Gulf languages

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Gulf coast, USA
Linguistic classificationProposed language family

Gulf is a proposed native North American language family composed of the Muskogean languages, along with four language isolates: Natchez, Tunica, Atakapa, and (possibly) Chitimacha.

Gulf was proposed as a language family by Mary Haas (Haas 1951, 1952), but the family has not been rigorously established by the comparative method. Historical linguists such as Lyle Campbell (Campbell and Mithun 1979, Campbell 1997) list the relationship as unproven, though a number of Muskogean scholars believe that Muskogean is at least related to Natchez (Campbell 1997:305).

However, it is considered by a number of specialists on Muskogean languages, including Mary Haas and Pamela Munro. Munro (1995) has regarded the hypothesis of a Gulf family of languages as promising; Haas thought the closest language to Muskogean would be Natchez, followed by Tunica, Atakapa, and, rather dubiously, Chitimacha. A difficulty in evaluating the hypothesis is the lack of available data. Most of the data on Chitimacha and Natchez is still unpublished and held in archives.


  • Campbell, Lyle. 1997. American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Campbell, Lyle and Marianne Mithun. 1979. The Languages of Native America: A Historical and Comparative Assessment. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
  • Haas, Mary. (1951). The Proto-Gulf word for water (with notes on Siouan-Yuchi). International Journal of American Linguistics 17: 71-9.
  • Haas, Mary. (1952). The Proto-Gulf word for 'land' (with notes on Proto-Siouan). International Journal of American Linguistics 18:238-240.
  • Munro, Pamela. 1995. Gulf and Yuki-Gulf. Anthropological Linguistics. 36:125-222.