The traditional Mojave language area is along the Colorado River from Black Canyon in the north through the Mohave Valley and into the Chemehuevi Valley to the south. Beginning in the 19th century, Mojave expanded along the Colorado River to the present-day towns of Blythe, California and Ehrenberg, Arizona. In pre-contact times, there were an estimated 3,000 speakers (Kroeber 1925). In the 21st century, there are fewer than 100 first-language speakers (Golla 2011). However, tribal members and language activists have been pursuing language revitalization and reclamation (Weinberg & Penfield 2000). Mojave (also written “Mohave”) is a member of the Yuman language family. Within Yuman, it is most closely related to Maricopa 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.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1911. Phonetic elements of the Mohave language. University of California Publications in American Anthropology and Ethnology 10:45-96. [PDF]
  • Munro, Pamela. 1976. Mojave syntax. New York: Garland.
  • Munro, Pamela, Nellie Brown, and Judith G. Crawford. 1992. A Mojave dictionary. (Occasional Papers in Linguistics, Volume 10.) Los Angeles: Department of Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles.