Yavapai language

Yavapai is an Upland Yuman language, spoken by Yavapai people in central and western Arizona. There are four dialects: Kwevkepaya, Wipukpaya, Tolkepaya, and Yavepe. Linguistic studies of the Kwevkepaya, Tolkepaya, Wipukepa, and Yavepe dialects have been published.
Yavapai was once spoken across much of north-central and western Arizona, but is now mostly spoken on the Yavapai reservations at Fort McDowell, the Verde Valley and Prescott.

Geographic distribution

The rate of mutual comprehension between Yavapai and Havasupai–Hualapai is similar to that between Mohave and Maricopa.
Warren Gazzam, a Tolkapaya speaker, reported that "you know they speak the same language as we do, some words or accents are a little different".
Due to extensive cultural interchange, many Yavapai were once bilingual in Apache, and some Apache were bilingual in Yavapai.
Unlike in Havasupai and Hualapai, postaspirated stops cannot appear in word-initial position.


Yavapai has a large number of consonant phonemes.
Vowels are /a/, /æ/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/.


Yavapai is a subject-verb-object language.

/-k/ and /-m/ Problem

According to Martha Kendall, the morphemes /k/ and /m/ are "semantically contrastable," but are pronounced the same. She writes that homophony is present in Yavapai, and /k/ and /m/ are similar in phonological situations, but are syntactically different.


Some sample words given in Yavapai translation:
HomeWah yoh woh
Grand CaynonMat K'i:la or Wika'ilaha
Thank you'ara'ye:km

Preservation efforts

There have been recordings of Yavapai done in 1974, relating to phonology, syntax, and grammar. This was meant to understand the three topics better and to hear them.
There is an effort to revitalize the language. There is a Yavapai language program for adults to learn the language and pass on to future generations.
There have been attempts to save the language in Yavapai community.
Poetry and stories have been published in Yavapai on several different occasions. Yavapai poems are featured in Gigyayk Vo'jka, the anthology of poetry in Yuman languages edited by Hualapai linguist Lucille Watahomigie. Yavapai stories also appear in Spirit Mountain: An Anthology of Yuman Story and Song. Both works are accompanied by English translations, and the poems in Gigyayk Vo'jka also feature a morphological analysis.
Alan Shaterian has published a dictionary of Northeastern Yavapai. Pamela Munro is working on a dictionary and grammar for Tolkepaya.