The Luiseño language was traditionally spoken on the San Luis Rey River, from the coast to its headwaters above Lake Henshaw, and to the south, as well as on the upper Santa Margarita River and around Lake Elsinore-Temecula. In pre-contact times, there may have between 3000 and 4000 speakers of Luiseño (Kroeber 1925). Today, there are no first-language speakers (Elliot 2002).
Luiseño is a member of the Takic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Within Takic, it is most closely related to Cahuilla, Cupeño, and Juaneño, and more distantly to Gabrielino, Kitanemuk, Serrano, and Tataviam. The other Uto-Aztecan languages of California are Tubatulabal and the Numic languages (Chemehuevi-Southern Paiute-Ute, Comanche, Kawaiisu, Mono, Northern Paiute, Panamint, and Shoshone).
Selected archival materials at Berkeley
- Bright, William. 1968. A Luiseño dictionary. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Elliott, Eric. 1999. Dictionary of Rincón Luiseño. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, San Diego.
- Hyde, Villiana and Eric Elliott. 1994. Yumáyk yumáyk. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Hyde, Villiana. 1971. An introduction to the Luiseño language. Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press.
- Kroeber, Alfred L. and George William Grace. 1960. The Sparkman grammar of Luiseño. Berkeley: University of California Press.