Yurok (language)

Yurok language

Yurok (also Weitspekan) is a moribund Algic language. It is the traditional language of the Yurok tribe of Humboldt County on the far North Coast of California, U.S., most of whom now speak English. As of 2000 among the speakers of the language were 75 individuals between the ages of 5 and 17, including 10 with limited English proficiency.

The standard reference on the Yurok language is the grammar by Robins (1958).


Concerning etymology of Yurok (a.k.a. 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)

The connection of Wiyot and Yurok in northern California (which together were formerly called Ritwan, after Dixon and Kroeber's [1913] grouping of the two as one of their more remote Californian stocks) with Algonquian was first proposed by Sapir (1913) and was quite controversial at that time (see Michelson 1914, 1915; Sapir 1915a, 1915b; see also Chapter 2), but the relationship has subsequently been demonstrated to the satisfaction of all (see Haas 1958; Teeter 1964a; Goddard 1975, 1979, 1990). Before 1850 the Yurok lived on the lower Klamath River. The Wiyot (earlier called Wishosk) lived in the Humboldt Bay area, in the redwood belt; the last fully fluent speaker died in 1962 (Teeter 1964b). Many scholars have commented that although Wiyot and Yurok are neighbors in northern California, they seem not to have a closer relationship with each other than either has with Algonquian...." (Campbell 1997:152).



Front Central Back
Mid e o oː


Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Postalveolar
or palatal
Velar Glottal
Unrounded Rounded
Stop or
Plain p t k ʔ
Glottalized tʃʼ kʼʷ
Fricative Central ʂ ʃ x h
Lateral ɬ
Nasal Plain m n
Glottalized ʼm ʼn
Approximant Plain l ɻ j ɰ w
Glottalized ʼl ʼɻ ʼj ʼɰ ʼw
The glottalized approximants 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.


  • Blevins, Juliette (2003). "The phonology of Yurok glottalized sonorants: Segmental fission under syllabification". International Journal of American Linguistics 69 (4): 371–396.
  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Dixon, Roland; & Kroeber, Alfred L. (1913). New linguistic families in California. American Anthropologist, 5, 1-26.
  • Goddard, Ives. (1975). Algonquian, Wiyot, and Yurok: Proving a distant genetic relationship. In M. D. Kinkade, K. L. Hale, & O. Werner (Eds.), Linguistics and anthropology in honor of C. F. Voegelin (pp. 249-262). Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press.
  • Goddard, Ives. (1979). Comparative Algonquian. In L. Campbell & M. Mithun (Eds.), The languages of native America: Historical and comparative assessment (pp. 70-132). Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Goddard, Ives. (1990). Algonquian linguistic change and reconstruction. In P. Baldi (Ed.), Linguistic change and reconstruction methodology (pp. 99-114). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Haas, Mary R. (1958). Algonkian-Ritwan: The end of a controversy. International Journal of American Linguistics, 24, 159-173.
  • Hinton, Leanne (1994). Flutes of fire: Essays on Californian Indian languages. Berkeley: Heyday Books.
  • Michelson, Truman. 1914. Two alleged Algonquian languages of California. American Anthropologist, 16, 361-367.
  • Michelson, Truman. 1915. Rejoinder (to Edward Sapir). American Anthropologist, 17, 4-8.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Robins, Robert H. 1958. The Yurok Language: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon. University of California Publications in Linguistics 15.
  • Sapir, Edward. 1913. Wiyot and Yurok, Algonkin languages of California. American Anthropologist, 15, 617-646.
  • Sapir, Edward. (1915)a. Algonkin languages of California: A reply. American Anthropologist, 17, 188-194.
  • Sapir, Edward. (1915)b. Epilogue. American Anthropologist, 17, 198.

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