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Hypothetical superfamily of North American Indian languages uniting a number of languages and language families of the western U.S. and Mexico. The Hokan hypothesis was first proposed by Roland B. Dixon and Alfred L. Kroeber in 1913 and refined by Edward Sapir; like the Penutian designation, it was an attempt to reduce the number of unrelated language families in one of the most linguistically heterogeneous areas of the world. Its core consisted of languages of aboriginal California and the Southwest, with outlying members from Sonora and Oaxaca in Mexico. Except for some Yuman languages (spoken in southern California, Arizona, and Baja California), all were either extinct or spoken almost exclusively by older adults by the beginning of the 21st century.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Hokan languages, visit Britannica.com.
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