Cayuga language

Last updated
Cayuga "our language".svg
Cayuga for "our language"
Native to Canada, United States
Region Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, Cattaraugus Reservation
Native speakers
61 (2016 census) [1]
  • Northern
    • Lake Iroquoian
      • Five Nations
        • Seneca–Cayuga
          • Cayuga
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cay
Glottolog cayu1261 [2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Cayuga (In Cayuga Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ) is a Northern Iroquoian language of the Iroquois Proper (also known as "Five Nations Iroquois") subfamily, and is spoken on Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, Ontario, by around 240 Cayuga people, and on the Cattaraugus Reservation, New York, by less than 10.

Iroquois Northeast Native American confederacy

The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee are a historically powerful northeast Native American confederacy. They were known during the colonial years to the French as the Iroquois League, and later as the Iroquois Confederacy, and to the English as the Five Nations, comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca. After 1722, they accepted the Tuscarora people from the Southeast into their confederacy and became known as the Six Nations.

Cattaraugus Reservation Indian reservation in New York, United States

Cattaraugus Reservation is an Indian reservation of the federally recognized Seneca Nation of Indians, formerly part of the Iroquois Confederacy located in New York. As of the 2000 census, the Indian reservation had a total population of 2,412. Its total area is about 34.4 mi² (89.1 km²). The reservation stretches from Lake Erie inward along Cattaraugus Creek, along either side of NY 438. It is divided among three counties for census purposes:


Use and language revitalization

Six Nations Polytechnic in Ohsweken, Ontario, offers Ogwehoweh language diploma and degree programs in Mohawk or Cayuga. [3] Immersion classes in Cayuga are taught at Gaweni:yo High School, on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve. [4] The Cayuga language maintenance project was funded by the Canadian Government in 2010, [5] and is being "carried out in partnership with the Woodland Cultural Centre." [6] A Cayuga e-dictionary can be downloaded for PC or MAC, free of charge. [7]

Six Nations Polytechnic

Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) is a Haudenosaunee-owned and controlled post-secondary institution at Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation. The Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation are the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, and Tuscarora. The Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve acreage at present covers some 46,000 acres near the city of Brantford, Ontario.

Ohsweken, Ontario Place in Ontario, Canada

Ohsweken,, is a village on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation Indian reserve near Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Approximately 300 of the 2,700 homes on the reserve are in Ohsweken, and it is the site of the reserve governmental and administrative offices.

Iroquoian languages language family

The Iroquoian languages are a language family of indigenous peoples of North America. They are known for their general lack of labial consonants. The Iroquoian languages are polysynthetic and head-marking.

As of 2012, 79 people were said to be fluent speakers of Cayuga. [4]


There used to be two distinct dialects of Cayuga. One is still spoken in Ontario. The other, called "Seneca-Cayuga", was spoken in Oklahoma until its extinction in the 1980s.


Modern dialects

There are two varieties of Cayuga. The Lower Cayuga dialect is spoken by those of the Lower End of the Six Nations and the Upper Cayuga are from the Upper End. The main difference between the two is that the Lower Cayuga use the sound [ɡj] and the Upper use the sound [dj]. [8] Also, pronunciation differs between individual speakers of Cayuga and their preferences.


There are 5 oral vowels in Cayuga, as well as four long vowels, [iː], [aː], [oː], and [eː]. [9] Cayuga also has 3 nasalized vowels, [ẽ], [õ], and [ã]. [10] Both [u] and [ã] are rare sounds in Cayuga. Sometimes, the sounds [u] and [o] are used interchangeably according to the speaker's preference. After long [eː] and [oː], an [n] sound can be heard, especially when before [t], [d], [k], [ɡ], [ts], and [j]. [10]

Vowels can be devoiced allophonically, indicated in the orthography used at Six Nations by underlining them.

Front Back
High /i//iː//u/
Mid /e//eː//ẽ/ /ẽː//o//oː//õ/ /õː/
Low /a//aː//ã/


Long vowels

Length is important because it alone can distinguish two completely different meanings from one another. For example:
[haʔseʔ] you are going
[haʔseː] you went [12]

Devoiced vowels

Following are some words that demonstrate what some vowels sound like when they occur before [h]. [ehaʔ], [ẽhaʔ], [ohaʔ], and [õha], [e] and [ẽ] sound like a whispered [j], and [o] and [õ] sound like a whispered [w]. Furthermore, the [ã] in [ẽhãʔ] and [õhã] is nasalized because of [ẽ] and [õ]. The consonant before the nasalized vowel becomes voiceless. [9] Also, odd-numbered vowels followed by [h] are devoiced, while even-numbered vowels followed by [h] are not. [10]


Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal n
Plosive voiceless tkʔ
voiced dɡ
Affricate voiceless ts
Fricative sʃh
Approximant ɹjw


Allophonic variations that occur in Cayuga:
/d/ becomes devoiced [t] before devoiced consonants. The sound [d] does not exist word-finally. [14]
/ɡ/ becomes devoiced [k] before devoiced consonants.
/s/ becomes [ʃ] before [j] or [ɹ].

/dʒ/ becomes [dz] and [ds] before [a] and [o], respectively. Speakers may use [dz] and [ds] interchangeably according to the speaker's preference.

/w/ can be voiceless (sounds like [h] followed by [w]).
/j/ can also be voiceless (sounds like [h] followed by [j])

/h/: "A vowel devoices if the vowel and a following [h] are in an odd-numbered syllable." [14] For example:
the [õ] in [ehjádõ̥hkʷaʔ] [14]

The vowel is voiced when it and a following /h/ are in an even-numbered syllable and in "absolute word-initial position or in word-final position, or preceded by another [h]." [14] For example:
[ʃehóːwih] 'tell her'
[ehjáːdõh] 'she writes' [14]


Most words have accented vowels, resulting in a higher pitch. [9] Where the stress is placed is dependent on the "position of the word in the phrase." [9] The default location for stress for nouns is on final vowel. "In words that are at the end of a phrase, accent falls on the 2nd last vowel, the 3rd last vowel, or occasionally, on the 4th vowel from the end of the word." [9] For example:

[neɡitsõˊː aɡaːtõˊːdeʔ] 'I just heard it' [15]

These sounds are long, especially in an even-numbered position. When nouns and verbs are not at the end of a phrase, accent is placed on the final vowel. [9] For example:

[aɡaːtõːdéʔ tsõː teʔ niːʔ dedéːɡẽːʔ] 'I heard it, I didn't see it' [15]


Cayuga is a polysynthetic language. As with other Iroquoian languages, the verbal template contains an optional prepronominal prefix, a pronominal prefix (indicating agreement), an optional incorporated noun, a verbal root, and an aspectual suffix. The nominal template consists of an agreement prefix (usually neuter for non-possessed nouns), the nominal root, and a suffix.


  1. "Language Highlight Tables, 2016 Census - Aboriginal mother tongue, Aboriginal language spoken most often at home and Other Aboriginal language(s) spoken regularly at home for the population excluding institutional residents of Canada, provinces and territories, 2016 Census – 100% Data". Government of Canada. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Cayuga". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Six Nations Polytechnic
  4. 1 2 "School fights to revive native Canadian language". Reuters. 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
  5. "Cayuga: Our Oral Legacy - The CURA Project". Archived from the original on 2012-08-02. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  6. "Government of Canada Announces New Research Project to Revitalize Cayuga Language at Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, Ontario". Marketwire. 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
  7. "Cayuga: Our Oral Legacy - Cayuga e-dictionary (Free Download)" . Retrieved 2012-10-25.[ permanent dead link ]
  8. Froman, Frances, Alfred Keye, Lottie Keye and Carrie Dyck. English-Cayuga/Cayuga-English Dictionary. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, p. xii
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Froman, 2002, p. xxxii
  10. 1 2 3 Froman, 2002, p. xxxi
  11. Froman, 2002, p. xxx-xxxii
  12. Froman, 2002, p.xxxii
  13. Froman, 2002, p. xxxvi-xxxviii
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Froman, 2002, p. xxxvi
  15. 1 2 Froman, 2002, p. xxxiii

Related Research Articles

Allophone Sounds considered the same in a language

In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or phones, or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. For example, in English, and the aspirated form are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in some languages such as Thai and Hindi. On the other hand, in Spanish, and are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in English.

In phonetics, a nasal, also called a nasal occlusive, nasal stop in contrast with a nasal fricative, or nasal continuant, is an occlusive consonant produced with a lowered velum, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. The vast majority of consonants are oral consonants. Examples of nasals in English are, and, in words such as nose, bring and mouth. Nasal occlusives are nearly universal in human languages. There are also other kinds of nasal consonants in some languages.

Dida is a dialect cluster of the Kru family spoken in Ivory Coast.

Chechen is a Northeast Caucasian language spoken by more than 1.4 million people, mostly in the Chechen Republic and by members of the Chechen diaspora throughout Russia, Jordan, Central Asia, and Georgia.

In phonetics, nasalization is the production of a sound while the velum is lowered, so that some air escapes through the nose during the production of the sound by the mouth. An archetypal nasal sound is.

ǂʼAmkoe, formerly called by the dialectal name ǂHoan, is a severely endangered Kxʼa language of Botswana. West ǂʼAmkoe, Taa, and Gǀui form the core of the Kalahari Basin sprachbund, and share a number of characteristic features, including some of the largest consonant inventories in the world. ǂʼAmkoe was shown to be related to the Juu languages by Honken and Heine (2010), and as a result was classified along with the !Kung language in the Kxʼa language group.

Muscogee language language

The Muscogee language, also known as Creek, is a Muskogean language spoken by Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole people, primarily in the U.S. states of Oklahoma and Florida. Along with Mikasuki, when spoken by the Seminole it is known as Seminole.

Kobon is a language of Papua New Guinea. It has somewhere around 90–120 verbs.

The phonology of Japanese features about 15 consonant phonemes, the cross-linguistically typical five-vowel system of, and a relatively simple phonotactic distribution of phonemes allowing few consonant clusters. It is traditionally described as having a mora as the unit of timing, with each mora taking up about the same length of time, so that the disyllabic ("Japan") may be analyzed as and dissected into four moras,, ,, and.

Tuscarora language language

Tuscarora, sometimes called Skaròꞏrə̨ʼ, is an Iroquoian language of the Tuscarora people, spoken in southern Ontario, Canada, North Carolina and northwestern New York around Niagara Falls, in the United States. The historic homeland of the Tuscarora was in eastern North Carolina, in and around the Goldsboro, Kinston, and Smithfield areas. Some Tuscaroras still live in this region, having migrated to present day Robeson County, NC. The name Tuscarora means "hemp people," after the Indian hemp or milkweed which they use in many aspects of their society. Skarureh refers to the long shirt worn as part of the men's regalia, hence "long shirt people".

Seneca language language

Seneca is the language of the Seneca people, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League; it is an Iroquoian language, spoken at the time of contact in the western portion of New York. While the name Seneca, attested as early as the seventeenth century, is of obscure origins, the endonym Onödowáʼga꞉ translates to "those of the big hill." About 10,000 Seneca live in the United States and Canada, primarily on reservations in western New York, with others living in Oklahoma and near Brantford, Ontario. As of 2013, an active language revitalization program is underway.

Comanche language Uto-Aztecan language spoken by the Comanche people in the United States

Comanche is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken by the Comanche people, who split off from the Shoshone soon after they acquired horses around 1705. The Comanche language and the Shoshoni language are therefore quite similar, although certain consonant changes in Comanche have inhibited mutual intelligibility.

This article deals with the phonology of the standard Ukrainian language.

The phonological system of the Polish language is similar in many ways to those of other Slavic languages, although there are some characteristic features found in only a few other languages of the family, such as contrasting retroflex and palatal fricatives and affricates, and nasal vowels. The vowel system is relatively simple, with just six oral monophthongs and two nasals, while the consonant system is much more complex.

In historical linguistics, phonological change is any sound change that alters the distribution of phonemes in a language. In other words, a language develops a new system of oppositions among its phonemes. Old contrasts may disappear, new ones may emerge, or they may simply be rearranged. Sound change may be an impetus for changes in the phonological structures of a language. One process of phonological change is rephonemicization, in which the distribution of phonemes changes by either addition of new phonemes or a reorganization of existing phonemes. Mergers and splits are types of rephonemicization and are discussed further below.

Chippewa is an Algonquian language spoken from upper Michigan westward to North Dakota in the United States. It represents the southern component of the Ojibwe language. Its ISO-3 designation is "ciw".

Tuyuca is an Eastern Tucanoan language. Tuyuca is spoken by the Tuyuca, an indigenous ethnic group of some 500-1000 people, who inhabit the watershed of the Papuri River, the Inambú River, and the Tiquié River, in Vaupés Department, Colombia, and Amazonas State, Brazil.

Kensiu (Kensiw) is an Austro-Asiatic language of the Jahaic subbranch. It is spoken by a small community of 300 in Yala Province in southern Thailand and also reportedly by a community of approximately 300 speakers in Western Malaysia in Perak and Kedah States. Speakers of this language are Negritos who are known as the Mani people or Maniq of Thailand.

Ute dialect language

Ute is a dialect of the Colorado River Numic language, spoken by the Ute people. Speakers primarily live on three reservations: Uintah-Ouray in northeastern Utah, Southern Ute in southwestern Colorado, and Ute Mountain in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Ute is part of the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Other dialects in this dialect chain are Chemehuevi and Southern Paiute. As of 2010, there were 1,640 speakers combined of all three dialects Colorado River Numic. Ute's parent language, Colorado River Numic, is classified as a threatened language, although there are tribally-sponsored language revitalization programs for the dialect.

Avava, also known as Katbol or Tembimbe-Katbol, is an Oceanic language of central Malekula, Vanuatu. It has nasalized fricatives and a bilabial trill.


Further reading