Before the 18th century, the Maricopa language was spoken along the Colorado River between Mojave to the north and Quechan to the south. Maricopa speakers were subsequently displaced to the Gila River, southwest of Phonenix, Arizona. The last group of Maricopa to move into Arizona were the Halchidhoma, who resided originally around what is today Blythe, California. In pre-contact times, there were approximately 2,000 to 30,00 speakers of Maricopa (Harwell and Kelly 1983). Today, there are around 100 speakers (Golla 2011), and tribal members and language activists have been pursuing language revitalization and reclamation (Shepard, 2006). Maricopa (also called “Piipaash”) is a member of the Yuman language family. Within Yuman, it is most closely related to Mojave and Quechan, and more distantly to Cocopa (spoken in pre-contact times around the Colorado River Delta in Mexico), Kiliwa (spoken in Baja California), Kumeyaay, Pai (spoken in Arizona), and Paipai (spoken in Baja California). Together, the Yuman languages comprise one branch of the hypothesized Hokan language family, the other members of which are Chimariko, Esselen, Karuk, the Palaihnihan languages (Achumawi and Atsugewi), the Pomoan languages (Central Pomo, Eastern Pomo, Kashaya, Northeastern Pomo, Northern Pomo, Southeastern Pomo, and Southern Pomo), Salinan, the Shastan languages (Konomihu, New River Shasta, Okwanuchu, and Shasta), Washo, and Yana.

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Selected materials in other archives

Further reading

  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Gordon, Lynn. 1986. Maricopa morphology and syntax. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Harwell, Henry O. and Kelly, Marsha C. S. 1983. Maricopa. In Alfonso Ortiz (ed.), Southwest, pp. 71-85. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Spier, Leslie. 1946. Comparative vocabularies and parallel texts in two Yuman languages of Arizona. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.