top of page

Delaware Indian Words

Words of Algonquian Origin  DELAWARE INDIAN Words

Algonquian nouns consist of stems to which both prefixes and suffixes may be added to indicate gender, number, person, and possession. Similarly, Algonquian verb stems are inflected for person, number, gender, and direction. For example, the Fox expression newapamawa, "I see him," inflects the stem wap-, "see") for person (marked by the prefix ne-), direction (with the direction marker -am-), and the gender and number of the goal (marked both by the direction marker -am- and by the suffix -awa). These and many other fascinating features of Algonquian languages have made them influential in the development of descriptive and theoretical linguistics in the United States and elsewhere.

Translations of Western religious works, particularly the Bible, have been made into various Algonquian languages since the seventeenth century. The earliest Bible printed in North America was in the Massachusett language, and was published in 1663. Although unwritten before European contact, all currently spoken Algonquian languages, and some that are now extinct, have had orthographies and/or syllabaries developed for them, and several are the focus of active reading and writing programs today. Algonquian languages such as Cree and Ojibwa still serve the needs of large communities of speakers, and many of the surviving languages such as Maliseet-Passamaquoddy are now the subject of revitalization programs designed to bring the languages back into use among younger speakers.

Algonquian languages were some of the first that Europeans came in contact with in North America. Many eastern states in the U.S.A. have names of Algonquian origin Massachusetts,Connecticut, Illinois ,Michigan, Wisconsin, as do many cities. The capital of Canada is named after an Algonquian nation - Odawa


Genetic and areal Relationships

Only Eastern Algonquian is a true genetic subgrouping. The Plains Algonquian and the Central Algonquian groups are not genetic groupings but rather areal groupings. This means that Blackfoot is no more closely related to Cheyenne than it is to Menominee. Areal groups often do have certain shared linguistic features.The group is sometimes said to have included the extinct language of Newfoundland, although evidence is scarce and poorly recorded, and the claim is mainly based on geographic proximity.

The pre-colonial language of the Lumbees may also have been Algonquian languages, but in both cases documentary evidence is at best very weak. There is no documentary evidence whatsoever of an aboriginal Lumbee language.

The Algonquian language family is renowned for its complex and sophisticated system. Statements that take many words to say in can be expressed with a single "word". Ex: Menominee enae:ni:hae:w "He is heard by higher powers" These languages have been famously studied in the structuralist tradition by Leonard Bloomfield Edward Sapir. Many of these languages are extremely endangered today, while others have died completely.

Etchemin and Loup were ethnographic terms used inconsistently by French colonists and missionaries. There is some debate whether distinct groups could ever have been identified with those names.

Etchemin is only known from a list of numbers from people living between the St. John and Kennebec Rivers recorded in 1609 by Marc Lescarbot. The name Etchemin has also been applied to other material from what many scholars of Algonquian ethnography and linguistics believe to be Passamaquoddy, or Eastern Abenaki.

Some of the attested Loup vocabulary can be identified with different eastern Algonquian communities, including the Mahican Maliseet Passamaquoddy and other groups. Loup A and Loup B refer to two vocabulary lists which cannot be conclusively identified with another, known community. Loup A may be Pocumtuck or Nipmuck. It is somewhat similar to Agawam. Loup B seems like a composite of different dialects. It is closest to Mahican and Western Abenaki. They also may represent unknown tribes or bands, or may have been interethnic trade pidgins of some kind. Documentary evidence for Loup B is very thin; the documentary evidence for Loup A is much more extensive, being documented in a manuscript dictionary from the French missionary period.

bottom of page