Oʼodham (Oʼodham ha-ñeʼokĭ)

Oʼodham is an Uto-Aztecan language spoken mainly in southern Arizona in the USA, and also in Sonora in northern Mexico. In 2007 there were about 14,000 speakers of Oʼodham in the USA, and there were about 110 speakers in Mexico in 2015. It is spoken mainly by adults and some children, and is still passed on from generation to generation in some families.

Oʼodham is also known as Tohono Oʼodham, Nebome, Nevome, Oʼothham, Papago-Pima, Tohono Oʼotham or Upper Piman. Native names for the language include Oʼodham ha-ñeʼokĭ, Oʼottham ha-neoki, and Oʼodham ñiok.

There are two main Oʼodham dialects: Tohono Oʼodham, formerly known as Papago, and Akimel Oʼodham, which is also known as Pima. They are largely mutually intelligilble, and each has a number of sub-dialects. There is also a Hia C-ed Oʼodham dialect, which is not well documented. Tohono Oʼodham means "the people of the desert", and Akimel Oʼodham means "the people of the river".

Official Status

In the USA Oʼodham is the language of the following registered tribes: Ak Chin Indian Community of the Maricopa Indian Reservation, Gila River Indian Community of the Gila River Indian Reservation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community of the Salt River Reservation, and the Tohono Oʼodham Nation of Arizona. Oʼodham is also officially recognised as one of the national languages of Mexico.

Oʼodham is taught in schools of the Tohono Oʼodham Nation, and also at the University of Arizona.

Written Oʼodham

There are two main ways to write Oʼodham: the Alvarez-Hale orthography and the Saxton orthography, both were developed in the 1960s and 1970s. The former is used officially by the Tohono Oʼodham Nation and the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community. The latter is used officially by the Gila River Indian Community.

Alvarez-Hale orthography

Oʼodham alphabet and pronunciation - Alvarez-Hale orthography


Saxton orthography

Oʼodham alphabet and pronunciation - Saxton orthography


Download an alphabet chart for Oʼodham (Excel)

Sample text in Oʼodham

Ce:daghim 'o 'ab wu:sañhim.
To:tahim 'o 'ab wu:sañhim.
Cuckuhim 'o 'ab him.
Wepeghim 'o 'abai him.


Greenly they emerge.
In colors of blue they emerge
Whitely they emerge.
In colors of black they are coming.
Reddening, they are right here.

Na:nko Ma:s Cewagi/Cloud Song, by Ofelia Zepeda
Source: http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/pubs/stabilize/iii-families/zepeda.htm

Sample videos in Oʼodham

Information about Oʼodham | Phrases | Numbers


Information about the Oʼodham people and language

The Tohono Oʼodham Creation Story

Uto-Aztecan languages

Comanche, Cora, Hopi, Huarijio, Huichol, Ivilyuat / Cahuilla, Kawaiisu, Luiseño, Mayo, Mono, O'odham, Nahuatl, Nawat (Pipil), Northern Paiute, Serrano, Shoshone, Southern Paiute, Tarahumara, Tepehuán (Northern), Tepehuán (Southeastern), Tepehuán (Southwestern), Timbisha, Tongva, Yaqui

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 14.07.21


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