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Maricopa language

Piipaash chuukwer / Xalychidoma chuukwer
Native to USA
Region Arizona
Ethnicity 800 (2007)
Native speakers
100  (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mrc
Glottolog mari1440[2]

Maricopa is spoken by the Native American Maricopa people on two reservations in Arizona: the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian Community.


  • Grammar 1
    • Phonology 1.1
    • Stress and intonation 1.2
    • Epenthesis 1.3
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Maricopa is a subject–object–verb language, with six or seven cases. It makes no grammatical gender distinction.

David Gil reports that the Maricopa have no equivalent for and, but that they are managing quite well. The various relevant relations are solved using different linguistic structures. However, whether the absence of a lexeme constitutes a lexical gap depends not on some theory but on the shared verbal habits of the people employing the relevant conceptualization. Accordingly, it is not valid to say that speakers of Maricopa are lacking the lexeme and. Rather, it is speakers of, for example, English who would experience the lack.[3]


All claims and examples in this section come from Gordon (1986) unless otherwise noted.

Consonant inventory:

Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain rounded plain rounded
Plosive p t ʈ k q ʔ
Affricate t͡ʃ
Voiceless fricative (f) s ʂ x
Voiced fricative v ð
Nasal m n ɲ (ŋ)
Liquid l, r
Glide j w

Phonemes /f/ and /ŋ/ occur only in borrowed words, e.g. kafe "coffee" and naraŋk "orange", both borrowed from Spanish. [ŋ] also occurs as an allophone of /ɲ/.

Maricopa has a typical five-vowel system:

Front Central Back
High i, iː u, uː
Mid e, eː o, oː
Low a, aː

Vowel length is phonemic and all vowels may occur either short or long, giving ten phonemic vowels.

The following diphthongs (with the second member represented by a glide) occur. Basically, they glide from one vowel sound into another.[4] Diphthongs also all occur long and short, for example /ej/ and /eːj/ are both found.

Diphthongs are

/aj aːj ej eːj oj oːj uj uːj aw aːw ew eːw/,

as in /kwiduj/ and /maxaj/.

Stress and intonation

Stress within a word falls on the final root vowel, e.g. (roots distinguished with capitals):


Declarative sentences exhibit falling intonation toward the end of the sentence.

Interrogative sentences exhibit rising intonation toward the end of the sentence.


Epenthesis of vowels to relieve consonant clusters is a major and complicated issue in Maricopa. It is not completely understood but some general statement can be made.

Epenthetic vowels can have the quality of any other vowel as well as some reduced vowel qualities. However the form is basically predictable from the local context:

  • [ɪ]/[i] occur after palatal or alveolar consonants
  • XX before /ʔ/ the epenthetic
  • [ɪ]/[ə] occur elsewhere

Sequences of three non-syllabic consonants never surface without epenthesis. For sequences of two consonants epenthesis occurs in some cases but not always, depending on the consonants in question.

Nasals and liquids are least likely to accompany epenthesis, as they often syllabify instead, particularly in the following circumstances:

  • An initial nasal before a homorganic stop optionally becomes syllabic.
  • An initial liquid before a clitic boundary optionally becomes syllabic.
  • In /nn/ sequences, the first n syllabifies. (However, in /mm/ sequences, epenthesis occurs instead, yielding [məm].)

In most other initial two-consonant cluster, epenthesis occurs, e.g.:


Some final clusters are allowed, while others are broken up. Interestingly, the distinction seems to rest partially on the number of syllables in the word as well as the particular sequence of consonants, e.g.:


Assimilation and other phonological changes

Non-initial sequences of identical oral consonants other than /ʂ/ geminate, e.g.:


The sequence /ʂʂ/ optionally surfaces as [tʂ]. Thus /ʔiːpaʂ-ʂ/ may surface either as [ʔiːpatʂ] or [ʔiːpaʂɪʂ].

When /t͡ʃ/ follows any segment except /ʂ/ and precedes any unstressed segment, it deaffricates to /ʂ/, e.g.: /t͡ʃmɲaː-k/ surfaces as [t͡ʃɪmɪɲaːk], but /m-t͡ʃmɲaː-k/ becomes [mɪʂɪmɪɲaːk].

Optionally for less conservative speakers, /t͡ʃ/ surfaces as /ʂ/ before any non-stressed segment other than /s/.

Unstressed high vowels optionally lower to the corresponding mid vowel.

[u] is inserted betwneen a rounded consonant and a round or labial consonant. A rounded consonant optionally delabializes before any other consonant.

/ɲ/ assimilates to [ŋ] before a velar or post-velar consonant. After a morpheme boundary, [ŋ] is preceded by [ɪ].

Between a back vowel and any following vowel, [w] is inserted, e.g.:


Between a front vowel and a back round vowel, /j/ is inserted, e.g.:



  1. ^ Maricopa at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Maricopa". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Gil (1991)
  4. ^ OPLP, 2012


  • Gil, David (1991). "Aristotle goes to Arizona, and finds a language without 'and'". In Zaefferer, D. Semantic universals and universal semantics. Berlin: Foris. pp. 96–130. 
  • Gordon, Lynn (1986). Maricopa Morphology and Syntax. Berkeley: University of California Press. 

External links

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