The Mono language was traditionally spoken from Mono Lake in eastern California to the south and west. Most linguists distinguish two main varieties of the language. Eastern Mono (also called Owens Valley Paiute) is spoken in the Owens River Valley. Western Mono (also called Monachi) is spoken on the western side of the Sierra Nevada, in the San Joaquin River, Kings River, and Kaweah River watersheds. In pre-contact times, a conservative estimate is that there were 3000 to 4000 speakers of Mono (Kroeber 1925). Today, there are not more than 40 first-language speakers (Golla 2011).

Mono is a member of the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Within Numic, it is most closely related to Northern Paiute and more distantly to Panamint, Shoshone (spoken in Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming), Comanche (spoken mainly in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona), Kawaiisu, and Chemehuevi-Southern Paiute-Ute. The other Uto-Aztecan languages of California are Tubatulabal and the Takic languages (Cahuilla, Cupeño, Gabrielino, Juaneño, Kitanemuk, Luiseño, Serrano, and Tataviam).

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Further reading

  • Bethel, Rosalie, Paul V. Kroskrity, Chistopher Loether and Gregory A. Reinhardt. 1993. A dictionary of Western Mono, second edition.
  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Lamb, Sydney M. 1957. Mono grammar. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. [PDF]
  • Lamb, Sydney M. n.d. Monachi dictionary. Ms., Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, Lamb.002. [PDF]
  • Norris, Evan J. 1986. A grammar sketch and comparative study of Eastern Mono. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, San Diego.