Neha Patil (Editor)

Sahaptin language

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Native to  United States
Native speakers  100–125 (2007)
Region  Washington, Oregon, and Idaho
Ethnicity  10,000 Sahaptins (1977)
Language family  Plateau Penutian Sahaptian Sahaptin '
ISO 639-3  Variously: uma – Umatilla waa – Walla Walla yak – Yakima tqn – Tenino

Sahaptin (also Shahaptin), Sħáptənəxw, is a Plateau Penutian language of the Sahaptian branch spoken in a section of the northwestern plateau along the Columbia River and its tributaries in southern Washington, northern Oregon, and southwestern Idaho, in the United States. Many of the tribes that surrounded the land were skilled with horses and trading with one another.


The Yakama tribal cultural resources program has been promoting the use of the traditional name of the language, Ichishkíin Sɨ́nwit, instead of Sahaptin, which means "stranger in the land."


Sahaptin has four dialects in a dialect cluster :

  • Northern Sahaptin group
  • Northwest Sahaptin dialect cluster: Klickitat (Klikitat) (Yakama name: Xwálxwaypam or L'ataxat), Tainapam (Taidnapam / Táytnapam or Upper Cowlitz), Upper Nisqually (Meshal / Mashel or Mica'l, also known as Mishalpam), Yakima (Yakama) (Lower or Yakama proper, autonym: Mámachatpam), Kittitas (Upper Yakama, autonym: Pshwánapam or Pshwanpawam)
  • Northeast Sahaptin dialect cluster: Wanapum (Wanapam) (Wánapam), Palouse (Palus) (Yakama name: Pelúuspem), Lower Snake (Chamnapam, Wauyukma, and Naxiyampam), Walla Walla (Waluulapan)
  • Southern Sahaptin group (Columbia River cluster): Umatilla (Rock Creek Indians, Yakama name: Amatalamlama; Imatalamlama), Skin-pah (Sk'in tribe or Sawpaw, also known as Fall Bridge and Rock Creek people or K'milláma, a Tenino subtribe; perhaps another Yakama name for the Umatilla, who were known as Rock Creek Indians), Tenino (Tygh Valley dialect of the Tygh (Taih, Tyigh or Tayxɫáma) or "Upper Deschutes", Celilo dialect of the Wyam (Wayámɫáma) (Yakama name: Wayámpam) or "Lower Deschutes", also known as "Celilo Indians", Tenino dialect of the Dalles Tenino or "Tinainu (Tinaynuɫáma)"; John Day dialect oft the Dock-Spus (Tukspush or Takspasɫáma) or "John Day.")
  • Grammar

    There are published grammars, a recent dictionary, and a corpus of published texts. Sahaptin has a split ergative syntax, with direct-inverse voicing and several applicative constructions.

    The ergative case inflects third-person nominals only when the direct object is first- or second-person (the examples below are from the Umatilla dialect):

    1) i-q̓ínu-šana yáka paanáy
    3nom-see-asp bear ‘the bear saw him’
    2) i-q̓ínu-šana=aš yáka-nɨm
    3nom-see-asp=1sg bear-erg ‘the bear saw me’

    The direct-inverse contrast can be elicited with examples such as the following. In the inverse, the transitive direct object is coreferential with the subject in the preceding clause.


    3) wínš i-q̓ínu-šana wapaanłá-an ku i-ʔíƛ̓iyawi-ya paanáy
    man 3nom-see-asp grizzly-acc and :3nom-kill-pst ‘the man saw the grizzly and he killed it’


    4) wínš i-q̓ínu-šana wapaanłá-an ku pá-ʔiƛ̓iyawi-ya
    man 3nom-see-asp grizzly-acc and inv-kill-pst ‘the man saw the grizzly and it killed him’

    The inverse (marked by the verbal prefix pá-) retains its transitive status, and a patient nominal is case marked accusative.

    5) ku pá-ʔiƛ̓iyawi-ya wínš-na
    and inv-kill-pst man-acc ‘and it killed the man’ (= ‘and the man was killed by it’)

    A semantic inverse is also marked by the same verbal prefix pá-.


    6) q̓ínu-šana=maš
    see-asp=1sg/2sg ‘I saw you’


    7) pá-q̓inu-šana=nam
    inv-see-=2sg ‘you saw me’

    In Speech Act Participant (SAP) and third-person transitive involvement, direction marking is as follows:


    8) á-q̓inu-šana=aš paanáy
    obv-see-asp=1sg 3sg.acc ‘I saw him/her/it’


    9) i-q̓ínu-šana=aš pɨ́nɨm
    3nom-see-asp=1sg 3erg ‘he/she/it saw me’


    The charts of consonants and vowels below are used in the Yakima Sahaptin (Ichishkiin) language:


    Vowels can also be accented (e.g. /á/).


    Sahaptin language Wikipedia

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