The Cupeño language was traditionally spoken near the headwaters of the San Luis Rey River at the foot of Hot Springs Mountain. In pre-contact times, there were probably no more than 500 speakers of Cupeño (Kroeber 1925). There are no first-language speakers today (Golla 2011).
Cupeño is a member of the Takic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Within Takic, it is most closely related to Cahuilla, Juaneño, and Luiseño, and more distantly to Gabrielino, Kitanemuk, Serrano, and Tataviam. The other Uto-Aztecan languages of California are Tubatulabal and the Numic languages (Chemehuevi-Southern Paiute-Ute, Comanche, Kawaiisu, Mono, Northern Paiute, Panamint, and Shoshone).
Selected archival materials at Berkeley
- Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Hill, Jane H. 1966. A grammar of the Cupeño language. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
- Hill, Jane H. 2005. A grammar of Cupeño. Berkeley: University of California Press. [PDF]
- Hill, Jane H. and Rosínda Nolasquez. 1973. Mulu'wetam: the first people: Cupeño oral history and language. Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press.