Alex Walker, author of “A Grammar of Southern Pomo” has helped preserve the Southern Pomo Language.
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. Prior to 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 in more than a dozen directional suffixes indicating specific paths of movement.