Jump to content

Mikasuki language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hitchiti, Hitchiti-Mikasuki
Native toUnited States
RegionGeorgia, Southern Florida
EthnicityMiccosukee, Seminole
Native speakers
290 (2015 census)[1]
  • Eastern
    • Mikasuki
Language codes
ISO 639-3mik
Mikasuki is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Mikasuki, Hitchiti-Mikasuki, or Hitchiti language is a language or a pair of dialects or closely related languages that belong to the Muskogean languages family. As of 2014, Mikasuki was spoken by around 290 people in southern Florida.[2] Along with the Cow Creek Seminole dialect of Muscogee, it is also known as Seminole. It is spoken by members of the Miccosukee tribe and of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The extinct Hitchiti was a mutually intelligible dialect of or the ancestor of Mikasuki.

Hitchiti was one of the many Muskogean languages spoken by peoples of what is now the southeastern United States, and is considered by many scholars to be the ancestor of the Mikasuki language. It was spoken in Georgia and eastern Alabama in the early historic period, with speakers moving into Florida during the 18th and 19th centuries. Hitchiti was the language of tribal towns such as Hitchiti, Chiaha, Oconee, Okmulgee, Sawokli, and Apalachicola. Based on the number of place names that have been derived from the language, scholars believe it could have spread over a much larger area than Georgia and Florida during colonial times.[3]

It was part of the Muskogean language family; it is often considered a dialect of the Mikasuki language with which it was mutually intelligible.[4] The Hitchiti and the Mikasuki tribes were both part of the Creek confederacy. The Mikasuki language was historically one of the major languages of the Seminole people, who developed as a new ethnic group in Florida. It is still spoken by many Seminole and Miccosukee in Florida, but it has become extinct among the Oklahoma Seminole.

Like Muscogee, Hitchiti had an ancient "female" dialect. The dialect was still remembered and sometimes spoken by the older people, and it used to be the language of the males as well. Their language with the "female" dialect was also known as the 'ancient language'.[5]

The language appears to have been used beyond the territorial limits of the tribe: it was spoken in Native American villages on the Chattahoochee River, such as Chiaha (Chehaw),[6] Chiahudshi, Hitchiti, Oconee, Sawokli, Sawokliudshi, and Apalachicola, and in those on the Flint River, and also by the Miccosukee tribe of Florida. Traceable by local names in Hitchiti, the language was used by peoples over considerable portions of Georgia and Florida. Like Creek, this language has an archaic form called "women's talk", or female language.

Scholars believe that the Yamasee also spoke Hitchiti, but the evidence is not conclusive. Other evidence points toward their speaking a different language, perhaps one related to Guale.

Some sources list Hitchiti as an extant language in the 1990s.[7]

The Seminole and Miccosukee were made up of descendants of members of the Muscogee Confederacy, who had migrated to Florida under pressure from European-American encroachment. The Seminole formed by a process of ethnogenesis in the 18th century. American settlers began to enter Florida and came into conflict with the Seminole. The Seminole Wars of the 19th century greatly depleted the numbers of these tribes, especially the Second Seminole War. The United States forcibly removed many Seminole to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Seminole and Miccosukee had gradually moved into the center of Florida and the Everglades, from where they resisted defeat even in the Third Seminole War. The US gave up efforts against them.

In the 20th century, the Florida Seminole and Miccosukee split apart, with the former moving onto reservations. The Miccosukee lived in communities that were affected by the early 20th-century construction of the Tamiami Trail, which brought tourists into the Everglades.

The Miccosukee achieved federal recognition as a tribe in 1962. Both tribes have speakers of Mikasuki today.

As of 2002, the language is taught in the local school, Miccosukee Indian School, which has "an area devoted to 'Miccosukee Language Arts'".[8] Circa 2005 the dominance of English language media was seen as a factor inhibiting Miccosukee.[9]

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.[10]

Presentations in the language have been featured at the Florida Folk Festival.[11]


The orthography, where it differs from the IPA, is shown in angled brackets.

Front Central Back
 Short  Long  Short   Long   Short  Long
 High  ie ee
 Mid  o oo
 Low  a aa

There are three tones: high, low and falling. Vowel length is distinctive: eche [itʃi] ('mouth') vs eeche [iːtʃi]('deer'), ete [iti] ('eye') vs eete [iːti] ('fire').

Labial Coronal Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b
Affricative ch
Fricative ɸf ɬł ʃsh h
Approximant w l jy

These phonemes are based on Sylvia Boynton's Outline of Mikasuki Grammar.[12]


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.


Mikasuki is written using the Latin alphabet. The vowel characters on the left represent the sounds on the right, transcribed phonetically:

Letter IPA symbol
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 characters are:

Letter IPA symbol
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 accent (´), low tone with a grave accent (`), and falling tone with an acute accent followed by a grave accent. A long vowel with falling tone is represented by two accented vowel letters (áà). When the vowel is short, the grave accent is placed over the next consonant (áǹ):

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


  1. ^ Mikasuki at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "Voices of the Everglades: Indian Culture". The News-Press. 2014-03-22. Archived from the original on 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  3. ^ Hann 2006, pp. 6–7.
  4. ^ Hardy, Heather; Scancarelli, Janine (2005). Native Languages of the Southeastern United States. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 69–70.
  5. ^ Gatschet, Albert (1884). A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians.
  6. ^ Ethridge 2003, p. 62.
  7. ^ Moseley, Christopher; Asher, R.E., eds. (1994). Atlas of the World's Languages. New York: Routledge. p. 6.
  8. ^ "Elders Seek Way to Preserve Fading Language". Canku Ota (56). 2002-03-09. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  9. ^ Wadsworth, Chris (2004-05-03). "Tribes work to preserve native language". Marshfield News-Herald. Marshfield, Wisconsin. Gannett News Service. p. A1, A2. - Clipping of first and of the second page at Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Faculty Openings in the Anthropology Department". Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  11. ^ "Traditional Seminole Song - Rev. Josie Billie". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  12. ^ Boynton, Sylvia S (1982). Mikasuki grammar in outline (Thesis). OCLC 9252451. ProQuest 3032326112.


  • Derrick-Mescua, Mary Tyler (1980). A phonology and morphology of Mikasuki (PhD dissertation). University of Florida.
  • Ethridge, Robbie (2003). Creek Country: The Creek Indians and Their World. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2827-0.
  • Hann, John H. (2006). The Native American World Beyond Apalachee. University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-2982-5.
  • West, J.; Smith, N. (1978). A Guide to the Miccosukee Language. Miami: Miccosukee Corporation.
  • West, John David (1962). "The Phonology of Mikasuki". Studies in Linguistics. 16 (3–4): 77–91. OCLC 29208642.

External links[edit]