Algonquian languages

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Distribution of the Algonquin languages

The Algonquian languages are one in North America -based language family of the indigenous American languages . It is possible that Algonquin can be combined with the individual languages Wiyot and Yurok spoken in Northern California to form a second -degree language family called Algisch .

Together with the Athapaskan , Iroquois , Uto-Aztec , Muskogee , Sioux and Caddo languages, the Algonquin languages ​​were one of the most widespread language families of the Indians of North America : from the Atlantic coast in the east to the plains in the west, from the subarctic in the north to North Carolina in the south.

The diversification of the individual languages is quite remarkable, mutual understandability should only exist in a few cases such as Ojibwa and Potawatomi.

The language code according to ISO 639-2 for the language group is alg , for the eponymous single language Algonquin according to ISO 639-3 it is alq .

Classification of the Algonquin

However, the subgrouping of the Algonquin is controversial. Only a peripheral position of the Blackfoot seems clear, although its peculiarities could only recently have arisen through intensive contact effects (Bakker). Area groups such as a hypothetical Plains-Algonquin are not tenable, and even a previously accepted East-Algonquin unit was challenged by Paul Proulx, as its validity depends on contestable assumptions about relative chronology .

Regional language groups

Despite these preliminary remarks, three large regional or areal language groups are usually still accepted today (albeit in an auxiliary manner) (Goddard 1996 and Mithun 1999):

  1. Plains-Algonquian languages (relationship and similarity presumably exist solely due to regional language contact between neighboring individual languages ; Arapaho languages , Blackfoot , Cheyenne )
  2. Central Algonquian or Central Algonquian languages (relationship and similarity presumably exist solely on the basis of regional language contact between neighboring individual languages; Ojibwe , Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi, Fox-Sauk-Kickapoo, Menominee, Miami-Illinois, Potawatomi , Shawnee)
  3. Eastern Algonquin or Eastern Algonquin languages (form a genetic unit ; Eastern Abenaki , Western Abenaki , Etchemin (?), Delaware , Nipmuck, Mahican, Malecite-Passamaquoddy, Massachusett, Mi'kmaq, Narragansett, Mohegan-Pequot, Nanticoke, Carolina Algonkin ( Pamlico ), Powhatan, Quiripi-Naugatuck, Piscataway)

With this traditional classification , however, it must be borne in mind that this subdivision is primarily based on geographic / regional and therefore (mostly) cultural similarities between these three regional language groups rather than on linguistic ones; only the Eastern Algonquin or Eastern Algonquin forms a linguistic genetic unit . (The speakers of genetically related languages ​​do not have to be ethnologically (biologically-genetically) related.)

A possible affiliation of the extinct Beothuk on Newfoundland to the Algonquin language group can only be speculated due to the poor data situation.


The Algonquian languages ​​are characterized by a relatively small inventory of phonemes , but on the other hand by a complex morphophonology .

Morphology and grammar

As highly polysynthetic languages , all Algonquian languages ​​are agglutinating , sometimes even strongly inflected, with formally distinguishable position classes (initial, medial, finale). Complex statements are possible with a single verb form . This purpose is served suffixes , prefixes and infixes , but also nouns and adverbial elements ( "Präverben") are in the verb forms incorporated . Thus, transitive verbs are conjugated not only with regard to the subject but also to the object. In addition, there is a “direct” and “ inverse inflection ” (“directionality”) according to a hierarchy of subject and object to one another . Objects can be expressed in the verb using applicatives . Verbs are divided into four classes: animat-intransitive (AI), inanimat-intransitive (II), animat-transitive (AT) and inanimat-transitive (IT).

Direct flexion (ending: -aa / -a) and inverse flexion (ending: -ig / -uk) in Ojibwe and Potawatomi:

German translation
I see him / her.
He / she sees me.
You see him / her.
He / she sees you.

Nouns are divided into animate (animatum) and inanimate (inanimatum) in gender or the nominal class . The assignment of individual nouns to a gender is not always the same in all Algonquian languages, but as a rule people, animals, trees and spirits are animate, objects, but also small plants, are inanimate. Nouns and generally the third person are also marked in the sentence according to their relevance to the respective topic ( obviation ) as well as according to presence or absence (lost, deceased). There are three grammatical persons with a distinction between inclusive and exclusive we and two numbers (singular and plural). Attributive elements corresponding to the adjectives ("prenomina") are placed in front of the nouns. The sentence order is mostly subject-verb-object or subject-object-verb , but the meaning of the statement is determined by the synthetic structure of the language.

The sample text “Two women who went fishing” in the article on the Ojibwe language gives an impression of the structure of the Algonquin languages.

Word equations

German Massachusett Loup (Nipmuc) Narragansett Penobscot Munsee Arapaho Ojibwe
'Deer' ahtuhq attekeȣe nóonatch nòlke atóh hé3owoonéihii waawaashkeshi
'my father' noohsh nȣs nòsh n'mitangwes noxwe neisónoo noose
'Canoe' muhshoon amisȣl mishoon ámasol amaxol 3iiw jiimaan
'Hawk' owóshaog ('hawks') awéhle ('broad-winged hawk') awéhleew cecnóhuu gekek
'three' nushwe chȣi nìsh near nxáh nehi niswi
'thirty' swinnichak chȣinchak swínchek nsinska nxináxke nisimidama
'Broken' poohkshau pȣkȣ'sau pokésha poskwenômuk ('to break') paxkhílew ('it breaks') tówo'oni ('break') bookoshkaa
'Dog' annum alum ayim adia mwáakaneew he3 anim (osh)
'Flint' môshipsq mansibsqȣe masipskw mahləs wóosóó3 biiwaanag (oonh)

List of Algonquian languages

Languages ​​that are already extinct are marked with .

Plains Algonquin

  • Arapaho languages ​​or Arapaho-Atsina-Nawathinehena
  • Blackfoot (Ni'tsiitapipo'ahsin, Nitsipussin)
    • Siksika (Siksiká) - dialect
      • Siksika A
      • Siksika B
    • Kainaa (Kainai) - dialect
      • Kainaa A - subdialect
      • Kainaa B - subdialect
      • Kainaa C - subdialect
    • Northern Piikani (Aapátohsipikani) - dialect (possibly Northern Piikani A, B, C - subdialects)
    • Southern Piikani (Aamsskáápipikani) dialect
  • Cheyenne (Tsėhésenėstsestȯtse, Tsisinstsistots)
    • actually Cheyenne
      • Northern Cheyenne dialect
      • Southern Cheyenne dialect
    • Sutaio (Soʼtaaʼe)
  • Cree or Cree – Montagnais – Naskapi
    • Plains Cree (Nēhiyawēwin)
    • Woods Cree / Woodland Cree (Nīhithawīwin)
    • Swampy Cree (also Maskekon, Omaškêkowak, Omushkego) (Nêhinawêwin)
      • West Swampy Cree
      • East Swampy Cree
    • Moose Cree (York Cree, West Shore Cree, West Main Cree) (Nēhinawēwin)
    • East Cree (also (Eastern) James Bay Cree, East Main Cree)
      • Northern East Cree (Īyiyū Ayimūn)
      • Southern East Cree (Īnū Ayimūn)
    • Naskapi (Iyuw Iyimuun)
    • Montagnais (Innu-aimun)
      • Southern Montagnais dialect
      • Eastern Montagnais dialect
      • Central Montagnais dialect
      • Labrador Montagnais dialect
    • Atikamekw (also Attikamek, Tête de Boule, Attimewk, Atihkamekw, Atikamek)
    • Michif (a mixed language of the Métis from Plains Cree and French)
  • Fox group
  • Menomini
  • Miami-Illinois
  • Ojibwa - Potawatomi

Eastern Algonquin or Eastern Algonquin languages

See also


Comparativa (Algonquin and Algisch)

  • Berman, Howard (1982): Two phonological innovations in Ritwan. IJAL 48: 248-262
  • - (1984): Proto-Algonquian-Ritwan verbal roots. IJAL 50/3 (July 1984): 335-342
  • Bloomfield, Leonard (1946): Algonquian. LSNA : 85-129
  • Garrett, Andrew (2001): Reduplication and infixation in Yurok: morphology, semantics, and diachrony. IJAL 67: 264-312
  • - (forthc.): The evolution of Algic verbal stem structure: new evidence from Yurok. BLS 30
  • —— (2004): Proto-Algonquian * š and “Ritwan”: a rejoinder. Algonquian & Iroquoian Linguistics 29/4: 50-51
  • Goddard, Ives (1979): Comparative Algonquian. The languages ​​of Native America: a historical and comparative assessment. Ed. L. Campbell & M. Mithun. Austin, TX: Texas UP: 70-132
  • Pentland, David H. & H. Christoph Wolfart (1982): A Bibliography of Algonquian Linguistics. Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba UP
  • Proulx, Paul (1980a): The subordinative order of Proto-Algonquian. IJAL 46: 289-300
  • - (1980b): The linguistic evidence on Algonquian prehistory. AnL 22/1: 1-21
  • —— (1982a): The origin of absolute verbs of the Algonquian independent order. IJAL 48 : 394-411
  • - (1982b): The linguistic evidence of the Algonquian-Iroquoian encounter. Approaches to Algonquian archeology: proceedings of the 13th annual conference of the archaeological association of the University of Calgary, 1980. np: 1982: 189-211
  • —— (1982c): Yurok retroflection and vowel symbolism in Proto-Algic. Kansas WP at Ling. 7: 119-123
  • —— (1983): Mahican social organization and the Middle Atlantic cultural climax. AnL 25/1: 82-100
  • —— (1984a): PA * aye and its implications. IJAL 50/1: 84-93
  • - (1984b): Proto-Algic, I: Phonological sketch. IJAL 50/2: 165-207
  • —— (1984c): Algonquian objective verbs. IJAL 50/4: 403-423
  • —— (1984d): Two models of Algonquian linguistic prehistory: diffusion versus genetic subgrouping. AL 26/4: 393-434
  • - (1985a): Proto-Algic, II: Verbs. IJAL 51/1: 59-93
  • - (1985b): The semantics of Yurok terms referring to water. AL 27/4 (winter 1985): 353-362
  • —— (1985c): Yurok derivation. KWPL 10: 101-144
  • - (1986): Algonquian cardinal directions. Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics 11/2: 19-23
  • —— (1988a): The demonstrative pronouns of Proto-Algonquian. IJAL 54/3 (July 1988): 309-330
  • —— (1988b): Hypotheses in diachronic linguistics, or: How to make the most of meager and messy data. In honor of Mary Haas: from the Haas festival conference on Native American linguistics. Ed. William Shipley. Berlin: Mouton DeGruyter
  • - (1989): A sketch of Blackfoot historical phonology. IJAL 55/1: 43-82
  • - (1990): Proto-Algonquian verb inflection. Studies in Native American languages , VI (= KWPL 15/2). Lawrence, KS: Linguistic Graduate Student Association
  • - (1991): Proto-Algic, III: Pronouns. KWPL 16: 129-170
  • - (1992): Proto-Algic, IV. KWPL 17/2: 11-57
  • - (1994): Proto-Algic, V: Doublets and their implications. Studies in Native American languages , VIII (= KWPL 19/2). Ed. Linda M. Roby Lawrence, KS: Linguistics Graduate Student Association, Univ. of Kansas 1994: 115-182
  • —— (2001a): Proto-Algonquian demonstratives and the size of PA socio-political units. Algonquian & Iroquoian Linguistics 26/2: 15-19
  • —— (2001b): Research report: reconstructing Proto-Algonquian society. Algonquian & Iroquoian Linguistics 26/3: 29-31
  • —— (2003a): Proto-Algonquian affinal terms and related consanguineal ones. Algonquian & Iroquoian Linguistics 28/2: 26-35
  • —— (2003b): The evidence on Algonquian genetic grouping: a matter of relative chronology. Anthropological Linguistics 45/2: 201-225
  • —— (2004a): Proto Algonquian * š and the Ritwan hypothesis. Algonquian & Iroquoian Linguistics 29/2: 30-32
  • —— (2004b): Prehistoric social organization before and after agriculture: the lexically reconstructed story of Central Algonquian society, showing the transformation of a bilateral forager kindred into an agricultural patrilineal tribe in a resource rich natural environment. (Studies in Linguistic Palaeontology, 1) Heatherton, NS [distributed by for a small charge, or may be ordered at that site as a printout]
  • —— (2004c): Some prehistoric Algonquian cultural vocabulary. Morrisville, NC: [distributed by as a free download, or may be ordered at that site as a printout]
  • —— (2004d): Proto Algic VI: Conditioned Yurok reflexes of Proto Algic vowels. KWPL 27: 124-138
  • —— (2005a): Reduplication in Proto-Algonquian and Proto-Central-Algonquian. IJAL 71/2: 193-214
  • —— (2005b): Ritwan again: some notes on theory, method, and presentation. AIL 30/2: 13-15

Individual languages ​​(Algonquin only)


  • Ahenakew, Freda (1987): Cree language structures: a Cree approach. Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications
  • Bloomfield, Leonard (1930): Sacred stories of the Sweet Grass Cree. (National Museum of Canada, Bulletin 60) Ottawa, ON: The King's Printer 1930 [repr. New York: AMS Press 1976; repr. Saskatoon, SK: Fifth House Publishers 1993]
  • - (1934): Plains Cree texts. (American Ethnological Society, Publication 16) New York, NY: GE Stechert & Co. [repr. New York: AMS Press 1974]
  • - (1984): Cree-English lexicon , I-II. (Language and Literature Series: Native American Linguistics, II) New Haven, CT: Human Relation Area Files
  • Ellis, Clarence Douglas (1983): Spoken Cree. West Coast of James Bay. Informants: John Wynne, Anne Scott, Xavier Sutherland. Edmonton, AB: Pica Pica Press (Textbook division of Alberta UP) [ in extenso rev. by Pinnow 1985]
  • —— (³2000): Spoken Cree: ê-ililîmonâniwahk , Level I. Edmonton, AB: Alberta UP
  • —— (2004): Spoken Cree: ê-ililîmonâniwahk , Level II. Edmonton, AB: Alberta UP
  • —— (forthc.): Spoken Cree , Level III. Edmonton, AB: Alberta UP
  • —— (forthc.): Cree learner's dictionary. Edmonton, AB: Alberta UP
  • Okimâsis [Bellegarde], Jean L. & Solomon Ratt (⁷1999): Cree: language of the plains - Nêhiyawêwin: paskwâwi-pîkiskwêwin , I: Textbook , II: Workbook. Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Center
  • Pinnow, Jürgen (1985): The beginnings of the Cree. Anthropos 80: 664-676 [rev. article of Ellis (1983)]
  • Ratt, Solomon (1995): How to say it in Cree. Regina, SK [own print] 1990; revised version ( Link to PDF ( Memento from October 14, 2012 in the Internet Archive ))
  • Wolfart, H. Christoph (1973): Plains Cree: a grammatical study. (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, NS 63, Pt. 5) Philadelphia, PA: The American Philosophical Society [facsimile reprint, Saskatoon; SK: Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College, ca.1982]
  • —— (1996): Sketch of Cree, an Algonquian language. HNAI 17: Languages. Ed. Ives Goddard. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution: 391-398
  • Wolfart, H. Christoph & Janet F. Carroll (1981): Meet Cree: a guide to the Cree language. Edmonton, AB / Lincoln, NE: Alberta UP / Nebraska UP
  • Wolvengrey, Arok (2001): Cree words: nêhiýawêwin itwêwina , I: Cree-English , II: English-Cree. (CPRW, 3) Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Center


  • Bloomfield, Leonard (1928): Menomini texts. (Publications of the American Ethnological Society, 12) New York, NY: GE Stechert & Co.
  • - (1962): The Menomini language. New Haven, CT
  • Bonvillain, Nancy (2002): Native American religions. (LINCOM Studies in Anthropology, 3) Munich: LINCOM Europe
  • Guile, Timothy (2001): Anthology of Menomini sayings (texts & grammar). (LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics, 41) Munich: LINCOM Europe
  • —— (forthc.): Menominee life in language. (LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics, __) Munich: LINCOM Europe
  • Macaulay, Monica (2005): Errata in The Menomini Language : First Installment. AIL 30/2: 16

Web links

Commons : Algonquian Languages  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Popular science pages

Linguistic pages

Individual evidence

  1. ^ David H. Pentland: Algonquian and Ritwan Languages . In: Keith Brown (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Languages ​​and Linguistics (2nd edition), pp. 161-166. Elsevier, Amsterdam 2006.
  2. ^ Ives Goddard: Central Algonquian Languages . In: Bruce G. Trigger (Ed.): Northeast . William C. (Ed.): Handbook of North American Indians , Volume 15, 1978.
  3. ^ JH Trumbull: Natick dictionary (XXV. Edition). Government Printing Press, Washington DC 1903. Volume 445, pp. 27, 173, 285.
  4. a b c d D. J. Costa: The Dialectology of Southern New England Algonquian . In: HC Wolfart (Ed.): Papers of the 38th Algonquian Conference. Pp. 81-127. University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg (Manitoba) 2007.
  5. GT Gambill: Freelang Abenaki Penobscot – English and English – Abenaki Penobscot online dictionary . Beaumont, Bangkok (Thailand) 2008.
  6. ^ Munsee Language Resources (2013).
  7. L. Conthan: Arapaho-English dictionary . In: The Arapaho language: Documentation and Revitalization . University of California, Berkeley 2006.
  8. ^ The Ojibwe's People's Dictionary . University of Minnesota Department of Linguistics, 2013.