The Kawaiisu homeland was bordered by speakers of non-Numic Uto-Aztecan languages: the Kitanemuk to the south spoke Takic, the Tubatulabal to the north spoke Tubatulabal, the Yokuts to the west were non-Uto-Aztecan. Because they shared the Southern Numic language, the Chemehuevi to the east are considered the closest relatives to Kawaiisu.
In 1994, the language was severely endangered, with perhaps fewer than 20 remaining speakers.
In 2011, The Kawaiisu Project received the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for its efforts to document the Kaiwaiisu language and culture, including "the Handbook of the Kawaiisu, language teaching and the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center [and] the Kawaiisu exhibit at the Tehachapi Museum." As of 2012, the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center offers language classes and DVDs for home learning, as well as training for other groups seeking to create language learning programs and materials.
Kawaiisu has an atypical Numicconsonant inventory in that many of the predictable consonant alternations in other Numic languages are no longer predictable in Kawaiisu. The Kawaiisu consonant inventory, therefore is much larger than the typical Numic language.
^Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kawaiisu". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
^Maurice L. Zigmond, Curtis G. Booth, & Pamela Munro. 1991. Kawaiisu, A Grammar and Dictionary with Texts. Ed. Pamela Munro. University of California Publications in Linguistics Volume 119. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
^Leanne Hinton. 1994. Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages. Heyday Books.