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Spoken in United States, Canada
Region Western New York and the Six Nations Reserve, Ontario
Total speakers 200[1]
Language family Iroquoian
  • Northern Iroquoian
    • Proto-Lake Iroquoian
      • Iroquois Proper
        • Seneca-Cayuga
          • Seneca
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 iro
ISO 639-3 see

Seneca (in Seneca, Onödowága or Onötowáka) is the language of the Seneca people, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League. About 10,000 Seneca live in the United States and Canada, primarily on reservations in western New York state, with others living in Oklahoma and near Brantford, Ontario.



There are several methods to write the Seneca Language and variations of dialect between territories and regions. The orthography described here is the one used by the Seneca Bilingual Education Project.


Seneca has three stops, /t/, /k/, and /ʔ/. /t/ and /k/ become voiced ([d] and [ɡ]) before vowels or approximants.

Dental &
Postalveolar &
Velar Glottal
Nasal n
Stop t k ʔ
Affricate d͡z d͡ʒ <j>
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant j <y> w


Front Back
Oral Nasal Oral Nasal
Close i
Close-mid e o õ
Open-mid æ[1]
Open a

The nasal vowels, except <ä> which represents a near-open front unrounded vowel, are represented with diaereses on top: <ë ö>. Depending on the phonetic environment, the nasal vowel <ë> may vary between [ɛ̃] and [œ̃], whereas <ö> may vary from [ɔ̃] to [ɑ̃].[1] Long vowels are indicated with a following <:>, while stress is indicated with an acute accent overtop.[2]



  1. ^ a b c Campbell, George L. (2004). Compendium of the World's Languages. Taylor & Francis. p. 1474. ISBN 0415202973.  
  2. ^ Harvey, Christopher (February 22, 2008). "Onödowága – Seneca". The LinguaSphere Online. Retrieved 2008-06-27.  

Further reading

  • Chafe, Wallace L. 1963. Handbook of the Seneca Language. New York State Museum and Science Service. (Bulletin No. 388). Albany, N.Y. Reprinted 2007, Toronto: Global Language Press, ISBN 978-1-8973-6713-1.
  • Chafe, Wallace L. 1997, "The Seneca Language", in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 17: Languages, Ives Goddard (Editor), William C. Sturtevant (Editor), Smithsonian Institution, ISBN 0160487749.

External links


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