Wichita is a member of the Caddoan language family, along with modern Caddo, Pawnee, Arikara, and Kitsai.
When the Europeans began to settle North America, Wichita separated into three dialects:
- KirikirɁi:s (aka, Wichita Proper).
However, when the language was threatened and the number of speakers decreased, dialect differences largely disappeared.
Wichita is an agglutinative, polysynthetic language, meaning words have a root verb basis to which information is added; that is, morphemes (affixes) are added to verb roots.
These words may contain subjects, objects, indirect objects, and possibly indicate possession. Thus, surprisingly complex ideas can be communicated with as little as one word.
Nouns do not distinguish between singular and plural, as this information is specified as part of the verb. Wichita also does not distinguish between genders.
Oklahoma had been a state for only two decades when Doris Jean Lamar was born in 1927. Her first spoken words were not English, but an American Indian language taught to her by grandparents. Today, Lamar is the last fluent speaker in the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, a tribe of 2,300.
Sitting in a tribal canteen that she supervises, the 80-year-old Lamar carries a language that once was spoken by thousands, then hundreds of Wichita language speakers.