Colorado River Numic (also called Ute/ˈjuːt/, Southern Paiute/ˈpaɪjuːt/, Ute–Southern Paiute, or Ute-Chemehuevi), of the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family, is a dialect chain that stretches from southeastern California to Colorado. Individual dialects are Chemehuevi, which is in danger of extinction, Southern Paiute (Moapa, Cedar City, Kaibab, and San Juan subdialects), and Ute (Central Utah, Northern, White Mesa, Southern subdialects). According to the Ethnologue, there were a little less than two thousand speakers of Colorado River Numic Language in 1990, or ca. 40% out of an ethnic population of 5,000.
The three major dialect groups of Colorado River are Chemehuevi, Southern Paiute, and Ute, although there are no strong isoglosses. The threefold division is primarily one of culture rather than strictly linguistic. There are, however, three major phonological distinctions among the dialects:
In Southern Paiute and Ute, initial /h/ has been lost. E.g., Chemehuevi /hipi/ 'drink', other dialects /ipi/ 'drink'
In Ute, nasal-stop clusters have become voiceless geminate stops. E.g. Ute /pukku/ 'horse, pet', other dialects /puŋku/
In Ute, the mid back round vowel /o/ has been fronted to /ö/. E.g. Ute /söö-/ 'lungs', other dialects /soo-/
There are not strong isoglosses between Southern Paiute and Ute for these changes, but an increasing level of change as one moves from Kaibab Southern Paiute (0% of nasal-stop clusters have changed) to Southern Ute (100% of nasal-stop clusters have changed).
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Charney, Jean O. (1996). A Dictionary of the Southern Ute Language. Ignacio, Colorado: Ute Press.
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Laird, Carobeth (1976). The Chemehuevis. Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press.
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Sapir, Edward (1930). Southern Paiute, a Shoshonean Language. Reprinted in 1992 in: The Collected Works of Edward Sapir, X, Southern Paiute and Ute Linguistics and Ethnography. Ed. William Bright. Berlin: Mouton deGruyter.
Sapir, Edward (1931). Southern Paiute Dictionary. Reprinted in 1992 in: The Collected Works of Edward Sapir, X, Southern Paiute and Ute Linguistics and Ethnography. Ed. William Bright. Berlin: Mouton deGruyter.