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date: 25 March 2017

Hokan Languages

Summary and Keywords

Hokan is a linguistic stock or phylum based on a series of hypotheses about deeper genetic relationships among languages that extend geographically from Northern California to Nicaragua. Following the general effort to genetically link the vast number of Native American languages and to reduce them to a few superstocks, Dixon and Kroeber first proposed the Hokan stock in 1913, to include several California indigenous languages: Karuk, Chimariko, Shastan, Palaihnihan (Atsugewi and Achumawi), Pomoan, Yana, and later Esselen and Yuman. The name Hokan stems from the Atsugewi word for “two”: hoqi. While the first proposals by Dixon and Kroeber rested on very limited cognate sets comprising only five words, later assessments by Sapir included hundreds of putative cognate sets and analyses of Hokan morphosyntax. By 1925, Sapir further included Washo, Salinan, Seri, Chumashan, Tequistlatecan, and Subtiaba-Tlapanec as the Southern Hokan branch into the stock.

Throughout the 20th century, scholars sought additional evidence for the stock as more and refined data on the languages became available. A number of languages were added, and earlier proposals were abandoned. A new surge in work on individual California indigenous languages in the 1950s and 1960s prompted a string of studies conducting binary comparisons. This renewed interest inspired a series of Hokan conferences held until the 1990s. A more recent comprehensive assessment of the entire stock was undertaken by Kaufman in 1988. Applying rigorous analysis and only implicating those languages for which he encountered substantial evidence, Kaufman proposes sixteen classificatory units for Hokan clustered geographically. Kaufman’s Hokan stock also includes Coahuilteco and Comecrudan in Mexico and Jicaque in Nicaragua.

Although Hokan was widely studied in the 20th century, and many scholars presented what they thought to be supporting evidence, it is far from being an established genetic unit. In fact, many scholars today treat it with a lot of skepticism. One major challenge, as with any phylum-level affiliation, is its time depth. Proto-Hokan is thought to be at least as antique as Proto-Indo-European. Moreover, many of the languages were spoken in geographically contiguous areas, with speakers being multilingual and in close contact for an extended period of time, as is the case in Northern California. This suggests considerable language contact effects and complicates the distinction between true cognates and ancient borrowings. Many of the languages involved further show similarities in grammatical structure as a result of language contact.

Hokan languages stretch across California, Nevada, South Texas, various parts of Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua and display notable structural differences. Phonologically, the languages show great variation including small and large phoneme inventories and different phonological processes. Typologically, they are equally diverse, but many are considered polysynthetic to varying degrees. Morphosyntactic and grammatical similarities are evident especially among languages spoken in Northern California. These resemblances include sets of lexical affixes with similar meanings and affinities in core argument patterns.

Keywords: Hokan, linguistic stock, phylum, language family, binary comparison, genetic relationship, California Indian languages, polysynthesis, instrumental affixes, directional affixes

1. Introduction

Hokan is a linguistic stock that rests upon proposals for deeper genetic relationships among a number of Native American language families and isolates. It is thus not a language family where genetic relationships among sister languages can be easily demonstrated once the evidence has been examined. Rather, a linguistic stock or phylum refers to a group of language families linked through data that is less evident or more difficult to compile given the greater time depth involved. Naturally, proposed distant genetic relationships, such as Hokan, tend to provoke scholarly debate and often lead to later re-assessments.

Since the 19th century scholars have attempted to classify Native American languages into families, but great linguistic diversity and many gaps in information and data have proven this task to be quite challenging. Powell’s (1891) early classification into 58 independent families, essentially resting upon sketchy vocabulary resemblances, led the way to future developments. Following this effort to reduce the vast number of Native American languages into a few language families and phyla, Dixon and Kroeber (1913a, b) first proposed the Hokan stock in the early 20th century genetically linking a number of Northern California indigenous languages. They named the phylum-level family “Hokan,” based on hoqi, the word for “two” in Atsugewi, one of the languages involved. The original languages comprised in the stock were Shastan, Chimariko, Pomoan, Karuk, Yana, and Palaihnihan (Achumawi and Atsugewi), the latter having been linked earlier to Shasta (Dixon, 1905), as well as Esselen and Yuman (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913b). Over the next decade both Dixon and Kroeber (1919) and Sapir (1917a, b, 1921) expanded the list of languages extending geographically from North to Central America. Most detailed were the explorations presented by Sapir (1917a, b, 1925). Later, lumping even more language families together, Sapir (1929) grouped all North and Central American indigenous languages into six superstocks (Eskimo-Aleut, Algonkin-Wakashan, Nadene, Penutian, Hokan-Siouna, Aztec-Tanoan), further connecting Hokan to Siouan. Subsequent proposals (Bright, 1954; Greenberg & Swadesh, 1953; Kaufman, 1988) generally added other languages to the Hokan stock and provided multi-language comparisons.

The initial Hokan proposals were developed at a time when data on many of the languages involved was limited. It is thus not surprising that Dixon and Kroeber’s first hypotheses were established on the basis of only five presumed cognate sets featuring words for “tongue,” “water,” “eye,” “stone,” and “sleep.” Sapir (1917a, 1925) later found presumed evidence for the stock in several hundred potential cognate sets and in the morphosyntactic structure of verbs. While some of the Hokan proposals withstood the test of time, others were later abandoned upon re‑evaluation of newly available data. These unlikely relatives include Chumash, Subtiaba-Tlapanec, Karankawa, Tonkawa, and Yurumanguí. Sapir’s bold classification of all North and Central American languages into six superstocks was equally refuted. While some of the relationships seemed plausible, now, with further documentation and analyses of the languages involved, the validity of the entire stock remains under much discussion and scrutiny. Problematic are not only the antiquity of the grouping, as Proto-Hokan would be on a par with Proto-Indo-European, but also the fact that many of the putative Hokan languages have been in close contact for centuries prior to documentation. This makes it very difficult to distinguish cognate forms and grammatical features from ancient borrowings. Some, if not many, of the similarities could be the result of prolonged contact (Mithun, 2010, 2012).

The Hokan stock, although not considered to be a fully established genetic unit by many scholars, has yielded fruitful discussions and stimulated many explorations into the historical relationships of the languages involved. During the 1950s and 1960s, a number of scholars working on particular Hokan languages began a tradition of binary comparisons as new and refined data on some of the languages became available (Crawford, 1976; Haas, 1963, 1964; McLendon, 1964; Olmsted, 1956, 1957, 1959; Silver, 1964, 1976, among others). In the late 1960s, new interest in the stock, inspired by Margaret Langdon, a scholar of Yuman languages, led to a series of meetings termed the “Hokan Conference.” The meetings continued for the following two decades until the 1990s, later transforming into the “Hokan-Penutian Workshops.” At present, Karuk, Chimariko, Shastan, Palaihnihan, Yana, Pomoan, Esselen, Yuman, Cochimí, Washo, Salinan, and Seri are considered feasible members of the Hokan phylum, while Tequistlatecan, Coahuiltecan, and Jicaque are regarded as possible candidates. The first six languages are further sub-grouped into Northern Hokan.

Typologically, Hokan languages show substantial structural differences in grammar and phoneme inventories. Nevertheless, most are considered to be polysynthetic to varying degrees, and some display interesting grammatical similarities. This is particularly the case for Northern Hokan languages that bear resemblance in the coding of grammatical relations and in the patterns of verbal compounding and lexical affixation. Typologically rare features, such as grammatical systems based on agent-patient distinctions or person hierarchies, appear in several of these languages. The languages further share similar patterns of noun incorporation and a verb‑initial encoding of means and manner, classified either as instrumental prefixes or as the initial element in a bipartite verb stem, and a verb-final encoding of direction and location, similarly classified either as locative/directional suffixes or as the second segment in a bipartite stem. Except for Pomoan, Northern Hokan languages were all spoken in a geographically contiguous area in Northern California. This suggests that these similarities possibly originated from language contact rather than from genetic inheritance (Mithun, 2010, 2012). Whether the observed similarities among Hokan languages are traced to language contact or to genetic affiliation, the comparative study of these languages is yielding interesting discussions and prompting important debate about the nature and study of distant genetic relationships.

2. Hokan Proposals

2.1 Setting the Stage

A major starting point for the classification of Native American languages was Powell’s (1891) division into 58 language families, out of which 22 were spoken in California. While his account was based solely on lexical comparisons and established at a time when data on the languages was scarce and poor in quality, most of his classificatory units are still widely accepted today. About a decade later, Alfred Kroeber and Roland Dixon began to tackle the linguistic diversity present in California and produced a number of grammatical sketches. After a decade of descriptive and comparative work, they became the original and most prominent proponents of Hokan and gave the stock its name (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913a, 1913b). Their classification was supposedly established on grammatical and lexical evidence, but they only presented five presumed cognate sets out of the two hundred stems they claimed to have examined. A few years later, they added several languages using the same method which consisted of comparing a few hundred lexical items “on which material was most likely to be accessible in reasonably accurate and comparable form” (Dixon & Kroeber, 1919, p. 49). In addition, Kroeber (1915) established a genetic affiliation between Hokan and Seri and Tequistlatecan. By the end of the decade the Hokan stock extended from Northern California to Southern Mexico.

Table 1. Hokan Languages by 1919

1. Karuk (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913a, b)

2. Chimariko (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913a, b)

3. Shastan (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913a, b)

4. Pomoan (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913a, b)

5. Yana (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913a, b)

6. Esselen (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913b)

7. Yuman (Dixon & Kroeber, 1913b)

8. Palaihnihan (Achumawi, Atsugewi) (see Dixon, 1905)

9. Seri (see Kroeber, 1915)

10. Tequistlatecan (Chontal) (see Kroeber, 1915)

11. Chumash (Sapir, 1917a; Dixon & Kroeber, 1919)

12. Salinan (Sapir, 1917a; Dixon & Kroeber, 1919)

13. Washo (Sapir, 1917b; Dixon & Kroeber, 1919)

Note: For a more detailed account on how the different relationships were assembled see Poser (1995).

The first, more detailed analyses of the stock were conducted by Sapir, who published almost two hundred cognate sets in 1917 (Sapir, 1917a), including a cognate set for the words for “two” that gave the stock its name. In addition, Sapir proposed common morphosyntactic features for Hokan nominal and verbal stems that would have initial vowels preceded by single-consonant grammatical prefixes. In 1925, Sapir further linked Hokan to Coahuiltecan (spoken in southern Texas) and included Subtiaba (spoken in Nicaragua) and Tlapanec (spoken in Mexico) into the stock. Most notably, in his effort to classify all Native American languages into a few superstocks, Sapir (1929) postulated a Hokan-Siouan affiliation and created subdivisions within the Hokan stock (1925).

Table 2. Hokan-Coahuiltecan in 1925

I. Hokan proper

Northern Hokan

Karuk, Chimariko, Shasta-Achomawi

Yana

Pomoan

Washo

Esselen, Yuman

Salinan, Chumash, Seri

Tequistlatecan (Chontal)

II. Subtiaba and Tlapanec

III. Coahuiltecan: Tonkawa, Coahuilteco-Cotoname-Comecrudo, Karankawa

Note: Adapted from Sapir (1925, p. 525).

While the superstocks were never widely accepted, Sapir’s claims for the “Hokan proper” relationships remain influential.

2.2 Later Treatments

Later proposals provided further supporting correspondence sets, abandoned earlier hypotheses upon re-evaluation of the data, or included additional languages into the stock. Greenberg and Swadesh (1953) added Jicaque, spoken in Honduras, based on scarce data. During the 1940s and 1950s, more descriptive data accumulated on many of the languages involved, allowing for new analyses of the genetic affiliations. A renewed interest in the stock emerged in the 1960s, when Margaret Langdon, a scholar of Yuman languages, initiated a series of conference meetings dedicated to Hokan. The “Hokan Conference” meetings continued to be held for two decades and yielded several proceedings (Redden, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992). The later meetings were held concurrently with the Penutian workshops, another linguistic stock. At the onset of the conferences, a number of scholars working on Northern California indigenous languages were inspired by the existence of new and improved data and engaged in a series of binary comparisons in an effort to find additional supporting evidence for individual Hokan affiliations (Crawford, 1976; Haas, 1963, 1964; Olmsted, 1956, 1957, 1959; Silver, 1964, 1976, and others). The tradition later extended beyond Hokan languages spoken in Northern California (Turner, 1967; Waterhouse, 1976, among others). Most of the binary comparisons concluded that the compared languages are in fact related.

2.3 Recent Assessments

More recently, various scholars engaged in comprehensive comparisons across the Hokan languages. Such work was undertaken by Gursky and Kaufman. Gursky (1974) presents over 700 correspondence sets involving Hokan languages in an effort to prove the validity of the genetic unit, later adding additional sets and corrections to his data (Gursky, 1988, 1989, 1990). Although Gursky includes the most recent data available on the languages and introduces new sets, he ignores any geographical implications and does not distinguish observed similarities between neighboring languages from those between geographically distant languages. Kaufman (1988) takes on a more conservative view and examines Hokan phonologies, sound correspondences, and grammatical morphenes in an attempt to re-construct Proto-Hokan. He proposes the following classification, listing Esselen, Jicaque, and Coahuilteco as likely members of the stock.

Table 3. Hokan Classification

Sonoma

1. Pomoan

Northern California

2. Chimariko

3. Yana

4. Karuk

5. Shastan

6. Achumawi/Atsugewi

Great Basin

7. Washo

California Coast

8. Esselen (likely)

9. Salinan

Southwest

10. Yuman

11. Cochimí

12. Seri

Coahuila

13. Coahuiltecan (likely)

14. Comecrudan

Oaxaca

15. Chontal (Tequistlatecan)

Honduras

16. Jicaque (Tol) (likely)

Note: Adapted from Kaufman (1988).

A number of languages previously proposed to be members of Hokan are considered by Kaufman to be “of doubtful Hokan affiliation” (1988, p. 56). These include Chumashan, Waikuri, Tonkawa, Karankawa, Cotoname, Quinigua, and Yurimangui. Kaufman’s study results in a detailed summary of phonological correspondences and a substantial list of grammatical and lexical etymologies. However, the source forms are not presented in the article and, therefore, his claims cannot be assessed. In a more recent re-assessment of previous work, Campbell (1997) takes a less optimistic view on Hokan, questioning the existence of a Proto-Hokan language “from which some or most of the putative Hokan languages diverged long ago” (1997, p. 295). While many scholars today approach Hokan with a lot of skepticism and do not consider it to be an established genetic unit, the hypotheses have had a great impact on the field since the stock was first proposed in 1913 and have inspired significant explorations into the historical relationships among the languages in question. Even though some of the previously poorly documented languages now have rich data sets available, little progress has been made on establishing the validity of proposed relationships.

3. Searching for the Evidence

There are three major challenges in finding supporting evidence for a Hokan stock: (a) the distinction between language contact features and true cognates; (b) the limited and sometimes unreliable data available for the languages involved; and (c) the antiquity of the proposed genetic unit.

3.1 Geographic Considerations

One of the main difficulties in establishing conclusive evidence for the phylum-level affiliations is the fact that a number of the languages involved were spoken in a geographically contiguous and well-established linguistic area. Northern California has long been recognized as one of the linguistic areas within the California culture area (Sherzer, 1976). The speakers of the putative Hokan languages from that region (i.e., Chimariko, Yana, Karuk, Shastan, Achumawi, and Atsugewi) were all living in close proximity forming a continuous stretch of land. The members of these mostly small tribelets were in close contact with neighboring communities through trade and intermarriage. The use of a particular language was intimately connected to the land in that language choice depended on geographic location. As Golla (2011, p. 4) notes, “the etiquette strictly required speaking the language of the hosts, since that was the language that ‘belonged’ there.” As a result, multilingualism was widespread. Men spoke multiple languages for trading purposes, while women were fluent in several languages through intermarriage. It can be expected that such extended multilingualism and intimate contact between neighboring tribes led to lexical and grammatical convergence. This significantly complicates the distinction between true cognate forms and lexical or grammatical borrowings. In fact, several scholars observed areal diffusion of grammatical features including reduplication, patterns of pronominal affixation, instrumental affixes, and locative-directional affixes (Bright, 1973; Haas, 1976; Mithun, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012). It is thus problematic that these same features have been listed as diagnostic and characteristic of Hokan affiliation and have been presented as evidence for genetic affinity.

Mithun (2007, 2008, 2010, 2012) examines grammatical marking and lexical affixation in several of the languages in question and shows how speakers did not directly borrow the actual forms from neighboring languages. Rather, they transferred “patterns of expression, tendencies to specify particular distinctions especially often and to exploit existing constructions, compounds, for these purposes” (2007, p. 164), thus increasing the frequency of use of particular grammatical structures. Others (Golla, 2011, O’Neill, 2008) maintain that both the lexicon and grammar of California indigenous languages are unaffected by the long-standing and intimate language contact. O’Neill (2008) suggests that the languages have retained their distinctive lexicons and grammars “as a marker of in-group identity within a village setting” (p. 289).

Precisely the persistent linguistic diversity, yet close and prolonged contact present in California continues to produce an interest in the study of these languages. California’s linguistic diversity, already reflected in Powell’s (1891) classification, was one of the main motivations for proposing the Hokan stock. With limited and phonologically flawed data in hand, Dixon and Kroeber searched for lexical similarities among California and other Native American languages to conflate Powell’s language families into a few stocks. They grouped most of the California indigenous languages into two stocks, Penutian and Hokan, both names based on the respective words for “two” in the affiliated languages.

3.2 Available Data

The great linguistic diversity in California, together with the vanishing linguistic vitality for many of the languages suggested to be Hokan, posed a major challenge for language documentation efforts. Early descriptions were often based on little data, sometimes from semifluent speakers. In addition to being limited, the data on many of the putative Hokan languages was phonologically flawed at the time the first Hokan hypotheses were established. This is illustrated by Chimariko, one of the presumed Northern California Hokan languages. Dixon (1910, p. 308), also one of the two first proponents of the Hokan stock, postulated a set of phonemes for Chimariko that was incorrect and incomplete, compared to later treatments of the language, which were based on more careful documentation by J. P. Harrington.

Table 4. The Phonemes of Chimariko

IPA

Dixon (1910)

Jany (2009)

p, p’, pʰ, b

p, -*, p‘, b

p, p’, pʰ, -

t, t’, tʰ, d

t, -, t‘, d

t, t’, tʰ, -

ʈ, ʈ’, ʈʰ

tr, -, -

ṭ, ṭ’, ṭʰ

k, k’, kʰ, g

k, -, k‘, g

k, k’, kʰ, -

q, q’, qʰ

q, -, q‘

q, q’, qʰ

ʔ

ˀ

ʦ, ʦ’, ʦʰ

ts, -, -

c, c’, cʰ

ʧ, ʧ’, ʧʰ, ʤ

tc, -, tc‘, dj

č, č’, čʰ, -

s, ʃ

s, c

s, š

x, χ‎, h

x, x/r, h

x, x̣, h

l, j, w

l, y, w

l, y, w

n, m

n, m

n, m

θ‎

θ‎

-

(*) Indicates that a particular sound is not included in that source.

Note: Adapted from Jany (2009).

As illustrated in Table 4, Dixon (1910) does not distinguish a separate set of glottalized stops and affricates, while proposing a phonemic voicing distinction for stops. Jany (2009) provides evidence for the separate glottalized set in the form of minimal pairs and shows that the voicing distinction is purely allophonic. During the early 20th century, many of the scholars engaged in the documentation of Native American languages were anthropologists and not trained linguists or phoneticians. This, and the general unfamiliarity with some of the phonemic distinctions present in these languages, led to phonologically inaccurate descriptions. Given that sound correspondences and regular sound changes observable in cognate sets are the key elements to establishing a genetic affiliation, acting on the assumption of misconceived phoneme distinctions yields questionable results. This changed in the middle of the 20th century, with more accurately documented phonological data resulting from a number of doctoral dissertations, mostly coming out of the University of California at Berkeley. The availability of these new and refined data sets sparked a number of binary comparisons, often conducted by a scholar who had engaged in the description of one of the languages involved. Therefore, the outcomes of these comparisons, most of which stated that the languages in question were in fact related, were generally accepted. The method itself, however—to apply a binary approach to determine genetic affinity—has been criticized by Greenberg (1987) and Ruhlen (1987), who claim that multilateral comparison is more fruitful for Hokan. Poser (1995) exposes this controversy and maintains that the Hokan classifications have not suffered from the binary approach. One of the challenges for scholars engaging in multi-language examinations includes choosing the most accurate sources. For some languages, only very little data is available. For instance, Esselen, Comecrudo, and Cochimí are all poorly documented (although see Mixco, 1978 and 1979 for Chochimí). Moreover, the fact that many of the languages involved in the Hokan hypotheses have no speakers or no fluent speakers left, makes it difficult to collect additional data or to conduct tests.

3.3 Antiquity

One of the major issues with the Hokan hypotheses has been the antiquity of the stock. To establish distant genetic relationships, the same methods from historical linguistics are applied as with recent splits from a mother language. These include lexical comparison of cognate forms, identification of sound correspondences, and inclusion of grammatical evidence, among others. The first challenge consists of finding true cognate forms, i.e., those that are not the result of chance similarities or language contact. The greater the time depth, the more difficult this task becomes, as sister languages have diverged to a greater extent, and it is more challenging to find genuine cognate forms. The time depth of Hokan is estimated to be about six to eight thousand years (Golla, 2011, p. 242). It is thus not surprising that many of the scholars seeking evidence for the Hokan phylum have only been able to assemble limited sets of cognate forms in binary comparisons and even fewer sets across all languages. Golla discusses the Hokan affiliations in light of archaeological findings and California’s prehistory (Golla, 2011).

4. Linguistic Features of Hokan Languages

Overall, the languages proposed to be members of the Hokan stock show significant structural differences with respect to their phonological and morphosyntactic structures. Nevertheless, a number of similarities can be observed for some of the languages involved. Such resemblances may be due to language convergence or genetic inheritance.

4.1 Sound Systems and Syllable Structure

Across the putative Hokan languages phonological inventories are very diverse, ranging from small-sized to larger ones. For instance, while Karuk has only 16 consonantal phonemes (Bright, 1957, pp. 7–27), and Achumawi 17 (Olmsted, 1966, pp. 9–10), Chimariko shows 33 phonemic contrasts in the consonants (Jany, 2009, p. 15). Some languages include a voicing distinction for their plosives (Yana, Washo), while others do not (Chimariko, Shasta, Karuk, Pomoan). A number of languages feature ejective/glottalized consonants (Chimariko, Yana, Washo, Pomoan) and/or aspirated consonants (Chimariko, Pomoan), while some languages exhibit phonemic palatalization (Yuman), and yet others phonemic labialization (Comecrudo, Coahuilteco, Seri, Chontal). Uvular and postvelar obstruents occur in several of the languages (Achumawi, Pomoan, Chimariko, Seri). The fricative and resonant series are equally diverse. Fricative sets range from three to seven or more phonemic contrasts including: f, s, š, x, x̣, h, among others. Resonants comprise nasals and approximants, some voiceless as in Pomoan and Washo. Palatazlied resonants occur in Yuman. Gemination is present in some languages (Karuk) and absent in others. While the complexity of the consonantal phoneme inventories and the phonemic distinctions varies considerably across the languages, vowel sets are fairly simple and more consistent. Most languages show four to six phonemic vowel distinctions, with some including ɨ. Kaufman (1988, p. 75) postulates the following “common core” phonemes for Hokan languages: p, t, c, k, ʔ, p’, t’, c’, k’, s, š, x, h, m, n, l, w, y, i, u, e, o, a.

Many of the putative languages exhibit consonant symbolism and vocalic ablaut (Mithun, 1994). Consonant symbolism refers to shifts in sounds being associated with a particular meaning, such as a diminutive. It occurs in Yuman, Yana, and Karuk. Vocalic ablaut corresponds to recurrent phonological stem alternations according to morphological context. This is present in Shastan, Yuman, and Yana. Hokan syllable structure is similarly variable. Some languages allow onset-less syllables, while others do not. Complexity in onsets and codas also differs across the languages. Kaufman (1988) proposes a Proto-Hokan word to range from one to three syllables.

4.2 Polysynthesis to Varying Degrees

Typologically, Hokan languages are, for the most part, agglutinative, creating lexical items through easily identifiable affixation and compounding. Polysynthesis is present to varying degrees and manifested through head marking, lexical affixation, and verbal compounding.

4.2.1 Grammatical Relations

Many Hokan languages show head marking and allow for holophrasis, which is a key feature in polysynthesis. The Northern Hokan languages, for instance, all feature head marking, except for Pomoan. In terms of alignment, several Hokan languages display a nominative-accusative pattern (Yana, Pomoan, Seri, Yuman). Others follow an agent/patient system (Pomoan, Chimariko).

(1) Pomoan agent/patient pronominal system (Mithun, 2008, pp. 306–307)

a.

Agent marking

b.

Patient marking

ˀa:

ˀel

bé-č-’

ṱo:

ˀ=mú:ṱu

ˀ-yá:q-an

1sg.agt

water the

hold-incept-pfv

1sg.pat

cop=3.pat

mentally-know-ipfv

‘I picked up water.’

‘I remember her.’

(2) Pomoan agent/patient case marking (Walker, 2012, pp. 359–360)

a.

Agentive case enclitic

kʰáˀbekʰáčʰ=yey

do:lon

čoh:on-Ø

raptor.species=a

bobcat

marry-pfv

‘Fish Hawk married Wildcat.’

b.

Patient case enclitic

hamini(:)-ba

kʰaˀbé=yčon

sí:ma

mí:ṱi-w

and.then-s.seq

rock=pat

sleep

lie-pfv

‘Having done so, Rock [Man] went to sleep.’

Each grammatical system, however, is unique and shows a one-of-a-kind cluster of features. In the head-marked languages, either one or two core arguments are overtly expressed on the predicate through affixation. In Northern Hokan, Yana, Karuk, Shastan, and for the most part in Chimariko feature only one core argument on the predicate. The selection of the overtly expressed argument follows a hierarchy based on person, number, and topicality. The rankings as well as the strategies employed to deal with violations of the hierarchy vary from language to language. For instance, in Yana first and second person outrank third without considering number, while Karuk features the following hierarchy: 2pl > 1 > 2sg > 3. Violations of the hierarchy are mitigated through obligatory passivization in Yana; for example, in instances where a third person acts on a first or second (“he hit me” or “he hit you”), a passive construction is used (“I was hit” or “you were hit”). In Karuk, on the other hand, an inverse marker is added to the verb, indicating that the action is not going in the expected direction.

(3) Hierarchical system in Yana

a.

3sg > 2 sg = 2 sg (Sapir, 1923, p. 277)

b.

2sg > 1 sg = 1sg (Sapir, 1910, p. 184)

ībaak’áp-si-wa-ˀnu

tʰípk’u-wà:-č

pull.up-tam-pass-2sg

say-pass-1sg

‘He will pull you up.’

‘You say to me.’

(4) Yana obligatory passivization if hierarchy is violated

a.

1sg > 3sg = 1sg (Bright, 1957, p. 147)

b.

3sg > 1sg = 1sg + -wa (Bright, 1957, p. 147)

hoxpadablaucui-si-ndža

baxpaadablaucui-si-wa-ndža

hit.in.the.eye-tam-1sg

hit.in.the.eye-tam-pass-1sg

‘I hit him in the eye.’

‘He hit me in the eye.’

(5) Karuk hierarchical system and inverse (a–c: Macaulay, 1992, p. 185; d: Bright, 1957, p. 63)

a.

1sg > 3 = 1sg

b.

1sg > 2sg = 1sg

karuk

xás

ni-mah

pu=kín-čúphi-uniš-aviš-ara

upriver

then

1sg.a-see

neg=1sg.a.neg-talk-to-fut-neg

‘I saw it when I was upriver.’

‘I will not speak to you.’

c.

2sg > 1pl = 2sg

d.

1sg > 2pl = 2pl

ˀiim pú‎=kín -ˀa·ku-tih-ap‎

pu=ki·k‎-tapkû·pu-tih-ap‎

2sg neg=2sg.neg-hit-dur-inv

neg=2pl.neg-like-dur-inv

‘You’re not hitting us.’

‘I don’t like you all.’

In some Hokan languages, pronominal affixes on the predicate encode more than just person and number. Achumawi presents portmanteau prefixes and prefix-suffix combinations, simultaneously encoding person (subject or subject‑object combinations), number, and mood. Similarly, Shastan portmanteau prefixes encode modality, number, tense in the declarative mode, and subject person.

(6) Achumawi grammatical marking: prefix-suffix combinations

Prefix-suffix combinations h-…-má, k-…-tskà (Angulo & Freeland, 1930, p. 90)

a.

h-ám˙-î˙-má

b.

k-ám˙-î˙-tská

1pl.incl.ind-eat-v-1pl.incl.ind

3/2- eat-v-3/2

‘We eat’

‘He ate you’

[V= inflectional stem-final vowel, varies according to person, mood, conjugational class]

(7) Shasta grammatical marking: portmanteau prefixes (Silver, 1966, pp. 116–117)

a.

Hortative

b.

Volitional

c.

Potential

tá-hu˙sáˀ

t’á-hu˙sáˀ

s-áhu˙sáˀ

1.sg.hort-talk

1.sg-talk

1.u-talk

‘Let me talk!’

‘I will talk’

‘I might talk’

The fine-grained distinctions made in each grammatical system, and the strategies used to ensure that core participants in a clause can be identified, are different in each language, but many occur in more than one language, which suggests contact-induced grammaticalization processes (Mithun, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012). Similar observations can be made for certain sets of lexical affixes and compounding patterns.

4.2.2 Lexical Affixes and Compounding Patterns

A number of Hokan languages exhibit a similar pattern of expression, whereby they encode means and manner verb-initially and direction and location verb-finally. This occurs either via affixation (e.g., instrumental prefixes and locative/directional suffixes) or a type of union leading to a bipartite stem. Bipartite stem structures represent an intermediate level between compounding and affixing whereby “two interdependent elements of roughly equal lexical status fuse in a polysynthetic unit” (Golla, 2011, p. 216). Whether a form is considered an affix or a root-like element in a bipartite stem structure depends on the availability of independent nominal forms, concreteness of meaning, number of different affixes encoding means/manner and direction/location, and obligatoriness of co-occurrence. Instrumental prefixes are observed in Pomoan, Chimariko, and Palaihnihan, while Karuk and Yana express similar semantic content in the first piece of a bipartite stem.

(8) Instrumental prefix pʰi·‎- “divide by piercing” in Eastern Pomo (McLendon, 1975, p. 51)

pʰi·d‎ákʰ

‘break open with an axe’

pʰi·dí·l

‘cutting weeds out of garden hoe without disturbing roots’

pʰi·qó·

‘recognize through sight’

pʰi·t’elqa

‘join two things together with spike’

(9) Bipartite stem structure in Yana: means and manner primary stems (Hinton, 1987, p. 8)

lai-

‘hard round object lies’

lui-

‘hit with rock, hard round object’

po-

‘handle hard round object’

pi-

‘rocks lie’

mi-

‘wood lies’

me-

‘handle wood’

mil-

‘hit with wood’

ho-

‘do with long object, stick’

cu-

‘long object moves, is handled’

Similarly, the same Hokan languages feature rich sets of directional and locative content verb‑finally.

(10) Karuk riverine directional suffixes (Bright, 1957, p. 95)

-rupu

‘hence downriverward’

-ra·

‘hither from downriver’

-rô·vu

‘hence upriverward’

-várak

‘hither from upriver’

-kaθ‎

‘hence across a body of water’

-rina

‘hither from across a body of water’

(11) Central Pomo directional suffixes (Mithun, 2010, p. 687)

čá-w

‘run (one)’

čá-:la-w

‘run down’

čá-:qač

‘run up (as up a hill)’

čá- č’

‘run away’

čá-way

‘run against hither, as when a whirlwind came up to you’

čá-:’w-an

‘run around here and there’

čá-mli-w

‘run around it (a tree, rock, house, pole, etc)’

čá-mač’

‘run northward’

čá-:q’

‘run by, over (along on the level), southward’

čá-m

‘run over, on, across (as bridge)’

Noun incorporation is also present in several Hokan languages, with varying degrees of productivity. It represents a special kind of compounding pattern, whereby a nominal and a verbal stem together to form a new verb stem. This occurs, for instance, in Yana and Chimariko.

(12) Yana noun incorporation (Sapir, 1911, pp. 268–269)

a.

k’úru-wawi-si-ndja

b.

mic’-áu-gumma-nˀt‘

want-house-pres-1sg

have-fire-truly-pst

‘I wish to have a home’

‘they had fire indeed’

(13) Chimariko noun incorporation (Jany, 2009, p. 127)

h-iṭa-wiˀmu-t

h-ičʰe-mta

h-iṭa-mtu

3-hand-take-asp

3-say-prog

3-hand-inst

‘He took his hand telling him (to go home), he led him by the hand’

The patterns of lexical affixation and compounding represent different stages in the grammaticalization process, from independent word to lexical affix, as well as different outcomes. As with the grammatical relations systems, Mithun (2007) shows how these patterns could have spread through language contact and crystallized from frequently occurring expressions.

Several Hokan languages also feature a system of evidential markers. Such forms indicate the source and reliability of the information being expressed. For instance, Pomoan, Washo, and Chimariko feature evidential affixes.

(14) Evidentials in Central Pomo (Mithun, 1999, p. 181)

čʰé mul=ˀma

‘it rained’ (That’s an established fact)

čʰé mul=ya

‘it rained’ (I know because I was there and saw it)

čʰé mul=ˀdo•

‘it rained’ (I was told)

čʰé mul=nme•

‘it rained’ (I heard the drops on the roof)

čʰé mul=ˀka

‘it rained’ (Everything is wet)

4.3 Word Order and Switch Reference

Sentential and clausal word order in Hokan languages is for the most part verb-final (SOV), with some adjustments for pragmatic reasons. Salinan and Chontal show verb-initial word order. A number of Hokan languages, such as Pomoan, Washo, and Salinan exhibit switch‑reference. Switch-reference is an inflectional category signaling whether or not the subject of a predicate is identical to the subject of another predicate. In Central Pomo, for instance, a set of forms is used to “link actions or states that are portrayed as components of a single event, usually sharing core arguments” (Mithun, 1994, p. 1590). In Washo, a suffix –gi or –ge is added to the subordinate clause to express whether that clause functions as the subject or object of the main clause (Mithun, 1999, p. 269). Similarly, in Southern Pomo switch-reference suffixes mark clauses as dependent upon a single main verb, or they mark dependent verbs as having the same or a different subject as the main verb (Walker, 2012, pp. 440–441).

Further Reading

Bright, W. (1954). Some Northern Hokan relationships: A premilinary report. In C. D. Chrétien, M. S. Beeler, M. B. Emmenau, & M. R. Haas (Eds.), Papers from the symposium on American Indian linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Find this resource:

Campbell, L. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Golla, V. (2011). California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.Find this resource:

Gursky, K.-H. (1974). Der Hoka-Sprachstamm: Eine Best&saufnahme des lexikalischen Beweismaterials. Orbis, 23, 170–215.Find this resource:

Jackobsen, W. H. Jr. (1979). Hokan inter-branch comparisons. In L. Campbell & M. Mithun (Eds.), The languages of Native America: Historical and comparative assessment (pp. 545–591). Austin: University of Texas Press.Find this resource:

Jany, C. (2013). Hokan Languages. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Linguistics. Mark Aronoff, (Ed.). Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Kaufman, T. (1988). A research program for reconstructing Proto-Hokan: First gropings. In S. DeLancey (Ed.), Papers from the 1988 Hokan-Penutian Languages Workshop (pp. 50–168). Eugene: University of Oregon Papers in Linguistics.Find this resource:

Langdon, M. (1974). Comparative Hokan-Cohuiltecan studies: A survey and appraisal. The Hague: Mouton.Find this resource:

Mithun, M. (1994). Hokan languages. In R. E. Asher (Ed.), The encyclopedia of language and linguistics (pp. 1588–1590). Oxford: Pergamon.Find this resource:

Mithun, M. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

Sapir, E. (1929). Central and North American Indian languages. Encyclopedia Britannica (14th ed., Vol. 5., pp. 138–141). London: Encyclopedia Britannica.Find this resource:

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