The Washo language was traditionally spoken around Lake Tahoe — from Honey Lake in the north to Antelope Valley in the south. In pre-contact times, there were probably no more than 1500 speakers (Kroeber 1925). Today, there are fewer than 50 fluent speakers (Golla 2011).

Washo (also written "Washoe") is an isolate within the hypothesized Hokan language family. This includes, in addition to Washo, Chimariko, Esselen, Karuk, the Palaihnihan languages (Achumawi and Atsugewi), the Pomoan languages (Central Pomo, Eastern Pomo, Kashaya, Northeastern Pomo, Northern Pomo, Southeastern Pomo, and Southern Pomo), Salinan, the Shastan languages (Konomihu, New River Shasta, Okwanuchu, and Shasta), Yana, and the Yuman languages (Cocopa, Kiliwa, Kumeyaay, Maricopa, Mojave, Pai, Paipai, and Quechan).

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Further reading

  • Dangberg, Grace. 1927. Washo texts. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 22:391-443. [PDF]
  • Dangberg, Grace. 1968. Washo tales: Three original Washo Indian legends. (Nevada State Museum Occasional Papers, Volume 1.) Carson City, NV: Nevada State Museum.
  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Jacobsen, William H. 1964. A grammar of the Washo language. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Jacobsen, William H. 1996. Beginning Washo. (Nevada State Museum Occasional Papers, Volume 5.) Carson, NV: Nevada State Museum.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907. The Washo language of east central California and Nevada. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4:251-317. [PDF]