Hecetv Hokkolen - Lesson Two


An Introduction

Updated 15 January, 2003

You will learn a little about other Muskogean languages, too. All languages in a language family are related in some measurable way. The Muskogean languages are related in structure, vocabulary, and built-in worldview. English, Dutch, German, and Swedish are related to each other in similar ways. Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese are so closely related that speakers of one language can often understand and read a large amount of material in the other languages. In the Muskogean language family, there were nine major languages and several important dialects. Seven of these languages are still spoken today to some extent. Most speakers are in Oklahoma, a Muskogean word from the Choctaw language. In addition to Oklahoma, there are also various Muskogean language speakers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida. And, thanks to migration, California is home to many transplanted speakers as well.













* Apalachicola is often called Palachicola (Pvlvcekolv).

** Seminole here refers to both Oklahoma and South Florida Creek speakers.

Apalachee is listed as extinct, but there are a few people who still know a little of it. In 1980, about six people spoke it. Mobilian was once a "trade" language understood all over the Southeast by most tribes; a few people can speak it in Louisiana, Mississippi and north Florida today. In the Wewoka area of Oklahoma are two families who know Hitchiti to a limited degree as of 1990. Nevertheless, these languages are really extinct because they are no longer in use as the main speech of a community. In fact, The father of the late Woodrow Haney and his brother, Seminole Nation Chief Jerry Haney, was the last fluent Hitchiti speaker in Oklahoma.

One of the listed Muskogean languages is indeed very interesting-- this is the Mobilian tongue. Classified as a "trade" language or a "pidgin," Mobilian has been fully described by Dr. Emmanuel Drechsel, a linguist formerly of the University of Oklahoma at Norman, now at the University of Hawaii. Dr. Drechsel has written several important foundational articles on Mobilian. This language does contain all the necessary parts to make it a viable means of communication. For the most part, linguistic study of Native American languages has treated Mobilian as strictly a fabricated language. Nevertheless, however scant they may be, early historical records, mainly of French origin, do indicate that there was a Gulf Coast people known as Mobilian. Their cited location puts them in an excellent position to have been traders and negotiators between many different tribes. Although not adequately dealt with in European literature, various Muskogee traditions hold that Mobilian was the legitimate language of a small tribe, rather than just a "pidgin." This question warrants heavy-duty research in the future. As of 1984, there were still small handfuls of people in the South who spoke Mobilian. Its use is confined largely to central Louisiana and western Mississippi. North Florida's last fluent speakers have died, Alice Renfroe, in 1984 and Barbara Allen Conway in 1995.

Hitchiti is the parent language of Mikasuki. The Mikasuki language is still spoken regularly by a large group of people--it is the primary language of both the Mikasuki and Seminole tribes of Florida.

The Muskogean language spoken by the Creek Nation of Oklahoma is nearly identical to the language of the Seminole Nation in Oklahoma; many people have adopted a recent habit of calling them "Muskogee Creek" and "Seminole Creek." However, the language of the Florida Creek-speaking Seminoles is different enough grammatically from the Oklahoma tongues to warrant its separate classification as a separate dialect even though both groups readily understand each other.

Many people consider Chickasaw and Choctaw to be virtually the same language with minor differences. Alabamu and Koasati, though not identical, are also traditionally treated together in scholarly works.

Apalachicola is a Muskogee dialect. Though it contains both Eastern and Western elements, a large body of Hitchiti and Apalachee roots, Apalachicola developed along the same patterns as modern Oklahoma Creek. Speakers of either language readily understand each other. Most differences are no greater than those found between three people speaking English, someone from New York, one from Texas, and another from Florida. Apalachicola was once the main form of Muskogee spoken in North Florida. It is the primary language taught in this text. Throughout the lessons and dictionary vocabulary, the minor differences between it and the Muskogee spoken in Oklahoma and at the Brighton Seminole Reservation in South Florida are noted.

The language of the Oklahoma Creeks, the language of the Oklahoma Seminoles, and the language called Apalachicola are all commonly called "Muskogee," "Creek," or "Muskogee Creek," since they are all really just dialects of the same language. Apalachicola is taught in this text, but we usually just call it "Muskogee Creek," "Eastern Creek" or just "Muskogee." Oklahoma Creeks prefer the spelling "Muscogee."

In addition to language, you will also be exposed to the history, culture, and worldview of this language and its speakers. Florida has many place-names of Muskogean origin. You'll enjoy learning about these verbal relics from the past. Many customs and practices of modern Southerners are Muskogee in origin, as well--you'll discover many of these on your own journey into this other language world!

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