Linguistics Muskogean Languages
Jack Martin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0031


The Muskogean languages are a family of languages native to the southeastern United States. The members of the family include Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama, Koasati, Apalachee, Hitchiti-Mikasuki and Muskogee (Creek). Choctaw and Chickasaw are quite close: the term Western Muskogean is sometimes used to cover both varieties. Alabama and Koasati are more different from each other but similar in vocabulary and grammar. Apalachee is known primarily from one 17th-century letter. Hitchiti and Mikasuki are different names for the same language, referred to here as Hitchiti-Mikasuki. Muskogee includes varieties of the language spoken by Seminoles in Oklahoma and Florida. In addition to these seven languages, a trade language known as Mobilian Jargon was used in the vicinity of Louisiana.

Overviews and Bibliographies

A few sources attempt to bring information together on a representative sample of Muskogean languages. Hardy and Scancarelli 2005 is the best introduction to the Muskogean family. It contains sketches of Chickasaw, Choctaw, Alabama, and Muskogee, each with an analyzed text, as well as descriptions of Proto-Muskogean phonology and morphology. Crawford 1975 is an edited collection with an overview of research on southeastern languages and brief articles on Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Mobilian Jargon. Pilling 1889 and Booker 1991 are useful bibliographies; the former is especially helpful for early vocabularies and materials produced by missionaries. The introductory chapter in Crawford 1975 is useful as a history of research on southeastern languages, as is Haas 1979. Martin 2004 provides a list of the main sources on each language. Sturtevant 2005 provides more detail on the researchers themselves. Goddard 2005 surveys many of the smaller groups in the region. Fitzgerald 2016 summarizes morphological topics of interest to linguists, Broadwell 2020 gives an overview of phonology and grammar, and Gordon and Martin 2023 considers the interaction of morphology and prosody.

  • Booker, Karen M. 1991. Languages of the aboriginal Southeast: An annotated bibliography. Native American Bibliography Series 15. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow.

    A very thorough and useful list of publications and theses on the native languages of the Southeast. Each source is annotated. The index makes it easy to find the main sources on each language.

  • Broadwell, George Aaron. 2020. Muskogean languages. In The Routledge handbook of North American languages. Edited by Daniel Siddiqi, Michael Barrie, Carrie Gillon, Jason D. Haugen, and Éric Mathieu, 397–423. New York: Routledge.

    Gives an overview of the phonemes, morphology, and syntax of Muskogean languages.

  • Crawford, James M., ed. 1975. Studies in southeastern Indian languages. Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia Press.

    An edited volume with a lengthy summary by Crawford of research on southeastern languages. Other contributions include Thurston Dale Nicklas on Choctaw morphophonemics, William Pulte on Chickasaw, and Mary R. Haas on Mobilian Jargon.

  • Fitzgerald, Colleen. 2016. Morphology in the Muskogean languages. Language and Linguistics Compass 10.12: 681–700.

    DOI: 10.1111/lnc3.12227

    Summarizes theoretically interesting aspects of word formation in the Muskogean languages, from subtractive morphology to infixation, suppletion, ablaut, and use of suprasegmentals.

  • Goddard, Ives. 2005. The indigenous languages of the Southeast. Anthropological Linguistics 47.1: 1–60.

    DOI: 10.1353/anl.2010.a405139

    A survey of the languages of the southeastern United States at contact. This work details evidence of the existence of a large number of small languages, many scarcely documented.

  • Gordon, Matthew K., and Jack B. Martin. 2023. Muskogean prominence. In Word prominence in languages with complex morphologies. Edited by Ksenia Bogomolets and Harry van der Hulst, 274–307. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Considers tone, stress, and intonation and how these relate to the structure of words.

  • Haas, Mary R. 1979. Southeastern languages. In The languages of native North America: Historical and comparative assessment. Edited by Lyle Campbell and Marianne Mithun, 299–326. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

    A brief description of the language families and isolates of the southeastern United States.

  • Hardy, Heather K., and Janine Scancarelli, eds. 2005. Native languages of the southeastern United States. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

    This volume includes a description by William C. Sturtevant of the history of language documentation in the Southeast and sketches of some of the major languages: Heather K. Hardy on Alabama, Pamela Munro on Chickasaw, George Aaron Broadwell on Choctaw, Donald E. Hardy on Creek, and other authors on non-Muskogean languages of the South. In addition, Karen M. Booker contributes a chapter on Proto-Muskogean phonology, and Jack B. Martin and Munro describe Proto-Muskogean morphology.

  • Martin, Jack B. 2004. Languages. In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 14, Southeast. Edited by Raymond D. Fogelson, 68–86. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

    A summary of the major sources (published and unpublished) on the languages of the southeastern United States. Subgroupings within the Muskogean family are also discussed.

  • Pilling, James Constantine. 1889. Bibliography of the Muskhogean languages. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 9. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

    DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.37961

    A very thorough listing of publications to 1889. It is especially useful for finding 19th-century missionary materials for Choctaw and Muskogee.

  • Sturtevant, William C. 2005. History of research on the native languages of the Southeast. In Native languages of the southeastern United States. Edited by Heather K. Hardy and Janine Scancarelli, 8–65. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

    A description of the primary researchers who documented the Muskogean languages.

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