The Algonquian (also Algonkian) languages are a subfamily of Native American languages that includes most of the languages in the Algic language family (others are Wiyot and Yurok of northwestern California). They should be carefully distinguished from Algonquin, which is only one language of many Algonquian languages.
Before the European colonisation of the Americas, peoples speaking Algonquian languages stretched from the east coast of North America all the way to the Rocky Mountains.
This large family can be divided roughly into three major groupings—Central, Plains, and Eastern Algonquian:
A. Central and Plains
- I. Plains
- Arapaho (a.k.a. Arapaho-Atsina)
- Arapaho (a.k.a. Arrapahoe or Arapahoe)
- Gros Ventre (a.k.a. Atsina, Aáni, Ahahnelin, Ahe, A'aninin, A'ane, A'ananin)
- Blackfoot (a.k.a. Blackfeet)
- Sutaio (a.k.a. Soʔtaaʔe)
- II. Central
- Cree (a.k.a. Cree-Montagnais or Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi)
- Eastern dialects:
- East Cree (a.k.a. James Bay Cree or Eastern Cree)
- Montagnais (a.k.a. Innu-aimun or Innu)
- Western dialects:
- Atikamekw (a.k.a. Attikamek, Attikamekw, Atikamek or Tête de Boule)
- Eastern Swampy Cree
- Moose Cree
- Plains Cree
- Michif (a.k.a. Mitchif, Métif, or Métchif) (mixed language based on Plains Cree and French)
- Swampy Cree
- Woods Cree
- Fox (a.k.a. Fox-Sauk-Kickapoo or Mesquakie-Sauk-Kickapoo)
- Fox (a.k.a. Mesquakie or Meshkwahkihaki)
- Sauk (a.k.a. Saki)
- Mascouten (unattested)
- Menominee (a.k.a. Menomimi)
- Miami-Illinois (a.k.a. Peoria)
- Ojibwa (a.k.a. Ojibway, Ojibwe, Chippeway, Ojibwa-Potawatomi, or Ojibwa-Potawatomi-Ottawa)
- Northwestern Ojibwa
- Southwestern Ojibwa
- Severn Ojibwa
- Central Ojibwa
- Ottawa (a.k.a. Odawa)
- Eastern Ojibwa
- Potawatomi (a.k.a. Ojibwa-Potawatomi)
- Eastern Abenaki (a.k.a. Abenaki or Abenaki-Penobscot)
- Penobscot (a.k.a. Old Town or Old Town Penobscot)
- Western Abenaki (a.k.a. Abnaki, St. Francis, Abenaki, or Abenaki-Penobscot)
- Etchemin (uncertain - See Note 1)
- Loup A (maybe Nipmuck or Pocumtuck ??) (uncertain - See Note 1)
- Loup B (uncertain - See Note 1)
- Mahican (a.k.a. Mohican)
- Maliseet (a.k.a. Maliseet-Passamquoddy or Malecite-Passamquoddy)
- Massachusett (a.k.a. Natick)
- Mi’kmaq (a.k.a. Micmac, Mi’kmag, or Mi’kmaw)
- Munsee (a.k.a. Delaware)
- Munsee (a.k.a. Minnisink)
- Nanticoke (a.k.a. Nanticoke-Convoy)
- Piscataway (a.k.a. Conoy)
- Pamlico (a.k.a. Carolina Algonquian, Pamtico, or Pampticough)
- Powhatan (a.k.a. Virginia Algonquian)
- Quiripi (a.k.a. Quinnipiak or Connecticut)
- Shinnecock (uncertain)
- Unami (a.k.a. Delaware or Lenape)
- Northern Unami
- Southern Unami
- Etchemin and Loup were ethnographic terms used inconsistently by French colonists and missionaries. There is some debate whether distinct groups could ever have been identified with those names.
- Etchemin is only known from a list of numbers from people living between the St. John and Kennebec Rivers recorded in 1609 by Marc Lescarbot. The name Etchemin has also been applied to other material from what many scholars of Algonquian ethnography and linguistics believe to be Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, or Eastern Abenaki.
- Some of the attested Loup vocabulary can be identified with different eastern Algonquian communities, including the Mahican, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and other groups. Loup A and Loup B refer to two vocabulary lists which cannot be conclusively identified with another, known community. Loup A may be Pocumtuck or Nipmuck. It is somewhat similar to Agawam. Loup B seems like a composite of different dialects. It is closest to Mahican and Western Abenaki. They also may represent unknown tribes or bands, or may have been interethnic trade pidgins of some kind. Documentary evidence is very thin. See Uncertain/Extinct Algonquian Languages.
Genetic and areal relationships
It is important to note that only Eastern Algonquian is a true genetic subgrouping. The Plains Algonquian and the Central Algonquian groups are not genetic groupings but rather areal groupings. This means that Blackfoot is no more related to Cheyenne than it is to Menominee. However, these areal groups often do have certain shared linguistic features, but the features in question are attributed to language contact.
The group is sometimes said to have included the extinct Beothuk language of Newfoundland, although evidence is scarce and poorly recorded, and the claim is mainly based on geographic proximity. Etchimin and the pre-colonial language of the Lumbees may also have been Algonquian languages, but in both cases documentary evidence is at best very weak. There is no documentary evidence whatsoever of an aboriginal Lumbee language.
The Algonquian language family is renowned for its complex morphology and sophisticated verb system. Statements that take many words to say in English can be expressed with a single "word". Ex: (Menominee) enae:ni:hae:w "He is heard by higher powers" or (Plains Cree) kāstāhikoyahk "it frightens us." Languages in this family typically mark at least two distinct third persons, so that speakers can keep track of central characters in narrative. These languages have been famously studied in the structuralist tradition by Leonard Bloomfield and Edward Sapir among others. Many of these languages are extremely endangered today, while others have died completely.
For information on the peoples speaking Algonquian languages, see Algonquian peoples.
- See the lists of words in the Algonquian languages and the list of words of Algonquian origin at Wiktionary, the free dictionary and Wikipedia's sibling project.
- Main article: words of Algonquian origin
Because Algonquian languages were some of the first that Europeans came in contact with in North America, the language family has given many words to English. Many eastern U.S. states have names of Algonquian origin (Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin), as do many cities: Milwaukee, Chicago, et al. The capital of Canada is named after an Algonquian nation - the Odawa.
- Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
- Grimes, Barbara F. (Ed.). (2000). Ethnologue: Languages of the world, (14th ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. ISBN 1-55671106-9. Online edition: http://www.ethnologue.com/, accessed on Mar. 3, 2005.
- Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.