Native American languages


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Native American languages

joulukuu 29, 2009, 11:19 pm

Does anyone know a Native American language?

If I want to check one out, which should I look at. Here are my criteria:

1. Easier is better
2. Interesting grammar is better
3. Lots of printed sources, especially pre-20c ones is better
4. Living is better than dead
5. Nearer to the Northeast is better than far Southwest

Anyone want to square that circle for me?


Muokkaaja: joulukuu 30, 2009, 6:31 am

1> Although the degree of difficulty with the Mohawk language is best determined by you, you might find this link interesting, and the culture was one that I studied, when I was a boy living in the Mohawk Valley of New York:

You might also find this one useful, for the Mohawk language:

joulukuu 30, 2009, 7:41 am

Any opinion about alphabet, you want to learn a new one or stick to Roman?

I looked around a bit for some of the bigger languagesnowadays, Ojibway and Cree, and at least the former seems to have the issue of several dialects and that there are several writing systems used...

(myself I don't speak any, but having a general interest in languages...)

joulukuu 30, 2009, 10:50 am

Yes, I'm tempted by Cherokee, which not only has its own script, but a syllabary. (See

As a toyer-with-Egyptian and an admirer of other such scripts, that has attraction. There will also be a fair amount of texts, including the complete NT and, I'm guessing, a lot of Google Books texts.

joulukuu 30, 2009, 11:05 am

Tim, there are three or four Cherokee podcasts in the iTunesU section of iTunes, and a few iPhone apps too.

joulukuu 30, 2009, 12:02 pm

Wow. Pretty cool. Of course, I'm tempted simply by the fact that's it's written. Spoken languages freak me out ;)

joulukuu 31, 2009, 3:53 am

Smiling while reading the wiki article on Cherokee...polysynthetic languages are of course cool, and those verb conjugations look really fun...(though of spoken languages I don't much like use of tones, that's always a source for unintentional comedy)
Looks definitely interesting.

tammikuu 4, 2010, 3:29 am

For pre-20th century sources Cherokee may be your best bet. Although a lot of it may be religious in nature as in the early 19th century a number of Bible groups financed a ton of religious documents and other materials translated into Cherokee. I'm not sure of the state of the collection these days, but at one time the Appalachian Collection of the library at Appalachian State University once held a fair number of books and documents in Cherokee from the pre-Trail of Tears era.

huhtikuu 10, 2010, 2:17 am

Of living North American languages, the "easiest" are likely to be the Algonquian ones. (Neither the morphosyntax nor the phonology will be nearly so daunting as, say, Navajo.) The ones with the most living speakers, and the most materials over a long span of time (most of which are in English, but if you know French you'll have access to even more) will be Ojibwe and Cree.

(I don't *know* any of these, though I've dabbled a bit in Ojibwe.)

If you do have an interest in Mohawk (to which Cherokee is related; they are both Iroquoian languages), and are also interested in theoretical linguistics, you can get a taste of it from the works of Mark C. Baker, a linguist who has studied Mohawk and often uses it as an example.

huhtikuu 10, 2010, 2:53 am

I was inspired by this NYT piece, about recovering lost Indian languages.


joulukuu 4, 2011, 8:54 pm

This film was recently (November 2011) broadcast (rebroadcast?) on PBS TV ...

About the Film
A young girl wearing a beaded headband with the word: Wampanoag on it and a dress decorated with ribbon looks down pensively.A Wampanoag boy wearing a native headdress is seen from behind as a woman crouches in front of him looking into his face with a serious expression.

"There is nothing I know of that's anything like the Wampanoag case."

— Noam Chomsky

We Still Live Here - Âs Nutayuneân is the story of the revitalization of the Wampanoag language, the first time a language with no native speakers has been revived in this country. The Wampanoag’s ancestors ensured the survival of the Pilgrims in New England, and lived to regret it. Nevertheless, through resilience and courage they kept their identity alive and remained on their ancestral lands. Now a cultural revival is taking place.

The story begins in 1994 when Jessie Little Doe, an intrepid, 30-something Wampanoag social worker, began having recurring dreams: familiar-looking people from another time addressing her in an incomprehensible language. Jessie was perplexed and a little annoyed — why couldn’t they speak English? Later, she realized they were speaking Wampanoag, a language no one had used for more than a century.

These events sent her and members of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag communities on an odyssey that would uncover hundreds of documents written in their ancestral language, lead Jessie to a earn herself a masters degree in linguistics at MIT, and result in something that had never been done before – bringing a language alive again in an American Indian community after many generations with no native speakers. With commitment, study groups, classes, and communitywide effort, many are approaching fluency. Jessie’s young daughter Mae is the first native speaker in more than a hundred years.

toukokuu 30, 2012, 7:26 pm

Rood, did you see the film?

Disappointed to find it's not on Netflix.

syyskuu 20, 2020, 5:55 pm

Wow ... Embarrssed to say I've not been back in nearly 9 years, but, yes, I saw the film, and after a ten minute search I found the video, just now. See:

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2020, 9:35 am

timspalding, I know Choctaw & Cherokee. Choctaw uses the English alphabet where the Cherokee as an original 85 character syllabary. Choctaw is well documented. A dictionary and grammar books were created in the 19th century and easy to google up for download. I find Cherokee very interesting and quick to learn. Cherokee is Iroquoian so it maybe your best choice.

The Duolingo app has the Navajo language. is a good jumping off point.