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Quechan language

Native to USA
Region California, Arizona
Ethnicity Quechan
Native speakers
150  (1994)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 yum
Glottolog quec1382[2]

Quechan, also known as Yuma, is the native language of the Quechan people of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona in the Lower Colorado River Valley and Sonoran Desert.

Quechan belongs to the River branch of the Yuman language family, together with Mohave and Maricopa languages. Publications have documented Quechan grammar and texts.[3]

In 1980, it was estimated that there were fewer than 700 speakers of the language, including both the elderly and young.[4] Hinton (1994:32) put a conservative estimate of the number of speakers at 150, and a liberal estimate at 400-500. As of 2009, 93 preschoolers were learning Quechan in the Quechan tribe's language preservation program, and the number of fluent speakers was estimated to be about 100. A Quechan dictionary was in progress.[5]

Quechan speakers participate in the Yuman Family Language Summit, held annually since 2001.[6]

A 2010 documentary, “Songs of the Colorado,” by filmmaker Daniel Golding features traditional songs in the Quechan language. Golding says, "The songs are all sung in the language, so if you're not learning and picking up the language, then you won't be able to understand the songs ... there are actually words telling stories..." [7]

Assistance is available for speakers of the language who wish to vote in elections in Imperial County, California and Yuma County, Arizona, under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.


  1. ^ Quechan at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Quechan". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Mithun, Marianne. 1999. The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Kendall, Martha B. 1983. "Yuman languages". In Southwest, edited by Alfonso Ortiz, pp. 4-12. Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, Vol. 10. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  5. ^ Anne Slagill (2009-07-27). "Tribal program seeks to preserve Quechan language". The Yuma Sun. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  6. ^ "Yuman Language Family Summit Home Page". Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  7. ^ Nancy Gilkey (2010-12-08). "Tribal music documentary premieres Saturday". YumaSun. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 


  • Hinton, Leanne. 1994. Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages. Heyday Books, Berkeley, California.
  • Halpern, Abraham M. (1947). A grammar of the Yuma language. Chicago: University of Chicago. 
  • Hinton, Leanne; Lucille J. Watahomigie. Spirit mountain: an anthology of Yuman story and song. Tucson, AZ: Sun Tracks and the University of Arizona Press.  ISBN 9780816508174

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