Cheyenne Language


The Cheyenne language is an isolate subgroup that is part of the Algonquian language family of the High Plains, spoken by many Northern Cheyenne on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana, and in scattered communities in central Oklahoma.

The Cheyenne name for their language is Tsėhesenėstsestotse or Tsisinstsistots and the Cheyenne people call themselves Tsitsistas.

There are a number of differences between the Northern Cheyenne and Southern Cheyenne dialects, but they are not significant.

The language is widely spoken in Montana, with about 1,721 first-language speakers out of a total Cheyenne population of approximately 4,000, including at least some children. There are an additional 400 speakers in Oklahoma, most of them middle aged or older.

In 2007  the average age of the youngest fluent speakers of Cheyenne in Montana was approximately 50 and in Oklahoma, the average age of fluent speakers was 60. There are, of course, some younger speakers, but not many children today are learning Cheyenne as their first language.

Revitalization efforts continue to teach some of the Cheyenne language in elementary, junior high, and high schools on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, as well as at Chief Dull Knife College on the reservation.

There are also Cheyenne language programs in schools in Cheyenne areas of Oklahoma.

Some parents and grandparents are still speaking Cheyenne to children, and some children are still learning Cheyenne as a native language, but due to the small number of speakers, there is fear that the language may die out if more effort is not put into revitalizing it.

The Cheyenne language  is related to the Arapaho language but has a much more complex phonology, with vowel devoicing and tones. Cheyenne is a verb-based polysynthetic language with long words, complex morphology, and fairly free word order.

Cheyenne Alphabet:
Cheyenne is written with just 14 letters which can be combined together to make some very long words.

Cheyenne is a tonal language and tones are marked as follows:
á, é, ó = high pitch or tone
ȧ, ė, ȯ or â, ê, ô = voiceless (whispered)
The low tone is not marked.
Examples of Cheyenne:
Nétsêhésenêstsehe = Do you speak Cheyenne?
Náohkėsáa'oné'seómpėhévetsėhésto'anéhe = I truly do not pronounce Cheyenne well.
Náno'ee'ėha'onȯtse vóóhe = I put my shoes on with the morning star (English meaning: I got up really early)
Mȧxhevéesevȯhtse ooȧhé'e = when frogs have teeth (English meaning: never)

Alternate Language Families: Wakashan, Algic (Algonquian-Wiyot-Yurok, Algonquian-Ritwan), Muskogean (Muskhogean), Salishan (Salish), Chimakuan

Alternate Parent Subgroups: Algonkin; Algonkian; Algonkin-Lenape; Saskatchawiner; Arapahoes (algo)

Language Trees:
Algonquian Macro-Phylum: Zisa 1970
Zisa, Charles A. 1970. American Indian languages: classifications and list, , 6-7. Washington: Clearinghouse for Linguistics. ISBN 76611814
Algic: Golla, Goddard, Campbell, Mithun, Mixco 2007
Campbell, Lyle , Ives Goddard, Victor Golla, J. Lachlan Mackenzie, Marianne Mithun & Mauricio J. Mixco. 2007. Atlas of the World's Languages, 2nd edition, 7-8. London, New York: Routledge.

Algic: Composite
Campbell, Lyle , Ives Goddard, Victor Golla, J. Lachlan Mackenzie, Marianne Mithun & Mauricio J. Mixco. 2007. Atlas of the World's Languages, 2nd edition, 7-8. London, New York: Routledge.
Mithun, Marianne. 1999. The Languages of Native North America , 327. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 Last modified Nov 24, 2011

Cheyenne Dictionaries:
Cheyenne Dictionary Cheyenne Dictionary by Leman, Wayne, Sanchez, Marie, Pine Sr, Leroy (2013) PaperbackEnglish-Cheyenne Student Dictionary Cheyenne Topical Dictionary

Online Cheyenne Language Translation Tool:
Courtesy of Freelang Dictionary CHEYENNE => ENGLISH : ENGLISH => CHEYENNE : Whole word

Cheyenne Language Lessons:
Let's Talk Cheyenne: An Audio Cassette Tape Course of Instruction in the Cheyenne Language - Includes two audio cassettes and a workbook.

Famous Cheyenne