The Awaswas language was spoken on the north shore of Monterey Bay. During the mission period, it was spoken at Mission Santa Cruz. The last speaker of Awaswas died in the nineteenth century, and the language is only attested in wordlists. In pre-contact times, there were approximately 600 speakers of Awaswas (Levy 1978).
Awaswas is an Ohlone (or "Costanoan") language, along with Chalon, Chochenyo, Karkin, Mutsun, Ramaytush, Rumsen, and Tamyen. The Ohlone languages comprise one branch of the hypothesized Penutian language family, within which they form a subgroup with the Miwokan languages (Central Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Lake Miwok, Northern Sierra Miwok, Plains Miwok, Saclan, and Southern Sierra Miwok). Penutian also includes Klamath-Modoc, the Maiduan languages (Konkow, Maidu, and Nisenan), the Wintuan languages (Nomlaki, Patwin, and Wintu), and the Yokuts languages.
Selected archival materials at Berkeley
- Heizer R. F., ed. 1952. California Indian linguistic records: The Mission Indian vocabularies of Alphonse Pinart. University of California Anthropological Records 15:1-84. [PDF]
- Heizer, R.F., ed. 1955. California Indian linguistic records: The Mission Indian vocabularies of H. W. Henshaw. University of California Anthropological Records 15:85-202. [PDF]
- Shipley, William F. 2002. The Awaswas language. In Linda Yamane, ed. A gathering of voices: The Native peoples of the California central coast. (Santa Cruz County History Journal, Issue 5.) Santa Cruz, CA: Museum of Art and History.