Cupeño language

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Kupangaxwicham Pe'me̲melki
RegionSouthern California, United States
EthnicityCupeño people
Extinct1987, with the death of Roscinda Nolasquez
Language codes
ISO 639-3cup
Cupeño language.png
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Cupeño is an extinct Uto-Aztecan language, formerly spoken by the Cupeño people of Southern California, United States, who now speak English.

Roscinda Nolasquez (d. 1987) was the last native speaker of Cupeño.[2]


The language was originally spoken in Cupa, Wilaqalpa, and Paluqla, San Diego County, California, and later around the Pala Indian Reservation.


Cupeño is an agglutinative language, where words use suffix complexes for a variety of purposes with several morphemes strung together.

Cupeño inflects its verbs for transitivity, tense, aspect, mood, person, number, and evidentiality.

Evidentiality is expressed in Cupeño with clitics, which generally appear near the beginning of the sentence. =ku'ut 'reportative' (mu=ku'ut 'and it is said that...') =am 'mirative' =$he 'dubitative'

There are two inflected moods, realis =pe and irrealis =e'p.


The pronominals of Cupeño appear in many different forms and structures. The following appear attached only to past-tense verbs.

Person Singular Plural
1 ne- chem-
2 e- em-
3 pe- pem-

Tense-Aspect system[edit]

Future simple verbs are unmarked. Past simple verbs have past-tense pronouns; past imperfect add the imperfect modifier shown below.

Number Present Imperfect Fut. Imp Customary
Singular -qa -qal -nash -ne
Plural -we -wen -wene -wene



Front Central Back
High i, i: u, u:
Mid ɛ, ɛ: ə, ə: o, o:
Low a, a:

/ɛ/ and /o/ appear largely in Spanish loanwords, but also as allophones of /ə/ in native Cupeño words.

/i/ can also be realized as [ɪ] in closed syllables, and [e] in some open syllables.

/u/ may reduce to schwa in unstressed syllables.

/ə/ also appears as [ɨː] when long and stressed, [o] after labials and [q], and as [ɛ] before [w].

/a/ is also realized as [ɑ] before uvulars.


Bilabial Coronal Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
laminal apical plain labial.
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive p t (t)ʃ 2 k 1 q ʔ
Fricative voiceless s ʂ x ~ χ1 h
voiced v3 ð3 ɣ
Approximant j w
Lateral l ʎ
Trill ɾ3

1 /kʷ/ is realized as [qʷ] before unstressed /a/ or /e/. [x] and [χ] appear to be in free variation.

2 /tʃ/ is realized as [ʃ] in syllable codas.

3 /v/, /ð/, and /ɾ/ appear only in Spanish loanwords.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Cupeño". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Hill, Jane H. (2005-10-18). A Grammar of Cupeño. UC Publications in Linguistics. 136. University of California Press.

External links[edit]