Northern Paiute language

Northern Paiute /ˈpt/,[3] also known as Numu and Paviotso, is a Western Numic language of the Uto-Aztecan family, which according to Marianne Mithun had around 500 fluent speakers in 1994.[4] Ethnologue reported the number of speakers in 1999 as 1,631.[5] It is closely related to the Mono language.

Northern Paiute
Native toUnited States
RegionNevada, California, Oregon, Idaho
Ethnicity6,000 Northern Paiute and Bannock (1999)[1]
Native speakers
700 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pao
Map showing the traditional geographic distribution of Northern Paiute and Mono


Northern Paiute's phonology is highly variable, and its phonemes have many allophones.[6]


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plain Lab.
Stop ptkʔ
Nasal mnŋ
Fricative sh
Affricate ts
Approximant wj


Front Central Back
Close iɨu
Open-Mid eɔ
Open a

Language revitalization

In 2005, the Northwest Indian Language Institute of the University of Oregon formed a partnership to teach Northern Paiute and Kiksht in the Warm Springs Indian Reservation schools.[8] In 2013, Washoe County, Nevada became the first school district in Nevada to offer Northern Paiute classes, offering an elective course in the language at Spanish Springs High School.[9] Classes have also been taught at Reed High School in Sparks, Nevada.[10]

Elder Ralph Burns of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation worked with University of Nevada, Reno linguist Catherine Fowler to help develop a spelling system. The alphabet uses 19 letters. They have also developed "a language-learning book, “Numa Yadooape,” and a series of computer disks of language lessons.[10]


Northern Paiute is an agglutinative language, in which words use suffix complexes for a variety of purposes with several morphemes strung together.


  1. Northern Paiute at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Northern Paiute". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. Mithun (1999:541)
  5. "Report on Northern Paiute". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-03-29.
  6. Haynes, Erin Flynn (2010). "Phonetic and Phonological Acquisition in Endangered Languages Learned by Adults: A Case Study of Numu (Oregon Northern Paiute)". PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
  7. Babel, Molly; Houser, Michael J.; Toosarvandani, Maziar (2012), "Mono Lake Northern Paiute", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 42 (2): 240, doi:10.1017/S002510031100051X
  8. Joanne B. Mulcahy (2005). "Warm Springs: A Convergence of Cultures" (Oregon History Project). Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  9. Joe Hart (Director). "Nevada Proud: Students get a chance to learn native language in school". My News 4. KRNV, Reno, NV. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  10. Vogel, Ed (2014-02-01). "Paiute elder rescues language near extinction". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2014-02-26.


  • Liljeblad, Sven, Catherine S. Fowler, & Glenda Powell. 2012. The Northern Paiute-Bannock Dictionary, with an English-Northern Paiute-Bannock Finder List and a Northern Paiute-Bannock-English Finder List. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. ISBN 978-1-60781-030-8
  • Mithun, Marianne (1999). Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Snapp, Allen, John L. Anderson, and Joy Anderson. 1982. Northern Paiute. In Ronald W. Langacker, eds. Sketches in Uto-Aztecan grammar, III: Uto-Aztecan grammatical sketches. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington. Summer Institute of Linguistics Publications in Linguistics, 57(3) [The publication erroneously stated (56)3, but this has been amended in the PDF made available online by the publisher.] pp. 1–92.
  • Thornes, Tim (2003). "A Northern Paiute Grammar with Texts". Ph.D. dissertation. University of Oregon-Eugene.

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