Ofo language

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Native to United States
Region Mississippi
Extinct early 20th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ofo
Glottolog ofoo1242[1]
Ofo lang.png

The Ofo language was a language spoken by the Mosopelea tribe who lived until c. 1673 in what is now Ohio along the Ohio River. They moved down the Mississippi River to Mississippi, near the Natchez people, and thence to Louisiana, settling near the Tunica.

In the eighteenth century, the Mosopelea were known under the names Oufé and Offogoula. On the basis of the presence of the phoneme /f/ in these names, it was once suspected that Ofo was a Muskogean language. However, in 1908 anthropologist John R. Swanton discovered an aged female speaker of Ofo, Rosa Pierette, while he was conducting fieldwork among the Tunica, and from her he was able to confirm that the language was Siouan and was similar to Biloxi. Pierette had spoken Ofo as a child, but told Swanton that the rest of her tribe killed each other off when she was seventeen years old.[2]


Ofo follows Grassmann's Law, with /h/ counting as an aspirated consonant. Thus /oskʰa/ 'crane' + /afʰã/ 'white' > /oskəfʰa/ 'white egret', and /apʰeti/ 'fire' + either /təsʰihi/ 'to burn' or /təsʰihi/ 'to breathe' > /apesʰihi/ 'smoke'.[3]

The inventory is as follows:[4]


The following table lists the consonants of Ofo in IPA notation:

Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive tenuis p t t͡ʃ k
aspirated t͡ʃʰ
Fricative tenuis f s ʃ x h
Sonorant w l j
b[clarification needed] d[clarification needed]
Nasal m n


Front Central Back
High i, iː
ĩ, ĩː
u, uː
ũ, ũː
Mid e, eː ə o, oː
Low a, aː
ã, ãː

All vowels, including /ə/, may bear stress.


Ofo is considered to be a mildly polysynthetic language.[4]


Ofo distinguishes between alienable and inalienable possession through the use of a prefix for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular and 1st person dual (abbreviated as 1sg, 2sg, 3sg and 1du respectively). The alienable possessions include the following: 1sg {ba-, aba-}, 2sg {č-, ača-}, 3sg {}, 1du {ã-}. The inalienable possessions include the following: 1sg {mi-}, 2sg {čĩ-}, 3sg {ĩ-}, 1du {ã-}.


Ofo uses the enclitic suffix, -ni, to demonstrate negation. This enclitic is usually added after the predicate.


Ofo uses the enclitic suffix, -tu, to pluralize either the subject, object, or both.

Instrumental Prefixes[edit]

Instrumental prefixes describe the manner in which an action is carried out. Some of the instrumental prefixes in Ofo include:

  • atə- 'by extreme temperature'
  • tu-, du- 'by pulling/hand'
  • ta- 'by mouth'
  • pa- 'by pushing'
  • la- 'by foot'
  • ka- 'by striking'
  • pú- 'by pressure'
  • po- 'by blowing/shooting'


Ofo pronouns
"mí̃ti, mí̃*te" 'I, me' "čí̃*ti" 'you'
"í̃*ti" 'he' "á̃ti, á̃*ti" 'we'


Ofo appears to not have grammatical gender

Space, Time, Modality[edit]

Irrealis mood consists of the suffix -abe. This can be translated as future tense. Below are some examples:

  • óktat-,abe, 'he will kill you'
  • tcóktat-abĕ, 'you will work'
  • atcikthé-be, 'I will kill you'

Continuative aspect is formed using the word nóñki.

Iterative aspect is created using reduplication. Below are some examples:

  • è-te-te, 'sick, keep on suffering'
  • šni-šni-we, 'itch, keep on itching'
  • tó-fku-fku-pi, 'wink, blink, keep on winking or blinking'


The documentation of Ofo has not provided enough information to develop a complete syntax of the language. The data provided contains enough information to elicit commonly sentence structures that are also found in Ofo's related languages.[4]

Ofo appears to have a head-dependent ordering in sentences, which gives it an OV word order. The order of verbs may be described as being clause-final. There appear to be many cases which support this. An example can be seen below:

b-aphú̂ska a-tci-tp-ábe

my-fist I-you-hit-IRREALIS

'I will hit you with my fist'


There doesn't appear to be much data for case, because of the lack of phrases recorded. However, some case structures can be elicited.

Dative case appears in Ofo and can be interpreted as resembling an accusative pronoun in English.

tcilétci ó̃tcĭku

your.tongue me.you.give

'hold your tongue!'

athé ãtcókpe

dress me.you.put on

'you help me dress'

Complements, Causatives[edit]

The data for Ofo does not yield data in support of explicit complement clauses. However, it is apparent that embedded clauses precede the main clause.

détõ-ni á-kiu-bĕ

(he),go.COND I-come-IRREALIS

'if he goes, I will come'

Causative is marked with the enclitic -we.



'to teach'


A Dictionary of the Biloxi and Ofo Languages
  • Holmer, Nils, M., An Ofo Phonetic Law, International Journal of American Linguistics, 13:1, 1947.
  • Moseley, Christopher and R. E. Asher, ed. Atlas of the Worlds Languages (New York:Routelege, 1994) Map 5
  • Dorsey, J. Owen, and John R. Swanton. 1912. "A Dictionary of the Biloxi and Ofo Languages". Bureau of American

Ethnology Bulletin 47. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office.

  • Swanton, John R. c.1908 [Ofo-English dictionary], Typed and Autographed Document, 613 cards. National

Anthropological Archives, 2455-OFO, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

  • Swanton, John R. 1909. A New Siouan Dialect. "Putnam Anniversary Volume: Anthropological Essays Presented to

Prederic Ward Putnam in Honor of His Seventieth Birthday", pp. 477–86. New York: G. E. Stechert.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ofo". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Swanton, John R. A New Siouan Dialect. 1909.
  3. ^ De Reuse (1981) " Grassmann's Law in Ofo", IJAL 47: 243
  4. ^ a b c Rankin, Robert. "The Ofo Language of Louisiana: Philological Recovery of Grammar and Typology". LAVIS III: Language Variety in the South: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. University of Alabama, 2004. PDF file.

External links[edit]