Chickasaw language: Wikis


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Spoken in United States
Region South central Oklahoma
Total speakers About 1,000
Language family Muskogean
  • Western Muskogean
    • Chickasaw
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 nai
ISO 639-3 cic

The Chickasaw language (Chikashshanompa’, IPA [tʃikaʃːanompaʔ]) is a Native American language of the Muskogean family. It is agglutinative and follows the pattern of Subject Object Verb. The language is closely related to, though perhaps not entirely mutually intelligible with, Choctaw. It is spoken by the Chickasaw tribe, now residing in Southeast Oklahoma, centered around Ada.




Chickasaw has 16 consonants. In the table below, the consonants are written in the standard Chickasaw orthography. The phonetic symbolization of each consonant is written in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to the right of each orthographic letter when the orthography differs from the IPA symbol.

Chickasaw Consonants[1][2]
  Labial Alveolar Post-
Velar Glottal
central lateral
Nasal m n        
Plosive p   b t   d     k   g ' /ʔ/
Affricate     ch /tʃ/    
Fricative f s lh /ɬ/ sh /ʃ/   h
Approximant     l y /j/ w  
  • /w/ is labiovelar.
  • Voiceless stops /p t k/ have a small amount of aspiration [pʰ tʰ kʰ], especially at the beginning of words.[1]
  • Voiced stops /b d ɡ/ may undergo lenition to voiced fricatives [β ð ɣ] between vowels.[1]
  • All consonants except for the glottal stop may be geminated and most consonants can occur in biconsonantal clusters.[1]


Long and short Vowels of Chickasaw. From Gordon, Munro & Ladefoged (2001:288). Nasal vowels correspond phonetically with the quality of long vowels.

Chickasaw has 9 vowels:

  Front Central Back
short long short long short long
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
Close i [ɪ] ii [iː] i [ĩː]    
Mid     o [o̟] oo [oː] o [õː]
Open   a [ə] aa [aː] a [ãː]  

Chickasaw vowels contrast between short and long oral vowels and between long oral vowels and long nasal vowels. Short vowels are centralized (see chart): short i is phonetically [ɪ], short o is phonetically [o̟], and short a is phonetically [ə].

Short vowels are also phonetically lengthened when they occur in the second syllable of a sequence of even-numbered open syllables.[3] For example, the word pisali ('I took him') is phonetically [pɪsəˑlɪ]. The lengthened short vowel is usually intermediate in length between a short vowel and long vowel. However, the phonetic realization varies depending on the individual speaker and also on phonetic environment. The lengthening does not occur at the end of words and is further restricted by certain morphological criteria.[4]

Examples of Chickasaw Vowels[5]
IPA Example Meaning
/i/ pisa 'she looks at him'
/iː/ piini' 'boat'
/ĩ/ isinti' 'his snake'
/a/ paska 'bread'
/aː/ sahashaa 'I'm angry'
/ã/ ipashi' 'hair'
/o/ ofi' 'dog'
/oː/ ihoo 'woman'
/õ/ isolash 'tongue'




Pronominal affixes

Verb arguments (i.e. subject, direct object, indirect object) are indicated with pronominal affixes (both prefixes and suffixes) which are added to verb stems. The pronominal affixes are inflected according to number (singular, plural) and person (1st, 2nd).

Chickasaw has an active-stative pronominal system with two basic series of pronominal sets: an active series (I) and a stative series (II). Additionally, Chickasaw also has dative (III), negative (N), and reciprocal (IR) series.

The active series is used for active intransitive subjects and active transitive subjects. (An active subject, simply put, is a subject that is in control of the action while a stative subject does not have control of the action. This is the difference between She fell on purpose vs. She fell accidentally where the first she controlled the falling while the second she did not control the falling.) The active series is in the table below:

singular plural
1st -li il- / ii-
2nd ish- hash-
3rd -

The third person lacks an affix and usually does not distinguish between singular and plural. The first person singular affix is a suffix while the other affixes are prefixes. The first person plural has two forms: il- which is used before vowels and ii- which is used before consonants — thus, il-iyya "we go", ii-malli "we jump". An example inflectional paradigm of the verb malli "to jump" is below (with the pronominal affixes underlined):

active affixes indicating subjects
singular plural
1st mallili "I jump" iimalli "we jump"
2nd ishmalli "you jump" hashmalli "you all jump"
3rd malli   "he/she/it/they jump"

The stative series (II) is below. This series is used to indicate stative intransitive subjects and direct objects.

singular plural
1st sa- po-
2nd chi- hachi-
3rd -

Example with stative intransitive subjects, lhinko "to be fat":

stative affixes indicating subjects
singular plural
1st salhinko "I am fat" polhinko "we are fat"
2nd chilhinko "you are fat" hachilhinko "you all are fat"
3rd lhinko   "he/she/it/they is/are fat"

Example with direct objects, pisa "to look at (someone)" (the subject in the paradigm below is unmarked because it is in the third person):

stative affixes indicating direct objects
singular plural
1st sapisa "he/she/it/they look at me" popisa "he/she/it/they look at us"
2nd chipisa "he/she/it/they look at you" hachipisa "he/she/it/they look at you all"
3rd pisa   "he/she/it/they look at him/her/it/them"

Both active and stative affixes can occur together in which case the active affix indicates the active subject and the stative affix indicates the direct object. Active prefixes occur before stative prefixes. When ish- "active second person singular" occurs before sa- "stative first person singular", it results in issa- (the sh assimilates to s). Likewise, hash- "active second person plural" + sa- is realized as hassa-. The full paradigm of pisa "to look at" is below:

active & stative affixes together
verb form translation morpheme segmentation
hachipisali "I look at you all" hachi-pisa-li
pisali "I look at her" pisa-li
iichipisa "we look at you" ii-chi-pisa
iihachipisa "we look at you all" ii-hachi-pisa
iipisa "we look at her" ii-pisa
issapisa "you look at me" ish-sa-pisa
ishpopisa "you look at us" ish-po-pisa
ishpisa "you look at her" ish-pisa
hassapisa "you all look at me" hash-sa-pisa
hashpopisa "you all look at us" hash-po-pisa
hashpisa "you all look at her" hash-pisa
sapisa "she looks at me" sa-pisa
popisa "she looks at us" po-pisa
chipisa "she looks at you" chi-pisa
hachipisa "she looks at you all" hachi-pisa
pisa "she looks at her" pisa

Verb grades

      foyopa 'to breathe'
      fóyyo'pa 'to give a sigh of relief'
      foyohómpa 'to be breathing'
      foyámpa 'breathing' (at same time as another action)


External links


  • Gordon, Matthew. (2004). "A phonological and phonetic study of word-level stress in Chickasaw". International Journal of American Linguistics, 70 (1), 1-32.
  • Gordon, Matthew; Munro, Pamela; Ladefoged, Peter (2000), "Some phonetic structures of Chickasaw", Anthropological Linguistics 42: 366–400 
  • Gordon, Matthew; Munro, Pamela; Ladefoged, Peter (2001), "Illustrations of the IPA: Chickasaw", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 31 (2): 287–290 
  • Munro, Pamela (2005), "Chickasaw", in Hardy, Heather K.; Scancarelli, Janine, Native Languages of the Southeastern United States, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, pp. 114–156 
  • Munro, Pamela; & Willmond, C. (1994). Chickasaw: An analytical dictionary. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.


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