Mikasuki language

Native to United States
Region Southern Florida
Ethnicity Miccosukee, Seminole
Native speakers

190 (2010 census)[1]
Spoken by most of the 400 members of the Miccosukee Tribe and many of the 2,700 members of the Seminole Tribe (Golla 2007)[1]

  • Eastern

    • Mikasuki
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mik
Glottolog mika1239[2]

The Mikasuki language (also Miccosukee, Mikisúkî or Hitchiti-Mikasuki) is a Muskogean language spoken by around 500 people in southern Florida.[3] It is part of the Eastern branch of Muskogean languages, along with Creek-Seminole and ApalacheeAlabamaKoasati. It is spoken by the Miccosukee tribe and many Florida Seminole. The extinct Hitchiti was a mutually-intelligible dialect.

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]


 Short   Long 
 Front   Central   Back   Front   Central   Back 
 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 l
m m
n n
ng ŋ
p p
sh ʃ
t t
w w
y j

High tone is indicated with an acute, low tone with a grave and falling tone with an acute (on a long vowel this is typographically split over both vowels, otherwise the grave is placed over the next consonant):

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. 1 2 3 Mikasuki at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Mikasuki". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "Voices of the Everglades: Indian Culture". The News-Press. 2014-03-22. 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


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