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Tongva language

Gabrielino or Gabrieliño
Native toSouthern California, United States
RegionLos Angeles, Santa Catalina Island
Language codes
ISO 639-3xgf
Gabrielino language.png
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The Tongva language (also known as Gabrielino or Gabrieliño) is a Uto-Aztecan language formerly spoken by the Tongva, a Native American people who live in and around Los Angeles, California. It has not been a language of everyday conversation since the 1940s. The Gabrieleño people now speak English but a few are attempting to revive their language by using it in everyday conversation and ceremonial contexts. Presently, Gabrieleño is also being used in language revitalization classes and in some public discussion regarding religious and environmental issues.[2] Tongva is closely related to Serrano.

The last fluent native speakers of Tongva lived in the early 20th century. The language is primarily documented in the unpublished field notes of John Peabody Harrington made during that time. The "J.P. Harrington Project", developed by the Smithsonian through UC Davis, approximately 6,000 pages of his notes on the Tongva language, were coded for documentation by a Tongva member, who took 3 years to accomplish the task. Claims of native speakers of Tongva who have died as late as in the 1970s have not been verified as having been fluent speakers.

Evidence of the language also survives in modern toponymy of Southern California, including Pacoima, Tujunga, Topanga, Azusa, Cahuenga in Cahuenga Pass and Cucamonga in Rancho Cucamonga. Additionally, the minor planet 50000 Quaoar was named after the Tongva creator god.[3]

Language revitalization

As of 2012, members of the contemporary Tongva (Gabrieleño) tribal council are attempting to revive the language, by making use of written vocabularies, by comparison to better attested members of the Takic group to which Tongva belonged,[4] and by offering classes.[5][6] The Gabrieliño-Tongva Language Committee has created Tongva grammar lessons and songs, and a Tongva Facebook page "introduces an audio of a new word, phrase or song daily."[7][8]


Mrs. James Rosemeyre (née Narcisa Higuera), photographed here in 1905, was one of the last fluent Tongva speakers. An informant for the ethnographer C. Hart Merriam, she was the source of the widely used endonym Tongva.[9]


The following is a list of the consonants and vowels of the Tongva language as used by the Tongva Language Committee, based on linguist Pamela Munro's interpretation of the fieldnotes of J. P. Harrington.[10] In parentheses is the spelling of the specific sound. Note that there are multiple orthographies for the Tongva language.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labio
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ng /ŋ/
Stop voiced (b /b/) (d /d/) (g /ɡ/)
voiceless p /p/ t /t/ ch // k /k/ kw // ʼ /ʔ/
Fricative (f /f/) s /s/ sh /ʃ/ x /x/ h /h/
Approximant v /v/ l /l/ y /j/ w /w/
Tap r /ɾ/

Consonants /b d f ɡ/ are used in loanwords.[10]


Front Back
short long short long
Close i /i/ ii // u /u/ uu //
Mid e /e/ ee // o /o/ oo //
Open a /a/ aa //


Tongva is an agglutinative language, where words use suffixes and multiple morphemes for a variety of purposes.


The Lord's Prayer[10]

The Lord's Prayer is called 'Eyoonak in Tongva. The following text was derived from old Mission records.


'Eyoonak, 'eyooken tokuupanga'e xaa;
hoyuuykoy motwaanyan;
moxariin mokiimen tokuupra;
maay mo'wiishme meyii 'ooxor 'eyaa tokuupar.

Hamaare, 'eyoone' maxaare' 'wee taamet,
koy 'oovonre' 'eyoomamaayntar momoohaysh, miyii 'eyaare
'oovonax 'eyoohiino 'eyooyha';
koy xaare' maayn 'iitam momoohaysh,
koy xaa mohuu'esh.
'Wee menee' xaa'e.

Collected by C. Hart Merriam (1903)[11]

(Merriam refers to them as the Tongvā)

  1. Po-koo
  2. Wěh-hā
  3. Pah-hā
  4. Wah-chah
  5. Mah-har
  6. Pah-vah-hā
  7. Wah-chah-kav-e-ah
  8. Wa-ha's-wah-chah
  9. Mah-ha'hr-kav-e-ah
  10. Wa-hās-mah-hah'r
  11. Wa-hā's-mah-hah'r-koi-po-koo
  12. Wa-hā's-mah-hah'r-koi-wěh-hā
grizzly bear
hoon-nah (subject)
hoon-rah (object)
black bear

Collected by Alexander Taylor (1860)[11]

  1. po-koo
  2. wa-hay
  3. pa-hey
  4. wat-sa
  5. mahar
  6. pawahe
  7. wat-sa-kabiya
  8. wa-hish-watchsa
  9. mahar-cabearka
  10. wa-hish-mar

Taylor claims "they do not count farther than ten"

Collected by Dr. Oscar Loew (1875)[11]

  1. pu-gu'
  2. ve-he'
  3. pa'-hi
  4. va-tcha'
  5. maha'r
  6. pa-va'he
  7. vatcha'-kabya'
  8. vehesh-vatcha'
  9. mahar-kabya'
  10. vehes-mahar
  11. puku-hurura
  12. vehe-hurura

Collected by Charles Wilkes, USN (1838-1842)[11]

  1. pukū
  2. wehē
  3. pāhe
  4. watsā

Other sources

  • desert fox: erow[12]
  • Pacoima = from the root word Pako enter, meaning the entrance[citation needed]
  • Tujunga = from the root word old woman tux'uu[citation needed] Tujunga means Mountains of Health according to long-time residents.
  • Azusa = from the word -shuuk 'Ashuuksanga = his grandmother[citation needed]


The table below gives the names of various missions in the Tongva language.[13]

English Tongva
Los Angeles Yaa
San Bernardino Wa'aach
San Gabriel Shevaa
San Pedro Chaaw
Santa Ana Hotuuk
Santa Monica Kecheek
Santa Catalina Pemu

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tongva". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Jana Fortier (December 2008). "Native American Consultation And Ethnographic Study, Ventura County, California". La Jolla, California: California Department of Transportation: 13–14. Retrieved 17 June 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Byrd, Deborah (19 February 2013). "Quaoar, a rocky world orbiting beyond Neptune". EarthSky. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  4. ^ The Limu Project (active language revitalization)
  5. ^ Keepers of Indigenous Ways: Tongva Language History & classes
  6. ^ R. Plesset (2012-06-01). "San Pedro: Science Center Endangered/Tongva Village Site Revitalization". Indymedia Los Angeles. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  7. ^ Marquez, Letisia (2014-07-01). "Social media used to revive extinct language". Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  8. ^ Curwen, Thomas (May 12, 2019). "Tongva, Los Angeles' first language, opens the door to a forgotten time and place". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  9. ^ Lepowsky, M. (2004). "Indian revolts and cargo cults: Ritual violence and revitalization in California and New Guinea". In Harkin, M. E. (ed.). Reassessing revitalization movements: Perspectives from North America and the Pacific Island. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 1–61. ISBN 9780803224063. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Munro, Pamela; The Gabrielino/Tongva Language Committee (2008). "Lesson One: Pronouncing and Writing the Tongva Language". Hyaare Shiraaw'ax 'Eyooshiraaw'a: Now You're Speaking Our Language (An Introduction to the Gabrielino/Tongva/Fernandeño Language).
  11. ^ a b c d McCawley, William. The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles. Malki Museum Press, 1996
  12. ^ Native Languages of the Americas[year needed]
  13. ^ Munro, Pamela, et al. Yaara' Shiraaw'ax 'Eyooshiraaw'a. Now You're Speaking Our Language: Gabrielino/Tongva/Fernandeño. 2008.

External links

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