Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 

Notes on the Shoshonean Dialects of Southern California, by A. L. Kroeber, [1909], at


The Serrano dialect of Highland and Morongo possesses ö, ü, and the other impure vowels of most Shoshonean dialects; a number of vowels followed by glottal stops; velars and sonants much like those of Cahuilla; palatal t•, which is at first difficult to distinguish from tc; and r; but lacks l. In many cases Serrano r is the direct equivalent of Luiseño-Cahuilla l. The most striking characteristic of this Serrano dialect is a peculiar pronunciation of the vowels, which makes many or most of them sound as if followed by an English r as it is spoken by Americans. Where this quality is most noticeable it has been indicated by r. Some trace of this sound or quality, however, was heard in many words where it was not indicated, and in many cases it was plainer than in such words as English far. Serrano x and c

p. 254

are difficult to distinguish, and x or h often corresponds to Luiseño-Cahuilla c or s. The informants from whom the following vocabulary was secured are Mrs. Jose Miguel, on the Banning reservation, whose father was from Mission Creek, and whose forms are always placed first; and Santos Manuel, born and living at San Manuel, whose form, if obtained, is the second word given under each meaning.

One to ten, haukup, wor (wur), pahi, watca, mahartc, pavahai, watc’kuvik, wa’wutc, ma’kuvik, war-mahartc (waha-marhatc); eleven, pu’pa haupk; twelve, pu’pa wör; etc.; fifteen, pu’pa mahartc; twenty, wöhö wörmahatc; thirty, pahi wörmahatc; forty, watca wörmahatc.

Person, takt, people, takt-am; man, wut•-ic; woman, niirxt, nürürxt-it; boy, anyitci, kwakit (= child?); girl, naarxt•, naxt•; youth, tutciñt, tutcint; old man, wut•-iwut•; old woman, niixt-awut•.

Head, forehead, ne-xör, ne-cör; hair, ne-aya, ne-ayün; ear, ne-qarv, ne-qarva; eye, no-uva, nu-vu; nose, ne-mukpi, nu-mukpi; mouth, ne-x.irt, a-x.irt, nü-xüts, nü-cüts; tongue, ni-nañ; tooth, ni-tam-am, a-tam-am, ni-tam; beard, ne-qarña-m; chin, ne-öitam; neck, na-moi, nü-mui; throat, na-ñerher, nu-ñurher; arm, hand, ne-ma, nü-ma; elbow, ni-tca; nail, ne-watc, nü-watc; belly, ni-tur; breast, ni-tunu; back, ni-töxpi; shoulder, ne-xerkar, ne-cererker; leg, ni-tcak; foot, ni-nara, ni-navü; knee, ni-tamer; bone, ne-er; heart, ne-hun, nu-hun; liver, ni-num; skin, ni-tuk, nu-qrutc; blood, ne-itc, a-itc, ner-irtc.

House, kitc; my house, ne-ki, nö-ki; thy house, mö-ki; his house, a-ki; our house, itcam tcö-ki; houses, ki-kitc; sweat-house, ürt•.; road, perukt.

Chief, kika; shaman, hermtc, hürmitc.

Sky, tukubitc; sun, tamiat, damiat; moon, möat•, muatc; star, huut•, huutc; stars, huu-m; night, tuk, duk; day, = sun; rainbow, axrernina; cloud, omukt; rain, wöruñut, wuruñut; snow, yuat; hail, töxput; fire, kut, gut; smoke, marat, merart; ash, kukwut, gukut; coal, tuut•, duutc; water, paat•, batc; ocean, lake, möm’t, mumut; stream, wanut•; land, earth, töirvartc, tüirvartc; mountain, qaitc, tceit; rock, dümat, dümut; salt, tcukat, tcukvat; sand, örkat, urkitc.

Wood, gwotcat, kotcat; grass, haamt; willow, hakat; chia seeds, pahinatc; toloache, manit; tobacco, piv’t.

Dog, kwidji, kwutci; bear, hunat; wolf (kaurt•et•?), wanat•; coyote, wahei, wahi; deer, huka’t, hukwa’t; mountain-sheep, paart; panther or wildcat, tukutcuwut, tukut; ground-squirrel, qrereñt; badger, hunavt; jackrabbit, huit; rabbit, terokt, dürukt.

Bird, witcit; eagle, abürñt; condor, qwat•, gwaatc; owl, mumt; crow, qwam, gatcauvu’t; hummingbird, pitidi.

Rattlesnake, hörñt, hürñt; frog, wakatat; fish, kihut•, kihutc; fly, pitcutcu-am, pitcutcu-atc; flea, atuict-am, atuict; lice, a’-artcam-am, atcüm-itc.

White, yarara; black, törnana; red, xörinka or xödinka; large, atiört•; small, anyi-tci; good, a’aiye-tc; bad, küxani-tc.

I, nöu, nö; thou, ümi’i, ümii; we, itcam; ye, ümam; this, iv’i; that, he,

p. 255

ama; those, they, ām; here, ip-ya; there, amk-wa; far, puyañ, ama-it; near, pipc; today, ama-i, mat•; yesterday, ivin; tomorrow, uva’-pyi, uva’-im (the words for today, yesterday, and tomorrow are evidently formed from demonstrative stems); much, wör’; who, hami; "nosotros," haminat.

The last is a term applied to the Gitanemuk and other northern Serrano by their neighbors. It is taken from their language, and said to mean "who is it?" It seems to be generally understood by the Indians as the equivalent of "Serrano" as the designation of a linguistic group.

Eat, raakw, kwaküñ; drink, pa’; sleep, lie, kuman; walk, hatcik; run, ya; stand, tcunurk, pöuviu; sit, nöupk; give, mak; kill, mörkan; dead, amomki; dance, touxtu; sing, tcatcun; cry, yu’; shout, wi’n; jump, rhanki; fly, hinyik; strike, w.erkirv.

The possessive prefixes as obtained with the stem ki, house, are, first person nö-, ne-, second person mö-, third person a-, first person plural tcö-, second person plural ö-.

The vowels of the Serrano possessive prefixes show a harmonic relation to the stem vowels. In the first person ni- is generally used before a and u stems; ne- before ö, e, i, and sometimes a and u. In a number of cases the San Manuel informant said nü- where the Morongo speaker gave ne-. He also usually made the prefix nu- before u stems. While it appears that the principle determining the vowel of the prefix is primarily one of assimilation, it is also clear that other factors have influence.

As regards words denoting parts of the body, most such nouns do not end in vowels in Serrano, but all obtained lack the detachable noun suffixes.

The plural suffix in all cases noted is -am, except in the word huu-m, stars. The final consonant of the substantive is retained in the words atuict, flea, and takt, person, before the plural suffix. It appears that the final t of these words is the detachable noun ending, but this is not certain. In the words huu-tc, star, pitcutcua-tc, fly, and atcüm-itc, louse, the ending -tc is lost in the formation of the plural. Huu-tc is of interest as the exact equivalent of Luiseño-Cahuilla cu-l, in which the ending is not lost before the plural suffix.

The Gitanemuk dialect of the Serrano group, of which a vocabulary has been previously published, shows possessive prefixes closely similar to those of San Manuel and Morongo Serrano and to those of Gabrielino. The first person singular is ni-; the second person mu-, mo-, or mö-; the third person a-; the first

p. 256

person plural tca-. The demonstrative stems are i or iv for proximity and am for distance. The substantival demonstratives are formed by an ending -ts, which appears also in the interrogative hamits, who. The adverbial demonstratives here and there are derived from the same stems as this and that. Am-ai, today, appears to be demonstrative, and uv-api, tomorrow, is probably also demonstrative. The interrogative stems are ha for who and where, hi for what. Words denoting colors were obtained with a suffix -k. Most verbs were obtained with a prefix or proclitic ni-, and a few show an analogous a-. It is natural to look upon these elements as subjective parallels to the possessive elements of nouns.

The Möhineyam or Mohave river dialect of the Serrano group shows the plural suffix in the form -am, or -yam after vowels, in all words obtained except hamahava-yim, Mohave. Huu, star, plural huu-yam, and dagat, person, plural dagat-am, parallel the corresponding southern Serrano forms.

While the Serrano of Highland and of Morongo is the same, it differs from that of the lower Mohave river and of the Tehachapi region, from which vocabularies under the name of Möhineyam and Gitanemuk have been published. There is some difference in stems, and a general phonetic divergence. The two northern dialects lack the peculiar r-like inflection of the vowels of the San Bernardino Serrano. As compared with this southern Serrano, the two northern dialects are quite similar. It therefore appears that a general distinction can be made between the Serrano dialects of the San Bernardino range, and those of the Mohave desert and Tejon region to the north of this range. While all the Serrano dialects are similar enough to be mutually intelligible, they are thus more different than formerly believed.

Next: Chemehuevi