The Obispeño language was traditionally spoken along the Pacific coast around what is today San Luis Obispo. During the Mission period, it was spoken at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. The language is attested solely in wordlists and the field notes of J. P. Harrington. Based on archaeological evidence and the testimony of early observers, it has been estimated that speakers of all Chumashan languages together numbered between 10,700 and 17,250 in pre-contact times (King 1969). Today, there are no first-language speakers of any Chumashan language.

Map of the Chumashan languages
Map of the Chumashan languages (Robert F. Heizer, ed. 1978. California. (Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8.) Washington: Smithsonian Institute.)

Obispeño is a member of the Chumashan language family; the others are Barbareño, Ineseño, Interior Chumash, Island Chumash, Purisimeño, and Ventureño.

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Further reading

  • 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]
  • Klar, Kathryn A. 1977. Topics in historical Chumash grammar. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.