Mikasuki language

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Miccosukee Tribe.svg
Native to United States
Region Southern Florida
Ethnicity Miccosukee, Seminole
Native speakers
190  (2010 census)[1]
  • Eastern
    • Mikasuki
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mik
Glottolog mika1239[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Mikasuki language (also Miccosukee, Mikisúkî or Hitchiti-Mikasuki) is a Muskogean language spoken by around 500 people in southern Florida.[3] It is part of the Eastern branch of Muskogean languages, along with Creek-Seminole and ApalacheeAlabamaKoasati. It is spoken by the Miccosukee tribe as well as many Florida Seminoles. The now-extinct Hitchiti language was mutually intelligible with Mikasuki.

Originally, the Seminoles and Miccosukee were part of the Creek Confederacy, until they began to migrate to Florida after contact with the Spanish. The Indian Wars of the 19th Century greatly depleted the numbers of these tribes, specifically the Second Seminole War. From this, only about 300-500 remained in Florida, moving to the Everglades. From here, the Seminoles split apart from the Miccosukee, with the former moving on reservations and the latter living along the Tamiami Trail. Though the tribes are federally recognized as being distinct, both have speakers of Mikasuki.

As of 2002, the language was taught in the local school, which had "an area devoted to 'Miccosukee Language Arts'".[4]

As of 2011, the University of Florida Department of Anthropology is home to The Elling Eide Endowed Professorship in Miccosukee Language and Culture, for Native American languages of the southeastern United States.[5]

Presentations in the language have been featured in the Florida Folk Festival.[6]


 Short   Long 
 Front   Central   Back   Front   Central   Back 
 High (close)  i
 Mid (mid)  o
 Low (open)  a

There are three tones, high, low and falling. Vowel length is distinctive, for example eche ('mouth') vs eeche ('deer'), ete ('eye') vs eete ('fire').

Labial Alveolar Palatal Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b
Fricative ɸ ɬ ʃ
Nasal m n
Resonant w l y h

These phonemes are based on Sylvia Boynton's Outline of Mikasuki Grammar. [7]


Nouns are marked with suffixes for various functions, some examples:

Suffix Function Example Meaning
embaache battery
ot subject marker embaachot hampeepom the battery has gone bad
on object marker embaachon aklomle I need a battery
ee question marker embachee cheméèło? do you have a battery?

Free pronouns exist (aane "I", chehne "you", pohne "we") but are rarely used. Verb suffixes are the usual way of marking person.

Writing System[edit]

Mikasuki is written using the Latin alphabet. The vowels are pronounced as follows:

Letter Sound
a, aa a,
a, aa ã, ãː
e, ee i,
e, ee ĩː, ĩː
o, oo o,
o, oo õ; õː
ay ai
ao ao

The consonants are:

Letter Sound
b b
ch t͡ʃ
f ɸ
h h
k k
l l
ł ɬ
m m
n n
ng ŋ
p p
sh ʃ
t t
w w
y j

High tone is indicated with an acute, low tone with a grave and falling tone with an acute (on a long vowel this is typographically split over both vowels, otherwise the grave is placed over the next consonant):

High Tone Low Tone Falling Tone
á, áa à, àa áǹ, áà

An epenthetic [ə] vowel appears in kl, kw and kn clusters in careful speech.



bochonkom he/she/it touches
chaolom he/she/it writes
chayahlom he/she/it walks
eelom he/she/it arrives
empom he/she/it eats
eshkom he/she/it drinks
faayom he/she/it hunts
ommom he/she/it makes


1 łáàmen
2 toklan
3 tocheenan
4 shéetaaken
5 chahkeepan
6 eepaaken
7 kolapaaken
8 toshnapaaken
9 oshtapaaken
10 pokoolen

Kinship Terms[edit]

nakne man, male
ooche son
ooshtayke daughter
táàte father
tayke woman, female
wáàche mother
yaate person
yaatooche infant


  1. ^ Mikasuki at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Mikasuki". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Voices of the Everglades: Indian culture". The News-Press. 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-28. 
  4. ^ "Elders Seek Way to Preserve Fading Language". Canku Ota (56). 2002-03-09. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  5. ^ "Faculty Openings in the Anthropology Department". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  6. ^ "Traditional Seminole Song - Rev. Josie Billie". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  7. ^ Boynton, S. S. (1982). MIKASUKI GRAMMAR IN OUTLINE (INDIANS; FLORIDA). (Order No. 8302210, University of Florida). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 203-203 p. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303232611?accountid=14707. (303232611).


  • West, J. & Smith, N. A Guide to the Miccosukee Language, Miami: Miccosukee Corporation 1978.
  • West, J. The Phonology of Mikasuki in Studies in Linguistics 1962, 16:77-91.

External links[edit]