|Native to||United States|
|Region||Caddo County in western Oklahoma|
|Ethnicity||5,290 Caddo people (2010 census)|
Caddo is a Native American language, the traditional language of the Caddo Nation. It is critically endangered, with no exclusively Caddo-speaking community and only 25 speakers as of 2009 who acquired the language as children outside school instruction. Caddo has several mutually intelligible dialects. The most commonly used dialects are Hasinai and Hainai; others include Kadohadacho, Natchitoches and Yatasi.
Caddo is linguistically related to the members of the Northern Caddoan language family; these include the Pawnee-Kitsai (Keechi) languages (Arikara, Kitsai, and Pawnee) and the Wichita language. Kitsai is now extinct, and Pawnee, Arikara, and Wichita each have fewer surviving speakers than Caddo does.
Another language, Adai, is postulated to have been a Caddoan language while it was extant, but because of scarce resources and the language's extinct status, this connection is not conclusive, and Adai is generally considered a language isolate.
As of 2012, the Caddo Nation teaches weekly language classes; language CDs, a coloring book, and an online learning website are also available. As of 2010, a Caddo app is available for Android phones.
Caddo has three contrastive vowel qualities, /i/, /?/[clarification needed], and /u/, and two contrastive vowel lengths, long and short, for a total of 6 vowel phonemes.
However, there is a great deal of phonetic variation in the short vowels. The high front vowel /i/ is generally realized as its lower counterpart /?/, and the high back vowel /u/ is similarly often realized as its lower counterpart /?/. The low central vowel /a/ has a wider range of variation, pronounced (most commonly) as /?/ when it is followed by any consonant except a semivowel or a laryngeal consonant, as a low central vowel (for which IPA lacks a symbol) at the end of an open syllable or when followed by a laryngeal consonant, and as /?/ before a semivowel.
In general, the long vowels do not feature this kind of variation but are simply lengthened versions of the phonemes that are represented in the chart.
Caddo also has four diphthongs, which can be written a number of different ways; the transcription below shows the typical Caddo Nation orthography (a vowel paired with a glide) and the IPA version, represented with vowels and offglides.
Caddo is a tone language. There are three tones in Caddo: low tone, which is unmarked (a); high tone, which is marked by an acute accent over the vowel (á); and falling tone, which is always long and marked by a grave accent over the vowel (à:).
Tone occurs both lexically (as a property of the word), non-lexically (as a result of tonological processes), and also as a marker of certain morphological features. For instance, the past tense marker is associated with high tone.
There are three processes that can create non-lexical high tone within a syllable nucleus. See the section below for an explanation of other phonological changes which may occur in the following examples.
There are two vowel syncope processes in Caddo, which both involve the loss of a low-tone vowel in certain environments. The first syncope process was described above as low tone-deletion. The second syncope process is described below:
As a result of the syncope processes described above, several consonant clusters emerge that are then simplified by way of phonological process. At the present stage of research, the processes seem to be unrelated, but they represent a phonetic reduction in consonant clusters; therefore, they are listed below without much further explanation.
Similar to the consonant cluster simplification process, there are four processes by which a syllable-final consonant is altered:
There are three word-boundary processes in Caddo, all of which occur word-initially:
Such processes are generally not applicable in the case of proclitics (morphemes that behave like an affix and are phonologically dependent on the morpheme to which they are attached). An example is the English articles.
Caddo has a glottalization process by which any voiceless stop or affricate (except p) becomes an ejective when it is followed by a glottal stop.
Caddo has a palatalization process that affects certain consonants when they are followed by /j/, with simultaneous loss of the /j/.
(Melnar includes a third palatization process, /tj/ -> [ts]. However, /ts/ is not a palatal affricate so it has not been included here. Nevertheless, the third process probably occurs.)
Caddo has three processes by which a syllable nucleus (vowel) may be lengthened:
The Caddo Nation is making a concentrated effort to save the Caddo language. The Kiwat Hasinay ('Caddo Home') foundation, located at the tribal home of Binger, Oklahoma, offers regular Caddo language classes, in addition to creating dictionaries, phrase books, and other Caddo language resources. They have also made a long-term project of trying to record and digitally archive Caddoan oral traditions, which are an important part of Caddo culture.