Patwin language

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Southern Wintun
Native toUnited States
RegionColusa, Lake, Napa, Solano, and Yolo Counties, northern California
Native speakers
1 (as of 2003)[1]
  • Southern
    • Patwin
  • Hill Patwin
  • River Patwin
  • ?Southern Patwin
Language codes
ISO 639-3pwi

Patwin (Patween) is a critically endangered Wintuan language of Northern California. As of 2003, there was "at least one first language speaker of Patwin."[3] As of 2010, Patwin language classes were taught at the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation (formerly Rumsey Rancheria) tribal school (Dubin 2010).

Patwin has two (excl. Southern Patwin) or three (incl. Southern Patwin) dialects: "River Patwin (or Valley Patwin) was traditionally spoken along the Sacramento River in Colusa County ... Hill Patwin, was spoken in the plains and foothills to the west."[3][4]

Southern Patwin became extinct shortly after contact. It is very poorly attested, and may be a separate Southern Wintuan language (Mithun 1999).

As of 2012, the Tewe Kewe Cultural Center of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation has "a California Indian Library Collection and an extensive Patwin language and history research section."[5]



Patwin has 24 consonant phonemes. In the table below, the IPA form(s) of each consonant are given. This is followed by the form commonly used in published Patwin linguistics literature, if this is different from the IPA form.

Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d
Nasal m n
Fricative s ɬ ~ t͡ɬ ⟨ƚ⟩ h
Affricate voiceless t͡ʃ ⟨č⟩
ejective t͡ɬʼ ⟨ƛʼ⟩ t͡ʃʼ ⟨čʼ⟩
Trill/Flap r̥ ~ ɾ ⟨r⟩
Approximant w l j ⟨y⟩ w
  • /ʔ/ is a marginal phoneme, occurring exclusively at morpheme boundaries. Its distribution is not entirely predictable, however.
  • Ejective and aspirated consonants occur only syllable-initially.
  • Some or all of the "alveolar" consonants (both central and lateral) would be more accurately described as being retracted alveolar consonants.


Patwin has 10 vowels:

   Short   Long 
 Front   Back   Front   Back 
 High (close)  i u ⟨i·⟩ ⟨u·⟩
 Mid  e o ⟨e·⟩ ⟨o·⟩
 Low (open)  a ⟨a·⟩
  • Patwin vowels have a simple length distinction (short vs. long).
  • All vowels are voiced and oral.


  1. ^ Golla, Victor (2011). California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26667-4.
  2. ^[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ a b "Patwin – Survey of California and Other Indian Languages". Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  4. ^ "Quail Ridge Reserve - Human History Patwin". Archived from the original on 2008-11-16. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  5. ^ "Cultural Resources – Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation". Archived from the original on 2012-08-25. Retrieved 2012-08-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dubin, Margaret. "'Pass me that squirrel, toss me my iPod': Language learning at the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation." News From Native California 23 (3), 2010.
  • Lawyer, Lewis. 2015. "Patwin Phonemics, Phonetics, and Phonotactics". International Journal of American Linguistics. 81 (2). 221—260
  • Lawyer, Lewis. 2015. "A Description of the Patwin Language". Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Mithun, Marianne, ed. The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

External links[edit]