Hokan-Siouan Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hokan-Siouan Languages


a family of American Indian languages in E. Sapir’s classification. According to Sapir, the Hokan-Siouan languages comprise such groups as the Hokan languages, which include Yanan, Pomo, Chimariko, and Shastan; the Coahuiltecan languages, which include Tonkawa, Coahuiltecan, and Karankawa; the Iroquois-Caddoan languages, which include Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Caddo; Siouan; Yuchi; Tunica; and the Gulf languages, which include Muskogee and Natchez.

The Hokan-Siouan languages are primarily agglutinative and tend to express grammatical categories, such as person in the verb, by means of prefixes. They distinguish between verbs of action and verbs of state and make extensive use of composition and nominal incorporation. Some scholars recognize a relationship between parts of the Hokan-Siouan languages and other American language groups and regard Hokan and Sioux as separate language families (seeAMERICAN INDIAN LANGUAGES).

By analyzing the grammatical structure and the inventory of words and morphemes, a clearer case can be made for a genetic relationship between the Hokan and Coahuiltecan languages on the one hand and among the Siouan, Yuchi, and Iroquois-Caddoan languages on the other; in such a classification, the first group is called the Hokan-Coahuiltecan languages, which presume the existence of a protolanguage approximately 5,000 years ago. In the Hokan and Coahuiltecan languages verbal transitivity and intransitivity play a greater role than in the second group, in which features of an active structure predominate.

In general, Sapir’s system is important for contemporary research on the genetic and geographic relationships among the languages of North America and, to a lesser extent, of Central America.


Klimov, G. A. Tipologiia iazykov aktivnogo stroia. Moscow, 1977.
Studies in Californian Linguistics. Edited by W. Bright. Berkeley–Los Angeles, 1964.
Langdon, M. Comparative Hokan-Coahuiltecan Studies. The Hague–Paris, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.