The traditional Mutsun language area is throughout the drainage of the Pajaro River, and from there west to Monterey Bay, north to Gilroy, east to Hollister, and southeast to the Pinnacles. During the mission period, Mutsun was spoken at Mission San Juan Bautista. Mutsun is attested in the 19th century publications of Father Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta, in the fieldnotes of J. P. Harrington, and works derived from them. In pre-contact times, there were approximately 2,700 speakers of Mutsun (Levy 1978). In the 21st century, there are no first-language speakers of Mutsun. However, tribal members and language activists have been pursuing language revitalization and reclamation (Amah Mutsun Tribal Band).

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

Mutsun is an Ohlone (or “Costanoan”) language, along with Awaswas, Chalon, Chochenyo, Karkin, 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

  • Arroyo de la Cuesta, Father Felipe. 1861. Grammar of the Mutsun Language. (Shea’s Library of American Linguistics, Volume 4.) New York: Cramoisy.
  • Arroyo de la Cuesta, Father Felipe. 1862. Vocabulary or phrase book of the Mutsun language of Alta California. (Shea’s Library of American Linguistics, Volume 8.) New York: Cramoisy. [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
  • Mason, J. A. 1916. The Mutsun dialect of Costanoan based on the vocabulary of De La Cuesta. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 11:399-472. [PDF]
  • Okrand, Marc. 1977. Mutsun grammar. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. [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]
  • Warner, Natasha, Lynnika Butler & Geary, Quirina. 2016. Mutsun-English English-Mutsun Dictionary. Manoa: University of Hawai’i Press. [PDF]