The Patwin language has two main dialects. For the first dialect, River Patwin, the traditional language area is along the Sacramento River in Colusa County. For the second dialect, Hill Patwin, the traditional language area is in the plains and foothills to the west. There is another language, Southern Patwin (traditionally spoken from central Yolo County to Suisun Bay and west far as the Napa River), which may be a third dialect, though it is very poorly attested. In pre-contact times, there were 12,500 speakers of Nomlaki, Patwin, and Wintu together (Kroeber 1932). As of 2011, there was at least one known first-language speaker of Patwin (Golla 2011). However, tribal members and language activists have been pursuing language revitalization and reclamation (Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation). Patwin is a Wintuan language; the other Wintuan languages are Nomlaki and Wintu. Together, these languages form one branch of the hypothesized Penutian language family. This group also includes Klamath-Modoc, the Maiduan languages (Konkow, Maidu, and Nisenan),the Miwokan languages (Central Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Lake Miwok, Northern Sierra Miwok, Plains Miwok, Saclan, and Southern Sierra Miwok), the Ohlone languages (Awaswas, Chalon, Chochenyo, Karkin, Mutsun, Ramaytush, Rumsen, and Tamyen), and the Yokuts languages.

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Selected materials in other archives

Grammatical information

Thumbnail sketch of Hill Patwin by Donald Ultan [PDF] (Haas.063)

Further reading

  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1932. The Patwin and their neighbors. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 29:253-423. [PDF]
  • Lawyer, Lewis. 2021. A Grammar of Patwin. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. [PDF - may not be publicly available]
  • Shepard, Alice. 2006. The Wintun Language Family. In Proto-Wintun. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Whistler, Kenneth W. 1976. Patwin folk-taxonomic structures. M.A. thesis, University of California, Berkeley. [PDF]
  • Whistler, Kenneth W. 1977. Deer and bear children (Patwin). In Victor Golla and Shirley Silver, eds. Northern California texts, pp. 158-178. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Whistler, Kenneth W. 1978. Mink, bullethawk, and coyote (Patwin). In William Bright, ed. Coyote stories, pp. 51-61. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.