Mikasuki language

The Mikasuki language (also Miccosukee, Mikisúkî or Hitchiti-Mikasuki) is a Muskogean language spoken by around 290 people in southern Florida.[3] Along with Creek, it is also known as Seminole. It is spoken by the Miccosukee tribe and many Florida Seminole. The extinct Hitchiti was a mutually-intelligible dialect.

Native toUnited States
RegionGeorgia, Southern Florida
EthnicityMiccosukee, Seminole
Native speakers
290 (2015 census)[1]
  • Eastern
    • Mikasuki
Language codes
ISO 639-3mik

The Seminole and Miccosukee were made up of mostly Creek members of the Creek 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, specifically 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 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 was taught in the local school, which had "an area devoted to 'Miccosukee Language Arts'".[4]

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.[5]

Presentations in the language have been featured at the Florida Folk Festival.[6]


Front Central Back
 Short  Long  Short   Long   Short  Long
 High (close)  i
 Mid (mid)  o
 Low (open)  a

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 Alveolar Palatal Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b
Fricative ɸ ɬ ʃ
Nasal m n
Resonant w l j h

These phonemes are based on Sylvia Boynton's Outline of Mikasuki Grammar.[7]


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 vowels are pronounced as follows:

Letter Sound
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 are:

Letter Sound
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)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mikasuki". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "Voices of the Everglades: Indian Culture". The News-Press. 2014-03-22. Archived from the original on 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  4. "Elders Seek Way to Preserve Fading Language". Canku Ota (56). 2002-03-09. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  5. "Faculty Openings in the Anthropology Department". Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  6. "Traditional Seminole Song - Rev. Josie Billie". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  7. Boynton, S. S. (1982). MIKASUKI GRAMMAR IN OUTLINE (INDIANS; FLORIDA). (Order No. 8302210, University of Florida). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 203-203 p. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303232611


  • Derrick-Mescua, Mary Tyler. A phonology and morphology of Mikasuki. Ph.D thesis, University of Florida. 1980.
  • West, J. & Smith, N. A Guide to the Miccosukee Language, Miami: Miccosukee Corporation 1978.
  • West, J. The Phonology of Mikasuki in Studies in Linguistics 1962, 16:77-91.
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