The Phonology Laboratory

Past grant

Documentation of the Washo Language

(National Science Foundation Grant #0553675)

The Washo language, one of the most critically endangered and poorly documented of languages of North America, is now only used by a few elderly speakers who live in several townships near the California Nevada border southeast of Lake Tahoe. Washo is only minimally documented, with no comprehensive grammar or dictionary, except for William Jacobsen’s 1964 doctoral dissertation from the University of California, Berkeley, which contains mainly a phonological and morphosyntactic description of the language. The main objective of this project is a detailed study of the phonetics and phonology (at both the allophonic and morpho-phonological levels) of the Washo language since a solid understanding of the phonetics and phonology of the language is paramount to understanding the other components of the language (e.g., the morpho-syntax, syntax, and discourse). Another priority for this project is the creation of a web-accessible digital archive to make Washo data accessible to scholars and, of equal or greater importance, to the native community itself.

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