Region 4: Western North America

Welcome to Western North America!

Welcome to the next exciting destination on our journey! In regards to the North American Indians, culturally, the North American West coast can be divided into 2 parts: California in the south and Northwest coast in the north.

Let's explore!!

About two centuries ago, California was linguistically as diverse as other areas of North America. The California region was once home to over 90 different Indian languages.

Where to land:

Los Angeles


Let’s start our trip from southern California all the way along the North American West coast. Southern California is now home to such sites as Disneyland and Universal Hollywood Studios. But that is just for entertainment. Going up the coast either along the I-5 or the more scenic Route 101 takes us to San Francisco. Serving as what may be the divide between North and South California, We have sights such as the Golden Gate Bridge.

If we travel to California, we can't miss the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California ( This is where Walt Disney World began. All the original ideas, concepts for the magical kingdom started from here. In addition, It is the only theme park designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney.

Part of our plan in southern California is making our trip a short driving vacation along US Route 101. It is perhaps the most historic highway in California. Although the highway has been superseded in overall importance for transport through the state by Interstate 5, US 101 remains an important road linking cities along the coast of California. So let's hope we could have more time to enjoy breathtaking scenery of redwood forests and coastal shores along the scenic road US 101.

Now it’s time to stop at the Universal Studios Hollywood and explore all the rides, shows and attractions. This special Hollywood studio tour will take you through the scenes of a real working movie studio.

Moving further north, The North American Northwest Coast cultural area consists of a long narrow band from Southeast Alaska to Oregon. The distance is nearly 1500 miles. The width of the area is never more than 50 miles.

Day Trip 1: Northern California and Nevada

Where to land:

San Francisco, California


Along the Pacific northwest coast area is Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska of the Unites States. The Western states include California, Oregon and Washington. California can be divided up to Southern and Northern California. Our focus for Day Trip 1 will be Northern California and Nevada.

We start in San Francisco. The city is famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, hilly streets and (a later cultural influx) Chinese Food. Finally we will visit the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Let’s hear the stories of the bridge, take a short walking, and take some pictures around the area

Nearby there is also the UC-Berkeley. UC-Berkeley contains the UC Berkeley Department of Linguistics and the Phoebe A. Heart Museum of Anthropology. Together this is the largest collection of Native American Artifacts related to Linguistics in the world. For more info follow the link for the article:
Native Americans work to revitalize California’s indigenous languages

Going north we are faced with traveling the coastline along the famous Route 101 and all it has to offer, or using a more interior route. The interior route includes The Sierra Nevada, a mountain chain shared with Nevada. The Sierra Nevada is home to The Sequoia National Forest, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

Following this route into Oregon would lead us to Crater Lake National Park - famous for Crater Lake.

See you there!

Day Trip 2: Oregon and the Northwest Coast

Where to land:

Portland, Oregon


Although not in this narrow band along the coast of Oregon, visitors could go to Crater Lake National Park, home of (you guessed it!!) Crater Lake. Made by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama, the lake is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. At 1,943 feet (592 m), the lake is the deepest in the United States. No rivers flow into or out of Crater Lake. Crater Lake is also known for the "Old Man of the Lake", a full-sized tree which is now a stump that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for more than a century.

Of course, we are interested in greater adventures than avoiding sunburn, so we head to the Makola Market for supplies. Amidst the cacophony, we find almost every item under the sun and barter for some Kenkey, a Ghanaian dish made from fermented corn meal.

Getting back to the theme of the tour, there are at least 8 different language families represented in the northwest North American coast area. These languages include: Athabascan. Tsimushian, Chinook, Tlingit, Haida, Chemakuan, Wakashan and Salish. Of these 8, 5 have no other known language affiliations beyond the Northwest North American Coast.

Food among the more popular foods were smoked salmon, ooligan and berries. Salmon was often smoked or barbecued on cedar sticks and still is. Ooligan (hooligan)- a type of salt water smelt, was harvested for its oil. The oil was used to flavor foods and as a preservative. Today Ooligan fat is still processed, but uses more modern techniques. Also, the ooligan (or hooligan) run is a popular draw for the local population. They catch them, cook them and eat them. The more daring eaters can look for “Alaskan Ice Cream”, a mix of ooligan fat and berries, YUM!!

Thanks for joining us on our exciting journey around the globe! Our projected coordinates seem to be in hieroglyphics...
Stay tuned for the translation!

Featured Linguists

Doug Biber, Featured Linguist

Northern Arizona University

In grade school, no one would have ever guessed I’d grow up to become a linguist – I was the kid who got Cs in French and couldn’t produce a trill to save my life! I went to university majoring in civil engineering - relieved that there was no language requirement for that major. But I ended up switching to geophysics, thinking that it would be less restrictive than engineering, and that it would allow me to spend more time in the mountains (which turned out to be wishful thinking).

Two things happened during my undergraduate education that got me interested in academic research, and specifically linguistics. The first was a technical writing course, where I was shocked to learn that the point of writing was to tell the reader something that they didn’t already know. (I had believed up to that point that the reader – of course, an instructor – always already knew the correct answer, and so the point of writing was just to impress the reader.) And the second was an introduction to English syntax course, where I discovered that analyzing language could be really fun!

After a year and a half working as a geophysicist, I got laid off – and used the severance pay to go into a graduate program in linguistics at the University of Texas. After graduation, I ended up getting a 3-year position coordinating a Somali mother-tongue literacy program in the NE Province of Kenya. That experience shaped my world view, but also gave me the opportunity in my spare time for firsthand experience doing linguistic fieldwork. I was especially interested in working on Somali phonology and dialect variation.

Towards the end of that time, I started to think about PhD programs in linguistics. Luckily, around the same time, I had sent a paper that I had written on Somali focus markers to Larry Hyman at USC – a really scary prospect for me, given Larry’s stature in the field of African linguistics. Of course, Larry responded with extremely helpful comments, and also facilitated my going to USC for my PhD.

While at USC, I gradually shifted my research interests from phonology and African linguistics to patterns of (socio)linguistic variation. I had a background in computer programming, and so I got a full-time staff position as a programmer at the university computer center. But I was somehow blissfully unaware of corpora or anything called ‘corpus linguistics’ – and I had no thought that I might be able to apply my programming skills to any useful research questions in linguistics. In fact, during early stages of my dissertation research on the linguistic characteristics of speech and writing, I spent hours counting linguistic features by hand in texts! Then one day my dissertation chair – Ed Finegan – showed me an article that he had been reading about corpora, and suggested that I could apply my programming skills to corpus analysis for my dissertation research. Ed helped me obtain university funding to purchase the Brown Corpus - and helped to launch a 30-year linguistic research agenda involving corpus analysis.

Featured Linguists

Henry Davis, Featured Linguist

I first learned that linguistic knowledge mattered at the age of four. I began my academic career in a tough primary school in Paddington, London, where I was regularly bullied for my non-Cockney accent. When the bullying got too much, my parents moved me to a posh preparatory school in St. John’s Wood, where I was regularly bullied because my accent was not upper class enough. And then my family moved to Manchester. I spent hours in the boy’s toilet, practicing [phæθ] and [khæsḷ]instead of [phαθ] and [khαsḷ] as though my life depended on it; which, at least in the school playground, it did.

Read more on the blog!