The primary reference on Choctaw grammar is George A. Broadwell's 2006 A Choctaw Reference Grammar. Byington's own grammar (Byington 1870), however, is useful in understanding his approach to the language.

The order of words in a sentence is subject, object, verb. In his dictionary, Byington refers to the subject as the nominative. Subjects may be followed by an element ʋt. Objects may be followed by an element .

Byington makes many distinctions in Choctaw parts of speech, but these are partly based on their translation in English. For verbs, he distinguishes four types:

  • verb neuter: these often translate as 'to be (in a state)'. They indicate the subject with sa 'I', chi 'you', etc.
  • verb active intransitive: these often translate as actions. They indicate the subject with li 'I', ish 'you', etc.
  • verb transitive: these are verbs that may appear with a direct object. They usually indicate the subject with li 'I', ish 'you', etc.
  • passive: these are the same as verbs neuter, except that they translate as passives in English.

Byington also recognizes two categories that are derived from verbs:

  • adjective: these are used to modify nouns.
  • past participle: these are the same as adjectives in Choctaw, but translate as past participles in English.

Choctaw distinguishes between personal pronouns (independent words like ʋni 'I', chishno 'you') and bound elements like li 'I' or ish 'you' that must appear with a verb and agree with a subject. Byington refers to all of these as pronouns based on their English translation.

Byington uses the term "preposition" broadly to include markers appearing before a noun phrase (as in English in a field) or after a noun phrase (as in Choctaw osapa anu̱ka).

Verbs in Choctaw may change their shape to give slight differences in meaning. In the intensive form, the consonant before the second-to-last vowel may be doubled. When this is not possible, the second-to-last syllable is broken by inserting iy:

alota, to be full ʋllota, to be quite full
kʋnia, gone kʋnnia, really gone
takchi, to tie taiyakchi, to tie firmly

In the nasal form, the second-to-last vowel is nasalized:

takchi, to tie ta̱kchi, to be tying

In the frequentative form, the second-to-last vowel is broken by h and the vowel after h is nasalized:

takchi, to tie taha̱kchi, to keep tying

These different forms of the verb are usually listed after definitions are given.


Broadwell, George A. 2006. A Choctaw Reference Grammar. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Byington, Cyrus, and Daniel Garrison Brinton. 1870. Grammar of the Choctaw language. Philadelphia: McCalla & Stavely, printers.