Cyrus Byington

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Cyrus Byington
Cyrus Byington.png
Rev. Cyrus Byington
Born March 11, 1793
Died December 31, 1868
Residence Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma
Nationality American
Occupation Minister, linguist

Cyrus Byington (March 11, 1793 – December 31, 1868) was a White Christian missionary from Massachusetts who worked with the Choctaw in Mississippi and later in Indian Territory, later called Oklahoma, during the 19th century. He sought to construct a lexicon of the Choctaw language to translate Christian prayers, hymns, and bible passages. Byington's work is considered one of the most complete lexicons for a Native American language. He worked nearly 50 years translating Choctaw as a written language.

Byington's work[edit]

Main article: Choctaw language

The Choctaw language is a member of the Muskogean family and was well known among the frontiersmen, such as US President Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison. The language is closely related to Chickasaw; some linguists consider the two varieties a single language. The following table is an example of Choctaw text and its translation:

Chata Anumpa: Hattak yuka keyu hokυtto yakohmit itibachυfat hieli kυt, nan isht imaiυlhpiesa atokmυt itilawashke; yohmi ha hattak nana hohkia, keyukmυt kanohmi hohkia okla moma nana isht aim aiυlhpiesa, micha isht aimaiυlhtoba he aima ka kanohmi bano hosh isht ik imaiυlhpieso kashke. Amba moma kυt nana isht imachukma chi ho tuksυli hokmakashke.[1]

English Language: That all free men, when they form a special compact, are equal in rights, and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive, separate public emolument or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services.[1]


The written Choctaw language is based upon English version of the Roman alphabet and was developed in conjunction with the civilization program of the United States in the early 19th century. Byington's alphabet and a version modified by John Swanton is seen here.

Byington (Original)[edit]

The Choctaw "Speller" alphabet as found in the Chahta Holisso Ai Isht Ia Vmmona, 1800s.

Byington/Swanton (Linguistic)[edit]

The Choctaw linguistic alphabet as found in the Choctaw Language Dictionary by Cyrus Byington and modified by John Swanton, 1909.



  1. ^ a b "Choctaw Language Alphabet and Pronunciation". 1998–2008. Retrieved 2008-05-01. 

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