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Algonquin language

Algonquin language

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Algonquin is either a distinct Algonquian language
Algonquian languages
The Algonquian languages also Algonkian) are a subfamily of Native American languages which includes most of the languages in the Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the Ojibwe language, which is a...

 closely related to the Ojibwe language
Ojibwe language
Ojibwe , also called Anishinaabemowin, is an indigenous language of the Algonquian language family. Ojibwe is characterized by a series of dialects that have local names and frequently local writing systems...

 or a particularly divergent Ojibwe dialect. It is spoken, alongside French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and to some extent English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, by the Algonquin First Nations of Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 and Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

. As of 2006, there were 2,680 Algonquin speakers, less than 10% of whom were monolingual. Algonquin is the language for which the entire Algonquian language subgroup is named. The similarity among the names often causes considerable confusion. Like many Native American languages, it is strongly verb based, with most meaning being incorporated
Incorporation (linguistics)
Incorporation is a phenomenon by which a word, usually a verb, forms a kind of compound with, for instance, its direct object or adverbial modifier, while retaining its original syntactic function....

 into verbs instead of using separate words for prepositions, tense, etc.


Algonquin is an Algonquian language
Algonquian language
Algonquian language may refer to:* Algonquian languages, language sub-family indigenous to North America* Algonquin language, the particular Algonquian language spoken by certain First-Nations people of Canada...

, of the Algic family of languages, and is descended from Proto-Algonquian
Proto-Algonquian language
Proto-Algonquian is the name given to the proto-language from which the various languages of the Algonquian family are descended. It is generally estimated to have been spoken around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, but on the question of where it was spoken there is less agreement...

. It is considered a particularly divergent dialect of Ojibwe
Ojibwe language
Ojibwe , also called Anishinaabemowin, is an indigenous language of the Algonquian language family. Ojibwe is characterized by a series of dialects that have local names and frequently local writing systems...

 by many; it acts as a transitional language between the Ojibwe languages and the Abenaki
Abenaki language
The Abenaki language is a dialect continuum within the Eastern Algonquian languages, originally spoken in what is now Vermont, New Hampshire, northern Massachusetts and Maine...

 languages. But, although the speakers call themselves Anicinàbe ("Anishinaabe")
Anishinaabe or Anishinabe—or more properly Anishinaabeg or Anishinabek, which is the plural form of the word—is the autonym often used by the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Algonquin peoples. They all speak closely related Anishinaabemowin/Anishinaabe languages, of the Algonquian language family.The meaning...

, the Ojibwe call them Odishkwaagamii (those at the end of the lake). Among the Algonquins, however, the Nipissing are called Otickwàgamì (the Algonquin orthography for the Ojibwe Odishkwaagamii) and their language as Otickwàgamìmowin. The rest of the Algonquin communities call themselves Omàmiwininiwak (down-stream men), and the language Omàmiwininìmowin (speech of the down-stream men).

Other than Algonquin, languages considered as particularly divergent dialects of the Anishinaabe language include Mississauga (often called "Eastern Ojibwe") and Odawa. The Potawatomi language
Potawatomi language
Potawatomi is a Central Algonquian language and is spoken around the Great Lakes in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as in Kansas in the United States, and in southern Ontario in Canada, 1300 Potawatomi people, all elderly...

 was considered a divergent dialect of the Anishinaabe language but now is considered a separate language. Culturally, the Algonquin and the Mississaugas
The Mississaugas are a subtribe of the Anishinaabe-speaking First Nations people located in southern Ontario, Canada. They are closely related to the Ojibwa...

 were not part of the Ojibwe–Odawa–Potawatomi alliance known as the Council of Three Fires
Council of Three Fires
The Council of Three Fires, also known as the People of the Three Fires, the Three Fires Confederacy, the United Nations of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi Indians, or Niswi-mishkodewin in the Anishinaabe language, is a long-standing Anishinaabe alliance of the Ojibwe , Ottawa , and Potawatomi...

. The Algonquins maintained stronger cultural ties with the Abenaki, Atikamekw
The Atikamekw are the indigenous inhabitants of the area they refer to as Nitaskinan , in the upper Saint-Maurice River valley of Quebec , Canada. Their population currently stands at around 4500. One of the main communities is Manawan, about northeast of Montreal. They have a tradition of...

 and Cree
The Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations / Native Americans in North America, with 200,000 members living in Canada. In Canada, the major proportion of Cree live north and west of Lake Superior, in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, although...


Among sister Algonquian languages are Blackfoot
Blackfoot language
Blackfoot, also known as Siksika , Pikanii, and Blackfeet, is the Algonquian language spoken by the Blackfoot tribes of Native Americans, who currently live in the northwestern plains of North America...

, Cheyenne
Cheyenne language
The Cheyenne language is a Native American language spoken by the Cheyenne people, predominantly in present-day Montana and Oklahoma in the United States. It is part of the Algonquian language family...

, Cree
Cree language
Cree is an Algonquian language spoken by approximately 117,000 people across Canada, from the Northwest Territories and Alberta to Labrador, making it the aboriginal language with the highest number of speakers in Canada. It is also spoken in the U.S. state of Montana...

, Fox
Fox language
Fox is an Algonquian language, spoken by around 1000 Fox, Sauk, and Kickapoo in various locations in the Midwestern United States and in northern Mexico...

, Menominee
Menominee language
The Menominee language is an Algonquian language originally spoken by the Menominee people of northern Wisconsin and Michigan. It is still spoken on the Menominee Nation lands in Northern Wisconsin in the United States....

, Potawatomi
Potawatomi language
Potawatomi is a Central Algonquian language and is spoken around the Great Lakes in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as in Kansas in the United States, and in southern Ontario in Canada, 1300 Potawatomi people, all elderly...

, and Shawnee
Shawnee language
The Shawnee language is a Central Algonquian language spoken in parts of central and northeastern Oklahoma by only around 200 Shawnee, making it an endangered language. It was originally spoken in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania...

. The Algic family contains the Algonquian languages and the so-called "Ritwan" languages, Wiyot
Wiyot language
Wiyot is an extinct Algic language, formerly spoken by the Wiyot people of Humboldt Bay, California. The language's last native speaker, Della Prince, died in 1962...

 and Yurok
Yurok language
Yurok is a moribund Algic language. It is the traditional language of the Yurok tribe of Del Norte County and Humboldt County on the far North Coast of California, U.S., most of whom now speak English...

. Ojibwe and its similar languages are frequently referred to as a "Central Algonquian
Central Algonquian languages
The Central Algonquian languages are commonly grouped together as a subgroup of the larger Algonquian family, itself a member of the Algic family. Though this grouping is often encountered in the literature, it is an areal grouping rather than a genetic one...

" language; however, Central Algonquian is an areal grouping rather than a genetic one. Among Algonquian languages, only the Eastern Algonquian languages
Eastern Algonquian languages
The Eastern Algonquian languages constitute a subgroup of the Algonquian languages. Prior to European contact, Eastern Algonquian consisted of at least seventeen languages collectively occupying the Atlantic coast of North America and adjacent inland areas, from the Canadian Maritime provinces to...

 constitute a true genetic subgroup.


There are several dialects of Algonquin. Speakers at Maniwaki consider their language to be Algonquin, though linguistically it is a dialect of Eastern Ojibwe.


The consonant phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

s and major allophones of Algonquin in one of several common orthographies are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

b [b] d [d] g [ɡ]
In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

p [p] t [t] k [k]
Aspiration (phonetics)
In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

p [pʰ] t [tʰ] k [kʰ]
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

voiced dj [d͡ʒ]
voiceless tc¹ [t͡ʃ]
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

voiced z [z] j [ʒ]
voiceless s [s] c¹ [ʃ] h [h]
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m [m] n [n]
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

w [w] y [j]
1. Some communities use "tc" and "c", others use "tch" and "ch", while yet others use "ch" and "sh".

Aspiration and Allophony

The Algonquin consonants p, t and k are unaspirated when they are pronounced between two vowels or after an m or n; plain voiceless and voiceless aspirated stops in Algonquin are thus allophone
In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

s. So kìjig ("day") is pronounced [kʰiːʒɪɡ], but anokì kìjig ("working day") is pronounced [ʌnokiː kiːʒɪɡ].

/h/ can be pronounced as either [h] or [ʔ].


  • a [ʌ]
  • e [e] or [ɛ]
  • i [ɪ]
  • o or u [ʊ]
  • à (also á or aa) [aː]
  • è (also é or ee) [eː]
  • ì (also í or ii) [iː]
  • ò (also ó or oo) [oː]


  • aw [aw]
  • ay [aj]
  • ew [ew]
  • ey [ej]
  • iw [iw]
  • ow [ow]

Nasal Vowels

Algonquin does have nasal vowels, but they are allophonic variants (similar to how in English vowels are sometimes nasalized before m and n). In Algonquin, vowels automatically become nasal before nd, ng, nj or nz. For example, kìgònz ("fish") is pronounced [kʰiːɡõːz], not [kʰiːɡoːnz].


Word stress
Stress (linguistics)
In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or to certain words in a phrase or sentence. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. The word accent is sometimes also used with this sense.The stress placed...

 in Algonquin is complex but regular. Words are divided into iambic feet (an iambic foot being a sequence of one "weak" syllable plus one "strong" syllable), counting long vowels (à, è, ì, ò) as a full foot (a foot consisting of a single "strong" syllable). The primary stress is then normally on the strong syllable of the third foot from the end of the word—which, in words that are five syllables long or less, usually translates in practical terms to the first syllable (if it has a long vowel) or the second syllable (if it doesn't). The strong syllables of the remaining iambic feet each carry secondary stress, as do any final weak syllables. For example: /ni.ˈbi/, /ˈsiː.ˌbi/, /mi.ˈki.ˌzi/, /ˈnaː.no.ˌmi.da.ˌna/.

Algonquin names for animals

  • Adik - Cattle
    Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

  • Adjidamò - Squirrel
    Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

  • Amik - Beaver
    The beaver is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic rodent. Castor includes two extant species, North American Beaver and Eurasian Beaver . Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges . They are the second-largest rodent in the world...

  • Càngwèci - Mink
    There are two living species referred to as "mink": the European Mink and the American Mink. The extinct Sea Mink is related to the American Mink, but was much larger. All three species are dark-colored, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, which also includes the weasels and...

  • Cigosi - Weasel
    Weasels are mammals forming the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. They are small, active predators, long and slender with short legs....

  • Mahìgan - Wolf
  • Makwa - Bear
    Bears are mammals of the family Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern...

  • Mòz - Moose
    The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

  • Nigig - Otter
    The Otters are twelve species of semi-aquatic mammals which feed on fish and shellfish, and also other invertebrates, amphibians, birds and small mammals....

  • Pijiw - lynx
    A lynx is any of the four Lynx genus species of medium-sized wildcats. The name "lynx" originated in Middle English via Latin from Greek word "λύγξ", derived from the Indo-European root "*leuk-", meaning "light, brightness", in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes...

  • Akokodjìc - Groundhog
    The groundhog , also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig, or in some areas as a land-beaver, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Other marmots, such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but...

  • Wàwàckèci - Deer
    Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

  • Wajack - Muskrat
    The muskrat , the only species in genus Ondatra, is a medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent native to North America, and introduced in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The muskrat is found in wetlands and is a very successful animal over a wide range of climates and habitats...

  • Wàbicèsè - Marten
    The martens constitute the genus Martes within the subfamily Mustelinae, in family Mustelidae.-Description:Martens are slender, agile animals, adapted to living in taigas, and are found in coniferous and northern deciduous forests across the northern hemisphere. They have bushy tails, and large...

  • Cigàg - Skunk
    Skunks are mammals best known for their ability to secrete a liquid with a strong, foul odor. General appearance varies from species to species, from black-and-white to brown or cream colored. Skunks belong to the family Mephitidae and to the order Carnivora...

See also

External links