A Grammar of Southern Pomo


A Grammar of Southern Pomo

Neil Alexander Walker

438 pages
1 illustration, 1 map, 52 tables, 2 appendixes, index


February 2021


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February 2020


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eBook (EPUB)
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March 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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February 2020


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About the Book

A Grammar of Southern Pomo is the first comprehensive description of the Southern Pomo language, which lost its last fluent speaker in 2014. Southern Pomo is one of seven Pomoan languages once spoken in the vicinity of Clear Lake and the Russian River drainage of California. Before European contact, a third of all Pomoan peoples spoke Southern Pomo, and descendants of these speakers are scattered across several present-day reservations. These descendants have recently initiated efforts to revitalize the language.

The unique culture of Southern Pomo speakers is embedded in the language in several ways. There are separate words for the many different species of oak trees and their different acorns, which were the people’s staple cuisine. The kinship system is unusually rich both semantically and morphologically, with terms marked for possession, generation, number, and case. Verbs similarly encode the ancient interactions of speakers with their land with more than a dozen directional suffixes indicating specific paths of movement.

A Grammar of Southern Pomo sheds new light on a relatively unknown Indigenous California speech community. In many instances Neil Alexander Walker discusses phenomena that are rare or entirely unattested outside the language and challenges long-standing ideas about what human speech communities can create and pass on to children and the degree to which culture and place are inextricably woven into language.

Author Bio

Neil Alexander Walker is a research fellow at James Cook University.


"A Grammar of Southern Pomo is the most extensive treatment of the language to date."—William Salmon, Native American and Indigenous Studies

“This detailed grammar of recently extinct Southern Pomo is an important contribution to our understanding of the Indigenous languages of North America and a fitting tribute to the language’s speakers and to the community in which it was once spoken.”—Bernard Comrie, Distinguished Faculty Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara

“This is a beautiful, sophisticated description of a language of extraordinary phonological and morphological complexity. The Southern Pomo language is described in a remarkably accessible way, always with attention to its cultural and historical context.”—Marianne Mithun, professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara

A Grammar of Southern Pomo is a remarkable contribution to the scholarship on Indigenous languages of California. It is full of rich, well-illustrated phenomena at every level and should be of interest to anyone concerned with American Indigenous cultures.”—Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and director of Kaipuleohone, the University of Hawai‘i Digital Language Archive

“Clearly written and well argued, this is undoubtedly a major contribution to our knowledge of Indigenous languages of North America.”—Alexandra Aikhenvald, Distinguished Professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables
List of Abbreviations
1. The Cultural, Ecological, and Sociolinguistic Context of the Language
1.1. The Name of the Language
1.2. Previous Research
1.3. Demography at Contact
1.3.1. History after Contact
1.4. The Natural Setting
1.5. Material Culture
1.6. Genetic and Areal Affiliations
1.7. Dialects
1.8. Sociolinguistic Situation
1.8.1. Viability
1.8.2. Loan Words
1.9. The Corpus
1.9.1. Consultants and Other Sources
1.9.2. Presentation of Data
2. Word Structure
2.1. Typological Sketch
2.2. Phonological Inventory and Orthography
2.2.1. Consonants
2.2.2. Vowels
2.2.3. Stress
2.3. Phonetics
2.3.1. Voicing Distinction in Obstruents
2.3.2. Phonemic Status of the Glottal Stop
2.4. Syllable Structure
2.5. Word Structure
2.6. Major Phonological and Morphophonemic Processes
2.6.1. Vowel Harmony
2.6.2. Vowel Deletion
2.6.3. Consonant Alternations
2.6.4. Consonant Assimilation and Dissimilation
2.6.5. Consonant Deletion
2.6.6. Laryngeal Increments
2.7. Relaxed Speech Rules and Contractions
2.8. Word Classes
2.8.1. Nouns
2.8.2. Pronouns
2.8.3. Verbs
2.8.4. Modifiers
2.8.5. Adverbs
2.8.6. The Auxiliary ||yo|| ~ ||=ʔyo||
2.8.7. Particles or Other Minor Word Classes
2.9. The Noun Phrase
2.9.1. Case-Marking NP Enclitics
2.9.2. Other NP Enclitics
2.9.3. Alienable and Inalienable Possession
3. Sentence Structure
3.1. Intransitives
3.2. Transitives
3.3. Ditransitives
3.4. Grammatical Relations
3.4.1. Agent/Patient Case System
3.4.2. Subject/Object Determiner Enclitics
3.5. Voice and Valence-Related Constructions
3.6. Tense/Aspect/Modality and Evidentials
3.7. Constituent Order
3.8. Negation
3.8.1. Bound Negative Morphemes (and Response Particle)
3.8.2. Words with Inherently Negative Meaning
3.9. Questions
3.10. Clause Combinations
3.10.1. Complement Clauses
3.10.2. Switch-Reference
3.10.3. Nominalized Clauses
3.10.4. Coordination
Appendix 1: 2012 Visit with Olive Fulwider and Photographs
Appendix 2: Sample Text

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