Atakapa language

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Native to United States
Region Louisiana, Texas
Extinct early 20th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3 aqp
Glottolog atak1252[1]
Pre-contact distribution of the Atakapa language

Atakapa is an extinct language isolate native to southwestern Louisiana and nearby coastal eastern Texas. It was spoken by the Atakapa people (also known as "Ishak"). The language became extinct in the early 20th century.[2]

Geographic variation[edit]

There were two varieties of Atakapa (i.e. dialects):

  1. Eastern
  2. Western

The Eastern Atakapa dialect is known from a French-Atakapa glossary with 287 entries written in 1802 by Martin Duralde.[3] These speakers lived around Poste des Attackapas (Saint Martinville) which is now Franklin, Louisiana.

The Western Atakapa dialect is the best known with words, sentences, and texts recorded from 1885, 1907, and 1908 by Albert Gatschet. The main language consultant was recorded in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The last speakers were Louison Huntington, Delilah Moss, Teet Verdine, and Armojean Reon. An older vocabulary is in a list of 45 words recorded in 1721 by Jean Béranger. These speakers were captured around Galveston Bay.

Although John Swanton claimed that Béranger vocabulary was an Akokisa dialect spoken by the Akokisa, there is no real evidence to support this connection.

Genealogical relations[edit]

While considered an isolate, there have been attempts to connect Atakapa with other languages of the Southeast. In 1919 John R. Swanton proposed a Tunican language family that would include Atakapa, Tunica, and Chitimacha; Morris Swadesh would later provide work focusing on connections between Atakapa and Chitimacha. Mary Haas later expanded the proposal by adding Natchez and the Muskogean languages, a hypothesis known as Gulf. These proposed families have not been proven.[4]




  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Atakapa". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Mithun, Marianne (2001). The Languages of Native North America (First paperback ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 344. ISBN 0-521-23228-7. 
  3. ^ Durald, Martin. Vocabulaire de la Language des Atacapas. Gallatin, 1836.
  4. ^ Mithun, 302, 344


  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Gatschet, Albert S., and Swanton, John R. (1932) A Dictionary of the Atakapa Language. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Athnology, bulletin 108. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
  • Goddard, Ives. (2005). The indigenous languages of the Southeast. Anthropological Linguistics, 47 (1), 1-60.
  • Hopkins, Nicholas A. (2007). The Native Languages of the Southeastern United States. Los Angeles: Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI), pp. 23–24. Abstract. Full text online.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Swanton, John R. A sketch of the Atakapa language. International Journal of American Linguistics. 5 (2-4), 121-149.

External links[edit]