Delaware pidgin

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Delaware pidgin , also known as "Delaware jargon", was a pidgin language based on the Delawar language of the Unami and used by North American Indians (the Delaware ) and European immigrants to communicate with one another.


From around 1624 Dutch colonists settled on the Delaware River . There the Delaware pidgin was developed by Unami Delaware speakers in order to communicate with the Dutch.


The Delaware pidgin is a pidgin variant of the Unami delaware. The latter is one of two closely related Delaware dialects, the Unami and the Munsee, which belong to the eastern branch of the Algonquin languages . The dialect shows the typical strong simplifications of a pidgin language, especially in the morphology .


The whole range of Unami sounds as well as the long versus short contrast in the area of obstruents and vowels are retained. However, unstressed initial syllables and consonant clusters are often simplified, for example pack “weep” from Süd-Unami ləpakw “he is crying”.


Unami verbs are also inflected according to person and number in pidgin , but independent (single) pronouns are used for this. The singular form of the verbs is used throughout . In the noun , number and gender (and animate versus inanimate in Unami) are no longer differentiated, although this difference occurs both in the Indian language and in European languages. No distinction is made between cases . The same form is used for subject , (direct and indirect) object and genitive ( possessives ). Example: Chingo kee peto nee chase ... "When will you bring me fur ..." "When will you bring me fur?". If the context is clear, pronouns are often left out: Kacko pata 'was bring' = "what did you bring?". The negation, which in Unami consists of a particle and a suffix , is simplified: Matta ne hatah 'nicht Ich hab' = “I have nothing”. In some cases, petrified inflected forms are used as simple nouns: hocking "soil" from (southern) Unami hák · ink "on the earth", locative to hák · i "earth" or nijlum "sister" of southern Unami ní · ləm "my sister in law". The categories of animate versus inanimate that are differentiated in the Unami are used arbitrarily in Pidgin, cf. horítt Manétto 'good (unb.) God' = "good God" but Makerick kitton 'large (bel.) river' = "Delaware River".


Composition was used to increase vocabulary. Manúnckus mochijrick Síngwaes 'angry big wildcat' = "mountain lion", crouching tappin 'up seat (s)' = "god". The pidgin word aana “way, road” could be used as a preposition. Ana mochijrick bij 'way big water' = "over the sea".

Dissemination and use

Dutch settlers moved from Delaware to Manhattan ( Nieuw Amsterdam ). As early as 1633 a Delaware-Pidgin word list was published there by de Laet. The Dutch brought the pidgin to Swedish colonists, who in turn passed it on to the English. The pidgin was not only used in the following in the area of ​​the Unami-Delaware speakers, but also the related Munsee-Delaware speakers. The distribution area thus included Long Island , north and south New Jersey and the valley of the Hudson River . In the 1640s, Campanius, a Lutheran missionary, translated a catechism into the Delaware-Pidgin. A vocabulary is attached to the catechism.


This catechism, as well as the Indian interpreter found in the archives of the city of Salem, New Jersey, are the main sources for the Delaware pidgin. There are also a number of smaller works that contain vocabularies and sentences. This also includes de Laet's list of words.


The Delaware-Pidgin is a greatly simplified language that is based on the Unami-Delaware and was consciously developed by Unami speakers to communicate with European settlers. Although it has individual variants, it is clearly a learned language, not ad hoc simplifications. This is also shown by the fact that it was used beyond the Unami area. The last record for the Delaware pidgin dates from 1860.


  • M. Mithun, SR Anderson, J. Bresnan, B. Comrie, W. Dressler, C. Ewen, et al .: The Languages ​​of Native North America . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001, ISBN 0521232287 (Cambridge Language Surveys)