Purisimeño Project

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Purisimeño is a Chumash language of coastal California. It was spoken starting roughly halfway between modern-day Isla Vista and Point Conception (going west) and as far north as Santa Maria (Hudson & Blackburn 1982-1987). The language was also spoken inland, and speakers of Purisimeño occupied sites where the cities of Lompoc, Solvang, Los Olivos, and Orcutt currently are. Territory of Purisimeño speakers also covered all of what is currently Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Purisimeño belongs to the Central Chumash branch of the language family (Klar 1977; Kroeber 1910). Other Central Chumash languages are Ineseño (also called Samala), Barbareño, and Ventureño. While Purisimeño shows more in common with Barbareño and Samala, there are indications that it was once in contact with Ventureño. Timothy Henry classifies Purisimeño, Samala, and Barbareño as Western Chumash, which contrasts with Eastern Chumash (including only Ventureño).

Due to disease and an already small population, native speakers of Purisimeño were gone by the beginning of the 20th century. The primary consultants for Purisimeño were Rosario Cooper and María Solares (Harrington 1986). Librado was born in Ventura to parents from the Channel Island now called Santa Cruz as his parents had been previously relocated to the mission at San Buena Ventura. Later in life, Librado went to work at La Purisima Mission, whence ‘Purisimeño’ takes its name. While there, he gained some proficiency in Purisimeño.

John Peabody Harrington, a well-known anthropological linguist, was responsible for recording a majority of the data we have on Purisimeño (Harrington 1981: 3.6). Harrington’s ear was unparalleled in ability to hear phonetic detail. However, his phonetic transcription practices were not standardized nor did they entirely come from a standard. The Purisimeño data, as seen in the online dictionary, was compiled, organized, and analyzed by a team; many researchers, librarians, linguists, and archivists have made it possible. Dr. Timothy Henry-Rodriguez, Treasurer and board member of WIELD, has compiled the Purisimeño-English lexicon, and he is responsible for the grammatical analyses therein. In 2020, WIELD’s long-serving board member, Dr. Henry-Rodriguez, was awarded an NEH Documenting Endangered Languages fellowship to continue his work on Purisimeño. This page will be updated accordingly as his project reveals new information on the language.

WIELD is dedicated to making scholarly material on languages available in a timely manner. The Purisimeño lexicon is presented in draft form, and it will be updated as new information is added and as new analyses are made. You are encouraged to return to WIELD’s Web site to check for updates.

Purisimeño-English Lexicon (Preliminary Edition)

Harrington, John Peabody. 1981. The Papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution 1907-1957. Volume three: A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Southern California/Basin. eds. Elaine L. Mills & Ann J. Brickfield. Millwood, NY: Kraus International Publications.

Hudson, Travis & Thomas C. Blackburn. 1982-1987. The material culture of the Chumash interaction sphere. A Ballena Press/Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Cooperative Publication.

Klar, Kathryn Ann. 1977. Topics in Historical Chumash Grammar. PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1910. The Chumash and Costanoan languages. American Archaeology and Ethnology 9(2).237-271.