Chumash Language

The Chumash language has been researched and preserved by the efforts and knowledge of many people. Presently, a small number of Native apprentices are working with Dr. Richard Applegate, a renowned linguist and specialist in the Chumash language, to preserve these endangered languages.

The word Chumash originally referred to the people of Limuw, Santa Cruz Island. In more modern times Chumash was used to identify all people of the Chumash Nation. Every village in Chumash territory had its own language which were not only different dialects but distinctly different languages. During the mission times, there were seven Chumash languages: Barbareño/Šmuwič, Ineseño/Samala, Purisimeño, Ventureño/Miscanaqin, and Obispeño. In addition, there was the islander and the interior languages.

Šmuwič Language School at Wishtoyo's Chumash Village

Language Teachers Deborah Sanchez and Johnny Moreno

Language Teachers Deborah Sanchez and Johnny Moreno

Chumash cultural survival. The continuance of speaking our language - the sounds of our culture - is of great importance to our cultural survival! Learning and passing on the songs, stories and dances of our ancestors is a responsibility that includes making new songs, stories and dances that reflect what is happening today. With the Opening of the Šmuwič Language School in the Spring of 2010 at Wishtoyo’s Chumash Village, Chumash Elders Johnny Moreno and Deborah Sanchez have dedicated their lives to “reawakening our memory” by keeping the sounds of the Šmuwič language present. Under their leadership and guidance current and future generations of Chumash will learn the Šmuwič/Barbareño language. The primary goal of Wishtoyo's  Šmuwič Language School is to provide an avenue of practice and preservation of the Šmuwič language through songs and stories that can be shared with all Chumash tribal groups.

We give great thanks to all those who have worked on preserving our language and a Very Special Thanks in Memory of Liz Dominquez who heartfully dedicated much of her adult life to the language, songs and tradition of the Chumash People. 

Liz Domiguez and Dr. Richard Applegate

Here is a short pronunciation guide and a vocabulary list (provided by the work of present day apprentices) to have fun with as you try your tongue at saying some words in the Šmuwič language:

                a, e, i, o, u                    pronounced very much like Spanish

                          ɨ - the 6th vowel           pronounced very much like the ‘u’ in the English word ‘put’

                c = ts                            as in the word “cats”

                Q= q                             “q” is further back in the throat than regular “k”  (it’s not like the word “quack”)

      š = “sh”                         as in the word “shop”

tš = “ch”          

X = “x”                          is raspy like the ‘j’ in the Spanish word “baja"

‘ = “glottal stop”            as is the word “sxa’min” – ocean. This is pronounced like a catch in the throat as English “oh-oh” or the pronunciation of “t” in English “motley.”

Vocabulary List: 

Haku                 Hello

Good bye           Kiwa’nan

Thank you         Kaqinaš

Ocean               sxa’min

Sand                 xas

Dolphin             ‘alolk’oy

Whale               paxat

Swordfish          ‘elye’wun

Starfish             ‘elewese

Plank canoe        tomol

Rainbow            wištoyo

Earth                 šup

Day/sun            ‘ališaw

Star                  ‘aqiwo

Butterfly            ‘ayatulutul

Flower               spe’y

Path                  č’alayaš

Village               ‘ap aniš

Mother               xo’ni

Father                kok’o

Child                  taniw/č’ič’i