Mary Yee

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Mary Yee
Born Mary Joachina Ygnacio
Near Santa Barbara, California
Died 1965
Occupation Linguist
Known for Last speaker of the Barbareño language
Children Valentina Yee, Josie Yee, John Yee, Angela Yee, and Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto
Parent(s) Mother, Lucretia García
Relatives Grandmother, Luisa Ignacio

Mary Joachina Yee (née Ygnacio, 1897–1965)[1] was the last first-language speaker of the Barbareño language, which was also the last Chumash language to have first-language speakers.

Born in an adobe house near Santa Barbara, the home of her grandmother, in the late 1890s, Yee was one of only a handful of children brought up to speak any Chumash language. She memorized several old Chumash stories.[2]

In her fifties, Yee began to take part in the analysis, description, and documentation of her language, for many years working closely with the linguist J. P. Harrington, who had also worked with Yee's mother Lucretia García and her grandmother Luisa Ignacio.[3] Yee and Harrington corresponded with each other in Chumash. After retiring in 1954, Yee worked with Harrington nearly every day.[4] She also worked with linguist Madison S. Beeler.[5] Over the course of her work she became a linguist in her own right, analyzing paradigms and word structure.[3] She also illustrated stories published by her daughter Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto.

Yee's story appears in the documentary film, 6 Generations: A Chumash Family History.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grant, C. (1978). "Chumash: Introduction". Handbook of North American Indians. 8: 505–508. 
  2. ^ Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto, illustrated by Mary Yee, The Sugar Bear Story (Paperback): Introduction.
  3. ^ a b Marianne Mithun (1997), Jane Hill, P. J. Mistry, and Lyle Campbell, eds., "The regression of sibilant harmony through the life of Barbareño Chumash.", The Life of Language., Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 108: 221–242 
  4. ^ Poser, William J (2004). "On the status of Chumash sibilant harmony" (PDF). Ms., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  5. ^ "Madison S. Beeler; Linguistics Scholar, Chumash Expert". Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  6. ^ Kettmann, Matt (2011-01-27). "Santa Barbara on Screen". The Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 2013-05-08.