Instruction teaching Yurok with the Yurok Language Program
|Extinct||26 March 2013, with the death of Archie Thompson|
|Revival||language revival in progress; 350 with some knowledge, 17 fluent L2 speakers|
The Yurok language (also Chillula, Mita, Pekwan, Rikwa, Sugon, Weitspek, Weitspekan) is an Algic language. It is the traditional language of the Yurok of Del Norte County and Humboldt County on the far north coast of California, most of whom now speak English. The last native speaker died in 2013. As of 2012, Yurok language classes were taught to high school students, and other revitalization efforts were expected to increase the population of speakers.
Concerning the etymology of "Yurok" (AKA Weitspekan), this below is from Campbell (1997):
Yurok is from Karuk yúruk meaning literally 'downriver'. The Yurok traditional name for themselves is Puliklah (Hinton 1994:157), from pulik 'downstream' + -la 'people of', thus equivalent in meaning to the Karuk name by which they came to be known in English (Victor Golla, personal communication).(Campbell 1997:401, notes #131 & 132)
Decline of the language began during the California Gold Rush, due to the influx of new settlers and the diseases they brought with them. Native American boarding schools initiated by the United States government with the intent of incorporating the native populations of America into mainstream American society increased the rate of decline of the language.
The program to revive Yurok has been lauded as the most successful language revitalization program in California. As of 2014, there are six schools in Northern California that teach Yurok - 4 high schools and 2 elementary schools. Rick Jordan, principal of Eureka High School, one of the schools with a Yurok Language Program, remarks on the impact that schools can have on the vitality of a language, "A hundred years ago, it was our organizations that were beating the language out of folks, and now we're trying to re-instill it - a little piece of something that is much larger than us".
The last known native, active speaker of Yurok, Archie Thompson, died March 26, 2013. "He was also the last of about 20 elders who helped revitalize the language over the last few decades, after academics in the 1990s predicted it would be extinct by 2010. He made recordings of the language that were archived by UC Berkeley linguists and the tribe, spent hours helping to teach Yurok in community and school classrooms, and welcomed apprentice speakers to probe his knowledge."
Linguists at UC Berkeley began the Yurok Language Project in 2001. Professor Andrew Garrett and Dr. Juliette Blevins collaborated with tribal elders on a Yurok dictionary that has been hailed as a national model. The Yurok Language Project has gone much more in depth than just a printed lexicon, however. The dictionary is available online and fully searchable. It is also possible to search an audio dictionary - a repository of audio clips of words and short phrases. For a more in depth study, there is a database of compiled texts where words and phrases can be viewed as part of a larger context.
As of February 2013, there are over 300 basic Yurok speakers, 60 with intermediate skills, 37 who are advanced, and 17 who are considered conversationally fluent. As of 2014, nine people are certified to teach Yurok in schools. Since Yurok, like many other Native American languages, uses a master-apprentice system to train up speakers in the language, having even nine certified teachers would not be possible without a piece of legislation passed in 2009 in the state of California that allows indigenous tribes the power to appoint their own language teachers.
|High||i iː||u uː|
|Mid||e||ɚ ɚː||ɔ ɔː|
Consonants are as follows:
Notable is the lack of plain /s/.
Yurok has a anticipatory vowel harmony system where underlying non-high vowels /a/, /e/, and /ɔ/ are realized as [ɚ] if they precede an /ɚ/.
The glottalized approximants /ˀl ˀɻ ˀj ˀw/ may be realized as creaky voice on the preceding vowel, a preceding glottal stop, or both. They are often devoiced when they occur at the end of a word.
Yurok has front-, central-, and back-closing diphthongs. The second element of the diphthongs is considered a consonant or semivowel. This is because Yurok diphthongs are falling diphthongs and behave similarly to nasal and approximates following a vowel and preceding a pause or voiceless non-glottalized consonant.
All Yurok Syllables begin with a consonant and contain at least one vowel. Here are some examples of the different kinds of syllable structure:
|CVCCC||taʔanojʔɬ||it is hot (weather)|
|CV:CCC||noːjt͜ʃʼkʷ||he eats as a guest|
|CCVCC||plaʔʂ||stick for measuring net meshes|
V:V can only be /oːo/ or /uːu/ and is signaled by a change in pitch between the vowels.
Prefixation and infixation occur in nominals and verbals, and occasionally in other classes, although infixation occurs most frequently in verbals.
Vowel harmony occurs for prefixes, infixes, and inflections, depending on the vocalic and consonantal structure of the word stem. Internal vocalic alternation involves three alternating pairs: /e/~/i/, /e/~/iʔi/, /e/~/u/.
Reduplication occurs mostly on verb stems but occasionally for nouns and can connote repetition, plurality, etc. Reduplication occurs on the first syllable, and sometimes a part of the second syllable:
|kelomen||to turn (trans.)||kekelomen||to turn several things|
|ketʼul||there is a lake||ketʼketʼul||there is a series of lakes|
|kneweʔlon||to be long||kokoneweʔlon||to be long (of things)|
|ɬkɻʔmɻkɬkin||to tie a knot.||ɬkɻʔmɬkɻʔmɻkɻɬkin||to tie up in knots|
|ʂjaːɬk||to kick||ʂjaʔʂjaːɬk||to kick repeatedly|
|tekʷʂ||to cut||tekʷtekʷʂ||to cut up|
|tikʷohʂ||to break (trans.)||tikʷtikʷohʂ||to break in pieces|
|mɻkʷɻɬ||peak||mɻkʷɻmɻkʷɻɬ||series of peaks|
Numerals and adjectives can be classified according to the noun grammatically associated with them.
|Numerals||Common root frame: /n - hks-/|
|Animals and birds||/nrhksrʔrʔy/|
|Plants other than trees||/nahksek'woʔn/|
|Trees and sticks||/nahkseʔr/|
|Body parts and clothes||/nahkseʔn/|
|Arm's lengths (depth measurements)||/nahksemrys/|
|Finger joint lengths (length measurement of dentalium shells)||/nahksepir/|
|Adjectives||(to be) red||(to be) big|
|Animals and birds||/prkryrʔry(-)/||/plrʔry-/|
|Round things||/prkryrh/||/ploh/, /plohkeloy-/|
|Plants other than trees||/pekoyoh/||/ploh/, /plohkeloy-/|
|Trees and sticks||/pekoyeʔr/||/peloy-/, /plep-/|
|Body parts and clothes||/pekoyoh/||/plep-/, /plohkeloy-/|
Tense - Yurok has no way to differentiate tense through verbal inflection. Past, present and future may be inferred through both linguistic and nonlinguistic context.
Aspect - Aspect in Yurok is indicated by preverbal particles. These occur either directly or indirectly before a verb. These can combine with verbs and other particles to indicate time and many other aspects.
Some preverbal particles include: ho (past time); kic (past but with ongoing effects); wo (past after a negative, or in "unreal conditions"); ?ap (past with the implication of starting some action); etc.
The most common form of sentence structure consists of a Nominal + Verbal. Indeed, most other, seemingly more complex sentence structures can be viewed as expanding on this fundamental type.
nek helomey- ek I be dancing-1sg I am dancing
pu:k roʔop' deer run The deer is running
Sentences can also be equational, consisting of two nominals or nominal groups:
wok ne-let 3sg.pro. 1sg poss.-sister That is my sister
woʔot ku tmi:gomin 3sg.pro. art. hunter He is the hunter
Sentences can also be composed of one or more verbals without nominals as explicit arguments.
tmo:l-ok' to shoot-1sg.infl. I am shooting
hoʔop'-es build a fire-2sg.imp.infl. Build a fire!
The same is true for nominals and nominal groups, which can stand alone as complete sentences, following a similar pattern to the equational sentences already mentioned.
kwesi twegoh adv. raccoon And it was the raccoon
Complex sentences are formed along similar principles to these, but with expanded verbals or nominals, or verbals and/or nominals connected by coordinators.
Word order is sometimes used to distinguish between the categories of subject and object.
ku pegək noʔp'eʔn mewiɬ the man to chase elk The man chased the elk.
However, if the morphological inflections are sufficiently unambiguous, it is not necessary to maintain a strict word order.
nekac new-ohpeʔn ku wencokws 1sg.Obj. to see-3sg.infl. art. woman The woman saw me.
In the sentences composed of a subject and a verb, the two are often interchangeable.
helom-eʔy ku pegək or ku pegək helom-eʔy to dance-3sg.infl. art. man or art. man to dance-3sg.infl. The man dances.