Chiwere language

Chiwere language
Spoken in United States
Region Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas
Native speakers Uncertain but fewer than 40 (all semi-fluent)[1][2]  ({{{speakersdate}}})
Language family
  • Western Siouan
    • Mississippi Valley
      • Chiwere–Winnebago
        • Chiwere
Language codes
ISO 639-3 iow

Chiwere (also called Iowa-Otoe-Missouria or Báxoje-Jíwere-Ñút’achi) is a Siouan language originally spoken by the Missouria, Otoe, and Iowa peoples, who originated in the Great Lakes region but later moved throughout the midwest and plains. The language is closely related to Ho-Chunk, also known as Winnebago. Christian missionaries first documented Chiwere in the 1830s, but since then virtually nothing has been published about the language. Chiwere suffered a steady decline after extended European-American contact in the 1850s, and by 1940 the language had almost totally ceased to be spoken.

The last two fluent speakers died in the winter of 1996, and only a handful of semi-fluent speakers remain, all of whom are elderly,[2] making Chiwere highly endangered. As of 2006, an estimated four members of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians still speak the language, while 30 members of the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma speak their language.[1] The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has sponsored language workshops in the past and hopes to host more in the future. They have provided tribal elders with recording devices to collect Chiwere words and songs.[3] The Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians is establishing a language program in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma Native American Studies Department.[4]



The Iowa tribe refers to their language as Báxoje ich’é or Bah Kho Je (pronounced [b̥aꜜxodʒɛ itʃʼeꜜ]). The Otoe-Missouria dialect is called Jíwere ich’é (pronounced [d̥ʒiꜜweɾɛ itʃʼeꜜ]). The spelling Chiwere, used mostly by linguists, derives from the fact that the language has an aspiration distinction rather than a voice distinction (see the phonology section below), so that the unaspirated stops /b̥ d̥ d̥ʒ ɡ̊/ are variably voiced [b d dʒ ɡ] or unvoiced [p t tʃ k]. Although [tʃ] is a valid pronunciation of the first sound of Jiwere ~ Chiwere, it may mislead English speakers into pronouncing it [tʃʰ].

Similarly, a common folk etymology of Báxoje is "dusty noses," based on the misunderstanding of the first syllable as , or "nose."[5] However, the Iowa Tribe of Okahoma says Bah-Kho-Je means "grey snow," due to their winter lodges being covered with snow stained grey by fire smoke.[6]


The phonology of Chiwere consists of approximately 29 consonants, three nasal vowels, and five oral vowels.


Chiwere Consonant Inventory[7][8]
Labial Interdental Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive Unaspirated p t k ʔ
Aspirated tʃʰ
Ejective tʃʼ
Fricative Voiceless θ s ~ ʃ x h
Voiced ð
Ejective θʼ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant w ɾ j

The phoneme /ɾ/ has a number of variants and allophones. It can appear as a dental tap or flap [ɾ] (especially word-medially), as an (inter)dental fricative [ð], as a lateral [l], as a nasal [n], or as a voiced dental plosive [d].[8][9] The velar nasal phoneme /ŋ/ does not occur word-initially, being confined to "medial position after a nasal vowel."[10]

Phoneme Combinations

In languages there are certain clusters of phonemes that show up in particular environments within a word. According to William Whitman's research of Chiwere, there are approximately 23 known consonant clusters which are word medial and approximately 14 of these show up word initially or word medially. In this research it has been found that the stop + stop consonant cluster čd, as in áčda ('then'),[11] shows up in the word medial position but not as a word initial phoneme cluster.

The stop + spirant clusters ʔθ, ʔs, and ʔh all show up word initially and word medially, whereas the stop + semivowel clusters dw and gw only show up word medially.[11] The stop + liquid clusters bl and gl show up word initially and word medially.[11] Spirant + stop clusters generally appear in both word initial and word medial position, these clusters include θg, , sg, hd, and hg, however the spirant + stop clusters sd and xd only appear word medially.[11] These are all the spirant + stop clusters accounted for in the research of William Whitman, however, the spirant + stop cluster hk has been found to exist word medially, as in chéthka ('domestic cow').[12]

According to Whitman's research there are two spirant + nasal consonant clusters that have been found, which are hm, as in sáhmã ('seven') and hn, as in láhnũwe ('calumet'), however Whitman does account that is a combination which appears as a future tense suffix.[11] After reviewing further data, the cluster has been found in the word medial position position, as in péhñi ('whiskey')[13] and thus appears to be another possible spirant + nasal consonant combination.

The stop + semivowel consonant clusters θw, xw, and hw all appear to be restricted to the word medial environment, whereas the stop + semivowel consonant cluster sw appears to be the only stop + semivowel known to show up both word initially, as in swá̃la ('to be soft') and baswá ('to cut piece off').[11] The stop + liquid phoneme clusters θl, sl, and xl have all been found in the word initial and word medial environments.[11]

Cluster Metamorphosis & Phenomenon

An interesting analysis of the Chiwere language has shown that the spirant + stop consonant cluster hg as being the more commonly used pronunciation of the spirant + stop cluster θg and that the hg cluster may be replacing the θg all together.[11]

In William Whitman's research, the spirant + stop combination xd, with the one given example used in this journal being iblí̃xdo ('blackbird'), is mentioned as being an error for the spirant + stop combination hd.[11] But the spirant + stop combination xd has also been found in the words chéxdó ('buffalo bull'),[14] náxda ('sour'), and náxdage ('kick').[15] With this data we can see that the consonant cluster xd is a possible combination and can show up in word medial position.


Chiwere has five oral vowel phonemes, /a e i o u/, and three nasal vowel phonemes, /ã ĩ ũ/. Vowel length is distinctive as well.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b Anderton, Alice, PhD. Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma. Intertribal Wordpath Society. 2009 (22 Feb 2009)
  2. ^ a b Welcome to the Ioway, Otoe-Missouria Language Website. Ioway, Otoe-Missouria Language. (retrieved 23 Feb 2009)
  3. ^ Oral History and Language. Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. (retrieved 23 Feb 2009)
  4. ^ Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians Job Announcement. 7 Jan 2009 (23 Feb 2009)
  5. ^ GoodTracks, Jimm (1992) Baxoje-Jiwere-Nyut'aji - Ma'unke: Iowa-Otoe-Missouria Language to English. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study of the Languages of the Plains and Southwest. (also) GoodTracks, Jimm (16 August 2008), personal communication. Ioway Otoe-Missouria Language Website
  6. ^ History of the Ioway. Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. (retrieved 22 Feb 2009)
  7. ^ Whitman, 1947, p. 234
  8. ^ a b c Schweitzer, Marjorie M. (2001) "Otoe and Missouria." In Plains, ed. Raymond J. DeMallie. Vol. 13 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pg. 447
  9. ^ GoodTracks, Jimm G. "Orthographic Updates" (PDF). Ioway Otoe Language Study. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  10. ^ Whitman, 1947, p. 235
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Whitman, 1947, p. 236
  12. ^ GoodTracks, Rev. 2007, p.2
  13. ^ GoodTracks, Rev. 2010, p.13
  14. ^ GoodTracks, Rev. 2010, p.2
  15. ^ GoodTracks, Rev. 2007, p.10


  • GoodTracks, Jimm G. (2010). Iowa, Otoe-Missouria Language Dictionary: English / Báxoje-Jiwére-Ñútˀačhi ~ Maʔúŋke. (Revised Edition). Center for the Study of the Languages of the Plains and Southwest.
  • GoodTracks, Jimm G. (2007). Iowa, Otoe-Missouria Language Dictionary: English / Báxoje-Jiwére-Ñútˀačhi ~ Maʔúŋke. (Revised Edition). Center for the Study of the Languages of the Plains and Southwest.
  • Whitman, William (1947). "Descriptive Grammar of Ioway-Oto." International Journal of American Linguistics, 13(4): 233-248.

External links

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