Timucua language

Timucua language

Infobox Language
name = Timucua
pronunciation = /ti'mu:kwa/
states = United States
region = Florida, Southeastern Georgia, Eastern Alabama
speakers = 0
iso1 = n/a
iso2 = n/a
iso3 = tjm
familycolor = language isolate
fam1 = Suggested to belong to the Chibchan, Arawakan, or Paezan families, among others
script = No native writing system; language recorded in Latin alphabet
extinct = Became extinct around the second half of the 18th century. See History of the Timucua.

Pre-contact distribution of the Timucua language.
The Tawasa dialect was geographically isolated in Alabama.

Timucua is a language isolate formerly spoken in northern and central Florida, southern Georgia, and eastern Alabama by the Timucua people. Timucua was the primary language used in the area at the time of Spanish arrival, and linguistic and archaeological studies suggest that it may have been spoken from around 2,000 BC. There were eleven Timucua dialects but the differences were slight and they mostly served to delineate tribal boundaries. There exist today only nine primary sources of information about the Timucua language, including a Spanish-translated Timucuan letter to the Spanish crown in 1688 and two catechisms written in Timucua and Spanish by Father Gregorio de Movilla in 1635. Most of what is known of the language, however, comes from the works of Father Francisco Pareja, a Franciscan missionary who came to St. Augustine in 1595 and served the Timucua for thirty-one years. He wrote several Spanish-Timucua catechisms, as well as a grammar of the Timucua language.

In 1763, the very few remaining Timucua speakers were relocated to Cuba, near Havana. The group is now extinct.

Linguistic relations

Timucua is anomalous in that it is not genetically related to any of the languages spoken in North America, nor does it even show evidence of large amounts of lexical borrowings from them. Relations have been proposed with Muskogean, Algonquian, Cariban, Siouan, Arawakan, and Chibchan languages. None of these proposals have been convincingly demonstrated. In recent years the linguist Julian Granberry has suggested that the Timucuan language may be related to Warao, a language isolate of South America. [ [http://www.lib.umt.edu/guide/lang/mchibflh.htm#Timucua Timucuan-Warao proposal] ] His claim is still under debate by scholars, [ [http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?path=/HistoryArchaeology/ArchaeologyandEarlyHistory/CultureofGeorgiaIndians&id=h-2752 "Languages of Georgia Indians"] (New Georgia Encyclopedia)] and historical linguist Lyle Campbell calls it "in no way convincing". [Campbell (1997:150)] Granberry also suggests that Timucua may rather be a “creolized system” of several Native American languages, including many of those listed above, and that the Timucua may have arrived from islands in the Caribbean located off the coast of Colombia. [Granberry (1993:13-17)]

Joseph Greenberg, in his much-debated proposal of the overarching Native American language super-family of Amerind, has suggested that Timucua belongs to the Paezan family, along with several other languages from Colombia, Ecuador, and other regions of South America. In his Amerind Dictionary, he cites 93 Timucua words -- however, while he uses only Granberry's 1993 book "A Grammar and Dictionary of the Timucua Language," there are several discrepancies between the two works.

Some problems are minor differences in form or spelling, such as using "kuyo/cuyo" for "kuyu", 'fish.' Other Timucua words are given incorrect definitions. The word "ukwa/uqua" means 'to undertake, to teach, to learn; pupil,' not 'to eat.' "Iki/iqi" means 'rise, hood, revive,' not 'to make.' "Ano" does not mean 'young of animals,' but rather the very semantically different ideas of 'male human being, person, man, parents, lord, or master.' Other problems arise when the "related" Timucua words have definitions that are very far-removed from the suggested proto-word's meaning. Greenberg suggests that proto "*pita" is somehow related to the Timucua "ipita", 'to take off, undress,' and that "*pala" 'river' is related to the Timucua word "iparu" meaning not just 'drink,' but also 'to eat (something that requires chewing' and 'to crush, grind, or break (with the teeth).' Finally, some forms simply do not exist in the Greenberg dictionary, and so their origin is puzzling. The word "etea" 'to take, to grasp' is nowhere to be found, and similarly "ukwata/uquata" 'body, flesh' is missing, although several very different words with this definition are easily found. Perhaps the strangest is the appearance in Greenberg's text of a Timucua word "okut," 'drink,' but with the word-final /t/ it does not phonetically resemble any other word in the language.


Father Pareja named nine dialects spoken in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia: [ Milanich, Jerald T. 1995. "Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe". Gainesville, Florida, University Press of Florida. Pp. 80-82. ISBN 0-8130-1360-7 ]

#"Timucua proper" - north of the Santa Fe River in what are now Columbia, Suwannee and Madison counties in Florida.
#"Potano" - in what is now Alachua County and the northern part of Marion County in Florida (the territory of the Potano tribe).
#"Itafi" (or "Icafui") - in southeast Georgia.
#"Yufera" - in southeast Georgia.
#"Mocama" (Timucua for 'salt water') or Agua Salada (Spanish for 'salt water') - along the Atlantic coast from St. Augustine north to the Altamaha River in Georgia.
#"Tucururu" - uncertain, possibly in south-central Florida (a village called "Tucuro" was "forty leagues from St. Augustine").
#"Agua Fresca" (Spanish for 'fresh water') - along the lower St. Johns River, north of Lake George.
#"Acuera" - on the upper reaches of the Oklawaha River and around Lake Weir.
#"Oconi" - "three days travel" from Cumberland Island, possibly around the Okefenokee Swamp.

The isolated dialect of Tawasa was spoken in Alabama. Most of the linguistic documentation is from Mocama and Potano.


A true phonemic notation of Timucua was never undertaken; the sounds of the language can only be conjectured based upon the sources available, most notably Pareja's work. The charts below give the reconstituted phonemic units in IPA (in brackets) and their general orthography (in bold).


Timucua had 14 consonants:

ample text

Here is a sample from a priest's interview of Timucua speakers preparing for conversion: [ [http://volusiahistory.com/beliefs.htm Timucua Language and Beliefs] ]

::"Hachipileco, cacaleheco, chulusi eyolehecote, nahebuasota, caquenchabequestela, mota una yaruru catemate, caquenihabe, quintela manta bohobicho?"::Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

ee also

* Timucua



* Campbell, Lyle. (1997). "American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America". New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
* Crawford, James. (1975). Southeastern Indian languages. In J. Crawford (Ed.), "Studies in southeastern Indian languages" (pp. 1-120). Athens, GA: University of Georgia.
* Goddard, Ives (Ed.). (1996). "Languages". Handbook of North American Indians (W. C. Sturtevant, General Ed.) (Vol. 17). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-048774-9.
* Granberry, Julian. (1990). A grammatical sketch of Timucua. "International Journal of American Linguistics", "56", 60-101.
* Granberry, Julian. (1993). "A Grammar and Dictionary of the Timucua Language" (3rd ed.). Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. (1st edition 1984).
* Milanch, Jerald T. (2004). Timucua. In R. D. Fogelson (Ed.), "Southeast" (p. 219-228). Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 17) (W. C. Sturtevant, Gen. Ed.). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-072300-0.
* Mithun, Marianne. (1999). "The languages of Native North America". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
* Mooney, James. (1910). Timucua. Bureau of American Ethnology, bulletin (No. 30.2, p. 752).
* Pareja, Fray Francisco. (1614). "Arte y pronunciación en lengua timvquana y castellana". Mexico: Emprenta de Ioan Ruyz.
* Sturtevant, William C. (Ed.). (1978-present). "Handbook of North American Indians" (Vol. 1-20). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. (Vols. 1-3, 16, 18-20 not yet published).
* Swanton, John R. (1946). "The Indians of the southeastern United States". Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology bulletin (No. 137). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
* Granberry, Julian. (1956). Timucua I: Prosodics and Phonemics of the Mocama Dialect. "International Journal of American Linguistics", "22", 97-105.

External links

* [http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/documentation.asp?id=tjm Ethnologue: Timucua]
* [http://www.wm.edu/news/?id=5291 Linguists research Timucua, a language with no speakers]
* [http://www.native-languages.org/timucua.htm Timucua Language Resources]

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