Algonquin language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native toCanada
RegionQuebec and into Ontario
Native speakers
3,330 (2016 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3alq
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
PersonAnicinàpe (Omàmìwininì)
PeopleAnicinàpek (Omàmiwininiwak)
LanguageAnicinàbemowin (Omàmìwininìmowin)

Algonquin (also spelled Algonkin; in Algonquin: Anicinàbemowin or Anishinàbemiwin) is either a distinct Algonquian language closely related to the Ojibwe language or a particularly divergent Ojibwe dialect. It is spoken, alongside French and to some extent English, by the Algonquin First Nations of Quebec and Ontario. As of 2006, there were 2,680 Algonquin speakers,[3] less than 10% of whom were monolingual. Algonquin is the language for which the entire Algonquian language subgroup is named; the similarity among the names often causes considerable confusion. Like many Native American languages, it is strongly verb-based, with most meaning being incorporated into verbs instead of using separate words for prepositions, tense, etc.


Sign at La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve in French, Algonquin and English. The Algonquin text "Manàdjitòdan kakina kegòn netàwigig kakina e-dashiyag" literally translates to "Be gentle with all things of nature for everyone."

Omàmìwininìmowin (Algonquin) is an Algonquian language, of the Algic family of languages, and is descended from Proto-Algonquian. It is considered a particularly divergent dialect of Ojibwe by many.[citation needed] But, although the speakers call themselves Omàmìwininì or Anicinàbe, the Ojibwe call them Odishkwaagamii ('those at the end of the lake'). Among Omàmìwininì (Algonquins), however, the Nipissing are called Otickwàgamì (the Algonquin orthography for the Ojibwe Odishkwaagamii) and their language as Otickwàgamìmowin. The rest of the Omàmìwininìmowin (Algonquin) communities call themselves Omàmiwininiwak ('down-stream men'), and the language Omàmiwininìmowin ('speech of the down-stream men').

Other than Omàmìwininìmowin (Algonquin), languages considered as particularly divergent dialects of the Anishinaabe language include Mississauga (often called "Eastern Ojibwe") and Odawa. The Potawatomi language was considered a divergent dialect of Anishinaabemowin (the Anishinaabe language) but now is considered a separate language. Culturally, Omàmìwininì (Algonquin) and the Michi Saagiig (Mississaugas) were not part of the Ojibwe–Odawa–Potawatomi alliance known as the Council of Three Fires. The Omàmìwininìwak (Algonquins) maintained stronger cultural ties with the Abenaki, Atikamekw and Cree.

Among sister Algonquian languages are Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Fox, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee. The Algic family contains the Algonquian languages and the so-called "Ritwan" languages, Wiyot and Yurok. Ojibwe and its similar languages are frequently referred to as a "Central Algonquian" language; however, Central Algonquian is an areal grouping rather than a genetic one. Among Algonquian languages, only the Eastern Algonquian languages constitute a true genetic subgroup.

The northern Omàmìwininìmowin (Algonquin language) dialect of Anishinabemowin as spoken at Winneway, Quebec (Long Point), and Timiskaming First Nation, Quebec, is a similar dialect to the Oji-Cree dialect (Severn/Anishininimowin) of northwestern Ontario, despite being geographically separated by 800 kilometres (500 miles).


There are several dialects of Omàmìwininìmowin (the Algonquin language), generally grouped broadly as Northern Algonquin and Western Algonquin. Speakers at Kitigan Zibi consider their language to be Southern Algonquin, though linguistically it is a dialect of Nipissing Ojibwa which, together with Mississauga Ojibwa and Odawa, form the Nishnaabemwin (Eastern Ojibwa) group of the Ojibwa dialect continuum.



The consonant phonemes and major allophones of Algonquin in Cuoq spelling, one of several common orthographies, and its common variants are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):

Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Velar Glottal
voiced b ⟨b⟩ d ⟨d⟩ d͡ʒ ⟨dj⟩[a] ɡ ⟨g⟩
voiceless p ⟨p⟩ t ⟨t⟩ t͡ʃ ⟨tc⟩[b] k ⟨k⟩ ʔ ⟨'⟩
aspirated ⟨p⟩ ⟨t⟩ ⟨k⟩
Fricative voiced z ⟨z⟩ ʒ ⟨j⟩[c]
voiceless s ⟨s⟩ ʃ ⟨c⟩[d] h ⟨h⟩
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩
Approximant w ⟨w⟩[e] j ⟨i⟩[f]
  1. ^ Some communities use "dj", others use "j".
  2. ^ Some communities use "tc", others use "tch" or "ch".
  3. ^ Some communities use "j", others use "zh".
  4. ^ Some communities use "c", others use "ch" or "sh".
  5. ^ Some communities and older documents use "ȣ" (or its substitute, "8").
  6. ^ Some communities use "y".

In an older orthography still popular in some of the Algonquin communities, known as the Malhiot ([mɛːjot]) spelling, which the above Cuoq spelling was based upon, are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):

Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Velar Glottal
Plosive voiced    b
⟨p⟩ p
⟨t⟩ t
⟨ĸ⟩ k
voiceless ʔ NONE
Affricate voiced ⟨tc⟩ d͡ʒ
Fricative voiced ⟨s⟩ z
⟨c⟩ ʒ
voiceless ⟨h⟩ h
Nasal ⟨ʍ⟩ m ⟨ʌ⟩ n
Approximant ⟨ȣ⟩[a] w ⟨ı⟩ j
  1. ^ Some communities use ⟨8⟩ as its substitute.

Aspiration and allophony[edit]

The Algonquin consonants p, t and k are unaspirated when they are pronounced between two vowels or after an m or n; plain voiceless and voiceless aspirated stops in Algonquin are thus allophones. So kìjig ('day') is pronounced [kʰiːʒɪɡ], but anokì kìjig ('working day') is pronounced [ʌnokiː kiːʒɪɡ].[4]


short and long
[note 1]
a [ʌ]~[ɑ] à (also á or aa) [aː]
ɛ e [e]~[ɛ] è (also é or ee) [eː]
ı i [ɪ] ì (also í or ii) [iː]
o o or u [ʊ]~[ɔ] ò (also ó or oo) [oː]~[uː]
  1. ^ Optionally indicated.



Malhiot Cuoq IPA Malhiot Cuoq IPA
ᴀȣ aw [ɔw] ᴀı ai [aj]
ɛȣ ew [ew] ɛı ei [ej]
ıȣ iw [iw]
ow [ow]

Nasal vowels[edit]

Algonquin does have nasal vowels, but they are allophonic variants (similar to how in English vowels are sometimes nasalized before m and n). In Algonquin, vowels automatically become nasal before nd, ndj, ng, nh, nhi, nj or nz. For example, kìgònz ('fish') is pronounced [kiːɡõːz], not [kʰiːɡoːnz].[4]


Word stress in Algonquin is complex but regular. Words are divided into iambic feet (an iambic foot being a sequence of one "weak" syllable plus one "strong" syllable), counting long vowels (à, è, ì, ò) as a full foot (a foot consisting of a single "strong" syllable). The primary stress is then normally on the strong syllable of the third foot from the end of the word—which, in words that are five syllables long or less, usually translates in practical terms to the first syllable (if it has a long vowel) or the second syllable (if not). The strong syllables of the remaining iambic feet each carry secondary stress, as do any final weak syllables. For example: /ni.ˈbi/, /ˈsiː.ˌbi/, /mi.ˈki.ˌzi/, /ˈnaː.no.ˌmi.da.ˌna/.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Language Highlight Tables, 2016 Census - Aboriginal mother tongue, Aboriginal language spoken most often at home and Other Aboriginal language(s) spoken regularly at home for the population excluding institutional residents of Canada, provinces and territories, 2016 Census – 100% Data". Retrieved 2017-11-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (2022-05-24). "Severn-Algonquin". Glottolog. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Archived from the original on 2022-10-30. Retrieved 2022-10-29.
  3. ^ Statistics Canada, 2006, archived from the original on 2018-12-25, retrieved 2008-11-01.
  4. ^ a b c Redish, Laura; Lewis, Orrin. "Algonquin Pronunciation and Spelling Guide". Algonquin. Archived from the original on 20 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
  5. ^ Artuso, Christian (1998). Generational Difference in Algonquin. Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Artuso, Christian. 1998. noogom gaa-izhi-anishinaabemonaaniwag: Generational Difference in Algonquin. Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press. [1]
  • Costa, David J.; Wolfart, H.C. (2005). "The St-Jérôme Dictionary of Miami-Illinois" (PDF). Papers of the 36th Algonquian Conference. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba. pp. 107–133. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 27, 2011. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  • Cuoq, Jean André. 1866. Études philologiques sur quelques langues sauvages de l'Amérique. Montréal: Dawson.
  • Cuoq, Jean André. 1886. Lexique de la Langue Algonquine. Montréal: J. Chapleau & Fils.
  • Cuoq, Jean André. 1891? Grammaire de la Langue Algonquine. [S.l.: s.n.]
  • Masthay, Carl, ed. (2002). Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary. St. Louis, Missouri: Carl Masthay. p. 757. ISBN 0-9719113-04.
  • Mcgregor, Ernest. 1994. Algonquin Lexicon. Maniwaki, QC: Kitigan Zibi Education Council.
  • Mithun, Marianne. 1999. The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

External links[edit]