Native toUnited States
RegionNorth-central Oklahoma
Ethnicity2,500 Pawnee (2007)
Native speakers
< 10 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3paw
Pre-contact distribution of Pawnee
Pawnee is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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 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. The Skiri dialect became extinct in 2001 with the death of Lula Nora Pratt.[2]


As of 2007, there are fewer than 10 native speakers, all elderly. 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.[3] The Pawnee language can be heard spoken in the 2015 movie The Revenant.[4] In 2019 and 2020, the Pawnee Nation posted online videos teaching the Pawnee language.[5]


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. ^ Victor Golla, "North America.” In Moseley & Asher, Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages
  2. ^ Douglas Parks and Lula Nora Pratt (2008) A Dictionary of Skiri Pawnee
  3. ^ "Pawnee".
  4. ^ Nolan, Bethany. "IU linguists provide Arikara and Pawnee dialogue for Oscar-nominated film 'The Revenant'". Inside IU Bloomington. Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  5. ^ YouTube user "Pawnee Nation". "Pawnee Language Classes - YouTube". Retrieved 10 May 2023.