Proto-Algonquian language

Proto-Algonquian language

Proto-Algonquian (commonly abbreviated PA) is the name given to the posited proto-language of the languages of the Algonquian family. One theory, first put forth by Frank Siebert in 1967, is that it was spoken between 2500 and 3000 years ago between Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario, Ontario, in Canada, and at least as far south as Niagara Falls (determined through examination of the reconstructed terms for natural features, plants, and animals), although this is still debated. More recent work by scholars such as Ives Goddard and Peter Denny suggests that in fact it was spoken much further west than this, perhaps in the western Great Plains near what is now Montana or Alberta. This latter theory is most favored among current Algonquian specialists, and accounts better for the location of languages such as Blackfoot and Arapaho.

Proto-Algonquian, in turn, was a member of the Algic family, whose other two members, Wiyot and Yurok, are spoken in California.

The Algonquian family is usually divided into three subgroups: Eastern Algonquian (a genetic subgrouping), Central Algonquian (an areal grouping), and Plains Algonquian (an areal grouping).

The earliest comparative work on the Algonquian family was undertaken by the linguist Leonard Bloomfield, who reconstructed Proto-Algonquian (his "Proto-Central-Algonquian") using four languages: Fox, Ojibwe, Menominee, and (Plains) Cree. Since his initial reconstructions, there has been an enormous amount of comparative work undertaken on the Algonquian family, making Proto-Algonquian a significantly well-studied proto-language, particularly compared with many other North American language families.


Proto-Algonquian had four basic vowels, "*i", "*e", "*a", "*o", each of which had a long counterpart (commonly written "*i·", "*e·", "*a·", "*o·"), for a total of eight vowels. The reconstructed consonants are as follows (with some Americanist values: <č> represents a postalveolar affricate IPA|*/ʧ/, <š> a postalveolar fricative IPA|*/ʃ/, and a palatal glide, */j/):

The phoneme written <θ> was originally posited to have been an interdental fricative by Leonard Bloomfield (though he also thought it might have been a lateral fricative). Goddard (1994a and b) also argues for this view—one piece of evidence being that this is the reflex it has in Arapaho. However, some researchers have argued that should be reconstructed a lateral fricative, IPA|/ɬ/, due in part to reflexes such as "l" and "n" which turn up in a number of Central Algonquian languages. [Picard 1984] Goddard (1994a and b) has argued that the sound traditionally reconstructed as "*l" should in fact be reconstructed as "*r", as the earliest records of many Algonquian languages show that they in fact once had a rhotic, which has since changed to "l" in modern forms of the languages.

Reconstruction of the consonant clusters has been relatively difficult, and the paths the clusters take in their evolutions to the daughter languages have been complex. Bloomfield originally reconstructed seven different types of clusters: "*čC", "*šC", "*xC", "*hC", "*çC", "IPA|*ʔC", and "*NC" (where "N" is an unspecified nasal: either "*m" or "*n" depending on the following consonant). As reconstructed by Bloomfield (but substituting modern orthographical conventions for Bloomfield's spelling (<š> for and <č> for , and as previously mentioned, for ), the permissible consonant clusters were (first member on the left, second member across the top):

In some cases the first member of the clusters was almost impossible to reconstruct, and Bloomfield's choice of symbols to represent them was purely arbitrary. Thus, does not represent */x/ and <ç> does not represent */ç/. The clusters beginning with "*x" are now interpreted by Goddard (1994b) as beginning with "*s". What Bloomfield reconstructed as "*çk" is likewise now suggested by Goddard (1994b) to be reconstructed as "*rk" (i.e., what would traditionally have been reconstructed as "*lk"). The reconstructions, however, ultimately remain uncertain.

There was evidently also a cluster (written ) with second member "*m", which shows up as "p" or "m" in most of the daughter languages (but as "hm" in Munsee Delaware). The first member of the cluster is unknown; it may have been *h or IPA|*ʔ. [Goddard 1974b]

All consonants, furthermore, could be followed by "*w" or "*y" (although "*čw" and "*hy" did not occur; the former had earlier simplified to "*č" and the latter to "*š").

The PA word began with a single consonant or vowel or with a consonant plus "*w" or "*y"; between vowels in a word there could occur a consonant, a semivowel, or a cluster of two consonants; and the word always ended in a short vowel. "*i" never occurred in the first syllable of a word.

Phonological Processes

Several allophonic processes, morphophonemic processes, and phonological constraints can be reconstructed. "*t" and "IPA|*θ" became "*č" and "*š" before "*i", "*i·", or "*y". Of the short vowels, only "*e" and "*a" occurred in the first syllable of a word, and all words ended in a short vowel. Semivowels preceded by a consonant could not be followed by "*o" or "*o·". [Goddard 1974a] The pronominal prefixes, "*ne-", "*ke-", and "*we-" (see below) became "*net-", "*ket-", and "*wet-" when followed by a vowel.


Proto-Algonquian nouns had an animate/inanimate contrast: nouns representing animate beings (and some traditional items viewed as having spiritual powers) were classed as "animate", while all other nouns were "inanimate". The plural marker differed in form depending on whether the noun was animate or inanimate: animate nouns took a plural suffix "*-aki", while inanimate nouns took a plural suffix "*-ari". Another important distinction involved the contrast between nouns marked as "proximate" and those marked as "obviative". Proximate nouns were those deemed most central or important to the discourse, while obviative nouns were those less important to the discourse. When two third person participants appeared in a sentence, one was marked as proximate and the other as obviative, in order to distinguish which one was the subject and which was the object (since verbs inflected for whether they had a proximate or obviative subject and a proximate or obviative object).

There were personal pronouns which distinguished three persons, two numbers (singular and plural), inclusive and exclusive first person plural, and proximate and obviative third persons. Demonstrative pronouns have been more difficult to reconstruct, as many of the daughter languages have innovated a great deal.

PA had four classes of verbs: transitive verbs with an animate object (abbreviated TA), transitive verbs with an inanimate object (TI), intransitive verbs with an animate subject (AI), and intransitive verbs with an inanimate subject (II). Transitive verbs had two paradigms, termed "objective" and "absolute". Objective verbs were used when the object of the verb was not present as an overt noun elsewhere in the sentence, while absolute verbs were used when the object of the verb "was" marked with an overt noun in the sentence. Objective verbs could also be used when an object was present, and in such cases indicated that the object was definite, as opposed to indefinite.

External links

* [ Correspondences of Ojibwe, Cree, and Proto-Algonquian sounds]



*Berman, Howard. 1990. "New Algonquian-Ritwan Cognate Sets." "International Journal of American Linguistics" 56:431-34.
*Bloomfield, Leonard. 1925. "On the Sound System of Central Algonquian." "Language" 1:130-56.
*————. 1946. "Algonquian." "Linguistic Structures of Native America". ed. Harry Hoijer et al., pp. 85-129. New York: Viking Fund.
*Campbell, Lyle. 1997. "American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America". Oxford: University Press.
*Goddard, Ives. 1967. "The Algonquian Independent Indicative." "National Museum of Canada Bulletin" 214:66-106.
*————. 1974a. "An Outline of the Historical Phonology of Arapaho and Atsina." "IJAL" 40:102-16.
*————. 1974b. "Remarks on the Algonquian Independent Indicative." "IJAL" 40:317-27.
*————. 1982. "The Historical Phonology of Munsee." "IJAL" 48:16-28.
*————. 1994a. "A New Look for Algonquian." Paper presented at the Comparative Linguistics Workship, University of Pittsburgh, April 9.
*————. 1994b. "The West-to-East Cline in Algonquian Dialectology." In "Actes du Vingt-Cinquième Congrès des Algonquinistes", ed. William Cowan: 187-211. Ottawa: Carleton University.
*Michelson, Truman. 1935. "Phonetic Shifts in Algonquian Languages." "IJAL" 8:131-71.
*Miller, Wick R. 1959. "An Outline of Shawnee Historical Phonology." "IJAL" 25:16-21.
*Mithun, Marianne. 1999. "The Languages of Native North America". Cambridge: University Press.
*Picard, Marc. 1984. "On the Naturalness of Algonquian IPA|ɬ." "IJAL" 50:424-37.
*Proulx, Paul. 1977. "Connective Vowels in Proto-Algonquian." "IJAL" 43:156-7.
*————. 1980. "The Subordinative Order of Proto-Algonquian." "IJAL" 46:289-300.
*————. 1982. "The Origin of the Absolute Verbs of the Algonquian Independent Order." "IJAL" 48:394-411.
*————. 1984a. "Proto-Algic I: Phonological Sketch." "IJAL" 50:165-207.
*————. 1984b. "Algonquian Objective Verbs." "IJAL" 50:403-23.
*————. 1989. "A Sketch of Blackfoot Historical Phonology." "IJAL" 55:43-82.
*Cite journal
volume = 17
issue = 4
pages = 298–303
last = Siebert Jr.
first = Frank T.
title = Certain Proto-Algonquian Consonant Clusters
journal = Language
date = 1941
url =
doi = 10.2307/409280

*Cite book
pages = 13–47
last = Siebert Jr.
first = Frank T.
title = Contributions to Anthropology: Linguistics I (Algonquian)
chapter = The Original Home of the Proto-Algonquian People
location = Ottawa
series = National Museum of Canada Bulletin, no. 214; Anthropological Series, no. 78
date = 1967

*Teeter, Karl V. 1965. "The Algonquian Verb: Notes Toward a Reconsideration." "IJAL" 31:221-5.
*Weggelaar, C. 1974. "The Algonquian Verb: Another Reconsideration." "IJAL" 40:249-53.

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См. также в других словарях:

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  • Proto-Algonquian — noun The posited proto language of the Algonquian languages …   Wiktionary

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