Chitimacha language

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Pronunciation Sitimaša
Native to USA
Region Southern Louisiana
Extinct 1940[1]
with the death of Delphine Ducloux [2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ctm
Glottolog chit1248[3]

Chitimacha (/ˈɪtɨməˌʃɑː/, CHID-im-uh-SHAH;[4] or /ɪtɨˈmɑːʃə/, CHID-im-AH-shuh[5]) is a language isolate historically spoken by the Chitimacha people of Louisiana, United States. It went extinct in 1940 with the death of the last fluent speaker, Delphine Ducloux.

Although no longer spoken, it is fairly extensively documented in the early 20th-century work (mostly unpublished) of linguists Morris Swadesh[6][7] and John R. Swanton. Swadesh in particular wrote a full grammar and dictionary, and collected numerous texts from the last two speakers, although none of this is published.

Language revitalization efforts are underway to teach the language to a new generation of speakers.[8][9][10] Tribal members have received Rosetta Stone software for learning the language. As of 2015, a new Chitimacha dictionary is in preparation, and classes are being taught on the Chitimacha reservation.[11]

Chitimacha has recently been proposed to be related to, or a member of the Totozoquean languages (an ongoing hypothesis that groups together the Totonacan and Mixe-Zoquean language families, spoken in Central America).[12] An earlier, more speculative proposal was affinity with the also hypothetical group of Gulf languages.


  1. ^ Chitimacha at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Raymond Fogelson, William C. Sturtevant. Handbook of North American Indians, V. 14, Southeast. Government Printing Office. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-0-16-087616-5. 
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chitimacha". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Robert A. Brightman, 2004, "Chitimacha", In: William Sturtevant (ed.), Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 14: Southeast, p. 642
  5. ^ Carl Waldman, 2009, Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes
  6. ^ Swadesh, Morris (1948). "Sociologic Notes on Obsolescent Languages". International Journal of American Linguistics 14 (4): 226–235. doi:10.1086/464009. JSTOR 1262876. 
  7. ^ Swadesh, M. (1934). "The phonetics of Chitimacha". Language 10 (4): 345–362. doi:10.2307/409490. 
  8. ^ "YouTube – Chitimacha Language Episode – Finding Our Talk 3". Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Press Release, Media Room, Rosetta Stone". Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  10. ^ Larry Abramson (Director) (2010-02-02). "Software Company Helps Revive 'Sleeping' Language". All Things Considered - NPR. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  11. ^ Heflin, Judy (August 2015). "The Successful Revival of the Chitimacha Language". Language Magazine. Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  12. ^ Brown, Cecil H.; Wichmann, Søren; Beck, David (2014). "Chitimacha: A Mesoamerican language in the Lower Mississippi valley". International Journal of American Linguistics 80 (4): 425–474. doi:10.1086/677911. 

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