The Konkow language was traditionally spoken along the Feather River and surrounding areas from 20 miles south of Oroville into the Sierra Nevada foothills, including the lower part of the Feather River Canyon. It is unclear whether another language spoken along the Sacramento River from Vina to Butte City and east to Chico — attested solely in a number of vocabularies — is a variety of Konkow or a separate, but related, language. In pre-contact times, there were approximately 9,000 speakers of Konkow, Maidu, and Nisenan together (Kroeber 1925). Today, there are only a few speakers (Golla 2011).
Konkow is a member of the Maiduan language family, the other members of which are Maidu and Nisenan. Together, the Maiduan languages form one branch of the hypothesized Penutian language family. This groups also includes Klamath-Modoc, the Miwokan languages (Central Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Lake Miwok, Northern Sierra Miwok, Plains Miwok, Saclan, and Southern Sierra Miwok), the Ohlone languages (Awaswas, Chalon, Chochenyo, Karkin, Mutsun, Ramaytush, Rumsen, and Tamyen), the Wintuan languages (Nomlaki, Patwin, and Wintu), and the Yokuts languages.
Selected archival materials at Berkeley
- Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Ultan, Russell. 1967. Konkow grammar. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.