Five Lost Languages Rediscovered in Massachusetts.

Jackson Landers of the Smithsonian reports on an exciting discovery:

American history has just been slightly rewritten. Previously, experts had believed that the Native Americans of central Massachusetts spoke a single language, Loup (pronounced “Lou,” literally meaning “wolf”). But new research shows that they spoke at least five different languages.

“It’s like some European families where you can have three different languages at the dinner table,” says Ives Goddard, curator emeritus and senior linguist in the department of anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “There was probably a lot of bilingualism. A question that is raised by there being so many languages is ‘how did that work?’ How did they manage to maintain five different languages in such a small area?”

The lost languages were re-discovered by taking another look at several manuscripts written by French missionaries who were also working as linguists in the mid 1700s. While working on her master’s thesis at the University of Manitoba, Holly Gustafson compiled lists of verb forms found in one of the manuscripts. Goddard noticed some contradictions in the compilation. […]

“This gives us a picture of the aboriginal situation in New England being fragmented into different groups,” says Goddard. “This tells us something about the social and political situation.”

Goddard believes that the situation may have been similar to that of the Sui people of the Guizhou Province of China. Women from a particular band of villages would always marry into a different band of villages in which a different language was spoken. The woman would continue to speak her original dialect, her husband would speak another, while their children would grow up understanding both but primarily speaking the father’s dialect outside of the home. Family and cultural ties are maintained between the different groups of villages while maintaining an independent sense of identity.

Goddard’s research begs the question of how many other native American languages may have been missed. The cultural diversity of pre-colonial America may have been underestimated. Rediscovering those languages can help to explain where the lines were drawn between different cultures.

Fascinating stuff — thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. Any language that is somewhat recovered like this, even if it went extinct 300 years ago or more, is a great thing. “The cultural diversity of pre-colonial America may have been underestimated.” No doubt about it.

  2. The link is to the proceedings of the 44th Algonquian conference, which took place in 2012. The abstract reads:

    Ives Goddard (Smithsonian Institution)
    The “Loup” languages of western Massachusetts
    Two eighteenth century manuscripts preserve most of what is known about the languages that were known to the French collectively as “Loup” (Mathevet, ed. Day 1975; Magon de Terlaye [1755?]). Like several of the languages of southern New England (SNEA) and the sources for them, these manuscripts exhibit a notable degree of linguistic diversity. In fact, analysis shows that each manuscript preserves data on at least three distinct languages, with one language in each being apparently the same, giving a total of five. The five “Loup” languages must have been spoken in central and western Massachusetts (and nearby Connecticut), by the people known as Nipmucks and the members of the alliance of central Connecticut Valley bands that has been called the Pocumtuck Confederacy. The principal central Connecticut Valley bands were the Pocumtuck (Deerfield, Mass.), the Norwootuck (Nalwotog, Nonotuck, etc.; Hadley, Northampton), the Agawam (Springfield), the Pojassick and Woronoco (Westfield), and the Podunk and Tunxis (north of Hartford). By determining isoglosses, some preliminary suggestions can be made about assigning the five languages of the manuscripts to the local bands. For example, it is reasonable to assume that the two languages that did not take part in the otherwise universal SNEA loss of final voiced syllables were on the north and west, adjacent to the non-SNEA languages Western Abenaki and Eastern Mahican. The shift of PEA *r to /n/ in two languages presumably diffused from Mahican, along with other features. The variation between [r] and [l] in Terlaye’s manuscript, however, is more likely to reflect an attempt to write variable or intermediate sounds than to show dialectally distinct features. (This conclusion is supported by the variation between r and l in the writing of personal names and placenames.) Mathevet, in contrast, may have normalized his consistent writing of l on the basis of his knowledge of Algonquin, which completed a shift of [r] to [l] in the early eighteenth century.

  3. Goddard interviewed, here.

  4. Could we try to be a little less imperialist? And call these languages by whatever their speakers called them, or called themselves.

    “Loup” because the French missionaries saw wolves in the area? Cue Kevin Costner.

  5. These languages were spoken right where I’m living now!

  6. SFReader says:
  7. @LH: Me too! I live just outside Worcester, in Nipmuc territory.

  8. Eli Nelson says:

    @AntC: Perhaps we don’t know what these languages were called by their native speakers. Even if we do, I don’t agree that it is imperialist to call a language by a different name in English. That’s the usual pattern for all foreign language names, including the names of languages that are associated with imperial countries such as French (not français). I just looked up the Ojibwe word for “the English language”: apparently it is zhaaganaashiimowin.

  9. George Gibbard says:

    I wonder if American English Podunk town ‘small town in the middle of nowhere’ derives from the Algonquian.

  10. Indeed it does. The name referred both to the people and to the village they maintained on the Connecticut River; over time it gained the now-familiar mythical sense, which was popularized by a newspaper in Buffalo in the 1840s.

  11. I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Loup meaning wolf was a European imposition. Sometimes such animal names were actual clan or tribal names. The Crow on the plains knew themselves as Absaroke, which meant crow.

    I’ve tried to find a better version of this article to get more detail but couldn’t. But see follow the link here:
    http://www.native-languages.org/original.htm

    and look at Mohingan, meaning wolf. This is one of the groups living in the area that the article locates the Loup in.

  12. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I, for one, think it’s imperialistic that you didn’t already know the Anishinaabe word for Anglophones.

    OT: in the Pimsleur program on Ojibwe, they say a couple times that Zhaaganaashi (which, as I recall, literally means “long knives”) “actually” means an English person, but is commonly used to refer to Americans or non-Indians in general. I always found this explanation confusing. What is the actual meaning of a word except what people commonly use it to mean? Are there indigenous Ojibwe prescriptivists who insist you’re Ojibweing wrong if you use Zhaaganaashi for non-Brits? Also, it would be interesting to do a study on the range of common use of Zaaganaashi by L1 Ojibwe speakers. Try to get them in a relaxed situation and then cue them to talk about a variety of people from around the world – black Americans, Mexican Americans, Russians, Arabs, Sub-Saharan Africans, Eskimos, etc., etc., – and see if they spontaneously refer to them as Zhaaganaashi. Somewhat similar issues are involved with the word anishinaabe, which apparently can mean “Ojibwe person”, “American Indian”, or “person” in general. It would be interesting to know more about which contexts call for which senses of anishinaabe. And how narrowly is “Ojibwe” conceived? Are Ottawas included? Algonquins? Potawatomis? Perhaps even other Great Lakes/northeastern Algonquian groups?

  13. marie-lucie says:

    AntC: “Loup” because the French missionaries saw wolves in the area?
    ryan: I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Loup meaning wolf was a European imposition. Sometimes such animal names were actual clan or tribal names.

    I agree with ryan. “Loup” was a translation of the (clan, tribal, totemic) name of a group of people. Newcomers to an area (whatever their purpose) do not normally call the local people by the name of an animal they themselves have encountered. Such an encounter might result in a place name including the name of the animal, as in Rivière du Loup in Québec.

  14. SFReader says:

    I like the Central Alaskan Yupik word for white Americans (or Caucasians in general).

    It’s Kassa’q.

    Etymology is pretty obvious (but still funny) to everyone with the slightest knowledge of Alaska’s history.

  15. Trond Engen says:

    they spoke at least five different languages
    By determining isoglosses, some preliminary suggestions can be made about assigning the five languages of the manuscripts to the local bands.

    What does “different languages” mean in this setting? If (as seems to be the case) the five or more languages formed a dialect continuum and the speakers (at least at the time of description) self-identified as an ethno-linguistic community, how do we determine if Loup was one or more languages?

    Fond as I am of diversity, I don’t mean to question the bigadeality of the rediscovery.

  16. marie-lucie says:

    Trond: “When in doubt, assume different languages.” This means being a “splitter” rather than a “lumper”. But I agree that the description both linguistic and sociolinguistic is much more compatible with five mutually intelligible dialects than five different languages. It could well be the same with the Chinese situation mentioned.

  17. Trond Engen says:

    Splittery makes sense for descriptive and dialectological purposes, so I don’t question the value of the discovery. When the dialects are continuous, the patterns within the continuum become as important as the discrete datapoints of single varieties, but you still need as many datapoints as possible to describe the continuum.

    (Edit :I first wrote “more important than”, but I thought better of it.)

  18. Trond Engen says:

    Also, I’m not sure if the Guizhou situation could work with too closely related varieties. I seem to remember reading not long ago of two closely related varieties within such a constellation showing signs of unusual changes sharpening the difference between them. But it’s an interesting question. We need a comparative study between regions with formalized linguistic exogamy.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Trond, very good comment. It is quite likely that “formalized linguistic exogamy” is responsible for cases of “men’s language” and “women’s language” in the same language variety, if the two “languages” were once different dialects spoken by exogamous marriage partners.

  20. @ryan, @marie-lucie so in New Zealand, where we’ve managed to become a little less colonialist, we nowadays call the aboriginal languge(s) Māori (meaning ‘ordinary’ (people) ) or Te reo (meaning ‘the language’).

    Although there were French missionaries here in early colonial days, and indeed a large number of the early linguists were German, we don’t in English call anything about them ‘ordinaire’ or ‘hommes’ or ‘langue’.

    There were (and are) many Māori clans/tribes, each with distinctive dialects/languages, and each with a name for themselves in Te reo (typically from a founding ancestor or myth).

    We have not translated those names into French, neither have we translated them into English, to refer to those tribes.

    These “Native Americans” seem to be triple-alienated from their origins. “America” is not a word of their language or their history. “Loup” is not (nowadays) a word of the people who live in central Massachusetts. I suppose I should be relieved they’re not being called Red Indians.

    If they did indeed call themselves wolf in their own language(s), use that language’s word. Loup meaning wolf certainly is a European imposition.

  21. Your intentions are good but your recommendations are not applicable to the world we live in. It would be impossible for speakers of every language to call all other peoples by the names they call themselves by in their own languages, and what exactly would be the point? It does not show lack of respect for English-speakers to call French people French rather than français, any more than it shows lack of respect for French-speakers to call English people anglais rather than English.

  22. >I, for one, think it’s imperialistic that you didn’t already know the Anishinaabe word for Anglophones.

    >OT: in the Pimsleur program on Ojibwe, they say a couple times that Zhaaganaashi (which, as I recall, literally means “long knives”) “actually” means an English person

    You jest. But a fair number of people in Chicago would know the word, in it’s local rendition. Sauganash is the is a neighborhood of the city named for a man of mixed background (an “English” or “Sauganash” to natives, and an “Indian” or “Potawatomi” to the Anglos) who owned the land.

    And of course, your post is ample retort to AntC. Few if any cultures actually practice a hard and fast rule saying that respect demands that all others be referred to by the self-reference from their own language. If Leonard Pokagon and his band of Potawatomi want to refer to me as Zhaaganaashi, I won’t take it as disrespect.

  23. Indeed, I think in many cases, exonymy can be a positive sign of respect – showing that a people or place is considered important enough to warrant a distinct name. The fact that Rome has a distinct English name while Reggio Calabria doesn’t surely doesn’t mean that English speakers respect the first city less.

  24. @Eli Nelson the usual pattern for foreign language names seems to me to have a crack at their own name. Of course it gets anglicised in the process, like all borrowed words. French = Frank (name of tribe) +-ish + sound pattern changes since Old English. Frank is the local name meaning spear/javelin. We didn’t translate that to gār. I rest my case.

    The Māori name for European/white man is pakeha. Every New Zealander knows that. And indeed it’s an allowable category in the census. (Translations vary as to how derogatory it is.)

    @ryan thank you for digging out that link. So Mohingan/Mohegan (not Mohican) is a big improvement over Loup.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    My reply just disappeared!

    Loup meaning wolf certainly is a European imposition.
    An imposition on whom? The French missionaries just translated the name for communication with other French missionaries: they did not tell the speakers to start using Loup rather than their own name(s) for themselves.

    We did not translate (Maori words) into French
    Within New Zealand, there would have been absolutely no useful purpose in doing so.

    Anyway, what about the situation in Germany? The country and its inhabitants (and their language) are referred to by their neighbours by four or five names which are quite different from each other. Even the name which is etymologically closest to the form in the ancestral Germanic language, namely the Italian adjective tedesco, is so different from modern deutsch that it is hardly possible to the average person to relate them to each other. (French has a related adjective tudesque which can be used in a deep-historical or jocular context, but the everyday words known to all French speakers are Allemagne and allemand). Should the “Germans” be upset at this situation and try to force French, Spanish, Italians, Poles, Hungarians, etc to use “Deutsch” and “Deutschland” (which many of those other people would find hard to pronounce recognizably)?

  26. @marie-lucie: an imposition firstly on people of Mohegan descent, who still live in the area. An imposition secondly on English speakers, in whose language the usual pattern is to try to use the native’s own word. It might be the habit of French missionaries (indeed missionaries from everywhere) to try to obliterate ‘heathen’ cultures. We do not have to respect that attitude or continue it.

    Re translating Maori words to French: there was sizeable French presence in NZ in early days — comparable, relative to other Europeans, to that in North America. (Indeed a French frigate tried to claim the whole South Island — more than half the land area.) So there would have been utility. But the Europeans did not show such disrespect. (SIgnificantly I think, European settlement of NZ was after the abolition of the slave trade. Aboriginal Australians did not fare so well.)

    The situation w.r.t Germany from an English-speaking point of view, is to try to use a local tribe’s name. The Italians chose a different local tribe. The French chose another.

    So that’s similar to the situation with Mohegan: many tribes occupying the area (indeed Germany wasn’t unified until late C19th), each with a different language, each with a different name for themselves.

    None of those neighbouring Europeans (so far as I can see) translated the meaning of those local names. Let alone used some third language’s translation.

    [LH I appreciate I am imposing on your open forum, with a not-really-language complaint. But the box here does tell me to “Speak Your Mind”.]

  27. SFReader says:

    Meskwaki Indians are mostly known as Fox tribe. The reason:


    The name Fox later was derived from a French mistake during the colonial era: hearing a group of Indians identify as “Fox”, the French applied what was a clan name to the entire tribe who spoke the same language, calling them “les Renards.” Later the English and Anglo-Americans adopted the French name, using its translation in English as “Fox.” This name was also used officially by the United States government from the 19th century.

  28. Is еврейский язык obsolete in Russian, with иври́т favored instead?

  29. marie-lucie says:

    AntC: It might be the habit of French missionaries (indeed missionaries from everywhere) to try to obliterate ‘heathen’ cultures

    I doubt very much that the 17th century French missionaries in the area used Loup (which meant the same as the indigenous word) in order to “obliterate a heathen culture”. A culture has many, many different aspects. The missionaries were learning the local languages and made many translations into those languages, and those translations are now precious documents for the descendants of the people involved. I don’t think the missionaries of that era (and newer ones in other places) were trying to replace the local languages with their own. If English speakers chose to use “Loup” instead of the native name, it was hardly a deliberate imposition by the French missionaries. And obviously the native name was not lost altogether.

    I did not know about the non-English European component in the “settlement” of New Zealand.

    Judging from missionary activity that I know of in Canada West of the Rockies, starting in the 19th century, there is (still) a difference between the Pacific Coast, where British missionaries, mostly Anglican and Methodist, arrived by boat, and the Interior, where French-speaking Catholic missionaries, mostly French and Belgian, arrived through the land route from Eastern Canada. For the British missionaries, the Christian religion was inseparably linked not only with the KJV Bible but with the Victorian way of life, in terms of cooking, clothing, and other aspects of personal and household management which would be taught to the natives by the usually married missionary’s wife. A relevant anecdote from that time (I forget the source) was related by a traveller who visited one of the British missions and asked the missionary’s wife if she encouraged the native girls to learn traditional basketry. She was shocked: “Certainly not! I only teach them Christian arts!” Except for some nuns, the celibate Catholic missionaries were far less concerned with those aspects of life, which in any case varied according to the countries where Catholicism was the religion of the majority.

  30. @AntC: I think you’re relying too rigidly on a notion of direct derivation, or direct transmission, of exonyms. In the case of Germany, for example, tedesco and allemand can fairly be said to derive from actual Germanic words, but as far as I know the roots of German can only be traced as far as Latin, with no evidence that any Germanic people ever used that name. Welsh definitely has no antecedents in Welsh, nor Finn in Finnish or Hungarian in Hungarian. I don’t see how Loup would be any more objectionable than these.

  31. SFReader says:

    еврейский язык is obsolete and anyway, historically it was used to refer to Yiddish, not Hebrew.

    Interestingly, in all-Russian census of 1897, Jewish language was not included in the category of “Other Germanic languages”. (In the table, there was a column for German, a big column for Other Germanic languages subdivided into sub-columns of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, Dutch, and English, and finally a separate column for Jewish language-‘еврейский язык’)

    Russian linguists or the census organizers apparently couldn’t admit that Yiddish was, indeed, a Germanic language and the largest Germanic language in Russia at that (there were almost three times more Yiddish speakers in Russia than German-speakers)

  32. @Lazar, I really think we (or the Smithsonian) could do better.

    “Algonquian studies” manages to use a native term. Though I was shocked that the Papers’ editors are from departments of American *Indan* Studies.

    What riled me was the opening of the Smithsonian piece. “…Native Americans of central Massachusetts spoke a single language, Loup (pronounced “Lou,” literally meaning “wolf” …” The “literal meaning” bit said to me: here’s the native meaning. For sure there would be plenty of wolves in the area.

    Now how many casual readers of the Smithsoian would realise that Loup (however pronounced) is _not_ a native term? I smelt a rat straight away 😉 That pronunciation from that spelling seemed curiously French, and I guessed a connection with Latin lupus. But it wasn’t ’til I got to the French missionaries in the 3rd paragraph I realised the Loup was a red herring.

    @Y’s link to the abstract phrased it better: “… known to the French collectively as Loup…”

    So can’t we refer to these languages collectively as Mohegan?

    BTW, Welsh from the sources I looked at is possibly derived from the name of a tribe. The name possibly linked to an animal, could be a “wolf”/large dog.

  33. @SFReader: There seemed to be much conflation of linguistic and racial categories back then – they’re not a Germanic people, so how could their language be? Even now, including among Jews, you’ll find occasional resistance to the idea of Yiddish being Germanic; it’s often blithely described as “a mixture of Hebrew, German and Slavic”, which of course isn’t a fair assessment at all.

    The Austrians, for their part, went in the other direction, classifying Yiddish speakers as German speakers and thus rendering them invisible in the census.

    @AntC: Yeah, I agree that the quoted passage is misleading. As for Welsh, it comes from a Proto-Germanic term which itself appears to be derived from the name of a tribe in Gaul, but was applied broadly to a number of Celtic and Latin peoples and had no association with the Welsh in particular.

  34. @marie-lucie yes the missionaries’ records are precious documents, and I don’t wish to belittle their work. I do think, though, that we can move on from a 17th Century French mindset.

    non-English component in the European “settlement” of New Zealand. Oh yes. Bishop Pompallier reached all over the country https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Baptiste_Pompallier . There was heavy competition for souls between the Catholics, the Anglicans and the Presbyterians (Scots).

    And I was fully expecting somebody to tackle me on the non-English Neeuw Zeeland, courtesy of the first European explorer Abel Tasman. I guess we lucked out that his (or his cartograpers’) native tongue is close enough we could easily Anglicise the name.

    At least within the country, ‘Aotaroa’ has equal status. (Land of the) long white cloud.

  35. Eli Nelson says:

    @Ant C: I don’t see any reason to be “shocked” by the use of the terms “Indian,” “American Indian,” or “Amerindian”: they are not slurs, nor particularly outdated. Even if I agreed with the objections some people have that “Indian” is somehow illogical or potentially confusing (I don’t think it’s either of these things, or no more so than many other names and words) these are not good enough reasons to declare the word off-limits if some people find it a useful identification. Different people obviously have different preferences, but some people do choose to refer to themselves with this term (for example, it’s mentioned in the Indian Country article “Do You Prefer ‘Native American’ or ‘American Indian’? 6 Prominent Voices Respond” by Amanda Blackhorse). I wouldn’t dream of telling them that they are wrong to do so.

  36. @Eli OK, OK. We can play these anti-anti-anti- … colonialist inversions all night.

    Am I allowed to be shocked when a bunch of Māori schoolkids refer to each other using the N-word?

    I think you should respect my sensitivities more. I’m in an oppressed minority, too: white male middle-aged liberal, never dirt-poor, never racially abused (except by Australians), never mistreated as a child, made to be ashamed of my cultural heritage (British), trying to be respectful and correct politically/culturally, without being caught out as PC. I’ll probably get put on a reserve and left to starve, the way the Enlightenment territories are being overrun.

  37. LH I appreciate I am imposing on your open forum, with a not-really-language complaint. But the box here does tell me to “Speak Your Mind”.

    No, no — I maintain a strict pro-digression policy! I may disagree with your point of view, but I will defend to the death your right to expatiate upon it in the welcoming comment box of LH.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    If anyone is interested in the suitability or unsuitability of “Loup” they should consult Ives Goddard, who is probably the top Algonquianist alive (as well as the person who presented the relevant paper, as quoted by Y above).

    The paper says that “Loup” was the name given to the overall group speaking five languages, so each group/language must have had its own name, and “wolf” must have been the totemic animal common to those five, rather than the overall name of the group of five. So the French word may have been chosen by the missionaries because of the common cultural importance of the wolf among the five subgroups, rather than being the name of the whole group, which may not have had a specific name.

  39. Jim (another one) says:

    AntC,

    “@marie-lucie: an imposition firstly on people of Mohegan descent, who still live in the area. An imposition secondly on English speakers, in whose language the usual pattern is to try to use the native’s own word.”

    No it isn’t; when you borrow or steal something, you don’t get to say it was “imposed” on you. Those English were perfectly capable of coming up with a name of their own. They were also perfectly capable of expressing their disapproval of the term, and in that absence of any record of that, I have to assume they didn’t disapprove and you and I have no standing in the matter.

    “@Ant C: I don’t see any reason to be “shocked” by the use of the terms “Indian,” “American Indian,” or “Amerindian”: they are not slurs, nor particularly outdated. ”

    There are plenty of tribes and nations who use that word and we have to assume they don’t mean it as a slur. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians down the road from her don’t appear to find the word objectionable, at least in that context.

  40. Sherman Alexie, immortally:

    —“Why do you insist on calling yourselves Indian? It’s so demeaning.”

    —“Listen, the word belongs to us now. We are Indians. That has nothing to do with Indians from India. We are not American Indians. We are Indians, pronounced In-din. It belongs to us. We own it and we’re not going to give it back.”

  41. Thank you everybody. I’m over all this crying about wolf. And think you Hat for facilitating the discussion.

    My takeaways are:
    There was a tribe/clan calling themselves ‘Mohegan’ who were taken as representing a wider group. We’ll probably never know the inter-relatedness of that group, because they were already displaced/dispossessed when Europeans took note of them.

    We owe a debt to the French missionaries who carefully wrote down their language(s), in what sounds like a refugee camp.

    ‘Mohegan’ translates as Wolf in English, Loup in French.

    I shall not take exception to the abstract saying “… languages that were know to the French collectively as “Loup” …”. I note in the interview with Goddard, he uses “Loup” in a similarly oblique way.

    I shall take exception to the Smithsonian‘s breathless “… a single language, Loup (pronounced “Lou”) literally meaning “wolf” …” as if this were a surprising fact about an almost-lost language. It’s an unsurprising fact about a perfectly well known language.

    I am perplexed as to how to refer to the first peoples who migrated eastwards across the Pacific and northern hemisphere lands; and how to appropriately refer to their encounters with Europeans colonising westwards.

  42. Perplexed you must remain, for not only is there no solution that satisfies everyone, there is no solution that does not mortally offend someone. It’s a lose-lose situation.

  43. I think, if there were enough Loup/Mohegan people left and they insisted to be called by some particular name, the rest of us (that is the minuscule part of the rest of us who ever had anything to say about these tribes) would acquiesce. Those things do happen. Pres. Obama renamed the highest peak in North America Denali not just in a fit of anti-colonialism.

  44. J.W. Brewer says:

    One group of descendants are still around and would welcome you to visit them and gamble away your money at their casino. A bureaucratic title like “Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority” is I suppose an endonym of sorts that at least signals that they’re perfectly fine with being called “Mohegan” in English whether or not they insist on it. Although I imagine they’re probably used to being muddled up with the Mohicans/Mahicans, as is highly traditional (http://www.native-languages.org/mohicans_words.htm) — sort of the Algonquin equivalent of Slovaks v. Slovenes.

  45. >My takeaways are: There was a tribe/clan calling themselves ‘Mohegan’ who were taken as representing a wider group

    Sometimes, those who are more intent on signalling that they are the most respectful and understanding than on actually being respectful and understanding get themselves into jams.

    What you’re insisting on is that French missionaries, to be respectful to native groups such as the Mahingan, really needed to call them by the name of their cousins, the Mohegan. That the only way to be respectful to them was to call them by the name of a completely different group who they definitely were not.

    Calling the larger aggregation of related groups by an invented name that happened to be the French translation of the related Algonquian terms was no doubt useful to everyone involved.

  46. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Sauganash? I had no idea. That’s wild. I live near Sauganash. It’s a fine place for an evening walk. It had certainly never occurred to me before that it is etymologically the same as Zhaaganaashi. Thanks!

  47. gwenllian says:

    Interestingly, in all-Russian census of 1897, Jewish language was not included in the category of “Other Germanic languages”.

    Russian linguists or the census organizers apparently couldn’t admit that Yiddish was, indeed, a Germanic language and the largest Germanic language in Russia at that (there were almost three times more Yiddish speakers in Russia than German-speakers)

    Isn’t that because Jewish languages other than Yiddish were also counted under the “Jewish language” name?

    The Māori name for European/white man is pakeha. Every New Zealander knows that. And indeed it’s an allowable category in the census.

    It was taken off the census after too many people took offense at its inclusion.

    Either way, NZ is in theory a bicultural society, however incomplete and tokenistic the attempts to achieve it may be. So there’s a whole other dimension to the use of Maori names in NZ that in the US just doesn’t exist.

    Sauganash

    I knew it sounded familiar.

  48. J.W. Brewer says:

    Do we have any more insight into the original problem about whether we really have evidence of five different “languages” versus five different largely-mutually-intelligible variants in a dialect continuum? I take it that Goddard is a “splitter” when it comes to the Greenberg-versus-Most-Americanists issue, but that just gets you as far as saying that Algonquin (or perhaps the slightly more capacious “Algic”) is not provably affiliated with any other extant language family, and wouldn’t, it seems to me, necessarily commit one to a lumper v splitter approach to determining exactly how many different Algonquin languages there were.

    Separately, there’s a notion that it’s surprising to have that much linguistic variation in a comparatively small geographical area, but it would be good to know what one ought to expect in that regard from equivalent situations in other parts of the world (i.e. equally lightly settled with equally minimal technology). We’re talking about a range that takes up about an hour’s drive on I-91 (absent traffic) from one end to the other, but the “Loups” didn’t have cars and they didn’t even have horses, so would one expect there to be so much continuous interaction between the Deerfield area and the Hartford area (and/or the various intermediate locales) as to preclude meaningful dialect differences from evolving or persisting?

  49. J.W. Brewer says:

    I’d also like to half-quibble with the “cultural diversity may have been underestimated” point. On the one hand, that’s clearly plausible, but on the other hand, this story has nothing to do with it unless you assume that linguistic divergence (of the mild degree where we’re not entirely sure if we should be talking about different dialects of the same language versus separate but closely-related languages) = meaningful cultural divergence. And that doesn’t seem like a sensible assumption.

  50. Yeah, that’s a good point.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    JWB: I take it that Goddard is a “splitter” when it comes to the Greenberg-versus-Most-Americanists issue

    The divergence between “splitters” and “lumpers” arose long before the Greenberg controversy and these terms usually refer to less ambitious classifications. The situation with “Loup” seems to be one of these, with Goddard as a splitter, the French missionaries as lumpers.

    (As an Americanist, I can assure you that there are very good reasons not to support Greenberg’s thesis – which Goddard likened to “cold fusion” – but he has many supporters in France, where very few people have any familiarity with the linguistic situation in the Americas).

    there’s a notion that it’s surprising to have that much linguistic variation in a comparatively small geographical area, but it would be good to know what one ought to expect in that regard from equivalent situations in other parts of the world

    If you take the former situation in rural Southern France (before most people became monolingual in French), it was almost as if each village had its own speech – all mutually intelligible, but with differences which people were very attached to. My mother’s parents, born in a village in the province of Languedoc, were native speakers of Occitan along with people of their generation. One of my mother’s uncles married a woman from a not very distant town and as a child I heard references to some of her (very minor) speech peculiarities when speaking the language.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    in the Pimsleur program on Ojibwe, they say a couple times that Zhaaganaashi (which, as I recall, literally means “long knives”) “actually” means an English person, but is commonly used to refer to Americans or non-Indians in general. I always found this explanation confusing. What is the actual meaning of a word except what people commonly use it to mean?

    Obviously the notion here is “original meaning”.

    “Deutschland” (which many of those other people would find hard to pronounce recognizably)

    Drunk Germans can’t pronounce it. In a football context, it’s SCHLAAAND.

    (Admittedly, word-initial [ʃl] is nonetheless very rare in a global perspective.)

    —“Listen, the word belongs to us now. We are Indians. That has nothing to do with Indians from India. We are not American Indians. We are Indians, pronounced In-din. It belongs to us. We own it and we’re not going to give it back.”

    Often spelled NDN as a self-designation; comes with the realization that “native” comes with overtones of its own.

  53. @JWB … there’s a notion that it’s surprising to have that much linguistic variation in a comparatively small geographical area, but it would be good to know what one ought to expect in that regard from equivalent situations in other parts of the world …

    It would be good to know what to expect from wider groupings in Algonquian areas, or indeed the whole North Americas. It seems to have been largely chance that these French missionaries recorded what they did from who they did — from refugees across the border in Canada, according to Goddard.

    We might hope that other archives turn up or are indeed already hiding in plain sight, as Goddard puts it. For now, we seem to have an absence of evidence; and the reasons for that absence would apply equally in other parts of the world, I conjecture.

    Re the “cultural diversity”, as opposed to dialect/linguistic diversity: That “begging the question” is I suspect all of the Smithsonian‘s making. They don’t quote Goddard raising the point. It’s from the same reporter who was astonished that “Loup” is pronounced “Lou” and ‘literally’ means Wolf.

    His blurb: “Jackson Landers is an author, science writer and adventurer based out of Charlottesville, Virginia, specializing in wildlife out of place. ” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/author/jackson-landers/ From Charlottesville, he should at least know some French.

  54. marie-lucie says:

    AntC: It seems to have been largely chance that these French missionaries recorded what they did from who they did — from refugees across the border in Canada, according to Goddard.

    It would be interesting to know the background of those missionaries. Algonquian languages cover a very wide area in Canada, and it is quite possible that those refugees may have known that in Canada they would find people they could understand. If the missionaries were already knowledgeable about one or more Algonquian languages spoken in the area where they were working, they would have had a relatively easy task in recording that or those of the Loups.

    Going back to the five languages, perhaps the missionaries did not insist on the differences between them because they were relatively minor against the fact that the Loups obviously understood each other. Another reason to consider the five as dialects rather than languages.

    From Charlottesville, he should at least know some French.

    Don’t let the “ville” mislead you. There are plenty of American placenames ending in “ville” which have no connection with a recent French population.

  55. J.W. Brewer says:

    Mr. Landers may or may not know much French (and who knows how much French Queen Charlotte herself knew), but google reveals that his writings also address the history of the French dip sandwich: https://www.thrillist.com/eat/los-angeles/who-invented-la-french-dip-sandwich-philippes-coles.

  56. SFReader says:

    -Isn’t that because Jewish languages other than Yiddish were also counted under the “Jewish language” name?

    Interesting possibility, but unlikely I think.

    Census recorded 95 056 speakers of Tat language and it appears that speakers of Juhuri (Jewish Tat dialect) were included among them.

    Bukharan Jews were not even Russian subjects and so weren’t covered by census (anyway, their language likely would have been recorded as Tajik)

    Georgian Jews spoke Georgian dialect.

    So “Jewish language” of Russian census of 1897 could have been only Yiddish and nothing else.

  57. Obviously the notion here is “original meaning”.

    I take it to be ‘prototypical meaning’.

    Queen Charlotte

    Of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of George III. Her languages were German and bad English, as far as is recorded. She probably called herself Scharlotte in German.

  58. “there’s a notion that it’s surprising to have that much linguistic variation in a comparatively small geographical area, but it would be good to know what one ought to expect in that regard from equivalent situations in other parts of the world”

    In Nigeria, over 500 languages are spoken. It is much bigger, but scaled for Massachusetts, we should be expecting ~15 languages.

  59. David Marjanović says:

    She probably called herself Scharlotte in German.

    Spelled à la française, and also pronounced that way (complete stress on the o), except she may have pronounced the e judging from all the people named Annett that are running around here.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Rick: In Nigeria, over 500 languages are spoken

    As with the “Eskimo snow words”, this number seems to keep increasing. Surely this number comes from considerable “splitting” of the several language families in Nigeria.

  61. Sure, just as my mother was named Marianne, that most iconically French of names, but was called Marijanne with four syllables and no nasalization (and called herself Hanni instead of Janni, with far-reaching results

  62. marie-lucie says:

    JC: my mother was named Marianne, that most iconically French of names, but was called Marijanne with four syllables and no nasalization

    In French there is a difference between Marianne (three syllables) and Marie-Anne (four). I think that the second name is more common than the first, which is commonly associated with a personification of the République. In any case there is no vowel nasalization.

    I know a German woman called Marianne, but living in English-speaking Canada she pronounces her name like Mary Ann.

  63. Marie-Anne (four)

    How can there be four syllables? If you’re reciting poetry, you’d pronounce the final -e, but the same goes for Marianne.

  64. “As with the “Eskimo snow words”, this number seems to keep increasing. Surely this number comes from considerable “splitting” of the several language families in Nigeria.”

    Exactly as in the story above about the Loup, and in the example from the Sui. These could just as easily be called dialects of a single language. I am just putting these on an equal playing field. If Nigeria has over 500, then Massachusetts can have 15.

  65. Because silent e still counts as a syllable in French not only in versification but also in answers to questions like “How many syllables does Anne have?” French people will say “two” without hesitation, whereas English people will say “one”, even though the name is pronounced much the same way in both languages. Similarly, chance is two syllables with silent e in French, one syllable in English, and two syllables with schwa e in German (where it is pronounced [ʃãsə]).

    In essence this means that the French word syllabe is yet another faux ami with respect to English syllable and German Silbe — the former is more abstract. This constantly brings online conversations to great confusion when francophones interact with anglophones.

    Most of my mother’s professional colleagues who were close enough to address her by first name were German-speakers who pronounced the name [mɑʁiˈanə] as she did (modulo their regional accents); family other than my father and me called her Hanni as explained in the link above, others — who knows what they said, not I, though it seems to me now that “mah-ree-AH-nuh” is not beyond the power of any anglophone.

    Lastly, Marianne has three syllables in French because the i is non-syllabic, which is not the case in Marie-Anne. Of the notable Mariannes in the English Wikipedia, none are French, though one is a Québecoise. The rest are of English, German/Austrian, Swedish, or Dutch origin.

  66. Lastly, Marianne has three syllables in French because the i is non-syllabic

    D’oh! Thanks, I forgot that.

  67. SFReader says:

    studied some Wikipedia articles on the Loup Indians and their language.

    Turns out they called themselves ȣmiskanȣakȣiak

  68. David Marjanović says:

    Similarly, chance […] in German (where it is pronounced [ʃãsə]).

    That may be what some people aim at, but I’ve never actually heard it. I’ve encountered two pronunciations, both fully nativized:

    1) Northern: [ʃaŋzɵ], with [z] and with the usual northern substitution for the nasal vowel.

    2) Southeastern: [ʃɒ̈̃s], exactly like mainstream Hexagonal French, because we happen to have that exact nasal vowel in our dialects and because apocope is the law of the land.

  69. Marianne / Marie-Anne

    Very sorry, I goofed about Marianne and Marie-Anne. I said they had respectively three and four syllables, but I intended to say two and three. My point was the difference between the two (unequal number of syllables), not the exact number.

    It is true that in both names the final -e could theoretically be pronounced (and is so in Southern French, in classical type poetry and in many songs), but conversational Standard French does not normally do so. The spoken syllables are respectively Ma-rianne and Ma-rie-Anne.

  70. [ʃãsə] is certainly what my mother said and taught her students to say (including, for this purpose, me).

  71. I know a German woman called Marianne, but living in English-speaking Canada she pronounces her name like Mary Ann.

    In college I knew a French girl named Arielle, who pronounced her name like aerial when speaking English.

    Also: So Long, Marianne.

  72. Thanks @SFReader. If you’re looking at the same wikipedia as me, ȣmiskanȣakȣiak (beaver tail-hill people) was recorded as a self-appelation of Nipmuc refugees. (Perhaps a rump of Nipmucs?)
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nipmuc

    So they are amongst what the French collectively called Loup, but there were others included in Loup such as Mohegans, Mahicans, Massachusets and other Algonquian-speaking groupings from New England: http://www.native-languages.org/lostalg.htm

    This just gets trickier: that particular group had a self-appelation, wikipedia has seveal explanations of where “Nipmuc” (and its variations) came from, and its meaning.

    Does Loup refer to any coherent grouping? I guess the refugees would have been all mixed up by the time they got across the border. Are those the French called Loup any more closely related than other Algonquian speakers?

  73. marie-lucie says:

    Arielle like “aerial”

    A lot of French names (like other words) are very difficult for monolingual anglophones to pronounce (and the opposite is also true!). I too anglicize my name (to Mary Lucy) when talking to most anglophones.

  74. About Chance in German:
    The Duden has [ˈʃãːs(ə)], the pronunciation championed by John Cowan’s mother, but you see the variant with apocope is also legit, and as variant [ˈʃaŋsə], which I don’t rememember to ever have consciously heard. Outside of the Duden we have [ˈʃaŋzə], as David said, and that’s what I grew up with in the North. I have even heard people say [ʃant͡sə], which is identical in pronunciation to Schanze “redoubt, entrenchment; (ski) jump”. I also have heard people substituting [ɔ̃] for [ã] and [ɔŋ] for [aŋ], probably in a misguided attempt to sound more French.

  75. marie-lucie says:

    Hans: substituting [ɔ̃] for [ã] and [ɔŋ] for [aŋ], probably in a misguided attempt to sound more French.

    In my lifetime the French (in France) pronunciation of an has moved from more of less [ã] to much closer to [ɔ̃].

  76. I remember noticing [ˈʃãːsə] on German-language TV and finding it a bit pretentious — and also listening for other loanwords with preserved nasal vowels and hearing none. Is Chance the only occurrence or just the only one that gets airtime?

    (Danish does the eng thing with French nasal vowels — chance, chanson, ambulance, lancere, abonnement, konkurrence — and sounds a final /ə/ where written, by the way, as in all the names discussed above).

  77. Etienne says:

    I’m not a German speaker and I don’t even play one in class, on television or on the stage, but when I first heard the song 99 LUFTBALLONS in German class my impression was that the third and fourth verses both ended in the same nasal vowel, obviously of Gallic origin in both words:

    Hast Du etwas Zeit für mich
    Dann singe ich ein Lied für Dich
    Von 99 Luftballons
    Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont

    Could some germanophones clarify matters?

  78. I think you mean lines, not verses. I’m not a Germanophone myself; listening to the song I can’t say with certainty what she’s using in Luftballons, but in Horizont she seems to use a simple [ɔnt].

  79. Here‘s the video, for those who wish to check the vowel and/or revive memories of the early ’80s.

  80. marie-lucie says:

    Isn’t Horizont a regular German word? (borrowed and adapted from Greek rather than directly from French, which does not have a final -t).

  81. Yes indeed.

  82. According to Wikipedia, Nena grew up in Westphalia. I don’t know anything about accents in that part of Germany, but I find her pronunciation of the last vowel in “Luftballoons” rather peculiar, at least the first time she sings it. When she pronounces the word again later in the song, it sounds more like I would expect, and in her English version of the song, the word sounds rather unremarkable, somewhere in between German and English. I also Googled for other covers by native German speakers and found a recording of Rammstein performing the song, which was weird.

  83. David Marjanović says:

    I just listened to the video. As I had remembered, Luftballons comes out with [ɔŋs]; the quality of the recording is bad enough that the (devoiced?) [ŋ] and sometimes even the [s] tend to disappear. I can’t hear a nasal vowel either there or in Horizont.

    Interestingly, the Austrian rendering of stressed -on is a pure spelling pronunciation: [oːn].

    A lot of French names (like other words) are very difficult for monolingual anglophones to pronounce

    I’m suddenly reminded of Cpt. Jean-Louc Picâde.

    Is Chance the only occurrence or just the only one that gets airtime?

    It’s certainly a very common word…

    found a recording of Rammstein performing the song, which was weird.

    …I can imagine.

  84. marie-lucie says:

    Cpt. Jean-Louc Picâde.

    On the other hand, at the time of the HIV/AIDS scare I remember hearing about the French doctor Luck Montagnier (I was so impressed by Luck that I did not notice the pronunciation of the last name).

  85. Cpt. Jean-Louc Picâde.

    The most English Frenchman who ever hasn’t yet existed.

  86. I will always see Picard as Sejanus playing an astronaut.

  87. @Lars: You’ll hear a nasal vowel in a lot of French loanwords in German, especially those that are still felt as French or embody French culture (like Chanson, pardon). In all of them substituting vowel plus [ŋ] for the nasal vowel is always an option, but pronouncing the nasal vowel is seen as the more educated / cultured variant. As David says, Chance is simply a very common word. Some words seem have moved from a French-style pronounciation to a spelling pronounciation, e.g. you find Moment jocularily transcribed as Momang in older texts (the cases I’ve seen are not later than the 1950/60s), implying a pronounciation [-maŋ] or an attempted rendering of a French nasal vowel, but what you normally hear today is [-mεnt].

    @marie-lucie: Thanks, so that would mean that pronouncing Chance with [ɔŋ] or [ɔ]̃ could be an attempt to achieve its current French pronunciation.

  88. A similar sort of “cultured” nasal vowel crops up in restaurant and fiancé(e) for some BrEng speakers.

    And yeah, some transcribers now use /ɒ̃/ and /õ/ in place of /ɑ̃/ and /ɔ̃/ for European French. I’ve heard of cases where a learner’s on has been mistaken for an by natives, something which could perhaps be avoided by using the more modern transcription.

  89. marie-lucie says:

    Hans: Chance with [ɔŋ] or [ɔ]̃ could ba an attempt to achieve its current French pronounciation.

    No doubt, it these people had been in contact with young French people, especially Parisians, or had seen recent French movies, that’s what they would have heard.

  90. marie-lucie says:

    Hans: Chance with [ɔŋ] or [ɔ]̃ could be an attempt to achieve its current French pronounciation.

    No doubt, it these people had been in contact with young French people, especially Parisians, or had seen recent French movies, that’s what they would have heard (unless they heard Southerners, who would say [aŋ]).

  91. marie-lucie says:

    Lazar: some transcribers now use /ɒ̃/ and /õ/ in place of /ɑ̃/ and /ɔ̃/ for European French

    As they should. Even I (born during WWII) have always used [õ], never [ɔ̃].

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