Caddo language

Caddo is a Native American language, the traditional language of the Caddo Nation.[4] It is critically endangered, with no exclusively Caddo-speaking community and only 25 speakers as of 2009 who acquired the language as children outside school instruction.[5] Caddo has several mutually intelligible dialects. The most commonly used dialects are Hasinai and Hainai; others include Kadohadacho, Natchitoches and Yatasi.[6]

Native toUnited States
RegionCaddo County in western Oklahoma
Ethnicity5,290 Caddo people (2010 census)[1]
Native speakers
25 (2007)[2]
  • Caddo
Language codes
ISO 639-2cad
ISO 639-3cad
Oklahoma Indian Languages
Map showing the distribution of Oklahoma Indian Languages

Linguistic connections

Caddo is linguistically related to the members of the Northern Caddoan language family; these include the Pawnee-Kitsai (Keechi) languages (Arikara, Kitsai, and Pawnee) and the Wichita language. Kitsai is now extinct, and Pawnee, Arikara, and Wichita each have fewer surviving speakers than Caddo does.[7]

Another language, Adai, is postulated to have been a Caddoan language while it was extant, but because of scarce resources and the language's extinct status, this connection is not conclusive, and Adai is generally considered a language isolate.[7]

Use and language revitalization efforts

The Caddo Nation is making a concentrated effort to save the Caddo language. The Kiwat Hasinay ('Caddo Home') foundation, located at the tribal home of Binger, Oklahoma, offers regular Caddo language classes, in addition to creating dictionaries, phrase books, and other Caddo language resources. They have also made a long-term project of trying to record and digitally archive Caddoan oral traditions, which are an important part of Caddo culture.[8] As of 2012, the Caddo Nation teaches weekly language classes; language CDs, a coloring book, and an online learning website are also available.[9][10] As of 2010, a Caddo app is available for Android phones.[11]

There is a Caddo grammar, published August 2018, [12] and an in-depth examination of the Caddo verb, published in 2004. [13]



Caddo has 19 contrastive consonants, a normal-sized consonant inventory. It is somewhat unusual in that it lacks liquid consonants.[14] The IPA symbols for the consonants of Caddo are given below:

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain ejective plain ejective plain ejective
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d
Affricate plain ts tsʼ tʃʼ
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant j w

Caddo also features contrastive gemination of consonants, which is generally indicated in orthography by a double letter: /nɑ́ttih/ "woman."[7]


Caddo has three contrastive vowel qualities, /i/, /ɑ/, and /u/, and two contrastive vowel lengths, long and short, for a total of 6 vowel phonemes.

Front Central Back
High i   u  
Low a  

However, there is a great deal of phonetic variation in the short vowels. The high front vowel /i/ is generally realized as its lower counterpart /ɪ/, and the high back vowel /u/ is similarly often realized as its lower counterpart /ʊ/. The low central vowel /a/ has a wider range of variation, pronounced (most commonly) as /ɐ/ when it is followed by any consonant except a semivowel or a laryngeal consonant, as a low central vowel (for which IPA lacks a symbol) at the end of an open syllable or when followed by a laryngeal consonant, and as /ə/ before a semivowel.

In general, the long vowels do not feature this kind of variation but are simply lengthened versions of the phonemes that are represented in the chart.[15]

Caddo also has four diphthongs, which can be written a number of different ways; the transcription below shows the typical Caddo Nation orthography (a vowel paired with a glide) and the IPA version, represented with vowels and offglides.[7]

  • ay /aj/ – English eye
  • aw /aw/ – English out
  • iw /iw/ – English ew
  • uy /uj/ – English boy


Caddo is a tone language. There are three tones in Caddo: low tone, which is unmarked (a); high tone, which is marked by an acute accent over the vowel (á); and falling tone, which is always long and marked by a grave accent over the vowel (àː).

Tone occurs both lexically (as a property of the word), non-lexically (as a result of tonological processes), and also as a marker of certain morphological features. For instance, the past tense marker is associated with high tone.[15]

Tonological processes

There are three processes that can create non-lexical high tone within a syllable nucleus.[15] See the section below for an explanation of other phonological changes which may occur in the following examples.

1. H-deletion
VhCC → VHighCC
An /h/ before two consonants is deleted and the preceding vowel gains high tone:
/kiʃwɑhn-t-ʔuh/ → [kiʃwɑ́nːt'uh] "parched corn"
2. Low tone-deletion
A low tone vowel following a resonant (sonorant consonant) is deleted, and the preceding vowel gains a high tone.
/sa-baka-nah-hah/ → [sawkɑ́nːhah] "does he mean it?"
3. Backwards assimilation
VRVHigh → VHighRVHigh
A vowel preceding a resonant and a high tone vowel gains high tone.
/nanɑ́/ → [nɑ́nɑ́ː] "that, that one"'

Phonological processes

Vowel syncope

There are two vowel syncope processes in Caddo, which both involve the loss of a low-tone vowel in certain environments.[15] The first syncope process was described above as low tone-deletion. The second syncope process is described below:

Interconsonantal syncope
A low-tone vowel in between a vowel-consonant sequence and a consonant-vowel sequence is deleted.
(Shown with intermediary form): /kak#(ʔi)t'us-jaʔah/ → kahʔit'uʃaʔah → [kahʔit'uʃʔah] "foam, suds"

Consonant cluster simplification

As a result of the syncope processes described above, several consonant clusters emerge that are then simplified by way of phonological process. At the present stage of research, the processes seem to be unrelated, but they represent a phonetic reduction in consonant clusters; therefore, they are listed below without much further explanation.[15]

1. nw → mm
2. tw → pp
3. tk → kk
4. n → m / __ [+labial]
5. ʔʔ → ʔ
6. hh → h
7. ʔ+Resonant → Resonant+ʔ / syllable final

Syllable coda simplification

Similar to the consonant cluster simplification process, there are four processes by which a syllable-final consonant is altered:[15]

1. b → w / syllable final
2. d → t / syllable final
3. k → h / syllable final (but not before k)
4. tʃ → ʃ / syllable final

Word boundary processes

There are three word-boundary processes in Caddo, all of which occur word-initially:

1. n → t / # __
2. w → p / # __
3. y → d / # __
ni-huhn-id-ah/ → [tihúndah] "she returned"

Such processes are generally not applicable in the case of proclitics (morphemes that behave like an affix and are phonologically dependent on the morpheme to which they are attached). An example is the English articles.[15]


Caddo has a glottalization process by which any voiceless stop or affricate (except p) becomes an ejective when it is followed by a glottal stop.[15]

[-sonorant, -continuant, -voice, -labial, -spread glottis] → [+constricted glottis] / ___ [+constricted glottis, -spread glottis]
A voiceless stop or affricate (except p) becomes an ejective when it is followed by a glottal stop.
/sik-ʔuh/ → [sik'uh] "rock"


Caddo has a palatalization process that affects certain consonants when they are followed by /j/, with simultaneous loss of the /j/.

a) /kj/ → [tʃ]
b) /sj/ → [ʃ]
/kak#ʔa-k'as-jaʔah/ → [kahʔak'a ʃʔah] " one's leg"

(Melnar includes a third palatization process, /tj/ → [ts]. However, /ts/ is not a palatal affricate so it has not been included here. Nevertheless, the third process probably occurs.)[15]


Caddo has three processes by which a syllable nucleus (vowel) may be lengthened:[15]

Syllable Lengthening Process One
VHigh(Resonant)CVC# → VHigh(Resonant)ːCVC#
When the second-to-last syllable in a word has a nucleus consisting of a high tone vowel (and, optionally, a resonant), and the last syllable has the form CVC, the high tone nucleus is then lengthened.
/bak-'ʔawɑ́waʔ/ → [bahʔwɑ́ːwaʔ] "they said"
Syllable Lengthening Process Two
V(Resonant)ʔ → V(Resonant) ː / in any prepenultimate syllable
In any syllable before the penultimate, a glottal stop coda is deleted, and the remaining nucleus is lengthened.
/hɑ́k#ci-(ʔi)bíhn-saʔ/ → [hɑ́hciːbíːsaʔ] " I have it on my back"
Syllable Lengthening Process Three
a) ij → iː
b) uw →uː
Any syllable nucleus with ij or uw must convert to a long vowel.


  1. ^ "2010 Census CPH-T-6. American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-09.
  2. ^ Caddo at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Caddo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ The Linguist List
  5. ^ SIL International, 2009
  6. ^ Caddo Nation, 2007
  7. ^ a b c d Native Languages of the Americas, 2011
  8. ^ Kiwat Hasinay Foundation, 2005
  9. ^ "Caddo Nation - Language". The Caddo nation. Archived from the original on 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  10. ^ "The Caddo Language Learning Tool". Archived from the original on 2012-05-15. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  11. ^ "Caddo Language App Now Available on Android Market". alterNative Media. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  12. ^ "The Caddo Language: A Grammar, Texts, and Dictionary Based on Materials Collected by the Author in Oklahoma Between 1960 and 1970". Paperback (334 pages). Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  13. ^ "Caddo Verb Morphology". Paperback (224 pages). Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  14. ^ World Atlas of Language Structures Online
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Melnar, 2004


External links

Adai people

Adai (also Adaizan, Adaizi, Adaise, Adahi, Adaes, Adees, Atayos) is the name of a Native American people of northwestern Louisiana and northeastern Texas with a Southeastern culture. The name Adai is derived from the Caddo word hadai meaning 'brushwood'.The Adai were among the first peoples in North America to experience European contact and were profoundly affected. In 1530, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca wrote of them using the name Atayos. The Adai subsequently moved away from their homeland. By 1820, there were only 30 persons remaining. Their extinct language was possibly Caddoan, but Adai remains unclassified because of a lack of attestation.

Anadarko, Oklahoma

Anadarko is a city in Caddo County, Oklahoma, United States. This city is fifty miles southwest of Oklahoma City. The population was 6,762 at the 2010 census, a 1.8 percent gain from 6,645 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Caddo County.


The Caddo Nation is a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes. Their ancestors historically inhabited much of what is now East Texas, Louisiana, and portions of southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. They were descendants of the Caddoan Mississippian culture that constructed huge earthwork mounds at several sites in this territory. In the early 19th century, Caddo people were forced to a reservation in Texas; they were removed to Indian Territory in 1859.

Today, the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma is a federally recognized tribe with its capital at Binger, Oklahoma. Descendants of the historic Caddo tribes, with documentation of at least ​1⁄16 ancestry, are eligible to enroll as members in the Caddo Nation. The several Caddo languages have converged into a single language.

Caddo (disambiguation)

The Caddo are Native American people in United States.

Caddo may also refer to:

Caddo (harvestman), a genus of spiders in the Caddidae family

Caddo language, a language spoken in the Great Plains region of the United States

Caddoan Mississippian culture

The Caddoan Mississippian culture was a prehistoric Native American culture considered by archaeologists as a variant of the Mississippian culture. The Caddoan Mississippians covered a large territory, including what is now Eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Northeast Texas, and Northwest Louisiana. Archaeological evidence that the cultural continuity is unbroken from prehistory to the present; that the direct ancestors of the modern Caddo Nation of Oklahoma included the speakers of the Caddo and related Caddo language in prehistoric times and at first European contact, is unquestioned today.

Caddoan village bundle

A village bundle is a bundle or basket filled with ceremonial objects. It represents the spiritual and social organization of the village or community to which it belongs. These are associated with Native American groups including the Caddoan farming villages. The bundle is possessed by an individual, but the power it contains binds the group together.

For groups such as the Arikara and the Pawnee, the bundle was a skin envelope with objects inside that could symbolize ideologies and rituals. It is a physical representation of how the people view their world. These objects showed how the keeper of the bundle was descended directly from the original bundle-keeper, all of whom keep the bundles at their homes to be cared for by their wives. In general, the knowledge of the bundle was not common knowledge, but possessed by a priest who would slowly pass this knowledge on to a younger relative, who could carry on the knowledge after his death. The powers represented and contained in the bundle assured the survival of the village and therefore the universe. It controlled all production and social relations, so that if the bundle was lost or destroyed, the people of the village would die. While in ideological terms the bundles may maintain the universe, in literal terms, they were very powerful symbols that helped maintain the chief and ensure the loyalty of his people.


The Doustioni or Dotchetonne were a tribe of American Indians somewhere in the region around the Gulf of Mexico; they are known only from records of the expedition of the Sieur de la Salle, which identify them as allies, in the late 17th century, of the Kadohadacho tribe. Some writers have placed them in northeastern Texas, but this has never been convincingly proven. J. R. Swanton identified them as a Caddoan group hailing from the area around Bayou Dauchite in northwestern Louisiana, but this, too, is unproven. No further record of the tribe survives.


A dush-toh, also spelled dush-too, dush-tooh, or dush-tuh, is a customary Caddo hair ornament worn by girls and women during dances, particularly the Turkey Dance. Neighboring tribes, such as the Kickapoo and Delaware, have similar women's hair ornaments.

A dush-toh consists of an embellished, butterfly- or hourglass-shaped frame that is worn on the back of the head with ribbons that flow down the back, almost to the ground. They were made in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as into the present.


The Hasinai Confederacy (Caddo: Hasíinay) was a large confederation of Caddo-speaking Native Americans located between the Sabine and Trinity rivers in eastern Texas. Today they are enrolled in the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.

John Wilson (Caddo)

"John Wilson the Revealer of Peyote" (c.1845–1901) was a Caddo-Delaware-French medicine man who introduced the Peyote plant into a religion, became a major leader in the Ghost Dance, and introduced a new peyote ceremony with teachings of Christ. John Wilson's Caddo name was Nishkû'ntu, meaning "Moon Head."

Though he was of half-Delaware descent, quarter-blood French, and quarter-blood Caddo, John Wilson spoke only the Caddo language and identified only as a Caddo. He is believed to have been born in 1845, when his band of Caddo were still living in Texas. They were driven into Indian Territory in 1859.Wilson, being interested in religion and only known as a medicine man, sought out a path to be a peyote roadman in 1880. As the Ghost Dance ceremonies regained popularity in Oklahoma, he became one of its most active leaders in the Indian Territory.

During a two-week period, Wilson consumed peyote for spiritual reasons and said he was shown essential astronomical symbols representing the life of Jesus Christ. These messages became part of his own teaching, which nevertheless remained reliant purely on peyote. He recalled that Peyote spoke to him, telling him to keep indulging in, and to keep walking in its "road" until the day he died of the peyote to create a higher enlightenment.The tribe had been exposed to the Half Moon peyote ceremony, but Wilson introduced the Big Moon ceremony to the tribe. The Caddo tribe remains very active in the Native American Church today.

He is the single human most known for the changes to the religious altar and the peyote ceremony. His changes to the altar, unintentionally persuaded the image of the cross in Christian churches.Wilson died at the age of 61 in 1901.


The Kadohadacho (Caddo: Kadawdáachuh) are a Native American tribe within the Caddo Confederacy. Today they are enrolled in the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.

List of endangered languages with mobile apps

This is a list of endangered languages with mobile apps available for use in language revitalization.


The Nabedache were a Native American tribe from eastern Texas. Their name, Nabáydácu, means "blackberry place" in the Caddo language. An alternate theory says their original name was Wawadishe from the Caddo word, witish, meaning "salt."


The Nabiti are a Native American tribe from eastern Texas. Their name means "Cedar Place" in the Caddo language.


The Nacono were a Native American tribe from eastern Texas. Today they are part of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, a federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma.


The Nechaui were a Native American tribe from eastern Texas. Their name is thought to be derived from Nachawi, the Caddo language word for Osage orange.

Tejas (album)

Tejas is the fifth studio album by the American rock band ZZ Top. It was released in late November 1976. The title is a Caddo language word meaning 'friends', which is the origin of the name of the band's home state, Texas.

Turkey dance

The turkey dance (Caddo: Núh Kaʔáwshan) is one of the most important traditional dances among Caddo people. Women dance the turkey dance, while men drum and sing the songs, which describe events in Caddo history.

The dance takes place in the afternoon and finished by sunset, when turkeys return to their roosts. Caddos traditionally founded their villages and camps near turkey roosts, because the turkeys served as sentinels — creating noises when people approached.

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