The Kitsai (also Kichai) language is an extinct member of the Caddoan language family.[2] The French first record the Kichai people's presence along the upper Red River in 1701.[3] By the 1840s Kitsai was spoken in southern Oklahoma, but by the 1930s no native speakers remained. It is thought to be most closely related to Pawnee.[4][5] The Kichai people today are enrolled in the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Wichita, Keechi), Waco and Tawakonie), headquartered in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Native toUnited States
Regionpreviously west-central Oklahoma and eastern Texas
Extinct1940, with the death of Kai Kai[1]
  • Northern
    • Pawnee–Kitsai
      • Kitsai
Language codes
ISO 639-3kii





Kitsai's consonant inventory consists of the phonemes shown in the chart below.[6] The phoneme /c/ is analyzed below as a palatal stop, even though its typical realization is alveolar with delayed release, so as to not have an affricate "series" consisting of only one phoneme. Similarly, /w/ is analyzed as a velar (i.e. labio-velar) rather than a labial so as to not be the only labial consonant.

Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop t c [t͡s] k ʔ
Fricative s h
Nasal n
Sonorant r y [j] w



Kitsai has the following vowel phonemes:

   Short   Long 
Front Back Front Back
High i u
Mid e (o) ()
Low a

When adjacent to /k/, the vowels /o/ and // appear to mostly exist in free variation with /u/ and // respectively. There are a few instances where /o(ː)/ does not occur next to /k/, like the word for "owl" (pronounced /oːs/), but this is rare. Ultimately, the phonemic status of /o(ː)/ is unclear.[6]



Kitsai is documented in the still mostly-unpublished field notes of anthropologist Alexander Lesser, of Hofstra University. Lesser discovered five speakers of Kitsai in 1928 and 1929, none of whom spoke English. Communicating to the Kitsai speakers through Wichita/English bilingual translators, he filled 41 notebooks with Kitsai material.[7]

Kai Kai was the last fluent speaker of Kitsai. She was born around 1849 and lived eight miles north of Anadarko. Kai Kai worked with Lesser to record vocabulary and oral history and prepare a grammar of the language.[8]

In the 1960s, Lesser shared his materials with Salvador Bucca of the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, and they published scholarly articles on Kitsai.[7]



Some Kitsai words include the following:[9]

  • wari:ni 'bear'
  • kotay 'corn'
  • 'taxko 'coyote'
  • a'tsi'u 'grass'
  • wí:ta 'man'
  • 'ihts 'sweet potato'
  • kaxtsnu 'white'
  • ho'tonu 'wind'
  • tsakwákt 'woman'


  1. ^ "Kitsai". Ethnologue. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  2. ^ Sturtevant and Fogelson, 616
  3. ^ "Kichai Tribe". Access Genealogy. July 9, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  4. ^ Sturtevant and Fogelson, 68
  5. ^ Kitsai language at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)   (retrieved 3 May 2010)
  6. ^ a b Vantine, John Liessman (1980). Aspects of Kitsai Phonology (MA thesis). University of Manitoba.
  7. ^ a b Bucca, Salvador; Lesser, Alexander (January 1969). "Kitsai Phonology and Morphophonemics". International Journal of American Linguistics. 35 (1): 7. doi:10.1086/465034. JSTOR 1263879. S2CID 143469230.
  8. ^ "Science: Last of the Kitsai". Time. June 27, 1932. Archived from the original on March 10, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  9. ^ "Kitsai and Caddoan Word Set." Native Languages. (retrieved 3 May 2010)


  • Sturtevant, William C., general editor, and Raymond D. Fogelson, volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast. Volume 14. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2004. ISBN 0-16-072300-0.