Atakapa (natively Yukhiti) is an extinct language isolate native to southwestern Louisiana and nearby coastal eastern Texas. It was spoken by the Atakapa people (also known as Ishak, after the native word for "people"). The language became extinct in the early 20th century.
|Native to||United States|
|Extinct||Early 20th century|
Pre-contact distribution of the Atakapa language
According to Swanton (1929) and Goddard (1996), Atakapa could be classified into Eastern and Western varieties. Eastern Atakapa is known from a French-Atakapa glossary with 287 entries, compiled in 1802 by Martin Duralde. The speakers interviewed by Duralde lived in the easternmost part of Atakapa territory, around Poste des Attakapas (Saint Martinville) — now Franklin, Louisiana.
Western Atakapa is the better-attested of the two varieties. In 1885, Albert Gatschet collected words, sentences, and texts from two native Atakapa speakers, Louison Huntington, and Delilah Moss  at Lake Charles, Louisiana. John R. Swanton worked with another two speakers, Teet Verdine in 1907, and Armojean Reon in 1908 near Lake Charles. Additionally, in 1721, Jean Béranger collected a small vocabulary from captive speakers in Galveston Bay. John Swanton argued that the Béranger vocabulary represented the Akokisa language, spoken by a people somewhat inland from Galveston Bay, but there is little evidence to support this assertion.
Atakapa has five vowels as presented in Swadesh (1946). Vowel length is not contrastive in Atakapa.
According to Swadesh (1946), Atakapa has the consonants presented in the following chart.
|Fricative||ł [ɬ]||š [ʃ]||h|
Underlying /ŋ/ surfaces as [k] when it appears at the end of a syllable. Swadesh further notes that /m/ often surfaces as [n] or [ŋ] word-finally in some adjectives, but "irregular variations in [Gatschet's] writing" preclude him from settling on any further conditions for this. Additionally, it is unclear whether /n/ is indeed a distinct phoneme from /ŋ/; if this is the case, argues Swadesh, then words containing final /n/ must have arrived in a later period.
Consonant clusters consisting of a stop followed by a sibilant — themselves arising from vowel epenthesis — are generally contracted to /c/. For example, kec-k ("liver") arose from *keks, which arose from epenthesis and final-vowel deletion processes in *kekesi, which itself is the reduplicated form of *kesi. However, there are words in which the suffix -kš appears, suggesting that this contraction rule ran its course in an earlier period.
Syllable structure and stressEdit
The typical Atakapa syllable is of the structure CVC. Swanton (1929) observes that clusters of more than two consonants are rare in the language. From his analysis of Gatschet's data, he concludes that consonant clusters of any size are not permitted in the syllable onset, but that they are permitted in the coda.
Stress is "a purely mechanical function of phrase rhythm" in Atakapa; it is generally the final syllable of a phrase that receives stress.
The Atakapa language is a mostly agglutinative, somewhat polysynthetic language of the templatic type. This meaning that the language stacks (primarily within the verbal complex) a number of affixes to express locatives, tense, aspect, modality, valency adjustment, and person/number (as both subject and object), which are assembled in a rather specific order. Person marking is one of the only instances of fusion within the language, fusing both person and number. Nouns have only a handful of suffixes and usually take only one suffix at a time.
- shāk tōl "good man"
- shāk tōltōl "good men"
Object pronouns are prefixed to verbs, while subject pronouns are suffixed. There are independent forms of each pronoun as well: in the first person singular and plural, this form appears to be distinct from either affix, but in the second and third persons, the affixes seem to be related to the independent forms.
Grammatical gender appears not to occur in Atakapa, though evidence for it in nearby languages (e.g. Chitimacha) has been found.
The following table of pronominal forms is presented in Swanton (1919).
|3||hakit||hak-||-ūl, -ti (with intransitives)|
In addition, Swanton notes the existence of a reflexive prefix hat- and a reciprocal prefix hak-. However, the reflexive form may be a circumfix rather than a prefix: Kaufman cites the example of hat-yul-šo ("paint themselves"), in which both hat- and -šo indicate reflexivity.
There are multiple ways to indicate a noun's plurality in Atakapa:
- attachment to the noun of the suffix -heu ("many")
- attachment to the noun of the prefix -šak (to indicate an indefinite plural)
- reduplication of the accompanying adjective
- employment of the plural suffix in the accompanying adjective and/or verb
According to Swanton (1919), a noun-forming affix -nen or -nan exists in Atakapa.
- Objective pronominal prefix
- Locative prefixes (if applicable)
- Verb stem
- Plural suffix -m or usitative suffix -u (if applicable)
- Infinitive or emphatic suffix -c (if applicable)
- Future suffix -ti (if applicable)
- Aspectual suffixes: continuative -k, intentional -n, etc. (if applicable)
- Assertive suffix: -š (if applicable)
- Subjective pronominal suffix
- Tense suffixes: past perfective -at, past imperfective -hinst (if applicable)
- Negative (if applicable)
It is unclear whether or not a distinct class of auxiliary verbs exists in Atakapa; the difference between a stem-plus-auxiliary construction and a two-verb-serialization construction is not well marked.
- pam-nima (lit. "beat-die"): beat to death.
- ta-wat-ten (lit. "stand-come-talk"): pray.
Atakapa exhibits strict subject-object-verb word order. While verbs are typically found in sentence-final position, it is common for adjuncts, or even subordinate clauses, to follow the verb of the principal clause. The suffixes -ne and -n are used to indicate the subordination of a clause to the main clause, as in tsanuk micat penene ("she gave a horse [for curing her]").
With occasional exceptions, adjectives follow the nouns they describe. Adverbs follow nouns and adjectives, but precede verbs.
Atakapa marks only the locative case. The language has four locative suffixes, in addition to a series of locative postpositions. These suffixes and postpositions may be placed after nouns, adjectives, and demonstratives.
- -kin, the most frequently-occurring suffix, expresses the sense of English "in" or "on," as in nun-kin tōhulāt ("they lived in villages").
- -ki (occasionally -ke) occurs in similar contexts.
- -ip corresponds roughly to English "at," and is very commonly used with nē, "down," to form nēp, "below."
- -ik generally parallels English "with," as in hatyūlcō nōhik ("they painted themselves with red").
Swanton (1919) asserts that noun incorporation is present in Atakapa, but he provides no examples of this.
Three demonstratives serve as deictics in Atakapa:
- ha or a, "this" — co-present with the speaker.
- ya, distant from the speaker.
- ma, still more distant from the speaker.
While considered an isolate, there have been attempts to connect Atakapa with other languages of the Southeast. In 1919 John R. Swanton proposed a Tunican language family that would include Atakapa, Tunica, and Chitimacha; Morris Swadesh would later provide work focusing on connections between Atakapa and Chitimacha. Mary Haas later expanded the proposal by adding Natchez and the Muskogean languages, a hypothesis known as Gulf. These proposed families have not been proven. The similarities between Atakapa and Chitimacha, at least, may be attributable to periods of "intense contact [between speakers of the two languages] owing to their geographic proximity."
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Atakapa". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Gatschet and Swanton (1932). A Dictionary of the Atakapa Language. United States Government Printing Office. p. 68.
- Mithun, Marianne (2001). The Languages of Native North America (First paperback ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 344. ISBN 0-521-23228-7.
- Goddard, Ives (Spring 2005). "The Indigenous Languages of the Southeast". Anthropological Linguistics. 47: 13–14.
- Durald, Martin. Vocabulaire de la Language des Atacapas. Gallatin, 1836.
- Gatschet and Swanton (1932). A Dictionary of the Atakapa Language. United States Government Printing Office. p. 4.
- Gatschet and Swanton (1932). A Dictionary of the Atakapa Language. United States Government Printing Office. p. 5.
- Swadesh, Morris (July 1946). "Phonologic Formulas for Atakapa-Chitimacha". International Journal of American Linguistics. 12: 113–132. doi:10.1086/463901. JSTOR 1262991.
- Swanton, John R. (July 1929). "A Sketch of the Atakapa Language". International Journal of American Linguistics. 5: 121–149. doi:10.1086/463777.
- Swanton, John R. (1919). A Structural and Lexical Comparison of the Tunica, Chitimacha, and Atakapa Languages. Washington: Government Printing Office.
- Kaufman, David (2014). "Another Look at Atakapa". Kansas Working Papers in Linguistics. 35: 72–78.
- Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
- Gatschet, Albert S., and Swanton, John R. (1932) A Dictionary of the Atakapa Language. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Athnology, bulletin 108. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
- Goddard, Ives (2005). "The indigenous languages of the Southeast". Anthropological Linguistics. 47 (1): 1–60. JSTOR 25132315.
- Hopkins, Nicholas A. (2007). The Native Languages of the Southeastern United States. Los Angeles: Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI), pp. 23–24. Abstract. Full text online.
- Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
- Swadesh, Morris (1946). "Phonologic Formulas for Atakapa-Chitimacha". International Journal of American Linguistics. 12: 113–132. doi:10.1086/463901.
- Swanton, John R (1929). "A sketch of the Atakapa language". International Journal of American Linguistics. 5 (2–4): 121–149. doi:10.1086/463777. JSTOR 1263302.
- A Dictionary of the Atakapa Language by Albert S. Gatschet and John R. Swanton, hosted by the Portal to Texas History
- John Reed Swanton (1919). A structural and lexical comparison of the Tunica, Chitimacha, and Atakapa languages. Govt. Printing Office. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- Atakapa-Ishak Nation
- Atakapa Indian Language