An Introduction To The Shoshone Language | #4 | 2022 Centobibliennial Reading



This book is about the linguistic survey of the Shoshone language, which is indigenous to Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Specifically, the dialect that is the main focus is the Fort Hall Reservation dialect.

Drusilla Gould & Christopher Loether

Meur Owr & Owtegikrist Ledher

Drusilla Gould is an enrolled member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe and is a native speaker of the Lemhi and Fort Washakie dialects of Shoshone. Christopher Loether is a linguist who works as director of the American Indians Studies Program in Idaho State University. They have been working together for decades, and this book is proof of this collaboration.



There is a lot of emphasis on the fluidity of the sentence, since it ultimately determines the meaning of the sentence. It makes a difference between a description sentence or a possessive noun phrase. As such, the difference that affects the sentence is between fluid and pausal. A way for a sentence to be fluid is if there is a fluid assimilation of the first and last consonants with the articulators.

The usage of space is incredibly important in the Shoshone language. The usage of second-person and first-person perspectives involves whether the speaker is including the listener or not. While English is reliant on verb tenses, Shoshone verbs use specific words with specific postpositions and suffices in order to describe a specific action. For example, the verb “to understand” is translated into Shoshone as “to understand as a result of listening.”

Shoshone is an agglutinative language, which makes use of many prefixes and suffixes in order to convey an action that is taking place in any span of time or movement.

Historical Context

Kettesten Hwedheltusek

There is historicity as expected in the opening of this linguistic introduction to the Shoshone language. One such aspect involves the migration of the one part of the Proto-Numic peoples from what would become northern California towards the Great Plains. Eventually, they would become the Shoshone people and would settle in what is today southeastern Idaho. As expected, they would eventually come into contact with the British, and then the Americans. And as such, they would face displacement and hardship, such as being forced to no longer speak their native language in boarding schools and being placed in reservations.

There is also the linguistic history behind English orthography, which is quite convoluted when taking into account the silent e-ended words. It started changing in the 1400s until today with those sound changes. As such, the Shoshone orthography is reliant on this form of orthography mostly, as opposed to any other orthography.



A way that makes learning Shoshone as easy as possible is making comparisons between this language and other languages. As far as the soft/hard consonants, I can definitely see the resemblance to Hindi, though the difference being that in Shoshone, the consonants tend to be softened at the beginning of the word, whereas the consonants in the middle of the word–specifically between two vowels–tend to be hardened. Though, the book does not explain whether they are supposed to be explosive consonants or not.

Another resemblance is to Mandarin Chinese–at least the Romanization of it. There is the “e” in these Romanizations which have an [uh] sound. I did think that it was similar in some way to the way that “e” is pronounced in Shoshone, which uses the “u” from put.

As far as the ei, I can see how this was used in Cornish, specifically in words that were small in which the “i” was at the end. Examples being ki (meaning “dog”) and chi (meaning “house”).

Another Celtic language that I saw common with Shoshone was Irish Gaelic. The way that consonants mutate (such as g>kh, d>tt) resembles the ways in which consonants also mutate in Irish Gaelic. Though they mutate at the beginning of the word, whereas those specific Shoshone consonants mutate in the middle of the word.

Connecting To Previous Book

Ow Juna Dhe Lyver Gens

This appears to be a leap from the biography of Walt Disney to a book about an indigenous language, however the point of this post series is to make juxtapositions with every one of the 100 books I will read. As such, I can definitely see how this would connect with Walt Disney in terms of usage. If there is any media which uses Shoshone language, then I can clearly see how Walt Disney’s vision might be used to make the magic happen. Since Disney specialized in animation, then it would definitely be relevant in animation. During World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Disney’s company was commissioned by the military to produce propaganda shorts detailing the evils of the Nazis and the Japanese Empire. The point being that those shorts had the intended purpose of rallying Americans to participate in fighting against the Axis powers during that time.

As such, animation can have an effect on the audience, specifically making the audience feel that they can personalize their struggles with the subversion of reality in Mickey Mouse; and to provide hope in Snow White and gritty realism in Bambi and Pinocchio. If Mickey Mouse can bend reality then so can the viewer–of course, maybe not by playing the xylophone on a farm animal. In order to have that pathos, the animation has to have a clear goal.

In the case of animation pertaining to the Shoshone language-speaking community, the goal of the animation would be to inspire more Shoshone children and adults to speak the language. It would appear intimidating, but it does take the place of many auxiliary verbs and adverbial phrases.

Writing Style

Gis Skrifedh

Since this is a linguistic survey, it would have been helpful if there was an IPA chart in the Appendix. It also would have been helpful to include all of the sound changes that would take place at the beginning or in the middle of the word.

Real-World Application

Omrians Vys-Wir

The purpose of this book is not to give all of the information concerning the Shoshone language, rather it is to give, as the title suggests, a basic introduction. The authors inform the reader to seek out actual Shoshone speakers in order to truly learn the language, because there is not a lot written down about the language.

Inspiration To Myself

Awen Dhybm Ow Honan

I hope that this book would provide enough information about Shoshone to get started learning it.



Maybe Recommend

Although I would like to get started in learning Shoshone, this book would provide a rough start. This book was published around two decades ago, so it might not be the most reliable edition. It is for that reason why I decided to give this bit of an unfavorable review, since this book is encapsulated in time.

While there is vital information about the Shoshone language, it is not enough to suffice an more relevant introduction.

Recommend This To…

Komendysen Ma Dhe…

  • Any beginning-beginning level learner. This may not be sufficient enough for a language learner already familiar with linguistic machinations.

Sources (Pednfentydnyow)

  • “Christopher.” Behindthename.
  • Cornish Dictionary – Gerlyver Kernowek.” Akademi Kernowek.
  • “Drusilla.” Behindthename.
  • “Drusus.” Behindthename.
  • Gabler, Neal. “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination.” Alfred A. Knopf. 2006.
  • Gould, Drusilla and Christopher Loether. “An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language (Dammen Daigwape).” University of Utah. 2002.
  • Williams, Nicholas. “Desky Kernowek: A Complete Guide To Cornish.” 4th Edition. Evertype. 2013.

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