Approximately 15,000 people spoke Kalapuyan around 1800. By 1930 there were perhaps 10 speakers left. The language actually consisted of three separate languages, each with many dialects. Speakers of Tualatin would not be able to understand Yoncalla speakers, but could understand closer dialects such as Santiam. Kalapuyan was severely affected by the fall in population after 1830. Some texts were recorded, especially by Melville Jacobs in the 1930s. Many Kalapuya texts and recordings exist only in archives.
Narrative by John B. Hudson to Melville Jacobs, in Santiam Kalapuya language, c1935. For a discussion of this text, see Darkening and Enlightening: A Santiam Kalapuya Prophesy by David Lewis.
Kalapuyan is often grouped as part of the Penutian languages, and was formerly clustered with Takelma, the language spoken in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon. This relationship has since been questioned, and it is no longer clear how Kalapuyan relates to other languages.
The Kalapuyan Languages
the Northern Kalapuyan (Tualatin-Yamhill) Language consisting of:
the Central Kalapuyan Language consisting of:
the Southern Kalapuyan (Yoncalla) Language consisting of:
Zenk, Henry. "Notes on Native American Place-names of the Willamette Valley Region." Oregon Historical Quarterly 109.1 (2008): 6-33. Print.