Influences of Native American Languages on American English.
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RESEARCH: INFLUENCES OF NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGES ON AMERICAN ENGLISH
American English is one variety of “World English”, a term which comprehends the language spoken in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, India, the West Indies and in other countries that were once part of the British Empire.
One major factor that distinguishes one variety of World English from another is the nature of the colonization. The United States resemble Canada, Australia and New Zealand in that the large indigenous populations in these areas were quickly conquered, economically oppressed, and subject to European diseases that decimated them.
As a result, the people who speak English in these countries are largely descended from English immigrants and other immigrants who assimilated to the local variety of English. The relatively small native populations speak their own variety of English but have added little to Australian or American standards in the way of substrate.
That is not the case in the other places mentioned. Ireland, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa are among the major English-speaking nations of the world, but in each case the dynamic is one of a few colonists imposing their language on a large number of native people. In most cases the colonists have themselves gone away, died out, or been assimilated or marginalized as a minority, but have left the English language as a dominant cultural legacy. In each of these situations, English encounters a powerful substrate of still-spoken languages: Irish, Hindi, Bengali, Zulu, Africaans etc. These languages have dramatically inflected the vocabulary and phonology of these dialects of World English.
Native American languages have had a substrate impact on American English, of course. It is dramatic in the case of place names which tend to be from Indian languages. In fact, about half of the states got their names from Indian words. Here are some of them:
may come from Choctaw meaning "thicket-clearers" or "vegetation-gatherers."
corruption of Aleut word meaning "great land" or "that which the sea breaks against."
from the Indian "Arizonac," meaning "little spring" or "young spring."
from the Quapaw Indians.
(Illinois): Algonquian for "garlic field."
(bay): Algonquian name of a village.
from an Indian word (Quinnehtukqut) meaning "beside the long tidal river."
Algonquin for "tribe of superior men."
meaning "land of Indians."
probably from an Indian word meaning "this is the place" or "the Beautiful Land."
from a Sioux word meaning "people of the south wind."
from an Iroquoian word "Ken-tah-ten" meaning "land of tomorrow."
from Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, meaning "at or about the great hill."
from Indian word "Michigana" meaning "great or large lake."
from a Dakota Indian word meaning "sky-tinted water."
Mississippi ( and ): from an Indian word meaning "Father of Waters."
(California): believed to come from the Chumash Indians.
(New York): Algonquian, believed to mean "isolated thing in water."
(Wisconsin): Algonquian, believed to mean "a good spot or place."
named after the Missouri Indian tribe. "Missouri" means "town of the large canoes."
(Rhode Island): named after the Indian tribe.
from an Oto Indian word meaning "flat water."
(falls): named after an Iroquoian town, "Ongiaahra."
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from the Sioux tribe, meaning "allies."
from an Iroquoian word meaning "great river."
from two Choctaw Indian words meaning "red people."
(Florida): Choctaw for "hair" and "people."
(Virginia): Algonquian for "shell money" (Indian tribes often used shells that were made into beads called wampum, as money).
(New York): believed to be Mohawk for "springs (of water) from the hillside."
from the Sioux tribe, meaning "allies."
Sunapee (lake in ): Pennacook for "rocky pond."
(lake in California/Nevada): Washo for "big water."
of Cherokee origin; the exact meaning is unknown.
from an Indian word meaning "friends."
from the Ute tribe, meaning "people of the mountains."
French corruption of an Indian word whose meaning is disputed.
from the Delaware Indian word, meaning "mountains and valleys alternating"; the same as the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.
There is also a significant amount of American vocabulary drawn from Indian languages, some of which has spread outwards into British and World English. Many of these “loan words” are nouns from the Algonquian languages that were once widespread along the Atlantic coast. English colonists, encountering unfamiliar plants and animals (moose, opossum, skunk etc) borrowed Indiam terms to name them. Pronunciations generally changed and sometimes the newcomers shortened words they found difficult.
Here are some American English words with Indian origins:
from the Greenlandic Inuit "annoraq"
Pronunciation: (an'u-rak", ä'nu-räk"),
1. a hooded pullover jacket originally made of fur and worn in the arctic, now made of any weather-resistant fabric.
2. a jacket patterned after this, made of any weather-resistant material and worn widely.
Bayou from the Choctaw “bayuk”
Pronunciation: (bI'OO, bI'O),
—pl. -ous. Chiefly Lower Mississippi Valley and Gulf States.
1. a marshy arm, inlet, or outlet of a lake, river, etc., usually sluggish or stagnant.
2. any of various other often boggy and slow-moving or still bodies of water.
Chipmunk from the Ojibwa “ajidamoon”, red squirrel
any of several small, striped, terrestrial squirrels of the genera Tamias, of North America, and Eutamia, of Asia and North America, esp. T. striatus, of eastern North America.
Hickory from the Virginia Algonquian “pocohiquara”
Pronunciation: (hik'u-rE, hik'rE),
1. any of several North American trees belonging to the genus Carya, of the walnut family, certain species of which bear edible nuts or yield a valuable wood.
2. the wood of any of these trees.
3. a switch, stick, etc., of this wood.
4. Baseball Slang.a baseball bat.
5. Also called hick'ory cloth", hick'ory stripe". a strong fabric of twill construction, used chiefly in the manufacture of work clothes.
Pronunciation: (hik'u-rE, hik'rE),
a city in W North Carolina.
Hominy from the Virginia Algonquian “uskatahomen”
whole or ground hulled corn from which the bran and germ have been removed by bleaching the whole kernels in a lye bath (lye hominy) or by crushing and sifting (pearl hominy).
Igloo from the Canadian Inuit “iglu”, house
1. an Eskimo house, being a dome-shaped hut usually built of blocks of hard snow.
2. Informal.any dome-shaped construction thought to resemble an igloo: immense silos topped with steel igloos.
3. Mil.a dome-shaped building for the storage of rockets or other munitions.
4. an excavation made by a seal in the snow over its breathing hole in the ice. Also,ig'lu.
Kayak from the Alaskan Yupik “qayaq”
1. an Eskimo canoe with a skin cover on a light framework, made watertight by flexible closure around the waist of the occupant and propelled with a double-bladed paddle.
2. a small boat resembling this, made commercially of a variety of materials and used in sports.
to go or travel by kayak.
to travel on by kayak: to kayak the Colorado River. Also,kaiak,kyak,kyack.
Mocassin from the Virginia Algonquian
skin shoe worn by indigenous people of North America, excepting the sandal wearers of the Southwest area. There were two general types of moccasins, the hard-soled, which was used in the Eastern woodlands and the Southeast cultural areas, and the soft-soled, used in the Plains area. The hard-soled moccasin was made by sewing, with sinew thread, a rawhide sole to a leather upper piece; the soft-soled moccasin was one piece of soft leather with a seam at the instep and the heel. Boot or legging moccasins (sometimes reaching the hip) were worn from Alaska to Arizona and New Mexico, but they were generally part of the woman's costume. The moccasins of certain tribes were distinctive, and sometimes a moccasin track could indicate the tribe of the wearer. Moccasins were usually symbolically decorated with porcupine quills and, after the coming of the Europeans, with glass beads. Special moccasins were used for ceremonies such as the Iroquois adoption service, which required that a recruit put on Iroquois moccasins to indicate that he would follow Iroquois ways.
Moose from the Eastern Abenaki “mos”
1. a large, long-headed mammal, Alces alces, of the deer family, having circumpolar distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, the male of which has enormous palmate antlers.
2. (cap.) a member of a fraternal and benevolent organization (Loyal Order of Moose).
Papoose from the Narragansett “papoos”, child
Pronunciation: (pa-pOOs', pu-),
a North American Indian baby or young child. Also,pap•poose'.
Pecan from the Illinois “pakani”
Pronunciation: (pi-kän', -kan', pE'kan),
1. a tall hickory tree, Carya illinoinensis, of the southern U.S. and Mexico, cultivated for its oval, smooth-shelled, edible nuts: the state tree of Texas.
2. a nut of this tree.
Powwow from the Narragansett “powwaw”, shaman
1. (among North American Indians) a ceremony, esp. one accompanied by magic, feasting, and dancing, performed for the cure of disease, success in a hunt, etc.
2. a council or conference of or with Indians.
3. (among North American Indians) a priest or shaman.
4. Informal.any conference or meeting.
1. to hold a powwow.
2. Informal.to confer.
Quahog from the Narragansett “poquauhock”
Pronunciation: (kwô'hôg, -hog, kwO-, kO'-, kwu-hôg', -hog'),
an edible clam, Venus (Mercenaria) mercenaria, inhabiting waters along the Atlantic coast, having a relatively thick shell. Also,qua'haug.
Sqaush from the Narragansett “askutasquash”
Pronunciation: (skwosh, skwôsh),
1. to press into a flat mass or pulp; crush: She squashed the flower under her heel.
2. to suppress or put down; quash.
3. to silence or disconcert (someone), as with a crushing retort or emotional or psychological pressure.
4. to press forcibly against or cram into a small space; squeeze.
1. to be pressed into a flat mass or pulp.
2. (of a soft, heavy body) to fall heavily.
3. to make a splashing sound; splash.
4. to be capable of being or likely to be squashed: Tomatoes squash easily.
5. to squeeze or crowd; crush.
1. the act or sound of squashing.
2. the fact of squashing or of being squashed.
3. something squashed or crushed.
4. something soft and easily crushed.
5. Also called squash' rac"quets. a game for two or four persons, similar to racquets but played on a smaller court and with a racket having a round head and a long handle.
6. Also called squash' ten"nis. a game for two persons, resembling squash racquets except that the ball is larger and livelier and the racket is shaped like a tennis racket.
7. Brit.a beverage made from fruit juice and soda water: lemon squash.
Pronunciation: (skwosh, skwôsh),
—pl. squash•es, (esp. collectively) squash.
1. the fruit of any of various vinelike, tendril-bearing plants belonging to the genus Curcurbita, of the gourd family, as C. moschata or C. pepo, used as a vegetable.
2. any of these plants.
Succotash from the Narragansett “msickquatash”, boiled corn
a cooked dish of kernels of corn mixed with shell beans, esp. lima beans, and, often, with green and sweet red peppers.
Tepee from the Sioux “tipi”, dwelling
a tent of the American Indians, made usually from animal skins laid on a conical frame of long poles and having an opening at the top for ventilation and a flap door. Also,teepee,tipi.
Toboggan from the Micmac “topaghan”
a long, narrow, flat-bottomed sled made of a thin board curved upward and backward at the front, often with low handrails on the sides, used esp. in the sport of coasting over snow or ice.
1. to use, or coast on, a toboggan.
2. to fall rapidly, as prices or one's fortune.
Tomahawk from the Virginia Algonquian “tamahaac”
1. a light ax used by the North American Indians as a weapon and tool.
2. any of various similar weapons or implements.
3. (in Australia) a stone hatchet used by the Aborigines.
to attack, wound, or kill with or as if with a tomahawk.
Totem from the Ojibwa “nindoodem”, my totem
1. a natural object or an animate being, as an animal or bird, assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group.
2. an object or natural phenomenon with which a family or sib considers itself closely related.
3. a representation of such an object serving as the distinctive mark of the clan or group.
4. anything serving as a distinctive, often venerated, emblem or symbol.
Wampum from the Massachusett “wampumpeag”
Pronunciation: (wom'pum, wôm'-),
1. Also called peag, seawan, sewan. cylindrical beads made from shells, pierced and strung, used by North American Indians as a medium of exchange, for ornaments, and for ceremonial and sometimes spiritual purposes, esp. such beads when white but also including the more valuable black or dark-purple varieties.
Wigwam from the Eastern Abenaki “wik’wom”
Pronunciation: (wig'wom, -wôm),
An American Indian dwelling, usually of rounded or oval shape, formed of poles overlaid with bark, mats, or skins.
Some Native American languages, among them Navajo, Apache and Cherokee, have been used for wartime communications by the U.S. military to evade enemy decipherment. Many Navajo participated in the American armed forces during World War II as the transmitters of vital messages in their native language.
The outlook for the future of the indigenous American languages is not good; most will probably die out. At present, the aboriginal languages of the Western Hemisphere are gradually being replaced by the Indo-European tongues of the European conquerors and settlers of the New World ⎯ English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch.
But it is important to say that some Native American groups in the U. S. are working to revitalize the languages of their peoples as a result of increased ethnic consciousness and feelings of cultural identity. By the end of the 20th century there was an increasing number of such language-learning facilities as tribal classes, language camps and local college courses in indigenous languages.
What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U. S., has resulted on a whole month being designated fort hat purpose. One of the very first proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of arts and Science in Rochester, N. Y. The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the 2nd Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of N. Y. In 1990 President George Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month”. Similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994.