The Patwin language has two main dialects. The first, River Patwin, was traditionally spoken along the Sacramento River in Colusa County. The other, Hill Patwin, was spoken in the plains and foothills to the west. There is another language, spoken from central Yolo County to Suisun Bay and west far as the Napa River, which may be a third dialect (Southern Patwin), though it is very poorly attested. In pre-contact times, there were 12,500 speakers of Nomlaki, Patwin, and Wintu together (Kroeber 1932). Today, there is at least one first-language speaker of Patwin (Golla 2011).

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 groups 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

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]
  • 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.