions translated in 1986.[6]

As of 2012, Idaho State University offers elementary, intermediate, and conversational Shoshoni, in a 20-year project to preserve the language.[7] Open-source Shosoni audio is available online to complement classroom instruction, as part of its long-standing Shoshoni Language Project.[8][9]

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribe teaches Shoshoni to its children and adults as part of its Language and Culture Preservation Program.[10] On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, elders have been active in digital language archiving. Shoshoni is taught using Dr. Steven Greymorning's Accelerated Second Language Acquisition techniques.[11]

A summer program known as the Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program (SYLAP), held at the University of Utah's Center for American Indian Languages since 2009, has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition.[12][13][14] Shoshoni youth serve as interns, assisting with digitization of Shoshoni language recordings and documentation from the Wick R. Miller collection, in order to make the materials available for tribal members.[12] The program released the first Shoshone language video game in August 2013.[15]

In July 2012, Blackfoot High School in Southeastern Idaho announced it would offer Shoshoni language classes. A Shoshoni charter school has also been proposed for Fort Hall, with a decision expected in September 2012.[16]


Shoshoni is the northernmost member of the large Uto-Aztecan language family, which includes over thirty languages whose speakers originally inhabited a vast territory stretching from the Salmon River in central Idaho down into El Salvador. Shoshoni belongs to the Numic subbranch of Uto-Aztecan. The word Numic comes from the cognate word in all Numic languages for "person". For example, in Shoshoni the word is neme, in Timbisha it is nümü, and in Southern Paiute the word is nuwuvi.


Shoshoni is an agglutinative language, in which words, especially verbs, tend to be complex with several morphemes strung together.


Subject-object-verb is the typical word order for Shoshone.[17] The subject is not a mandatory component of a grammatical Shoshone sentence. Therefore, impersonal sentences without subjects are allowed; those sentences have an object-verb word order.[18] Sentence meaning is not dependent on word order in Shoshone.[17] For example, if the subject is an unstressed pronoun then it is grammatical for the subject to follow the object of the sentence.[18]



Shoshoni has a typical Numic vowel inventory of five vowels. In addition, there is the common diphthong /ai/, which varies rather freely with [e], but certain morphemes always contain [ai] and others always contain [e].

front back
High i ɨ u
Non-High a o
Diphthong ai


Shoshoni has a typical Numic consonant inventory:

Bilabial Coronal Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lab.
Nasal m n
Stop p t k ʔ
Affricate ts
Fricative s ɨ
Semivowel j w


Shoshoni stops (including the affricate /ts/) and nasals are voiced and lenited between vowels (the stops and affricate becoming voiced fricatives and the nasals becoming nasalized glides) are voiced in nasal-stop clusters and are lenited (but not voiced) after /h/.

Short vowels are commonly devoiced word-finally and in unstressed syllables before /h/.

Writing system

There are two main spelling systems in use. The older system is the Crum-Miller system used in Miller 1972; Crum & Dayley 1993 and 1997; and Crum, Crum, & Dayley 2001.[19][20][21][22] The other system is the Idaho State University system and is used in Gould & Loether (2002).[23] The Idaho State system is more phonetically based while the Crum-Miller is more phonemically based. Both systems use "e" to represent the vowel /h/. There are also dictionaries available for everyday use.[24]

See also


  1. 1 2 Shoshoni at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Shoshoni". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. 1 2
  5. "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  6. "Shoshoni". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  7. "Native American Academic Services – Diversity Resource Center". Idaho State University. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  8. "Idaho State University Shoshoni Language Project still going strong after 20 years". Idaho State University. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  9. "An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language : University Press Catalog". Utah University Press. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  10. "Language and Culture Preservation Program". Shoshone-Bannock tribe. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  11. Tetona Dunlap. "As elders pass, Wind River Indian Reservation teachers turn to technology to preserve Shoshone language". County 10. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  12. 1 2 "Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program". Center for American Indian Languages, University of Utah. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  13. Paul Koepp (2010-07-21). "University of Utah program helps Shoshone youths keep language alive". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  14. Jenny Brundin (2009-07-18). "Ten Teens Study To Guard Their Native Language". Morning Edition, NPR. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  15. "First Shoshone Language Video Game". 2013-08-14. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
  16. "Idaho district to offer Shoshoni classes". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  17. 1 2 Gould, Drusilla; Loether, Christopher (2002). An introduction to the Shoshoni language : dammen daigwape. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-87480-730-1.
  18. 1 2 Shaul, David (2012). Survey of Shoshone Grammar with Reference to Eastern Shoshone. National Science Foundation. pp. 112–113.
  19. Miller, Wick R. (1972). Newe Natekwinappeh: Shoshoni Stories and Dictionary. University of Utah Anthropological Papers 94. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
  20. Crum, Beverly; Dayley, Jon P. (1993). Western Shoshoni Grammar. Boise State University Occasional Papers and Monographs in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics Volume No. 1. Boise, Idaho: Department of Anthropology, Boise State University. ISBN 978-0-9639749-0-7.
  21. Crum, Beverly; Dayley, Jon P. (1997). Shoshoni Texts. Occasional Papers and Monographs in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics Volume No. 2. Boise, Idaho: Department of Anthropology, Boise State University.
  22. Crum, Beverly; Crum, Earl; Dayley, Jon P. (2001). Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.
  23. Drusilla Gould & Christopher Loether. 2002. An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language: Dammen Daigwape. Salt Lake City, Utah: The University of Utah Press.
Shoshoni language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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