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Meskwaki language

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Title: Meskwaki language  
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Subject: Algonquian languages, Meskwaki
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Meskwaki language

Native to United States, Mexico
Region Central Oklahoma, Northeastern Kansas, Iowa, and Coahuila
Ethnicity Fox, Sauk, and Kickapoo
Native speakers 700  (2000–2007)Template:Infobox language/ref
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
kic – Kickapoo
Linguist List Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
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This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

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.


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). 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.[1][2] 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."[3]

Prominent scholars doing research on the language include Ives Goddard[4] 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.

Writing systems

Besides the Latin script, Fox has been written in two indigenous scripts.[5]

"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/,[6] 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/, Template:Sc /e/,[7] Template:Sc /i/,[8] Template:Sc /o/.[9]

Consonants are (approximately) + /t/, C /s/, Q /š/, ı /č/, ñ /v/,[10] ═ /y/, ƧƧ /w/, 田 /m/, # /n/, C′ /k/, ƧC /kw/.

See also


  • 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
  • Meskwaki Language - Alphabet
  • OLAC resources in and about the Meskwaki language
  • OLAC resources in and about the Kickapoo language
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