Tawasa language

Tawasa is an extinct Native American language. Ostensibly the language of the Tawasa people of what is now Alabama, it is known exclusively through a word list attributed to a Tawasa named Lamhatty, collected in 1707.

Native toUnited States
Regioneastern Alabama
EthnicityTawasa people
Extinct18th century
  • Tawasa
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
Timucua lang.png
Pre-contact distribution of the Timucua language (Florida) and Tawasa
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John Swanton studied the Lamhatty word list and identified the language as a Timucuan dialect, suggesting it was intermediary between Timucua and Muskogean. This opinion has been the subject of significant scholarly debate, with some such as Julian Granberry considering it a dialect of Timucua, others arguing it was a distinct language in the Timucua family, and yet others such as John Hann doubting that Lamhatty was a Tawasa at all. The language shows significant Alabama influence, including the Muskogean same-subject suffix -t.


In 1707 an Indian named Lamhatty arrived in the British colony of Virginia, eventually arriving at the estate of Colonel John Walker. Taking an interest in him, Walker introduced him to colonial historian Robert Beverley. Through an interpreter, Lamhatty explained that he was from the village of Tawasa near the Gulf of Mexico. He had been captured and enslaved by the Tuscarora, who transported him eastward and sold him to the Savannah people. He escaped and traveled north to Virginia. Walker recorded the 60-word lexicon he learned from Lamhatty on the back of a letter, while Beverley wrote an account of Lamhatty's story. According to Beverley, Walker began treating Lamhatty like a slave once he learned other Tawasa were enslaved. Lamhatty escaped and went into the woods, never to be heard from again.[1]

There has been scholarly debate about the place of Tawasa among languages. Studying the word list in the early 20th century, John Swanton noted the similarity with the Timucua language, and suggested Tawasa was an intermediary with Muskogean. Linguist Julian Granberry identifies it as a dialect of Timucua.[2] Others, such as John Hann, are skeptical of the accuracy of Beverley's account. He questions whether Lamhatty was a Tawasa at all.[3]


Tawasa words are a bit difficult to make out, due to English respellings. For example, oo, ou corresponds to Timucua u, ough to o, eu to yu, and often e, ee to Timucua i. Tawasa w corresponds to Timucua b, which was probably pronounced [β]. Timucua c, q were [k]; qu was [kʷ]. Some of the following correspondences have a final t in Tawasa, which appears to be a Muskogean suffix. Others appear to have the Timucua copula -la. Timucua forms are Mocama dialect.

Tawasa Timucua gloss
effalàh efa-la dog
písso pesolo bread
soúa soba meat
pítcho-t picho knife
ocoò-t ucu drink
heă-t hiyaraba cat
yáukfah yanqua 1
eúksah yucha 2
hóp-ho hapu 3
checúttah cheqeta 4
márouah marua 5
mareékah mareca 6
pekétchah piqicha 7
pekénnahough piqinaho 8
peétchcuttah peqecheqeta 9
toómah tuma 10
tomo-eúcha tuma-yucha 20
foóley hue-le hand
hewéenou hinino tobacco
ocut-soúa ucuchua door
ho I
he you
uēkqūah ca here
uēkheth heqe there
hĕmèh hime come
héwah hiba sit down
loókqŭy (a)ruqui boy
néăh nia woman
wiedōō biro man
colúte colo bow
wiéo-tt ibi water
wiéo-tt opù-t ibi-api salt water
yōwe yayu great
chicky, chiéky chiri, qichi little
sōquàh chuca how many

Correspondences with Muskogean and Timucua are,

Tawasa Muskogean Timucua gloss
chesapà Alabama: časi tapola maize
hássey Alabama: haši ela sun
ássick Alabama: nila haši acu moon
chénah, chénoh Natchez: ičina oqe he
tútcah Creek: tó'tka taca fire

Although ássick 'moon' appears to be an Alabama form, its compounds are Timucuan:

Tawasa Timucua gloss notes
ássick hóomah acu homa full moon homa 'finish'
ássick-toúquah ela-toco east ela-toco 'sun-come out' = 'sunrise'
ássick-eachah ela-echa west ela-echa 'sun-enter = 'sunset'


  1. ^ Gallay, Alan (2002). The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717. Yale University Press. pp. 307–308. ISBN 0300101937.
  2. ^ Granberry (1993), pp. 10–11
  3. ^ Hann (1996), pp. 6, 131–134


  • Hann, John H. (1996). A History of the Timucua Indians and Missions. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1424-7.
  • Granberry, Julian (1993). A Grammar and Dictionary of the Timucua Language. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press. pp. 10–11.
  • Swanton, John R.; Walker, John (1929). "The Tawasa Language". American Anthropologist. 31 (3): 435–453. doi:10.1525/aa.1929.31.3.02a00040.