The traditional Chochenyo language area is the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay, from Richmond to Fremont. During the mission period, Chochenyo was spoken at Mission San José. Other varieties may have been spoken further inland, in eastern Alameda County and in the San Ramon, Dublin, and Livermore Valley areas. In addition to vocabularies from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Chochenyo is attested in J. P. Harrington’s fieldnotes. In pre-contact times, there were approximately 2,000 speakers of Chochenyo (Levy 1978). In the 21st century, there are no first-language speakers (Golla 2011), but there are Chochenyo learners and speakers participating in Chochenyo language classes in the Bay area.

Map of the Ohlone languages
Map of the Ohlone languages (Richard L. Levy. 1976. Costanoan internal relationships. Berkeley: Archaeological Research Facility, University of California.)

Chochenyo (also spelled “Chocheño”) is an Ohlone (or “Costanoan”) language, along with Awaswas, Chalon, 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

Further reading

  • Beeler, M. S. 1961. Northern Costanoan. International Journal of American Linguistics 3:191-1917.
  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • 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]
  • Hinton, Leanne. 2001. The Ohlone Languages. In Leanne Hinton & Kenneth Hale (eds.) The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. San Diego: Academic Press
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1910. The Chumash and Costanoan languages. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 9:237-271. [PDF]
  • Milliken, Randall, Shoup, Laurence H. & Ortiz, Beverly R. Ohlone/Coastanoan Indians of the San Francisco Peninsula and their Neighbors, Yesterday and Today. Oakland: Archaeological and Historical Consultants. [PDF]