Choctaw language

Last updated
Choctaw
Chahta'
Native to United States
RegionSoutheastern Oklahoma, east central Mississippi and into Louisiana and Tennessee
Ethnicity20,000 Choctaw (2007) [1]
Native speakers
9,600 (2015 census) [1]
Muskogean
  • Western
    • Choctaw
Language codes
ISO 639-2 cho
ISO 639-3 cho
Glottolog choc1276 [2]
Oklahoma Indian Languages.png
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The Choctaw language, traditionally spoken by the Native American Choctaw people of the southeastern United States, is a member of the Muskogean family. Chickasaw, Choctaw and Houma form the Western branch of the Muskogean language family. Although Chickasaw is sometimes listed as a dialect of Choctaw, more extensive documentation of Chickasaw has shown that Choctaw and Chickasaw are best treated as separate but closely related languages. [3]

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Choctaw Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States

The Choctaw are a Native American people originally occupying what is now the Southeastern United States. Their Choctaw language belongs to the Muskogean language family group. Hopewell and Mississippian cultures, who lived throughout the east of the Mississippi River valley and its tributaries. About 1,700 years ago, the Hopewell people built Nanih Waiya, a great earthwork mound located in what is central present-day Mississippi. It is still considered sacred by the Choctaw. The early Spanish explorers of the mid-16th century in the Southeast encountered Mississippian-culture villages and chiefs. The anthropologist John R. Swanton suggested that the Choctaw derived their name from an early leader. Henry Halbert, a historian, suggests that their name is derived from the Choctaw phrase Hacha hatak.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Contents

Orthography

The written Choctaw language is based upon the English version of the Roman alphabet and was developed in conjunction with the civilization program of the United States in the early 19th century. Although there are other variations of the Choctaw alphabet, the three most commonly seen are the Byington (Original), Byington/Swanton (Linguistic), and Modern (Mississippi Choctaw).

Byington (Original)

The Choctaw "Speller" alphabet as found in the Chahta Holisso Ai Isht Ia Vmmona - The Choctaw Spelling Book, 1800s. Choctaw alphabet (Speller).svg
The Choctaw "Speller" alphabet as found in the Chahta Holisso Ai Isht Ia Ʋmmona – The Choctaw Spelling Book, 1800s.

Byington/Swanton (Linguistic)

The Choctaw linguistic alphabet as found in the Choctaw Language Dictionary by Cyrus Byington and edited by John Swanton, 1909. Choctaw alphabet (Byington).svg
The Choctaw linguistic alphabet as found in the Choctaw Language Dictionary by Cyrus Byington and edited by John Swanton, 1909.

Modern (Mississippi Choctaw)

The Modern Choctaw alphabet as used by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Present. Choctaw alphabet.svg
The Modern Choctaw alphabet as used by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Present.

Modern (linguistic variant)

Rev. Cyrus Byington worked nearly 50 years translating the Bible into Choctaw. He stayed with the Choctaws in Mississippi before removal and followed them to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) after their 'removal'. Cyrus Byington.png
Rev. Cyrus Byington worked nearly 50 years translating the Bible into Choctaw. He stayed with the Choctaws in Mississippi before removal and followed them to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) after their 'removal'.

Many publications by linguists about the Choctaw language use a slight variant of the "modern (Mississippi Choctaw)" orthography listed here, where long vowels are written as doubled. In the "linguistic" version, the acute accent shows the position of the pitch accent, rather than the length of the vowel.

The discussion of Choctaw grammar below uses the linguistic variant of the orthography.

Dialects

There are three dialects of Choctaw (Mithun 1999):

  1. "Native" Choctaw on the Choctaw Nation in southeastern Oklahoma
  2. Mississippi Choctaw of Oklahoma on Chickasaw Nation of south central Oklahoma (near Durwood)
  3. Choctaw of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians near Philadelphia, Mississippi

Other speakers live near Tallahassee, Florida, and with the Koasati in Louisiana, and also a few speakers live in Texas and California.

Florida State of the United States of America

Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.

Louisiana State of the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

Phonology

Consonants

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral
Nasal m n
Stop 1 p   b t k ʔ 2
Affricate ch [ ]
Fricative f s 3 ɬ sh [ ʃ 3 ] h
Approximant l y [ j ] w
  1. ^ The only voiced stop is /b/. The voiceless stops /p/, /t/, and /k/ may become partially voiced between vowels, especially /k/ and for male speakers. Also, the voiceless stops are slightly aspirated at the onset of words [4] and before stressed syllables, behaving like English voiceless plosives.
  2. ^ According to one analysis, all nouns must end in a consonant, but this is considered controversial. [5] Nouns apparently ending in a vowel actually have a glottal stop /ʔ/ or a glottal fricative /h/ as the final consonant. Such consonants become realized when suffixes are attached.
  3. ^ The distinction between phonemes /s/ and /ʃ/ is neutralized at the end of words.

Free variation

Free variation in linguistics is the phenomenon of two sounds or forms appearing in the same environment without a change in meaning and without being considered incorrect by native speakers.

  1. /ɬ/, the voiceless lateral fricative, is pronounced as a voiceless dental fricative [θ]. [6]
/ɬ/[θ]
  1. The voiceless labiodental fricative /f/ is pronounced as a voiceless bilabial fricative [ɸ]. [6]
/f/[ɸ]

Phonological processes of consonants

Voiced velar fricative consonantal sound

The voiced velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in various spoken languages. It is not found in Modern English but it existed in Old English {Baker, 2012, P. 15}. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɣ⟩, a Latinized variant of the Greek letter gamma, ⟨γ⟩, which has this sound in Modern Greek. It should not be confused with the graphically similar ⟨ɤ⟩, the IPA symbol for a close-mid back unrounded vowel, which some writings use for the voiced velar fricative.

/k/[ɣ]/V_V
imofi-aki-lih→imofiy-əɣə̃:-lih

The voiceless glottal fricative, sometimes called voiceless glottal transition, and sometimes called the aspirate, is a type of sound used in some spoken languages that patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant phonologically, but often lacks the usual phonetic characteristics of a consonant. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨h⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is h, although has been described as a voiceless vowel because in many languages, it lacks the place and manner of articulation of a prototypical consonant as well as the height and backness of a prototypical vowel:

[h and ɦ] have been described as voiceless or breathy voiced counterparts of the vowels that follow them [but] the shape of the vocal tract […] is often simply that of the surrounding sounds. […] Accordingly, in such cases it is more appropriate to regard h and ɦ as segments that have only a laryngeal specification, and are unmarked for all other features. There are other languages [such as Hebrew and Arabic] which show a more definite displacement of the formant frequencies for h, suggesting it has a [glottal] constriction associated with its production.

Voiceless palatal fricative consonantal sound

The voiceless palatal fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ç⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is C. It is the non-sibilant equivalent of the voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant.

/h/[ç]/_
katihchish→katiçtʃiʃ

Vowels

Short 1 Long Nasal 2
Close front iĩ
Close-mid back oõ
Open central aã
  1. ^ In closed syllables, [ɪ], [ʊ], and [ə] occur as allophonic variants of /i/, /o/, and /a/. Traditional orthography distinguishes the lax allophones from the tense vowels but failed to distinguish phonemic long vowels from phonemic short ones.
  2. ^ Nasal vowels are not distinguished by duration given that they are already phonetically long.

Pitch

  1. In Choctaw, very few words are distinguished only by pitch accent. [7] Nouns in Choctaw have pitch realization at the penultimate syllable or the ultimate syllable. [7] Verbs in Choctaw will have pitch realization at morphemes indicating tense, but sometimes, pitch directly precedes the tense morpheme. [7]

Syllable structure

Syllables of Choctaw [8]

SyllableTypeExample
VLighta.bih
CVLightno.sih
VVHeavyii.chih
CVVHeavypii.ni'
VHeavya.chi'
CVHeavyta.chi'
VCHeavyish.ki'
CVCHeavyha.bish.ko'
VVCSuper Heavyóok.cha-cha
CVVCSuper Heavynáaf.ka'
VCSuper Heavyat
CVCSuper Heavyok.hish
*(C)VCCSuper Heavytablit.tapt
*CCVSuper Heavyski.tii.nnih
  1. As is in the chart above, there are three syllable structure types in Choctaw: light, heavy, and super heavy. Possible syllables in Choctaw must contain at least one vowel of any quality. [9]
  2. Syllables cannot end with a consonant clusters CC. However, there is an exception with the structure *(C)VCC if a word in Choctaw ends with the suffix /-t/. [9]
  3. Syllables do not begin with consonant clusters CC, but there is an exception in an initial /i-/ deletion, which results in a syllable *CCV . [9]

Rhythmic lengthening

  • Rhythmic lengthening is the process of lengthening the vowel duration of an even-numbered CV syllable in Choctaw. However, vowels at the end of words are not permitted to undergo that process. Also, if an even-numbered syllable is a verbal prefixes class I or III, the affix's vowel may not undergo lengthening, and the same holds true for noun prefixes class III as well. [10]
CV-CV-CVC→CV-CV:-CVC
salahatok→sala:hatok

Smallest possible word

  • The smallest possible word in Choctaw must contain either two short vowels or one long vowel. [8]
a:t
  • /A-/ insertion: there are verbs with only one short vowel in their roots. Without an affix attached to the verb root, the verbs become impossible utterances because Choctaw requires either two short vowel or a long vowel for a word to be formed. An initial A- prefix is thus attached to the root of the verb. [11]
*bih → a-bih

Phonological processes

Glide insertion

  • When a verb root ends with a long vowel, a glide /w/ or /j/ is inserted after the long vowel. [12]
  • ∅→/wa/ / V:____
  1. Where V: is oo
  2. boo-a-h→bóowah
  • ∅→/ja/ / V:____
  1. Where V: can be either ii or aa
  2. talaa-a-h→talaayah

/i-/ deletion

  • In Choctaw, there is a group of nouns which contain an initial /i-/ that encodes for 3rd person possession. It may be deleted, but if the /i/ is part of a VC syllable structure, the C is also deleted, because the resulting CCV syllable is rarely a permissible syllable structure at the onset of words. [13]
/i/→∅ / #____
Part 1: /i + C/→∅ + /C/ / #____
Part 2: /∅ + C/→∅ / #____
ippókni'→ppókni'→pókni'

/-l-/ infix assimilation

  • The verbal infix /l/ is pronounced /h, ch, or ɬ/ when /l/ precedes a voiceless consonant. [14]
l → {h, tʃ, ɬ} /_C[-voice]
ho-l-tinah → ho-ɬ-tinah

Phonological processes of the suffix /-li/

  • There are several assimilation processes that occur with the suffix /-li/. When the verbal suffix /-li/ is preceded by /f/ /ɫ/ /h/ /m/ /n/ or /w/, the /l/ assimilates to the corresponding consonant that precedes it. [15] Also, the verbal suffix /-li/ is preceded by the consonant /b/, the /l/ is realized as /b/. [15] Third, when the verbal suffix /-li/ is preceded by the consonant /p/, the /p/ is pronounced as /b/. [15] Lastly, when the verbal suffix /-li/ is preceded by the consonant /t/, the /t/ is pronounced as /l/. [15]
/l/→/f, ɫ, h, m, n, w/ / /f, ɫ, h, m, n, w/____
/kobaf-li-h/→ kobaaffih
/l/→/b/ / /b/____
/atob-li-h/→ atobbih
/p/→/b/ / /b/____
/tap-li-h/→ tablih
/t/→/l/ / ____/l/
/palhat-li-h/→ pallalih
  • There are two deletion processes that occur with the suffix /-li/. If the verbal suffix /-li/ precedes the verbal suffix /-tʃi/, the suffix /-li/ may be deleted if the resulting syllable, after deletion, is a consonant cluster. [16] The other process occurs when the verbal suffix /-li/ precedes the suffix /-t/, which results with the suffix /-li/ being sometimes deleted if the syllable /-li/ has not already gone under phonological processes as described above. [17]
/li/→∅ / ____/tʃi/
balii-li-chi-h→balii-chi-h
/li/→∅ / ____/t/
balii-li--h→balii-t

Schwa insertion

  • Schwa insertion: when a glottal fricative /h/ or a velar stop /k/ precedes a voiced consonant within a consonant cluster, a schwa /ə/ is inserted to break up the consonant cluster. [18]
∅→/ə///h/____[+voiced] consonant
∅→/ə///k/____[+voiced] consonant
'ahnih'→/ahənih/

Vowel deletion

  • Vowel deletion is the process of a short vowel being deleted at a morpheme boundary. It occurs when an affix containing a short vowel at the morpheme boundary binds to a word that also contains a short vowel at the morpheme boundary. [19]
  1. For most vowel deletion cases, the preceding short vowel is deleted at the morpheme boundary. [19]
V→∅ / ____V
/baliili-aatʃĩ-h/→baliilaatʃĩh
  1. If a class II suffix attaches to a word that results with two short vowels occurring together, the short vowel that follows the class II suffix is deleted. [19]
V→∅ / V____
/sa-ibaa-waʃoohah/→sabaa-waʃoohah

Morphology and grammar

Verbal morphology

Choctaw verbs display a wide range of inflectional and derivational morphology. In Choctaw, the category of verb may also include words that would be categorized as adjectives or quantifiers in English. Verbs may be preceded by up to three prefixes and followed by as many as five suffixes. In addition, verb roots may contain infixes that convey aspectual information.

Verb prefixes

The verbal prefixes convey information about the arguments of the verb: how many there are and their person and number features. The prefixes can be divided into three sorts: agreement markers, applicative markers, and anaphors (reflexives and reciprocals). The prefixes occur in the following order: agreement-anaphor-applicative-verb stem.

Agreement affixes

The agreement affixes are shown in the following chart. All are prefixes except -li, a suffix. [20]

IIIIIIN
1st sg.(-li)sa-am-/a̱-ak-
2nd sgish-chi-chim-/chi̱-chik-
1st pl.il-/ii-pi-pim-/pi̱-kil-/kii-
2nd pl.hash-hachi-hachim-/hachi̱-hachik-
unmarkedim/i̱-ik-

I, II, and III are neutral labels for the three person marking paradigms. Some authors (Ulrich 1986, Davies, 1986) have called them actor–patient–dative or nominative–accusative–dative.

The 1sg I agreement marker is /-li/, the only suffix among the agreement markers. It is discussed in this section along with the other agreement markers.

I, II, and III agreement are conditioned by various kinds of arguments. Transitive active verbs show the most predictable pattern. With a typical transitive active verb, the subject will take I agreement, the direct object will take II agreement, and the indirect object will take III agreement.

As the chart above shows, there is no person-number agreement for third person arguments. Consider the following paradigms:

  • Habli-li-tok 'I kicked him/her/it/them.'
  • Ish-habli-tok 'You kicked him/her/it/them.'
  • Habli-tok 'She/he/it/they kicked him/her/it/them.'
  • Ii-habli-tok 'We kicked him/her/it/them.'
  • Hash-habli-tok 'Y'all kicked him/her/it/them.'
  • Sa-habli-tok 'She/he/it/they kicked me.'
  • Chi-habli-tok 'She/he/it/they kicked you.'
  • Habli-tok 'She/he/it/they kicked him/her/it/them.'
  • Pi-habli-tok 'She/he/it/they kicked us.
  • Hachi-habli-tok: 'She/he/it/they kicked y'all.'
  • Am-anoli-tok 'She/he/it/they told me.'
  • Chim-anoli-tok 'She/he/it/they told you.'
  • Im-anoli-tok 'She/he/it/they told him/her/it/them.'
  • Pim-anoli-tok 'She/he/it/they told us.'
  • Hachim-anoli-tok 'She/he/it/they told y'all.'

When a transitive verb occurs with more than one agreement prefix, I prefixes precede II and III prefixes:

Iichipí̱satok.
Ii-chi-pí̱sa-tok
1pI-2sII-seeNGR-PT
'We saw you.'
Ishpimanoolitok.
Ish-pim-anooli-tok.
2sI-1pIII-tell-PT
'You told us.'

Intransitive verbs show more complicated patterns of agreement. For intransitive verbs, the subjects of active verbs typically trigger I agreement, the subjects of stative verbs typically trigger II agreement, and III agreement is found with the subjects of some psychological verbs. [21]

Baliililitok.
Baliili-li-tok
run-1sI-PT
'I ran.'
Saniyah.
Sa-niya-h.
1sII-fat-TNS
'I am fat.'
a̱ponnah.
a̱-ponna-h.
1sIII-skilled-TNS
'I am skilled.'

This type of morphology is generally referred to as active–stative.

Negatives

The set of agreement markers labelled N above is used with negatives. [22] Negation is multiply marked, requiring that an agreement marker from the N set replace the ordinary I agreement, the verb appear in the lengthened grade (see discussion below), and that the suffix /-o(k)-/ follow the verb, with deletion of the preceding final vowel. The optional suffix /-kii/ may be added after /-o(k)-/. Consider the following example:

  • Akíiyokiittook.
  • Ak-íiya-o-kii-ttook
  • 1sN-goLGR-NEG-NEG-DPAST
  • 'I did not go.'

Compare this with the affirmative counterpart:

  • Iyalittook
  • Iya-li-ttook.
  • go-1sI-DPAST
  • 'I went'.

To make this example negative, the 1sI suffix /-li/ is replaced by the 1sN prefix /ak-/; the verb root iya is lengthened and accented to yield íiya; the suffix /-o/ is added, the final vowel of iiya is deleted, and the suffix /-kii/ is added.

Anaphoric prefixes

Reflexives are indicated with the /ili-/ prefix, and reciprocals with /itti-/: [23]

  • Ilipísalitok.
  • li-pí̱sa-li-tok.
  • REFL-seeNGR-1sI-PT
  • 'I saw myself'.

Verb suffixes

While the verbal prefixes indicate relations between the verb and its arguments, the suffixes cover a wider semantic range, including information about valence, modality, tense and evidentiality.

The following examples show modal and tense suffixes like /-aachii̱/ 'irrealis'(approximately equal to future), /-tok/ 'past tense', /-h/ 'default tenses': [24]

Baliilih.
Baliili-h.
run-TNS
'She runs.'
Baliilaachi̱h.
Baliili-aachi̱-h.
run-IRR-TNS
'She will run.'

There are also suffixes that show evidentiality, or the source of evidence for a statement, as in the following pair: [25]

Nipi' awashlihli.
Nipi' awashli-hli
meat fry-first:hand
'She fried the meat.' (I saw/heard/smelled her do it.)
Nipi' awashlitoka̱sha.
Nipi' awashli-tok-a̱sha
meat fry-PT-guess
'She fried the meat.' (I guess)

There are also suffixes of illocutionary force which may indicate that the sentence is a question, an exclamation, or a command: [26]

Awashlitoko̱?
Awashli-tok-o̱
fry-PT-Q
'Did she fry it?'
Chahta' siahokii!
Chahta' si-a-h-okii
Choctaw 1sII-be-TNS-EXCL
'I'm Choctaw!' or 'I certainly am a Choctaw!'

Verbal infixes

Choctaw verb stems have various infixes that indicate their aspect. [27] These stem variants are traditionally referred to as 'grades'. The table below shows the grades of Choctaw, along with their main usage.

Name of GradeHow it is formedWhen it is used
n-gradeinfix n in the next to last (penultimate) syllable; put accent on this syllableto show that the action is durative (lasts some definite length of time)
l-gradeput accent on next to last (penultimate) syllable; lengthen the vowel if the syllable is openbefore a few common suffixes, such as the negative /-o(k)/ and the switch-reference markers /-cha/ and /-na/
hn-gradeinsert a new syllable /-hV̱/ after the (original) next to last (penultimate) syllable. V̱ is a nasalized copy of the vowel that precedes it.to show that the action of the verb repeats
y-gradeinsert -Vyy- before the next to last (penultimate) syllableto show delayed inception
g-gradeformed by lengthening the penultimate vowel of the stem, accenting the antepenultimate vowel, and geminating the consonant that follows the antepenult.to show delayed inception
h-gradeinsert -h- after the penultimate vowel of the stem.to show sudden action

Some examples that show the grades follow:

In this example the l-grade appears because of the suffixes /-na/ 'different subject' and /-o(k)/ 'negative':

... lowat táahana falaamat akíiyokiittook.
lowa-t táaha-na falaama-t ak-íiya-o-kii-ttook
burn-SS completeLGR-DS return-SS 1sN-goLGR-NEG-NEG-DPAST
'... (the school) burned down and I didn't go back.'

The g-grade and y-grade typically get translated into English as "finally VERB-ed":

Taloowah.
Taloowa-h
sing-TNS
'He sang.'
Tálloowah.
Tálloowa-h
singGGR-TNS
'He finally sang.'

The hn-grade is usually translated as 'kept on VERBing':

Ohó̱bana nittak pókkooli' oshtattook.
Ohó̱ba-na nittak pókkooli' oshta-ttook
rainHNGR-DS day ten four-DPAST
'It kept on raining for forty days.'

The h-grade is usually translated "just VERB-ed" or "VERB-ed for a short time":

Nóhsih.
Nóhsi-h
sleepHGR-TNS
'He took a quick nap.

Nominal morphology

Noun prefixes

Nouns have prefixes that show agreement with a possessor. [28] Agreement markers from class II are used on a lexically specified closed class of nouns, which includes many (but not all) of the kinship terms and body parts. This is the class that is generally labeled inalienable.

sanoshkobo' 'my head'
sa-noshkobo'
1sII-head
chinoshkobo' 'your head'
chi-noshkobo'
2sII-head
noshkobo' 'his/her/its/their head'
noshkobo'
head
sashki' 'my mother'
sa-ishki'
1sII-mother
chishki' 'your mother'
chi-ishki'
2sII-mother

Nouns that are not lexically specified for II agreement use the III agreement markers:

a̱ki' 'my father'
a̱-ki'
1sIII-father
amofi' 'my dog'
am-ofi'
1sIII-dog

Although systems of this type are generally described with the terms alienable and inalienable, this terminology is not particularly appropriate for Choctaw, since alienability implies a semantic distinction between types of nouns. The morphological distinction between nouns taking II agreement and III agreement in Choctaw only partly coincides with the semantic notion of alienability.

Noun suffixes

Choctaw nouns can be followed by various determiner and case-marking suffixes, as in the following examples, where we see determiners such as /-ma/ 'that', /-pa/ 'this', and /-akoo/ 'contrast' and case-markers /-(y)at/ 'nominative' and /-(y)a̱/ 'accusative': [29]

alla' naknimat
alla' nakni-m-at
child male-that-NOM
'that boy (nominative)'
Hoshiit itti chaahamako̱ o̱biniilih.
Hoshi'-at itti' chaaha-m-ako̱ o̱-biniili-h
bird-NOM tree tall-that-CNTR:ACCSUPERESSIVE-sit-TNS
'The bird is sitting on that tall tree.' (Not on the short one.)

The last example shows that nasalizing the last vowel of the preceding N is a common way to show the accusative case.

Word order and case marking

The simplest sentences in Choctaw consist of a verb and a tense marker, as in the following examples: [30]
o̱batok.
o̱ba-tok
rain-PT
'It rained.'
Niyah.
niya-h
fat-TNS
'She/he/it is fat, they are fat.'
Pí̱satok.
pí̱sa-tok
seeNGR-PT
'She/he/it/they saw her/him/it/them.'
As these examples show, there are no obligatory noun phrases in a Choctaw sentence, nor is there any verbal agreement that indicates a third person subject or object. There is no indication of grammatical gender, and for third person arguments there is no indication of number. (There are, however, some verbs with suppletive forms that indicate the number of a subject or object, e.g. iyah 'to go (sg.)', ittiyaachih 'to go (du.)', and ilhkolih 'to go (pl)'.)

When there is an overt subject, it is obligatorily marked with the nominative case /-at/. Subjects precede the verb

Hoshiyat apatok.
hoshi'-at apa-tok
bird-NOM eat-PT
'The birds ate them.'

When there is an overt object, it is optionally marked with the accusative case /-a̱/

Hoshiyat sho̱shi(-ya̱) apatok.
hoshi'-at sho̱shi'(-a̱) apa-tok.
bird-NOM bug-(ACC) eat-PT
'The birds ate the bugs.'

The Choctaw sentence is normally verb-final, and so the head of the sentence is last.

Some other phrases in Choctaw also have their head at the end. Possessors precede the possessed noun in the Noun Phrase:

ofi' hohchifo'
dog name
'the dog's name'

Choctaw has postpositional phrases with the postposition after its object:

tamaaha' bili̱ka
town near
'near a town'

Examples

Some common Choctaw phrases (written in the "Modern" orthography):

Other Choctaw words:

Counting to twenty:

At " Native Nashville " web , there is an Online Choctaw Language Tutor, with Pronunciation Guide and four lessons: Small Talk, Animals, Food and Numbers.

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 Choctaw at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Choctaw". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Munro 1984
  4. 1 2 3 Broadwell (2006:15)
  5. Broadwell (2006:19-20)
  6. 1 2 3 Broadwell (2006:15-20)
  7. 1 2 3 Broadwell (2006:16-18)
  8. 1 2 Broadwell (2006:18-20)
  9. 1 2 3 Broadwell (2006:18-19)
  10. Broadwell (2006:21-26)
  11. Broadwell (2006:18-21)
  12. Broadwell (2006:125)
  13. Broadwell (2006:60-62)
  14. Broadwell (2006:124-125)
  15. 1 2 3 4 Broadwell (2006:26-27)
  16. Broadwell (2006:130)
  17. Broadwell (2006:219)
  18. Broadwell (2006:16)
  19. 1 2 3 Broadwell (2006:26)
  20. Broadwell (2006:137-140)
  21. Broadwell (2006:140-142)
  22. Broadwell (2006:148-152)
  23. Broadwell (2006:98-99)
  24. Broadwell (2006:169-183)
  25. Broadwell (2006:184-190)
  26. Broadwell (2006:191-193)
  27. Broadwell (2006:161-168)
  28. Broadwell (2006:52-63)
  29. Broadwell (2006:64-92)
  30. Broadwell (2006:32)

Sources

Further reading