Delaware languages

Delaware languages
Spoken in United States, in modern times Canada
Region Around the lower Delaware and Hudson rivers in the United States; one or two Munsee speakers in Canada; Unami groups in Oklahoma
Native speakers 1 or 2 speakers of Munsee  (2008)
Unami extinct
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-2 del
ISO 639-3 del – Macrolanguage
individual codes:
umu – Munsee
unm – Unami
Map showing the aboriginal boundaries of Delaware territories, with Munsee territory and Unami dialectal divisions indicated.[citation needed] The territory of the poorly known Unalachtigo dialect of Unami is not clearly indicated, but is presumed[weasel words][why?] to be approximately in the area of "Sankhikan" on the map.[citation needed]

The Delaware languages, also known as the Lenape languages, are Munsee and Unami, two closely related languages of the Eastern Algonquian subgroup of the Algonquian language family. Munsee and Unami were spoken aboriginally by the Lenape people in the vicinity of the modern New York City area in the United States, including western Long Island, Manhattan Island, Staten Island, as well as adjacent areas on the mainland: southeastern New York State, eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and coastal Delaware.[1]



Munsee and Unami are assigned to the Algonquian language family, and are analysed as members of Eastern Algonquian, a subgroup of Algonquian.

The languages of the Algonquian family constitute a group of historically related languages descended from a common source language, Proto-Algonquian. The Algonquian languages are spoken across Canada from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast; on the American Plains; south of the Great Lakes; and on the Atlantic coast. Many of the Algonquian languages are now extinct.

The Eastern Algonquian languages were spoken on the Atlantic coast from the Canadian Maritime provinces to North Carolina. Many of the languages are now extinct, and some are known only from very fragmentary records.[2] Eastern Algonquian is considered a genetic subgroup within the Algonquian family, that is, the Eastern Algonquian languages share a sufficient number of common innovations to suggest that they descend from a common intermediate source, Proto-Eastern Algonquian. The latter proto-language is hypothesized to descend from Proto-Algonquian.

The linguistic closeness of Munsee and Unami entails that they share an immediate common ancestor which may be called Common Delaware; the two languages have diverged in distinct ways from Common Delaware.[3]

Several shared phonological innovations support a genetic subgroup consisting of the Delaware languages and Mahican,[4] sometimes referred to as Delawaran.[5] Nonetheless Unami and Munsee are more closely related to each other than to Mahican. Some historical evidence suggests commonalities between Mahican and Munsee.[6]

The line of historical descent is therefore Proto-Algonquian > Proto-Eastern Algonquian > Delawarean > Common Delaware + Mahican, with Common Delaware splitting into Munsee and Unami.

Geographic distribution

It is estimated that as late as the seventeenth century there were approximately forty Delaware local village bands with populations of possibly a few hundred persons per group. Estimates for the early contact period vary considerably, with a range of 8,000 - 12,000 given.[7] Other estimates for approximately 1600 AD suggest 6,500 Unami and 4,500 Munsee, with data lacking for Long Island Munsee.[8] These groups were never united politically or linguistically, and the names Delaware, Munsee, and Unami postdate the period of consolidation of these local groups.[7] The earliest use of the term Munsee was recorded in 1727, and Unami in 1757.[9]

The intensity of contact with European settlers resulted in the gradual displacement of Delaware peoples from their aboriginal homeland, in a series of complex population movements involving displacement and consolidation of small local groups, extending over a period of more than two hundred years.[7] The currently used names were gradually applied to the larger groups resulting from this process. The ultimate result was the displacement of virtually all Delaware-speaking peoples from their homeland to Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin, upstate New York, and Canada.

Two distinct Unami-speaking groups emerged in Oklahoma in the late nineteenth century, the Registered (Cherokee) Delaware in Washington, Nowata, and Craig Counties, and the Absentee Delaware of Caddo County.[10] Until recently there were a small number of Unami speakers in Oklahoma, but the language is now extinct there. Some language revitalization work is underway by the Delaware Tribe of Indians.

Equally affected by consolidation and dispersal, Munsee groups moved to several locations in southern Ontario as early as the late eighteenth century, to Moraviantown, Munceytown, and Six Nations. Several different patterns of migration led to groups of Munsee speakers moving to Stockbridge, Wisconsin; Cattaraugus, New York; and Kansas.[11] Today Munsee survives only at Moraviantown, where there are no more than one or two fluent speakers.

Dialects and varieties

Munsee and Unami are linguistically very similar. Despite their relative closeness the two are sufficiently distinguished by features of syntax, phonology, and vocabulary that they are not mutually intelligible and by normal linguistic criteria are treated as separate languages.[12]

Munsee Delaware was spoken in the central and lower Hudson River Valley, western Long Island, the upper Delaware River Valley, and the northern third of New Jersey.[13] While dialect variation in Munsee was likely there is no information about possible dialectal subgroupings.[14]

Unami Delaware was spoken in the area south of Munsee speakers in the Delaware River Valley and New Jersey, south of the Delaware Water Gap and the Raritan Valley.[13]

Three dialects of Unami are distinguished: Northern Unami, Southern Unami, and Unalachtigo.

Northern Unami, now extinct, is recorded in large amounts of materials collected by Moravian missionaries but is not reflected in the speech of any modern groups.[15] The Northern Unami groups were south of the Munsee groups, with the southern boundary of the Northern Unami area being at Tohickon Creek on the west bank of the Delaware River and between Burlington and Trenton on the east bank.[16]

The poorly known Unalachtigo dialect is described as having been spoken in the area between Northern and Southern Unami, with only a small amount of evidence from one group.[16]

Southern Unami, to the south of the Northern Unami-Unalachtigo area, was reflected in the Unami Delaware spoken by Delawares in Oklahoma, but is now extinct.[16]


Names for the speakers of Munsee and Unami are used in complex ways in both English and the Delaware languages. The Unami language is sometimes called Delaware or Delaware proper, reflecting the original application of the term Delaware to Unami speakers.[17] Both Munsee and Unami speakers use Delaware as a self-designation in English.[18]

The Unamis residing in Oklahoma are sometimes referred to as Oklahoma Delaware, while the Munsees in Ontario are sometimes referred to as Ontario Delaware or Canadian Delaware.[19]

Munsee-speaking residents of Moraviantown use the English term Munsee to refer to residents of Munceytown, approximately 50 km (31 mi) to the east and refer to themselves in English as Delaware, and in Munsee as /lənáːpeːw/ 'Delaware person, Indian'.[20] Oklahoma Delawares refer to Ontario Delaware as /mwə́nsi/ or /mɔ́nsi/, terms that are also used for people of Munsee ancestry in their own communities.

Some Delawares at Moraviantown also use the term Christian Indian as a preferred self-designation in English.[21] There is an equivalent Munsee term ké·ntə̆we·s 'one who prays, Moravian convert'.[22]

Munsee speakers refer to Oklahoma Delawares as Unami in English or /wə̆ná·mi·w/ in Munsee. The Oklahoma Delawares refer to themselves in English as Delaware and in Unami as /ləná·p·e/.[23]

The name Lenape that is sometimes used in English for Delaware properly only refers to Unami.[24] Uniquely among scholars, Kraft uses Lenape as a cover term to refer to all Delaware-speaking groups.[25]

Munsee speakers refer to their language as /hə̀lə̆ni·xsəwá·kan/ 'speaking the Delaware language'.[26]

Derived languages

Pidgin Delaware (also Delaware Jargon or Trader's Jargon)[27][28] was a pidgin language that developed between speakers of Unami Delaware and Dutch traders and settlers on the Delaware River in the 1620s.[27] The fur trade in the Middle Atlantic region led Europeans to interact with local native groups, and hence provided an impetus for the development of Pidgin Delaware.[29] The Dutch were active in the fur trade beginning early in the seventeenth century, establishing trading posts in New Netherland, the name for the Dutch territory of the Middle Atlantic and exchanging trade goods for furs.[30]

Pidgin languages characteristically arise from interactions between speakers of two or more languages who are not bilingual in the other group's language. Pidgin languages typically have greatly simplified syntax, a limited vocabulary, and are not learned as a first language by its speakers. Words typically have very general meanings but do not carry more than one meaning concept, and do not have the type of structural complexity commonly found in many languages.

Knowledge of Pidgin Delaware subsequently spread to speakers of Swedish, and later from Swedes to Englishman, and was used beyond the immediate area where the pidgin originated.[31] It is most likely that Swedes learned Pidgin Delaware from Dutch speakers; for examples, one of the early Swedish expeditions to the Delaware area had a Dutch interpreter. Similarly, succeeding English groups learned Pidgin from Swedes; William Penn's interpreter Lars Petersson Crock was Swedish.[32]

Pidgin Delaware was used by both Munsee and Unami Delawares in interactions with speakers of Dutch, Swedish, and English.[33] Some non-Delaware users of the pidgin were under the impression that they were speaking true Delaware.[34] Material cited by William Penn as being from a Delaware language is in fact from Delaware Pidgin, and he was apparently unaware of the difference between real Delaware and Pidgin Delaware.[35]

Patterns of usage, involving both Munsee and Unami Delaware, as well as separate groups of Europeans, attests to a widespread and persistent use of Delaware Pidgin as a medium of communication for speakers of Dutch, Swedish, and English, as well as Unami- and Munsee-speaking Delawares.[36]

Recordings of Pidgin Delaware suggest that Pidgin words originated from both Northern and Southern Unami.[37] Although the best-known early Dutch settlement was New Netherland, on Manhattan Island, which is in Munsee Delaware territory, Pidgin Delaware has Unami vocabulary almost exclusively, with no terms that can be ascribed solely to Munsee. Even recordings of Pidgin Delaware that were clearly made in Munsee territory have Unami characteristics.[38] The first permanent Dutch settlement in New Jersey was Fort Nassau (on the site of modern Gloucester City). Settlers to an earlier and short-lived factorij at Fort Wilhelmus arrived there in 1624 were subsequently removed to Manhattan between November 1626 and October 1628.[39] [40][41][42] Both of these locations are in traditional Unami Delaware territory. The origins of Delaware Pidgin must originate in the earliest contacts between Dutch settlers and Unami Delaware speakers at those locations.[42]

The first recorded mention of Pidgin Delaware dates from 1628,[43] while the final recorded mention is from 1785.[44] There are two main sources of Pidgin Delaware material. Swedish Lutheran minister Johan Campanius, who served in New Sweden from 1642 to 1648, prepared a vocabulary list and translated into Delaware Pidgin a version of Martin Luther's Little Catechism, which was published after Campanius returned to Sweden.[45] As well, an anonymous vocabulary list of some 260 words entitled "The Indian Interpreter" compiled in the late seventeenth century in West New Jersey (an early British colony), and found in a book of land records from Salem County, New Jersey, also contains words in Delaware Jargon. There are also small amounts of material in several other sources, including a 1633 vocabulary collected by Joannis deLaet (de Laet's first name is often spelled inconsistently). Gabriel Thomas collected some Delaware Pidgin materials that were published in 1698. Another vocabulary collected by Ebenezer Denny in 1785 from Delawares who had migrated to western Pennsylvania has features of Pidgin Delaware.[46]

Although Thomason has suggested on theoretical grounds that Pidgin Delaware predated the arrival of Europeans and was used for communication with speakers of Iroquoian languages,[47] there is no attestation of its existence prior to European contact.[48] Against this suggestion are references to the difficulty of communication between Delawares and Iroquoian speakers. Similarly, while Dutch recordings in this early period contain words in the Iroquoian language Mohawk, and Swedish documents contain words in Susquehannock, another Iroquoian language, the primary Dutch and Swedish recordings of interactions with Delawares reflect Pidgin Delaware, suggesting that these Europeans were not using Pidgin Delaware to communicate with Iroquoian speakers.[48]

The recordings of Delaware Pidgin reflect the background of the recorder. Campanius was consistent in mostly using Swedish spelling conventions to reflect phonetic details of Delaware Pidgin words, while the orthography used by deLaet shows Dutch influence, but is rendered less consistent by his attempts to using spelling conventions of other European languages to capture Delaware Pidgin characteristics.[49] The writing used in the "Indian Interpreter" reflects both English and non-English features; some of the latter can be explained by assuming that its author learned the Pidgin from an individual or individuals with a Swedish or Dutch background.[50]

The following table gives a sample of Pidgin Delaware recordings of the words for 'one' through 'ten' from four different sources, with the corresponding terms from Munsee Delaware and Unami Delaware.[51] In cases where the Munsee and Unami terms differ, the Pidgin term corresponds to its Unami congener, confirming the position that Unami is the source language for Pidgin vocabulary.

Pidgin Delaware numbers from 'one' to 'ten'
Munsee Delaware Unami Delaware De Laet (1633) Campanius (ca. 1645) Interpreter (1684?) Thomas (1698)
one nkwə́ti kwə́t·i cotté ciútte Cutte Kooty
two ní·ša ní·š·a nyssé nissa Nisha nisha
three nxá naxá nacha náha Necca nacha
four né·wa né·wa wywe[52] næwo Neuwa neo
five ná·lan palé·naxk parenagh parenach Palenah pelenach
six nkwə́ta·š kwə́t·a·š cottash ciuttas Cuttas Kootash
seven ní·ša·š ní·š·a·š nyssas nissas Neshas nishash
eight (n)xá·š xá·š gechas haas Haas choesh
nine nó·li· pé·škunk pescon paéschun Pescunk peskonk
ten wí·mpat télən terren thæræn Tellen telen

Many Pidgin Delaware words are clearly of Unami origin, even though they were recorded in traditional Munsee territory in the greater New York area. For example the Pidgin word cacheus 'crazy, drunk' was recorded from an Esopus sachem on the Hudson River in 1658; this word is from Unami kí·wsu 'he is drunk'. The corresponding Munsee word is the completely different waní·sə̆məw[53] Similarly, the Pidgin expression rancontyn marinit, also recorded as rancontyn marenit 'make peace' was recalled by David de Vries as having been used by Delawares near Lewes, Delaware in 1632, and also near Rockaway, Long Island in 1643, the latter being in Munsee territory. The Pidgin verb marinit or marenit is based upon a Unami verb *maləni·to-· 'to make' that does not occur in Munsee.[38]


Pidgin Delaware is characterized by its extreme simplification of the intricate grammatical features of Unami nouns and verbs, with no use of the complex inflectional morphology that Unami uses to convey grammatical information.[54] Morphologically complex words are replaced by sequences of separate words.[55] In cases where a Pidgin word is based on a Unami word that contains more than one morpheme, it can be argued in all cases that the word is treated in the Pidgin as a single unanalysable unit.[56]

The Unami distinction between singular and plural inflection of nouns and verbs is eliminated.[54]

The pronominal categories, which are extensively marked in Unami with prefixes on nouns and verbs, as well as through the system of demonstrative pronouns, are indicated instead with separate words, and distinctions of gender and number (i.e. singular and plural) are completely eliminated. Separate pronouns that are normally used only for emphasis are used in the Pidgin for first, second, and third person. Pronominal reference is made by using the separate Unami emphatic pronouns for first person singular, second person singular, and an emphatic form of the inanimate singular demonstrative pronoun ('this').[54] In the following examples, "C" = Campanius, "II" = Indian Interpreter, "T" = Thomas; Pidgin words are enclosed in angled brackets, and items separated by commas are orthographic variants.[56]

(a) First person: C nijr, nijre, II ne, T nee; Unami ni· 'I'

(b) Second person: C chijr, chijre, II ke, T kee; Unami ki· 'you (singular)'

(c) Third person / demonstrative 'this, that': C jɷ̃ni, II une 'that, this'; Unami yó·ni 'this (emphatic)'

The third person pronoun appears both as a third person, and also with demonstrative uses; in the second example the third person is interpreted as plural.[57]

(a) C yɷ̃ni Aana 'this way, that road'

(b) C mátta yɷ̃ní tahottamen nijre 'they do not love me' (not third-person love first-person)

The pronouns are used with both singular and plural reference.[57]

(a) II Nee hatta 'I have' (First-person have)

(b) II Ne olocko toon 'We run into holes' (First-person hole go)

The Unami plural independent personal pronouns are used with both plural and singular reference.[57]

(a) C nirɷ̃na 'my, our', II Ne rune 'we'; Unami ni·ló·na 'we (exclusive)'

(b) C chirɷ̃na 'your (singular or plural)', II Ke runa 'thou', ke rune 'thee'; Unami ki·ló·na 'we (inclusive)', compare Unami ki·ló·wa 'you (plural)'

Delaware Pidgin features include: (a) elimination of the distinction between singular and plural forms normally marked on nouns with a plural suffix; (b) simplification of the complex system of person marking, with no indication of grammatical gender or plurality, and concomitant use of separate pronouns to indicate grammatical person; (c) elimination of reference to plural pronominal categories of person; (d) elimination of negative suffixes on verbs, with negation marked solely by independent particles.[58]

Treatment of gender

A central concept in the Delaware languages, and in all other Algonquian languages is the distinction made between the two grammatical genders, animate and inanimate. Every noun in Unami and Munsee is categorized as either animate or inanimate. Gender does not always correspond to biological categories. All living entities are animate, but so are items such as tobacco pipes, bows, nails, potatoes, and others. Nouns agree in gender with other words in a sentence. For example, the form of a transitive verb will vary depending upon the gender of the grammatical object. The Unami verb for 'I saw it' has the form nné·mən if the grammatical object is inanimate (e.g. a knife, pumpkin, water) but the form nné·yɔ if the object is a ball, an apple, or snow.[59] Demonstrative pronouns also agree in gender with the noun they are in construction with, so that (with emphatic form wán) means 'this' referring to animate nouns, such as man, peach, kettle); yə́ (emphatic form yó·n or yó·ni) also means 'this', referring to inanimate nouns such as stone, pumpkin, or boat.[60]

In the Pidgin grammatical gender is not distinguished anywhere. The pronoun yó·n in Pidgin Delaware is used for any demonstrative use as well as the third person pronoun; hence the meaning can be interpreted as 'he', 'she', 'it', 'they', 'this', 'that', 'these', and 'those'.[60]

In the treatment of verbs, Pidgin Delaware typically uses the form a verb specialized for inanimate gender, regardless of the gender of the entity being referred to. Unami uses the verb wələ́su 'be good, pretty' to refer to anything that is classified as animate in gender (e.g. a person, animal), and the corresponding verb wələ́t 'be good, pretty' to refer to anything that is classified as inanimate (e.g. a house, gun). Pidgin Delaware only uses the inanimate form regardless of the gender of the referent; the word is typically represented as orthographic orit or olit. Hence the Pidgin expression 'good friend' occurs as orit nietap, with nietap being the Pidgin word for 'friend'.[60] The same pattern holds for transitive verbs as well.

Learning the patterns of when to use animate and inanimate forms of verbs and pronouns would be very difficult for Europeans to learn since there are no overt cues to help learners decide whether nouns are animate or inanimate. It is likely that the most difficult point would come from nouns such as 'snow' or 'tobacco' which are not biologically alive but count as grammatically animate in gender. Goddard proposes that the strikingly consistent use of inanimate forms, rather than a mixture of animate or inanimate, derives from a systematic strategy adapted by native Delaware speakers to simplify their language when addressing Europeans by employing the inanimate as a default, presumably triggered by the erroneous use of inanimate forms of verbs and pronouns with nouns that are animate in gender but not logically animate.[61] Comments by Jonas Michaëlis, an early observer, suggest that Delaware speakers deliberately simplified their language to facilitate communication with the small numbers of Dutch settlers and traders they encountered in the 1620s.[62] The same observer also notes that when the Delaware talked among themselves, their language was incomprehensible to Dutch speakers who were otherwise able to communicate with the Delaware using the Pidgin, strongly suggesting that the Delawares reserved the full Delaware language for themselves and used the simplified Pidgin when addressing Europeans.[63]

Delaware Pidgin appears to show no grammatical influence at all from Dutch or other European languages, contrary to the general patterns occurring in pidgin languages, according to which a European contributing language will constitute a significant component of the pidgin.[64]

Delaware Pidgin also appears to be unusual among pidgin languages in that almost all its vocabulary appears to come from the language spoken by the Delaware users of the Pidgin, with virtually none coming from European users. The relatively few Pidgin Delaware words that are not from Unami likely were borrowings mediated through Unami or Munsee or other languages.[65]

Other Algonquian pidgin languages

Pidgin Delaware is only one of a number of pidgin languages that arose on the Atlantic coast due to contact between speakers of Algonquian languages and Europeans.[66] Although records are fragmentary, it is clear that many Indians used varieties of pidginized English, and there are also recorded fragments of a pidgin Massachusett, an Eastern Algonquian language spoken to the north of Delaware territory in what is now Boston and adjacent areas.[67]

It is likely that, as with Pidgin Delaware, Europeans who learned other local pidgins were under the impression that they were using the actual indigenous language.[67]


Munsee and Unami have similar but not identical inventories of consonants and vowels, and have a significant number of phonological rules in common. For example, both languages share the same basic rules for assigning syllable weight and stress.[68] However, Unami has innovated by regularizing the assignment of stress in some verb forms so that the penultimate syllable is stressed even when the stress assignment rule would predict stress on the antepenultimate syllable.[69] As well, Unami has innovated relative to Munsee by adding phonological rules that significantly change the pronunciation of many Unami words relative to the corresponding Munsee words.[70]

This section focuses upon presenting general information about Munsee and Unami sounds and phonology, with detailed discussion reserved for entries for each language.

Munsee and Unami have the same basic inventories of consonants, as in the following chart.[71]

General Delaware Consonants
Bilabial Dental Postalveolar Velar Glottal
Stop p t č k
Fricative s š x h
Nasal m n
Lateral l
Glides w y

In addition, Unami is analysed as having contrastive long voiceless stops: p·, t·, č·, k·; and long voiceless fricatives: s·, š·, and x·.[72] The raised dot /·/ is used to indicate length of a preceding consonant or vowel. A full analysis and description of the status of the long consonants is not available, and more than one analysis of Delaware consonants has been proposed. Some analyses only recognize long stops and fricatives as predictable, i.e. as arising by rule.[73] The contrastive long consonants are described as having low functional yield, that is, they differentiate relatively few pairs of words, but nonetheless do occur in contrasting environments. Both languages have rules that lengthen consonants in certain environments.[74]

Several additional consonants occur in Munsee loan words: /f/ in e.g. nə̀fó·ti 'I vote'; /r/ in ntáyrəm.[75]

A number of alternate analyses of Munsee and Unami vowels have been proposed. In one, the two languages are analysed as having the same basic vowel system, consisting of four long vowels /i· o· e· a·/, and two short vowels /ə a/.[76] This vowel system is equivalent to the vowel system reconstructed for Proto-Eastern-Algonquian.[77] Alternative analyses reflect several differences between the two languages. In this analysis Munsee is analysed as having contrasting length in all positions, with the exception of /ə/.[75] In cells with two vowels, the first is long.

Munsee Vowels
Front Central Back
High i·, i o·, o
Mid e·, e ə
Low a·, a

Similarly, Unami vowels have also been analysed as organized into contrasting long-short pairs.[78] One asymmetry is that high short /u/ is paired with long /o·/, and the pairing of long and short /ə/ is noteworthy. In cells with two vowels, the first is long.

Unami Vowels
Front Central Back
High i·, i o·, u
Mid e·, e ə·, ə ɔ·, ɔ
Low a·, a


Loan words

Both Munsee and Unami have loan words from European languages, reflecting early patterns of contact between Delaware speakers and European traders and settlers. The first Europeans to have sustained contact with the Delaware were Dutch explorers and traders, and loan words from Dutch are particularly common. Dutch is the primary source of loan words in Munsee and Unami.[79]

Because many of the early encounters between Delaware speakers and Dutch explorers and settlers occurred in Munsee territory, Dutch loanwords are particularly common in Munsee, although there are also a number in Unami as well.

Many Delaware borrowings from Dutch are nouns that name items of material culture that were presumably salient or novel for Delaware speakers, as is reflected in the following borrowed words.[80]

Munsee and Unami Words From Dutch
Munsee Unami English Dutch
hé·mpət hémpəs shirt hemd 'shirt, shift'
á·pə̆ləš á·p·ələš apple appel 'apple'
kə̆nó·p kənó·p button knop 'button'
šə̆mə́t šəmit blacksmith smid 'blacksmith'
pó·təl pó·t·əl butter boter 'butter'
šó·kəl šó·k·əl sugar suiker 'sugar'
mó·kəl mɔ́·k·əl (ironwood) maul (Munsee); maul, sledgehammer (Unami) moker 'sledge, large hammer'

More recent borrowings tend be from English such as the following Munsee loan words: ahtamó·mpi·l 'automobile'; kátəl 'cutter'; nfó·təw 's/he votes'.[81]

There is one known Swedish loan word in Unami: típa·s 'chicken', from Swedish tippa, a call to chickens.[82]

Writing systems

There is no standard writing system for either Munsee or Unami. Linguists have tended to use common phonetic transcription symbols of the type found in the International Phonetic Alphabet or similar Americanist symbols in order to represent sounds that are not consistently represented in conventional standard writing systems.[83]

Europeans writing down Delaware words and sentences have tended to use adaptations of European alphabets and associated conventions. The quality of such renditions have varied widely, as Europeans attempted to record sounds and sound combinations they were not familiar with.[84]

Practical orthographies for both Munsee and Unami have been created in the context of various language preservation and documentation projects. A recent bilingual dictionary of Munsee uses a practical orthography derived from a linguistic transcription system for Munsee.[85] The same system is also used in a recent word book produced locally at Moraviantown.[86]

The online Unami Lenape Talking Dictionary uses a practical system distinct from that for Munsee. However, other practically oriented Unami materials use a writing system with conventional phonetic symbols.[87]

Writing system samples

The table below presents a sample of Unami words, written first in a linguistically oriented transcription, followed by the same words written in a practical system.[88][89] The linguistic system uses the acute accent to indicate predictable stress and a raised dot (·) to indicate vowel and consonant length. The practical system interprets the contrast between long and corresponding short vowels as one of quality, using acute and grave accents to indicate vowel quality. Stress, which as noted is predictable, and consonant length are not indicated in the practical system.

Comparison of linguistic and practical orthographies for Unami
Linguistic Practical English Linguistic Practical English Linguistic Practical English Linguistic Practical English
kwə́t·i kwëti one kwə́t·a·š kwëtash six wčé·t wchèt sinew, muscle tə́me tëme coyote, wolf
ní·š·a nìshi two ɔ́·k òk and ní·š·a·š nishash seven tá·x·an taxàn piece of firewood
naxá naxa three xá·š xash eiɡht xkó·k xkuk snake ahsə́n ahsën stone
né·wa newa four pé·škunk pèshkunk nine skɔ́ntay skòntay door hiló·səs hilusës old man
palé·naxk palènàxk five télən tèlën ten kší·k·an kshikàn knife lə́nu lënu man

The table below presents a sample of Munsee words, written first in a linguistically oriented transcription, followed by the same words written in a practical system.[90] The linguistic system uses a raised dot (·) to indicate vowel length. Although stress is mostly predictable, the linguistic system uses the acute accent to indicate predictable main stress. As well, predictable voiceless or murmured /ă/ is indicated with the breve accent (˘). Similarly, the breve accent is used to indicate an ultra-short [ə] that typically occurs before a single voiced consonant followed by a vowel.[91] The practical system indicates vowel length by doubling the vowel letter, and maintains the linɡuistic system's practices for marking stress and voiceless/ultra-short vowels. The practical system uses orthographic <sh> for the phonetic symbol /š/, and <ch> for the phonetic symbol /č/.[92]

Comparison of linguistic and practical orthographies for Munsee
Linguistic Practical English Linguistic Practical English Linguistic Practical English Linguistic Practical English
ampi·lamé·kwa·n ambiilaméekwaan needle nkwə́ta·š ngwútaash six wčéht wchéht sinew, muscle ăpánšəy ăpánzhuy log, timber
nə̆wánsi·n nŭwánsiin I forgot it xwánsal xwánzal his older brother ní·ša·š níishaash seven ntəší·nsi ndushíinzi I am named so and so
máske·kw máskeekw swamp, pond xá·š xáash eight ăpwá·n ăpwáan bread óhpwe·w óhpweew he smokes
wə́sksəw wúsksuw he is young ătíhte·w ătíhteew it is ripe kíhkay kíhkay chief máxkw máxkw bear
kwi·škwtó·nhe·w kwiishkwtóonheew he whispers áhpăpo·n áhpăpoon chair xwáškwšəš xwáshkwshush muskrat pé·nkwan péenɡwan it is dry

See also


  1. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978a, p. 213; Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 43
  2. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978
  3. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 85, n.7
  4. ^ Goddard, Ives, 2008, pp. 280-282
  5. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1996, p. 5
  6. ^ Pentland, David, 1992, pp. 15, 20
  7. ^ a b c Goddard, Ives, 1978a, p. 213
  8. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978a, p. 214, Table 1
  9. ^ Kraft, Herbert, 1986, p. xvii
  10. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978a, p. 224
  11. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978a, pp. 220-224
  12. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979, p. v
  13. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1978a, pp. 213-214; Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 43
  14. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978, p. 72
  15. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1971, p. 14; Goddard, Ives, 1979
  16. ^ a b c Goddard, Ives, 1978a, p. 215
  17. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978, p. 73; Kraft, Herbert, 1986, p. xviii
  18. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1974, p. 103
  19. ^ See e.g. Goddard, Ives, 1971, p. 11, n. 1-2; Goddard, Ives, 1974, p. 103
  20. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1971, p. 11, n. 1
  21. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1974, p. 106
  22. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978a, p. 237
  23. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1971, p. 11, n. 2
  24. ^ Mithun, Marianne, 1999
  25. ^ Kraft, Herbert, 1986, p. xviii; Kraft, Herbert, 1986a, p. 106
  26. ^ O'Meara, John, 1996, p. 65
  27. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1997
  28. ^ Thomason, Sarah, 1980, p. 167
  29. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978a, p. 221
  30. ^ Feister, Lois,1973, p. 30
  31. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1974, p. 105; Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 82
  32. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1995, p. 38; Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 82
  33. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 76
  34. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1978a, pp. 221; Goddard, Ives, 1971, p. 15
  35. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1971, p. 15; Goddard, Ives, 1978a, pp. 221; Goddard, Ives, 1999, p. 66
  36. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1995, p. 138; Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 83
  37. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 43
  38. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1995, p. 139
  39. ^ Apparently referring to the erection of a fort on Verhulsten Island, near the present site of Trenton, N. J., which was recommended to Verhulst in 1625. (See Document C.) Another fort, called Fort Nassau, was erected near Gloucester, N. J., as early as 1624. Wassenaer, under date of April 1624, says: "They also placed a fort which they named "Wilhelmus" on Prince's Island, heretofore called Murderer's Island; it is open in front, and has a curtain in the rear and is garrisoned by sixteen men for the defence of the river below." The location of this fort has not been definitely ascertained. Brodhead suggests that it may have been on Pollepel's Island, just above the Highlands, in the Hudson River, but more likely it was on the South or Delaware River, which on the Buchelius chart is called the "Wilhelmus river." (See J. F. Jameson, Narratives of New Netherland, frontispiece, and pp. 76, 84, 271, and J. R. Brodhead, History of the State of New York, 1:758.)
  40. ^
  41. ^ Bert van Steeg,Walen in de Wildernis : Bij aankomst in de kolonie werden de kolonisten opgesplitst in vier groepen en werden er op een aantal plaatsen kleine vestigingen gesticht, vooral in de buurt van de al bestaande handelsposten. Een aantal families werden gevestigd aan de Delaware. Hier werd fort Wilhelmus gesticht. Twee families en zes mannen werden naar de Connecticut rivier gestuurd. Ook op Governors’ eiland werden een aantal kolonisten geplaatst om een fort te bouwen. Het grootste aantal kolonisten, onder wie Catalina Rapalje, werd echter net ten zuiden van het huidige Albany geplaatst. May liet hier een klein fort bouwen dat de naam Fort Orange kreeg. Hier verbleven ongeveer achttien families.[30]Brodhead, J.R., History of the state of New York (New York 1871), 150-191
  42. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 81-82
  43. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 81
  44. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 82
  45. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 44
  46. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 44; Thomason, Sarah, 1980.
  47. ^ Thomason, Sarah, 1980
  48. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 83
  49. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 50-51
  50. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 54-55
  51. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1995, p. 139; Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 51
  52. ^ Presumably a typographical error for nywe; see Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 51
  53. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1995, p. 140
  54. ^ a b c Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 57
  55. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1999, p. 66
  56. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 58
  57. ^ a b c Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 59
  58. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 57-63
  59. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1999, pp. 66-68
  60. ^ a b c Goddard, Ives, 1999, p. 67
  61. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1999, p. 68-69
  62. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 81, 84
  63. ^ Feister, Lois, 1973, p. 32
  64. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 84-85
  65. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 77-79
  66. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1977
  67. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1977: 41
  68. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979, pp. 21, 26
  69. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979, pp. 21, 26, 107, 130-131
  70. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979, Ch. 2
  71. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979, p. 11
  72. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979, p. vi; see also Goddard, Ives, 1997, p. 45 for a consonant chart
  73. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1969; Pearson, Bruce, 1988
  74. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979, pp. 22, xii (rule U-6); p. 26 (rule U-27)
  75. ^ a b Goddard, Ives, 1982
  76. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979: 11
  77. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1979a, p. 96
  78. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1997: 45
  79. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1974a
  80. ^ Examples in table are from Goddard, Ives, 1974a
  81. ^ Examples retranscribed using phonetic symbols, from O'Meara, John, 1996
  82. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1974a, p. 158
  83. ^ See e.g. Goddard, Ives, 1979
  84. ^ Brinton, Daniel, and Albert Anthony, 1888; Zeisberger, David, 1887
  85. ^ O'Meara, John, 1996; see Goddard, Ives, 1979 for the underlying transcription system
  86. ^ Delaware Nation Council, 1992, pp. 57-63
  87. ^ Blalock, Lucy, et al., 1994
  88. ^ Words in linguistically oriented transcription taken from Goddard, Ives, 1997, pp. 45-47, 51
  89. ^ Lenape Talking Dictionary. Lenape Talking Dictionary. Delaware Tribe of Indians. Retrieved on April 19, 2009
  90. ^ Goddard, Ives, 1982; O'Meara, John, 1996
  91. ^ See Goddard, Ives, 1982, p. 19 for further detail
  92. ^ O'Meara, John, 1996


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