Ndee bizaa
Native toMexico and USA
RegionSonora, Chihuahua, Oklahoma, New Mexico
EthnicityChiricahua, Mescalero
Native speakers
1,500 (2007)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byInstituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas
Language codes
ISO 639-3apm
Mescalero-Chiricahua is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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Chiricahua (also known as Chiricahua Apache) is a Southern Athabaskan language spoken by the Chiricahua people in Chihuahua and Sonora, México and in Oklahoma and New Mexico.[2] It is related to Navajo and Western Apache and has been described in great detail by the anthropological linguist Harry Hoijer (1904–1976), especially in Hoijer & Opler (1938) and Hoijer (1946). Hoijer & Opler's Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache Texts, including a grammatical sketch and traditional religious and secular stories, has been converted into an online "book" available from the University of Virginia.

Virginia Klinekole, the first female president of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, was known for her efforts to preserve the language.[3]

There is at least one language-immersion school for children in Mescalero.[4]



Chiricahua has 31 consonants:

Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
plain sibilant lateral
Nasal simple m n
post-stopped (mᵇ) nᵈ
Plosive plain p t ts ~ k ʔ
aspirated tsʰ tɬʰ tʃʰ
ejective tsʼ tɬʼ tʃʼ
Fricative voiceless s ɬ ʃ x h
voiced z ɮ ʒ ʝ ɣ


Chiricahua has 16 vowels:

Front Central Back
short long short long short long
High oral i
nasal ĩ ĩː
Mid oral ɛ ɛː o
nasal ɛ̃ ɛ̃ː õ õː
Low oral a
nasal ã ãː

Chiricahua has phonemic oral, nasal, short, and long vowels.


  1. ^ Chiricahua at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Historia de la lengua y cultura n'dee/n'nee/ndé".
  3. ^ "Former tribal leader dies : Past Mescalero president, council member, writer remembered". Alamogordo Daily News. 2011-03-15. Archived from the original on 2014-05-25. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  4. ^ "Udall visits Mescalero Apache Schools to talk language preservation - Alamogordo Daily News". Archived from the original on 2014-05-25. Retrieved 2015-08-16.


  • Hoijer, Harry. (n.d.). Chiricahua Apache stems. (Unpublished manuscript).
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1938). The southern Athapaskan languages. American Anthropologist, 40 (1), 75-87.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1939). Chiricahua loan-words from Spanish. Language, 15 (2), 110-115.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1945). Classificatory verb stems in the Apachean languages. International Journal of American Linguistics, 11 (1), 13-23.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1945). The Apachean verb, part I: Verb structure and pronominal prefixes. International Journal of American Linguistics, 11 (4), 193-203.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1946). The Apachean verb, part II: The prefixes for mode and tense. International Journal of American Linguistics, 12 (1), 1-13.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1946). The Apachean verb, part III: The classifiers. International Journal of American Linguistics, 12 (2), 51-59.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1946). Chiricahua Apache. In C. Osgood (Ed.), Linguistic structures in North America. New York: Wenner-Green Foundation for Anthropological Research.
  • Hoijer, Harry; & Opler, Morris E. (1938). Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache texts. The University of Chicago publications in anthropology; Linguistic series. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Reprinted in 1964 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; in 1970 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; & in 1980 under H. Hoijer by New York: AMS Press, ISBN 0-404-15783-1).
  • Opler, Morris E., & Hoijer, Harry. (1940). The raid and war-path language of the Chiricahua Apache. American Anthropologist, 42 (4), 617-634.
  • Pinnow, Jürgen. (1988). Die Sprache der Chiricahua-Apachen: Mit Seitenblicken auf das Mescalero [The language of the Chiricahua Apache: With side glances at the Mescalero]. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
  • Webster, Anthony K. (2006). On Speaking to Him (Coyote): The Discourse Functions of the yi-/bi- Alternation in Some Chiricahua Apache Narratives. Southwest Journal of Linguistics, 25(2), 143-160.
  • Young, Robert W. (1983). Apachean languages. In A. Ortiz, W. C. Sturtevant (Eds.), Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest, (Vol. 10), (p. 393-400). Washington: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-004579-7.