Ute dialect

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Native to United States
Region Utah, Colorado
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog utee1244[1]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Ute[2] is a dialect of the Colorado River Numic language, spoken in south-western Colorado and eastern Utah, by the Ute people. It is part of the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Other dialects in this dialect chain are Chemehuevi and Southern Paiute. According to Golla (2007), there are fewer than a thousand speakers of these dialects.

Ute as a term was applied to the group by Spanish explorers, being derived from the term quasuatas, used by the Spanish at the time to refer to all tribes north of the Pueblo peoples and up to the Shoshone peoples.[3] The Ute people refer to their own language as núu-'apaghapi, meaning "the people's speech".



central back
High i [i] ʉ [ɯ] u [u]
Mid ɵ [œ]
Low a [ä]

Here bold text indicates a practical orthographic representation, while the IPA representation is included in brackets. It is important to note that in Ute, the length of a vowel (short or long) is phonemic, thus marked orthographically, for example, whca-y, meaning 'wrapping,' versus whcáa-y, meaning 'swirling'. In some cases however, the difference between a long and a short vowel is purely phonetic, and does not change word meaning. Additionally, whether a vowel is stressed or unstressed has an effect on meaning, for example, suwá, meaning 'almost', versus súwa, meaning 'straight out'. Either the first or second vowel of a word in Ute may be stressed, with the latter situation being the most common. As a result, word stress is generally only marked in writing when it falls on the first vowel. Note that the high back unrounded vowel ʉ often is pronounced as a high central [ɨ] when unstressed. Though this change produces some minimal pairs, it is the destressing, rather than the vowel change, that produces the change in meaning and thus [ɨ] is excluded from the orthography.


Bilabial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Stop p [p] t [t] ch [tʃ] k [k] ' [ʔ]
Fricative voiceless s [s]
voiced v [β] g [ɣ]
Semivowel y [j] w [w]
Flap r [ɾ]

Note here that coronals are produced as dental sounds rather than the alveolar sounds used in English. Also note that Ute contains no voiced stops, such as [b] or [d]. Thus g here does not indicate a voiced velar stop but rather a voiced velar fricative, similar to luego in Spanish. Also similar to Spanish is the voiced bilabial fricative v, as in the Spanish phrase la verdad, in contrast with the voiced labiodental fricative [v] which does not appear in Ute. The velar sounds k and g have some interesting uvular allophones: k becomes either a voiceless uvular stop [q] or a voiceless uvular fricative [χ] when either between two vowels or adjacent to the vowel [o];[clarification needed] likewise g becomes a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] under the same conditions. Either k or g can become a voiceless velar fricative [x] when before a de-voiced word ending.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ute". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Givón, T. Ute Reference Grammar. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2011, p. 3.
  3. ^ "What is a Ute?". Retrieved 2012-01-24.