Mono language (Native American)

Mono language (Native American)
Spoken in  United States
Region  California
Native speakers 87–91 [1]  (1994)
Language family
  • Numic
    • Western Numic
      • Mono
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mnr

Mono (pronounced /ˈmoʊnoʊ/) is a Native American language of the Numic group of Uto-Aztecan languages, the ancestral language of the Mono people. Mono consists of two dialects, Eastern and Western. The name "Monachi" is commonly used in reference to Western Mono and "Owens Valley Paiute" in reference to Eastern Mono.[2] In 1925, Alfred Kroeber estimated that Mono had 3000 to 4000 speakers. Today, only about 40 elderly people speak Mono as their first language.[2] It is thus a moribund language. It is spoken in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, the Mono Basin, and the Owens Valley of central-eastern California. Mono is most closely related to Northern Paiute; these two are classified as the Western group of the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family.[2]


Western Mono

The number of Native speakers, as of 1994, ranged from 37 to 41. The majority of speakers are from the Northfork Rancheria and Auberry, California. The Big Sandy Rancheria and Dunlap, California have from 12 to 14 speakers.[1] The Northfork Mono are developing a dictionary, and both they and the Big Sandy Rancheria provide language classes. While not all are completely fluent, about 100 members of Northfork have "some command of the language."[3] In the late 1950s, Lamb compiled a dictionary and grammar of Northfork Mono.[4]

Owens Valley Paiute

In the mid-1990s, an estimated 50 people spoke the Owens Valley Paiute language.[1] Informal language classes exist and singers keep native language songs alive.[3] Linguist Sydney Lamb studied this language in the 1950s and proposed the name Paviotso for this language, but that was not widely adopted.[5]


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


  1. ^ a b c Hinton, 30
  2. ^ a b c "Mono." Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, University of California, Berkeley. 2009-2010 (retrieved 6 May 2010)
  3. ^ a b Hinton, 31
  4. ^ Miller 101
  5. ^ Miller, 98


  • Hinton, Leanne. Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1994. ISBN 0-930588-62-2.
  • Miller, Wick R. "Numic Languages." Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, Volume 11. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1986. ISBN 978-0160045813.

Further reading

  • Rosalie Bethel, Paul V. Kroskrity, Christopher Loether, and Gregory A. Reinhardt. 1993. A Dictionary of Western Mono. 2nd edition.
  • Sydney M. Lamb. 1957. Mono Grammar. University of California. Berkeley PhD dissertation.
  • Evan J. Norris. 1986. A Grammar Sketch and Comparative Study of Eastern Mono. PhD dissertation, University of California, San Diego.

External links

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