The Info List - O'odham Language

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O'odham (pronounced [ˈʔɔʔɔðɦam]) or Papago-Pima is a Uto-Aztecan language of southern Arizona
and northern Sonora, Mexico, where the Tohono O'odham
Tohono O'odham
(formerly called the Papago) and Akimel O'odham (traditionally called Pima) reside.[4] In 2000 there were estimated to be approximately 9,750 speakers in the United States
United States
and Mexico
combined, although there may be more due to underreporting. It is the 10th most-spoken indigenous language in the United States, the 3rd most-spoken indigenous language in Arizona
after Western Apache and Navajo. It is the third-most spoken language in Pinal County, Arizona
and the fourth-most spoken language in Pima County, Arizona. Approximately 8% of O'odham speakers in the US speak English "not well" or "not at all", according to results of the 2000 Census. Approximately 13% of O'odham speakers in the US were between the ages of 5 and 17, and among the younger O'odham speakers, approximately 4% were reported as speaking English "not well" or "not at all". Native names for the language, depending on the dialect and orthography, include Oʼodham ha-ñeʼokĭ, Oʼottham ha-neoki, and Oʼodham ñiok.


1 Dialects 2 Morphology 3 Phonology

3.1 Consonants 3.2 Vowels 3.3 Allophony and distribution

4 Orthography

4.1 Etymological or phonetic spelling?

5 Grammar

5.1 Syntax 5.2 Verbs 5.3 Nouns 5.4 Adjectives

6 Sample text 7 See also 8 References 9 External links

Dialects[edit] The O'dham language has a number of dialects.[5]

Tohono O'odham

Cukuḍ Kuk Gigimai Hu:huʼula Huhuwoṣ Totoguañ

Akimel O'odham

Eastern Gila Kohadk Salt River Western Gila

Hia C-ed O'odham


Due to the paucity of data on the linguistic varieties of the Hia C-eḍ O'odham, this section currently focuses on the Tohono O'odham and Akimel O'odham dialects only. The greatest lexical and grammatical dialectal differences are between the Tohono O'odham
Tohono O'odham
(or Papago) and the Akimel O'odham (or Pima) dialect groupings. Some examples:

Tohono O'odham Akimel O'odham English

ʼaʼad hotṣ to send

ñeñida tamiam to wait for

s-hewhogĭ s-heubagĭ to be cool

sisiṣ hoʼiumi (but si:ṣpakuḍ, stapler) to fasten

pi: haʼicug pi ʼac to be absent

wia ʼoʼoid hunt tr.

There are other major dialectal differences between northern and southern dialects, for example:

Early O'odham Southern Northern English

*ʼa:phi:m ʼa:ham ʼa:pim you

*cu:khug cu:hug cu:kug flesh

*ʼe:kheg ʼe:heg ʼe:keg to be shaded

*ʼu:pham ʼu:hum ʼu:pam (go) back

The Cukuḍ Kuk dialect has null in certain positions where other Tohono O'odham
Tohono O'odham
dialects have a bilabial:

Other TO dialects Chukuḍ Kuk English

jiwia, jiwa jiia to arrive

ʼuʼuwhig ʼuʼuhig bird

wabṣ haṣ only

wabṣaba, ṣaba haṣaba but

Morphology[edit] O'odham is an agglutinative language, where words use suffix complexes for a variety of purposes with several morphemes strung together. Phonology[edit] For clarity, note that the terms Tohono O'odham
Tohono O'odham
and Papago refer to the same language; likewise for Akimel O'odham and Pima. O'odham phonology has a typical Uto-Aztecan inventory distinguishing 21 consonants and 5 vowels.[6] Consonants[edit]

Labial Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal

Nasal m n

ɲ ŋ

Plosive voiceless p t

t͡ʃ k ʔ

voiced b d ɖ d͡ʒ g

Fricative (v) s ʂ


Approximant w




The retroflex consonants are apical postalveolar. Vowels[edit]

Front Central Back

High i iː ɨ ɨː ʊ uː


ə ɔ ɔː


a aː

Most vowels distinguish two degrees of length: long and short, and some vowels also show extra-short duration (voicelessness).

ṣe:l /ʂɨːɭ/ "Seri" ṣel /ʂɨɭ/ "permission" ʼa:pi /ʔaːpi/ "you" da:pĭ /daːpɪ̥/ "I don't know", "who knows?"

Papago /ɨ/ is pronounced /ʌ/ in Pima. Additionally, in common with many northern Uto-Aztecan languages, vowels and nasals at end of words are devoiced. Also, a short schwa sound, either voiced or unvoiced depending on position, is often interpolated between consonants and at the ends of words. Allophony and distribution[edit]

/ĭ/ is realized as [i̥], and devoices preceding obstruents: cuwĭ /tʃʊwĭ/ → [tʃʊʍi̥]~[tʃʊʍʲ] "jackrabbit". /w/ is a fricative [β] before unrounded vowels: wisilo [βisiɭɔ]. [ŋ] appears before /k/ and /ɡ/ in Spanish loanwords, but native words do not have nasal assimilation: to:nk [toːnk] "hill", namk [namk] "meet", ca:ŋgo [tʃaːŋɡo] "monkey". /p/, /ɭ/, and /ɖ/ rarely occur initially in native words, and /ɖ/ does not occur before /i/. [ɲ] and [n] are largely in complementary distribution, [ɲ] appearing before high vowels /i/ /ɨ/ /ʊ/, [n] appearing before low vowels /a/ /ɔ/: ñeʼe "sing". They contrast finally (ʼañ (1st imperfective auxiliary) vs. an "next to speaker"), though Saxton analyzes these as /ani/ and /an/, respectively, and final [ɲi] as in ʼa:ñi as /niː/. However, there are several Spanish loanwords where [nu] occurs: nu:milo "number". Similarly, for the most part [t] and [d] appear before low vowels while [tʃ] and [dʒ] before high vowels, but there are exceptions to both, often in Spanish loanwords: tiki:la ("tequila") "wine", TO weco / AO veco ("[de]bajo") "under".

Orthography[edit] There are two orthographies commonly used for the O'odham language: Alvarez–Hale and Saxton. The Alvarez–Hale orthography is officially used by the Tohono O'odham Nation
Tohono O'odham Nation
and the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community, and is used in this article, but the Saxton orthography is also common and is official in the Gila River Indian Community. It is relatively easy to convert between the two, the differences between them being largely no more than different graphemes for the same phoneme, but there are distinctions made by Alvarez–Hale not made by Saxton.

Phoneme Alvarez–Hale Saxton Meaning

/a/ a ʼaʼal a a'al baby

/b/ b ban b ban coyote

/tʃ/ c cehia ch chehia girl

/ð/ d da:k th thahk nose

/ɖ/ ḍ meḍ d med run

/d/ ḏ juḏum d judum bear

TO /ɨ/, AO /ʌ/ e ʼeʼeb e e'eb stop crying

/ɡ/ g gogs g gogs dog

/h/ h haʼicu h ha'ichu something

TO /i/, AO /ɨ/ i ʼi:bhai i ihbhai prickly pear cactus

/dʒ/ j ju:kĭ j juhki rain

/k/ k ke:k k kehk stand

/ɭ/ l lu:lsi l luhlsi candy

/m/ m mu:ñ m muhni bean(s)

/n/ n na:k n nahk ear

/ɲ/ ñ ñeʼe, mu:ñ n, ni ne'e, muhni sing, bean(s)

/ŋ/ ŋ aŋhil, wa:ŋgo ng, n anghil, wahngo angel, bank

/ɔ/ o ʼoʼohan o o'ohan write

/p/ p pi p pi not

/s/ s sitol s sitol syrup

/ʂ/ ṣ ṣoiga sh shoiga pet

/t/ t to:bĭ t tohbi cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii)

/u/ u ʼu:s u uhs tree, wood

/v/ v vainom v vainom knife

/w/ w wuai w wuai male deer

/j/ y payaso y pa-yaso clown

/ʔ/ ʼ ʼaʼan ' a'an feather

/ː/ : ju:kĭ h juhki rain

The Saxton orthography does not mark word-initial /ʔ/ or extra-short vowels. Final ⟨i⟩ generally corresponds to Hale–Alvarez ⟨ĭ⟩ and final ⟨ih⟩ to Hale–Alvarez ⟨i⟩:

Hale–Alvarez to:bĭ vs. Saxton tohbi /toːbĭ/ "cottontail rabbit" Hale–Alvarez ʼaːpi vs. Saxton ahpih /ʔaːpi/ "I"

Etymological or phonetic spelling?[edit] There is some disagreement among speakers as to whether the spelling of words should be only phonetic or whether etymological principles should be considered as well. For example, oamajda vs. wuamajda ("frybread"; some people may also use a c instead of a j), oam means "yellow/brown/orange" and thus is a compound word of sorts. Some people believe it should begin like any word that starts with a /ʊa/, wua, while others think its spelling should match that of the word oam (oam is in fact a form of s-oam, so while it could be spelled wuam itself, it is not since it is just a different declension of the same word) to reflect its etymology. Grammar[edit] Syntax[edit] O'odham has relatively free word order within clauses; for example, all of the following sentences mean "the boy brands the pig":[7]

ceoj ʼo g ko:jĭ ceposid ko:jĭ ʼo g ceoj ceposid ceoj ʼo ceposid g ko:jĭ ko:jĭ ʼo ceposid g ceoj ceposid ʼo g ceoj g ko:jĭ ceposid ʼo g ko:jĭ g ceoj

In principle, these could also mean "the pig brands the boy", but such an interpretation would require an unusual context. Despite the general freedom of sentence word order, O'odham is fairly strictly verb-second in its placement of the auxiliary verb (in the above sentences, it is ʼo):

cipkan ʼañ "I am working" but pi ʼañ cipkan "I am not working", not **pi cipkan ʼañ

Verbs[edit] Verbs are inflected for aspect (imperfective cipkan, perfective cipk), tense (future imperfective cipkanad), and number (plural cicpkan). Number agreement displays absolutive behavior: verbs agree with the number of the subject in intransitive sentences, but with that of the object in transitive sentences:

ceoj ʼo cipkan "the boy is working" cecoj ʼo cicpkan "the boys are working" ceoj ʼo g ko:ji ceposid "the boy is branding the pig" cecoj ʼo g ko:ji ceposid "the boys are branding the pig" ceoj ʼo g kokji ha-cecposid "the boy is branding the pigs"

The main verb agrees with the object for person (ha- in the above example), but the auxiliary agrees with the subject: ʼa:ñi ʼañ g kokji ha-cecposid "I am branding the pigs". Nouns[edit] Three numbers are distinguished in nouns: singular, plural, and distributive, though not all nouns have distinct forms for each. Most distinct plurals are formed by reduplication and often vowel loss plus other occasional morphophonemic changes, and distributives are formed from these by gemination of the reduplicated consonant:

gogs "dog", gogogs "dogs", goggogs "dogs (all over)" ma:gina "car", mamgina "cars", mammagina "cars (all over)" mi:stol "cat", mimstol "cats"

Adjectives[edit] O'odham adjectives can act both attributively modifying nouns and predicatively as verbs, with no change in form.

ʼi:da ṣu:dagĭ ʼo s-he:pid "This water is cold" ʼs-he:pid ṣu:dagĭ ʼañ hohoʼid "I like cold water"

Sample text[edit] The following is an excerpt from Oʼodham Piipaash Language Program: Taḏai.[8] It exemplifies the Salt River dialect.

Na:nse ʼe:da, mo: hek jeweḍ ʼu:d si we:coc, ma:ṣ hek Taḏai siskeg ʼu:d ʼuʼuhig. Hek ʼaʼanac c wopo:c si wo skegac c ʼep si cecwac. Kuṣ ʼam hebai hai ki g ʼOʼodham ṣam ʼoʼoidam k ʼam ʼupam da:da k ʼam ce: ma:ṣ he:kai cu hek ha na:da. ʼI:dam ʼOʼodham ṣam ʼeh he:mapa k ʼam aʼaga ma:ṣ has ma:sma vo bei hek na:da ʼab ʼamjeḍ hek Tatañki Jioṣ. Ṣa biʼi ʼa ma:ṣ mo ka:ke hek Taḏai ma:ṣ mo me:tk ʼamo ta:i hek na:da ha we:hejeḍ ʼi:dam ʼOʼodham. Taḏai ṣa: ma so:hi ma:ṣ mo me:ḍk ʼamo ta:i g na:da hek Tatañki Jioṣ. Tho ṣud me:tkam, ʼam “si ʼi nai:ṣ hek wo:gk” k gau mel ma:ṣ ʼam ki g Tatañki Jioṣ.

In Saxton orthography:

Nahnse ehtha, moh hek jeved uhth sih vehchoch, mahsh hek Tadai siskeg uhth u'uhig. Hek a'anach ch vopohch sih vo skegach ch ep sih chechvach. Kush am hebai hai kih g O'ottham sham o'oitham k am upam thahtha k am cheh mahsh hehkai chu hek ha nahtha. Ihtham O'othham sham eh hehmapa k am a'aga mahsh has mahsma vo bei hek nahtha ab amjeth hek Tatanigi Jiosh. Sha bi'ih a mahsh mo kahke hek Tadai mahsh mo mehtk amo tah'ih hek nahtha ha vehhejed ihtham O'ottham. Tadai shah ma sohhih mahsh mo mehdk amo tah'ih g nahtha hek Tatanigi Jiosh. Tho shuth mehtkam, am “sih ih naihsh hek vohgk” k gau mel mahsh am kih g Tatanigi Jiosh.

See also[edit]

Indigenous peoples of North America portal

For a list of words relating to O'odham language, see the O'odham language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Tohono O'odham Pima language Pima Bajo language


^ O'odham at Ethnologue
(18th ed., 2015) ^ Webuilder Archived 2007-02-08 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tohono O'odham". Glottolog
3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.  ^ Estrada Fernández, Zarina, and Andrés Oseguera Montiel. "La documentación de la tradición oral entre los pima: el diablo pelea con la luna." Indiana (03418642) 32 (2015). [1] "El pima bajo es una lengua yutoazteca (yutonahua) de la rama tepimana. Otras tres lenguas de esta rama son el tepehuano del norte, el tepehuano del sur o sureste y el antiguo pápago, actualmente denominado o’otam en Sonora
y tohono o’odham y akimel o’odham (pima) en Arizona" ^ Saxton, Dean, Saxton, Lucille, & Enos, Susie. (1983). Dictionary: Tohono O'odham/Pima to English, English to Tohono O'odham/Pima. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona
Press ^ Saxton, Dean. (1963). Papago Phonemes. International Journal of American Linguistics, 29, 29–35 ^ Zepeda, Ofelia. (1983). A Tohono O'odham
Tohono O'odham
Grammar. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona
Press. ^ Oʼodham Piipaash Language Program. Taḏai. Salt River, AZ: Oʼodham Piipaash Language Program

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External links[edit]

O'odham language test of at Wikimedia Incubator

O'odham Swadesh vocabulary list (Wiktionary) Papago –