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Tongva language

Native to Southern California
Region Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island

ca. 1900?

(revitalization 2004)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xgf
Linguist list
Glottolog tong1329[1]

The Tongva language (also known as Gabrielino or Gabrieleño) is a Uto-Aztecan language formerly spoken by the Tongva, a Native American people who live in and around Los Angeles, California. Tongva is closely related to several other Takic languages, including Cahuilla and Serrano.

The last fluent native speakers of Tongva lived in the early 20th century, but no evidence to this time and date can prove a fluent speaker in the last 150 years. The language is primarily documented in the unpublished field notes of John Peabody Harrington made during that time. The "J.P. Harrington Project", developed by the Smithsonian through UC Davis, his notes of the Tongva language, approximately 6,000 pages were coded for documentation by a Tongva member who took 3 years to accomplish.

There are claims of native speakers of Tongva who have died as late as in the 1970s, but there is no independent verification of these individuals having been fluent speakers.

Evidence of the language also survives in modern toponymy of Southern California, including Pacoima, Tujunga, Topanga, Azusa, Cahuenga in Cahuenga Pass, and Cucamonga in Rancho Cucamonga. Additionally, the minor planet 50000 Quaoar was named after the Tongva creator god.[2]


  • Language revitalization 1
  • Phonology 2
    • Consonants 2.1
  • Morphology 3
  • Vocabulary 4
    • The Lord's Prayer 4.1
    • Collected by C. Hart Merriam (1903) 4.2
    • Collected by Alexander Taylor (1860) 4.3
    • Collected by Dr. Oscar Loew (1875) 4.4
    • Collected by Charles Wilkes, USN (1838-1842) 4.5
    • Other sources 4.6
    • Toponymy 4.7
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Language revitalization

As of 2012, members of the contemporary Tongva (Gabrieleño) tribal council are attempting to revive the language, by making use of written vocabularies, by comparison to better attested members of the Takic group to which Tongva belonged,[3] and by offering classes.[4][5] The Gabrielino-Tongva Language Committee has created Tongva grammar lessons and songs, and a Tongva Facebook page "introduces an audio of a new word, phrase or song daily."[6]



The following is a list of the consonants of the Tongva language. In parenthesis is the spelling of the specific sound. Note that there are multiple orthographies for the Tongva language and certain letters represent more than one sound therefore certain sounds may have multiple ways to be spelled.

Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m (m) ɱ (m) n (n) ŋ (ng~n)
Plosive voiceless p (p) t (t) k (k~c~qu) (ʔ)
voiced b (b) d (d) ɡ (g~gu)
Fricative voiceless ɸ (p) f (p~v~f) s (s) ʃ (sh~ch) ç (h~r) x ~ χ (h~g)
voiced β (b) v (v~w) z (z) ʒ (x~sh~ch) ʝ (y~x~j) ɣ (x~h) ʁ (r) ɦ (h)
Trill r (r)
Approximant ʋ-ʍ (w) l (l) j (y~j)


Tongva is an agglutinative language, where words use suffixes and multiple morphemes for a variety of purposes.


The Lord's Prayer[7]

The Lord's Prayer is called 'Eyoonak in Tongva. The following text was derived from old Mission records.

Collected by C. Hart Merriam (1903)[8]

(Merriam refers to them as the Tongvā)

  1. Po-koo
  2. Wěh-hā
  3. Pah-hā
  4. Wah-chah
  5. Mah-har
  6. Pah-vah-hā
  7. Wah-chah-kav-e-ah
  8. Wa-ha's-wah-chah
  9. Mah-ha'hr-kav-e-ah
  10. Wa-hās-mah-hah'r
  11. Wa-hā's-mah-hah'r-koi-po-koo
  12. Wa-hā's-mah-hah'r-koi-wěh-hā
grizzly bear
hoon-nah (subject)
hoon-rah (object)
black bear

Collected by Alexander Taylor (1860)[8]

  1. po-koo
  2. wa-hay
  3. pa-hey
  4. wat-sa
  5. mahar
  6. pawahe
  7. wat-sa-kabiya
  8. wa-hish-watchsa
  9. mahar-cabearka
  10. wa-hish-mar

Taylor claims "they do not count farther than ten"

Collected by Dr. Oscar Loew (1875)[8]

  1. pu-gu'
  2. ve-he'
  3. pa'-hi
  4. va-tcha'
  5. maha'r
  6. pa-va'he
  7. vatcha'-kabya'
  8. vehesh-vatcha'
  9. mahar-kabya'
  10. vehes-mahar
  11. puku-hurura
  12. vehe-hurura

Collected by Charles Wilkes, USN (1838-1842)[8]

  1. pukū
  2. wehē
  3. pāhe
  4. watsā

Other sources

  • desert fox: erow[9]
  • Pacoima = from the root word Pako enter, meaning the entrance
  • Tujunga = from the root word old woman tux'uu
  • Azusa = from the word -shuuk 'Ashuuksanga = his grandmother


The table below gives the names of various missions in the Tongva language.[7]

English Tongva
Los Angeles Yaa
San Bernardino Wa'aach
San Gabriel Shevaa
San Pedro Chaaw
Santa Ana Hotuuk
Santa Monica Kecheek
Santa Catalina Pemu


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Tongva". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Byrd, Deborah (19 February 2013). "Quaoar, a rocky world orbiting beyond Neptune". EarthSky. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  3. ^ The Limu Project (active language revitalization)
  4. ^ Keepers of Indigenous Ways: Tongva Language History & classes
  5. ^ R. Plesset (2012-06-01). "San Pedro: Science Center Endangered/Tongva Village Site Revitalization". Indymedia Los Angeles. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  6. ^ Marquez, Letisia (2014-07-01). "Social media used to revive extinct language". Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  7. ^ a b Munro, Pamela, et al. Yaara' Shiraaw'ax 'Eyooshiraaw'a. Now You're Speaking Our Language: Gabrielino/Tongva/Fernandeño. 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d McCawley, William. The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles. Malki Museum Press, 1996
  9. ^ Native Languages of the Americas

External links

  • The Limu Project (active language revitalization)
  • Reconstructed Tongva spoken (streaming video, Tongva speech beginning at 35:10)
  • Gabrielino (Tongva) Language,
  • Gabrielino language overview at the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages
  • Keepers of Indigenous Ways: Tongva Language History & classes
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