Northwest Maidu language

Northwest Maidu
Koyoom k'awi
Native toUnited States
EthnicityMaidu, Mechoopda
Native speakers
32 (2009-2013[1])[2]
  • Northwest Maidu
Language codes
ISO 639-3mjd

The Northwest Maidu language (also called Concow-Maidu, Konkow — or Koyoomk'awi, in the language itself)[4] is a part of the Maiduan language group. The word koyoo means, "meadow", with the additional 'm' being the adjective form of the word. 'Koyoo+ [m, adj.] k'awi + [m, adj.] Ma'a [tribe].' It is spoken in California. It is severely endangered, with three remaining elders who learned to speak it as a first language, one of whom is deaf.[5] As part of an effort to regain official recognition as a federally recognized tribe, an effort to provide language instruction amongst the descendants of the original tribe and affiliated family members has begun.


One source supports the claim that Northwest Maidu had at least nine dialects, designated today according to the locality in which each was spoken. These dialects were: Otaki; Mikchopdo; Cherokee; Eskeni; Pulga; Nemsu; Feather Falls; Challenge; and Bidwell Bar. Lexicon of each remains scant. In addition, there may have been many family variations within each dialect group; thus, certainly there was no one Konkow language, but Konkow means a phonologically distinct pronunciation from what is popularly defined as 'Maidu' or 'Mountain Maidu', namely in terms of stress patterns on lexicon. According to limited historical data, by the turn of the 19th century there were only four of these dialects still being spoken.

Alternate names[edit]

The name "Konkow" has been variously spelled Concow and Konkau. The language is also known as Maidu (Meidoo), Holólupai, Michopdo, Nákum, Secumne (Sekumne), Tsamak, Yuba, and the pejorative "Digger".[2]

Modern Konkow[edit]

Since 2002, a dialect which could be called "Modern Konkow," based on what is conventionally called the Cherokee dialect of Konkow, has come into limited use by some California Native Americans with cultural and familial ties to the old Konkow tribe. This dialect is primarily based on the dialect as learned by Mary Jones, one of the last speakers of Old Konkow, who learned the dialect that was spoken in the vicinity of Cherokee, California. It is being promulgated with a DVD-based course of study called "Twenty-two Lessons in the Koyoongk'awi Language".

As of 2010, .mp3 learning materials of the Mechoopda dialect were also available, based on old recordings of Emma Cooper, made during the 1940s as a part of the war effort.[6] Also based on the Emma Cooper recordings, a "Konkow Toddler" app was released for iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices in July 2012.[7]

Materials for study of the Northwest Maidu language, including the 22-lesson course mentioned above, have been made available on the website of the Konkow Maidu Cultural Preservation Association.[8]



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive plain p t k
ejective ʔ
implosive ɓ ɗ
Affricate t͡sʼ
Fricative s h
Nasal m n
Lateral l
Approximant w j

The affricate /t͡sʼ/ may also be realized as [t͡ʃ~t͡ʃʼ] allophonically.


Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid e ə o
Open a

Vowel length is also present.[9]


  1. ^ "Detailed Languages Spoken at Home and Ability to Speak English". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  2. ^ a b Northwest Maidu at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Northwest Maidu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ "Tribal History". Feather Falls Casino. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
  5. ^ Renaissance, Maidu (21 August 2007). "Konkow We'wejbo'sis Project 2007- 2011: Concow Language, Annette De Brotherton". Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  6. ^ Meridith J. Cooper (2010-09-30). "Preserving Mechoopda tradition - A young tribe member creates a learning program using old recordings of the native language". Chico News & Review. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  7. ^ "TinkR' Labs launches Konkow Toddler for iOS devices". MacMegasite. 2012-07-30. Archived from the original on 2016-04-04. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
  8. ^ "Konkow Maidu Cultural Preservation Association". Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  9. ^ Ultan, Russell (1961). Konkow Grammar. University of California, Berkely.

External links[edit]