Native toUnited States
RegionNorth-central Oklahoma
Ethnicity2,500 Pawnee (2007)[1]
Native speakers
10 (2007)[1]
  • Northern
    • Pawnee–Kitsai
      • Pawnee languages
        • Pawnee
Language codes
ISO 639-3paw
Pawnee lang.png
Pre-contact distribution of Pawnee
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Pawnee language is a Caddoan language traditionally spoken by Pawnee Native Americans, currently inhabiting in north-central Oklahoma. Historically, the Pawnee lived along the Platte River in what is now Nebraska.


Two important dialect divisions are evident in Pawnee: South Band and Skiri. The distinction between the two dialects rests on differences in their respective phonetic inventory and lexicon.


Prior to colonization and US expansion, Pawnee was spoken by all members of the Nation. Today Pawnee is only spoken fluently by a shrinking number of elderly speakers. As more young people shift to English as their first language, the transmission of Pawnee and its vitality are seriously endangered.

As of 2007, the Pawnee Nation is developing teaching materials for the local high school and for adult language classes. There are also extensive documentary materials in the language archived at the American Indian Studies Research Institute.[2] The Pawnee language can be heard spoken in the 2015 movie The Revenant.[3] In 2019 and 2020, the Pawnee Nation has posted online videos teaching the Pawnee language.[4]


The following describes the South Band dialect.


Pawnee has eight consonant phonemes, and according to one analysis of medial- and final-position glottal stops, one may posit a ninth consonant phoneme.

  Bilabial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Stop p t k (ʔ)
Affricate   ts    
Rhotic   r    
Fricative   s   h
Approximant     w  


Pawnee has four short vowel phonemes and four long counterparts (also phonemic).

  Front Back
 High  i/iː u/uː
 Mid-low  e/eː a/aː


Pawnee is an ergative-absolutive polysynthetic language.


The Pawnee alphabet[citation needed] has 9 consonants and 8 vowels. The letters are relatively similar in pronunciation to their English counterparts.


Spelling Sound (IPA) English equivalents
p p poke, cup
t t top, cat
k k cool, stuck
c ʃ ~ ts shell, push ~ pants
s s silly, face
h h heart, ahead
r r car, ferry
w w wacky, away
ʔ The "-" in uh-oh


Spelling Sound (IPA) English equivalents
i ɪ sit
ii i feed
e ɛ red
ee paid
a ʌ nut
aa ɑ father
u ʊ book
uu u rude


  1. ^ a b Pawnee at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Pawnee".
  3. ^ "IU linguists provide Arikara and Pawnee dialogue for Oscar-nominated film 'The Revenant'". Inside IU Bloomington. Retrieved 2019-07-24. ((cite news)): |first= missing |last= (help)
  4. ^ "Pawnee Language Classes - YouTube". Retrieved 2020-10-30.