The traditional Rumsen language area is on the Monterey Peninsula and along the lower Carmel River, around Salinas and Fort Ord, near Castroville, and from Carmel Valley to Point Sur. During the mission period, it was spoken at Mission San Carlos de Borroméo in Carmel. Rumsen is documented in wordlists and extensive fieldwork by J. P. Harrington. In pre-contact times, there were approximately 800 speakers of Rumsen (Levy 1978). However, tribal members and language activists have been pursuing language revitalization and reclamation.

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

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

  • Broadbent, Sylvia M. 1957. Rumsen I: Methods of reconstitution. International Journal of American Linguistics 23:275-280.
  • Heizer R. F., ed. 1952. California Indian linguistic records: The Mission Indian vocabularies of Alphonse Pinart. University of California Anthropological Records 15:1-84. [PDF]
  • 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]
  • Hinton, Leanne. 2001. The Ohlone Languages. In Leanne Hinton & Kenneth Hale (eds.) The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. San Diego: Academic Press
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1910. The Chumash and Costanoan languages. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 9:237-271. [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]