Mobilian Jargon

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Region Gulf coast and Mississippi Valley
Extinct active through 1950s
pidgin, Muskogean based
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mod
Linguist list
Glottolog mobi1236[1]

Mobilian Jargon (also Mobilian trade language, Mobilian Trade Jargon, Chickasaw–Choctaw trade language, Yamá) was a pidgin used as a lingua franca among Native American groups living along the Gulf of Mexico around the time of European settlement of the region. The name refers to the Mobile Indians of the central Gulf Coast.

Mobilian Jargon facilitated trade between tribes speaking different languages and European settlers. There is continuing debate as to when Mobilian Jargon first began to be spoken. Some scholars, such as James Crawford, have argued that Mobilian Jargon has its origins in the linguistically diverse environment following the establishment of the French colony of Louisiana. Others, however, suggest that the already linguistically diverse environment of the lower Mississippi basin drove the need for a common method of communication prior to regular contact with Europeans.

The Native Americans of the gulf coast and Mississippi valley have always spoken multiple languages, mainly the languages of the other tribes that inhabited the same area. The Mobilians, like these neighboring tribes, were also multi-lingual. By the early nineteenth century, Mobilian Jargon evolved from functioning solely as a contact language between people into a means of personal identification. With an increasing presence of outsiders in the Indian gulf coast community, Mobilian Jargon served as a way of knowing who was truly a native of the area, and allowed Mobilians to be socially isolated from non-Indian population expansion from the north.[2]


Mobilian was used from the Florida northwest coast and area of the current Alabama-Georgia border westward as far as eastern Texas and in the north from the lower Mississippi Valley (currently south and central Illinois) to the southern Mississippi River Delta region in the south. It is known to have been used by the Alabama, Apalachee, Biloxi, Chacato, Pakana, Pascagoula, Taensa, and Tunica.


Mobilian is a pidginized form of Choctaw and Chickasaw (both Western Muskogean) that also contains elements of Eastern Muskogean languages such as Alabama and Koasati, colonial languages including Spanish, French, and English, and perhaps Algonquian and/or other languages. Pamela Munro has argued that Choctaw is the major contributing language (not both Choctaw and Chickasaw) although this has been challenged by Emanuel Drechsel. Emanuel Drechsel has concluded that the presence of certain Algonquian words in Mobilian Jargon are the result of direct contact between the Mobilians of the Mississippi valley and Algonquins moving southward. For the most part, these “loanwords” differ by only one or two letters.[3]


It has a simplified syllable and sound structure and a simplified grammar as compared to Choctaw, its primary parent language. Its lexicology shares major similarities to other Muskogean languages, in particular to Chickasaw and to Alabama. Compare the personal pronouns among Muskogean languages:

English Mobilian Alabama Choctaw Chickasaw
I inu ino ano ano, ino
You išnu isno čišno išno
We pošnu posno pišno pošno



Though Mobilian was first written about in the 1700s and was spoken until the 1950s, in the 1980s elders in the region of Louisiana could still recall a few select words and phrases.[5] In 2012, the Mezcal Jazz Unit of Montpellier, France, collaborated by Internet with Grayhawk Perkins, a historian of the Muskogean nation, to make a recording titled Thirteen Moons which features "the soulful chants of ancient folk tales and more modern stories told in Mobilian."[6]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Mobilian". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Drechsel, Emanuel (1996). "An Integrated Vocabulary of Mobilian Jargon, a Native American Pidgin of the Mississippi Valley". Anthropological Linguistics 38 (2): 248–354. 
  3. ^ Drechsel, Emanuel (1985). "Algonquian Loanwords in Mobilian Jargon". International Journal of American Linguisics 51 (4): 393–396. doi:10.1086/465906. 
  4. ^ Munro, Pamela (1984). On the Western Muskogean Source for Mobilian. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 438–450. 
  5. ^ Drechsel, Emanuel (1996). An Integrated Vocabulary of Mobilian Jargon, a Native American Pidgin of the Mississippi Valley. The Trustees of Indiana University. pp. 248–354. 
  6. ^ "French, New Orleans musicians revive colonial language". FRANCE 24. June 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 


  • Munro, Pamela (1984). "On the Western Muskogean source for Mobilian". International Journal of American Linguisics 50 (4): 438–450. doi:10.1086/465852. 
  • Drechsel, Emanuel (1987). "On determining the role of Chickasaw in the history and origin of Mobilian Jargon". International Journal of American Linguisics 53: 21–29. doi:10.1086/466040. 
  • Drechsel, Emanuel. (1997). Mobilian Jargon: Linguistic and Sociohistorical Aspects of a Native American Pidgin. Oxford University Press
  • Crawford, J. M. (1978). The Mobilian Trade Language. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

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