Iroquoian languages

Iroquoian languages
eastern North America
Linguistic classification: Iroquois
Northern Iroquois
ISO 639-2 and 639-5: iro
Iroquoian langs.png
Pre-European contact distribution of the Iroquoian languages.

The Iroquoian languages are a First Nation and Native American language family.


Family division

Southern Iroquoian
Northern Iroquoian
Lakes Iroquoian
Five Nations and Susquehannock
Susquehannock (extinct)
Wyandot (Huron–Petun) (extinct)
Neutral (extinct)
Erie (extinct)
Tuscarora (seriously endangered)
Nottoway (extinct)
Laurentian (extinct)

Scholars are finding that what has been called the Laurentian language appears to be more than one dialect or language.

In 1649 the tribes constituting the Huron and Petun confederations were displaced by war parties from Five Nations villages (Mithun 1985). Many of the survivors went on to form the Wyandot tribe. Ethnographic and linguistic field work with the Wyandot (Barbeau 1960) yielded enough documentation to be able to make some characterizations of the Huron and Petun languages.

The languages of the tribes that constituted the Neutral and the Erie confederations were very poorly documented. These groups were called Atiwandaronk meaning 'they who understand the language' by the Huron, and thus are historically grouped with them.

The group known as the Meherrin were neighbors to the Tuscarora and the Nottoway (Binford 1967) and may have spoken an Iroquoian language. There is not enough data to determine this with certainty.

External relations

Attempts to link the Iroquoian, Siouan, and Caddoan languages in a Macro-Siouan family are suggestive but remain unproven (Mithun 1999:305).

See also

  • Proto-Iroquoian language


  • Barbeau (1960), Huron-Wyandot Traditional Narratives in Translations and Native Texts, National Museum of Canada Bulletin 47; Anthropological Series 165, [Ottawa]: Canada Dept. of Northern Affairs and National Resources, OCLC 1990439 .
  • Binford, Lewis R. (1967), "An Ethnohistory of the Nottoway, Meherrin and Weanock Indians of Southeastern Virginia", Ethnohistory (Ethnohistory, Vol. 14, No. 3/4) 14 (3/4): 103–218, doi:10.2307/480737, JSTOR 480737 .
  • Chilton, Elizabeth (2004), "Social Complexity in New England: AD 1000–1600", in Pauketat, Timothy R.; Loren, Diana Dipaolo, North American Archaeology, Malden, MA: Blackwell Press, pp. 138–60, OCLC 55085697 .
  • Goddard, Ives, ed. (1996), Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 17: Languages, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, ISBN 0160487749, OCLC 43957746 .
  • Lounsbury, Floyd G. (1978), "Iroquoian Languages", in Trigger, Bruce G., Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15: Northeast, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 334–43 [unified volume Bibliography, pp. 807–90], OCLC 58762737 .
  • Mithun, Marianne (1984), "The Proto-Iroquoians: Cultural Reconstruction from Lexical Materials", in Foster, Michael K.; Campisi, Jack; Mithun, Marianne, Extending the Rafters: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Iroquoian Studies, Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 259–82, ISBN 0873957814, OCLC 9646457 .
  • Mithun, Marianne (1985), "Untangling the Huron and the Iroquois", International Journal of American Linguistics 51 (4): 504–7, doi:10.1086/465950, JSTOR 1265321 .
  • Mithun, Marianne (1999), The Languages of Native North America, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521232287, OCLC 40467402 .
  • Rudes, Blair A. (1993), "Iroquoian Vowels", Anthropological Linguistics 37 (1): 16–69 .

Further reading

  • Driver, Harold E. 1969. Indians of North America. 2nd edition. University of Chicago Press.
  • Ruttenber, Edward Manning. 1992 [1872]. History of the Indian tribes of Hudson's River. Hope Farm Press.
  • Snow, Dean R. 1994. The Iroquois. Blackwell Publishers. Peoples of America.
  • Snow, Dean R.; Gehring, Charles T; Starna, William A. 1996. In Mohawk country: early narratives about a native people. Syracuse University Press. An anthology of primary sources from 1634-1810.

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