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Fox language

Native to United States, Mexico
Region Central Oklahoma, Northeastern Kansas, Iowa, and Coahuila
Ethnicity Fox, Sauk, and Kickapoo
Native speakers
700  (2000–2007)[1]
Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
sac – Fox and Sauk
kic – Kickapoo
Linguist list
qes Mascouten
Glottolog foxx1245[2]

Fox (known by a variety of different names, including Mesquakie, Meskwaki, Mesquakie-Sauk, Mesquakie-Sauk-Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, and others) is an Algonquian language, spoken by around 1000 Fox, Sauk, and Kickapoo in various locations in the Midwestern United States and in northern Mexico.


  • Dialects 1
  • Revitalization 2
  • Phonology 3
  • Writing systems 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


There are three distinct dialects: Fox (also called Mesquakie, Meskwaki, and Meshkwahkihaki), Sauk (also called Sac, and Sac and Fox), and Kickapoo (also called Kikapú; considered by some to be a separate but closely related language[3]). If Kickapoo is counted as a separate language rather than a dialect of Fox, then there are only between 200 and 300 speakers of Fox. Extinct Mascouten was most likely another dialect, though it is scarcely attested.


Most speakers are elderly or middle-aged, making it highly endangered. The tribal school at the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa incorporates bilingual education for children.[4][5] In 2011, the The Meskwaki Sewing Project was created, to bring mothers and girls together "with elder women in the Meskwaki Senior Center sewing traditional clothing and learning the Meskwaki language."[6]

Prominent scholars doing research on the language include Ives Goddard[7] and Lucy Thomason of the Smithsonian Institution and Amy Dahlstrom of the University of Chicago.


The consonant phonemes of Fox are given in the table below. There are eight vowel phonemes: short /a, e, i, o/ and long /aː, eː, iː, oː/.

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar
or palatal
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop plain p t k
preaspirated ʰp ʰt ʰtʃ ʰk
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant j w

Other than those involving a consonant plus /j/ or /w/, the only possible consonant cluster is ʃk.

Until the early 1900s, Fox was a phonologically very conservative language and preserved many features of Proto-Algonquian; records from the decades immediately following 1900 are particularly useful to Algonquianists for this reason. By the 1960s, however, an extensive progression of phonological changes had taken place, resulting in the loss of intervocalic semivowels and certain other features.[8]

Writing systems

Besides the Latin script, Fox has been written in two indigenous scripts.[9]

"Fox I" is an abugida based on the cursive French alphabet (see Great Lakes Algonquian syllabary). Consonants written by themselves are understood to be syllables containing the vowel /a/. The are l /pa/, t /ta/, s /sa/, d /ša/, tt /ča/, /ya/,[10] w /wa/, m /ma/, n /na/, K /ka/, 8 /kwa/. (What look like a script d for /š/, tt for /č/, and 8 for /kw/ derive from French ch, tch, and q(u).)

Vowels are written by adding dots to the consonant: l. /pe/, /pi/, l.. /po/.

"Fox II" is a consonant–vowel alphabet, though according to Coulmas /p/ is not written (as /a/ is not written in Fox I). Vowels (or /p/ plus a vowel) are written as cross-hatched tally marks, approximately × /a/, II /e/,[11] III /i/,[12] IIII /o/.[13]

Consonants are (approximately) + /t/, C /s/, Q /š/, ı /č/, ñ /v/,[14] ═ /y/, ƧƧ /w/, /m/, # /n/, C′ /k/, ƧC /kw/.

See also


  1. ^ Fox and Sauk at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Kickapoo at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Fox". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Moctezuma Zamarrón, José Luis 2011, El sistema fonológico del Kickapoo de Coahuila analizado desde las metodologías distribucional y funcional. México: INALI
  4. ^ Meskwaki Settlement School Website,
  5. ^ "Meskwaki Education Network Initiative (MENWI)". American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  6. ^ Scandale, Maria (2011-02-21). "Meskwaki Tribe Receives Grant for Sewing and Language Project -". Indian Country Today Media Network, Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  7. ^ Nelson, John (2008-07-27). "Talking the talk". Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  8. ^ Language change in the speech community: change by loss of a stylistic register, in Historical Linguistics: Toward a Twenty-First Century Reintegration (ISBN 0521583322), page 57
  9. ^ Coulmas
  10. ^ "の" used here for /ya/ is a graphic approximation; it's a small clockwise loop with a long tail.
  11. ^ If the cross-hatching does not show up (perhaps because this line has been copied without formating), this is like a small capital H with the cross-bar sticking out on either side.
  12. ^ Like Chinese 卅 but lower and wider.
  13. ^ Like Chinese 卌, but lower and wider.
  14. ^ Actually, like one script n stacked on another.
  • Voorhis, Paul H. 1974. Introduction to the Kickapoo Language, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Bloomfield, Leonard. 1925. "Notes on the Fox Language." International Journal of American Linguistics 3:219-32.

External links

  • Native Languages of the Americas: Mesquakie-Sauk
  • Fox texts (1907), ed. William Jones
  • The Owl Sacred Pack of the Fox Indians (1921), ed. Truman Michelson
  • The Autobiography of a Fox Indian Woman (1895), ed. Truman Michelson
  • "Last Meskwaki code talker remembers". 2002-07-04. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  • Meskwaki Language - Alphabet
  • OLAC resources in and about the Meskwaki language
  • OLAC resources in and about the Kickapoo language
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