Talk:Mohawk language

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It seems interesting that Mohawk, like many other North American languages, is very poor in labials. The Athabaskan languages are generally labial-poor (see, for instance, the Navajo phonemic inventory), as are Wichita and Tlingit. Are there any theories as to why this may be? thefamouseccles 10-05-2003 0813 GMT

I wouldn't take that theory too far -- Algonquian, Siouan and Muskogean have plenty of labials.

In Bonvillain's book she mentions that the language does not have the labial consonants m, p, or b except in some loanwords from later English contact. For example /madZis/ 'matches' (forgive my lack of IPA, dZ is the voiced alveolar affricate). Earlier French loanwords were reanalyzed within the existing Mohawk phonetic inventory (?uwa:li?/ 'Marie') DS — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:27, 13 December 2011 (UTC)

Is it possible that the graph nh refers to nasalization of a preceding vowel, and then /h/? QuartierLatin1968 06:08, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

No, the h doesn't change the preceding letter at all, but the h will change depending on whether the next letter is a vowel or consonant. I'm taking a Mohawk course and I'll add some information in the future. --Chlämens 20:43, 25 November 2005 (UTC)
The n in nh can very well refer to nasalization. In a word like kénhak (let it be), the n goes with the preceding vowel [gʌ̃hak]. In the word kenhó:tons (I close the door), the n is consonantal [gɛnhodũs]. This is a source of (rare) ambiguity in the orthography. Some people write h before an ambiguous consonantal n, as in kehnhó:tons. However, this additional h is not pronounced by all speakers. David Kanatawakhon Maracle, in his dictionary, underlines consonantal ns after e or o and before another consonant: keṉhotons. Languagegeek 21:40, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

“Mohawk” in Mohawk[edit]

If it does not have bilabials, what is the language called in Mohawk? I guess it's somewhere within onkwehonwehneha which appears in the list of phrases. Wikipeditor 10:57, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

It's Kanien'keha:ka ([ganjə̃ʔgeha:ga] in IPA) which is also the name for the Mohawk tribe. The word Mohawk as far as I know is an Algonquin insult which was picked up by the Dutch. --Chlämens 10:59, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
The langauge is Kanien’kéha [ganjʌ̃ʔg'ɛha], the -á:ka ending specifically indicates “the people”. Languagegeek 16:14, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
On the etymology of the English word Mohawk, there is a pun (in Abnaki at least) between Magoak (they are cowards), and Magwak (Iroquois people). I’m not sure that one could say that the term Magwak derives from Magoak though. Languagegeek 21:47, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
The Online Etymology Dictionary says "The tribe name Mohawk (1638) is said to mean "they eat living things" in Algonquian, probably a ref. to cannibalism." In Ojibwe (not the language the word would have been borrowed from, I don't think, but rather a related Algonquian language), the verb for "eat something animate" is amo. The suffix for *intransitive* third person plural actors ("they...") is -wag, so if amo were an intransitive verb, "they eat [animate things]" would be amowag.'s not intransitive, it's transitive, so I'm not sure what to make of that. Maybe the Algonquian language "Mohawk" was supposedly borrowed from behaves differently? --Miskwito 18:36, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Thank you all. I've added “Kanien’kéha” to the template. If you can settle on how to transcribe it using IPA, perhaps that (or an audio file, or both) would be nice to have in the article – only if it's no work for you, of course. Wikipeditor 21:04, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

ADDENDUM: In Lyle Campbell's American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America (1997, Oxford University Press), he says of the name, "'Mohawk' is an Algonquian name; of the various spellings that appeared in earlier sources, Roger Williams's <Mohowawogs'> was etymologically the most correct--with English -s 'plural' added to a Narragansett or Massachusett word for 'people-eaters' (compare the Unami Delaware cognate mhuwé·yɔk) (Goddard 1978:478)". This is on page 401. So...there you have it, I guess. --Miskwito 22:17, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

The IPA for Kanien’kéha is [ganjʌ̃ʔg'ɛha] or [ganjʌ̃ʔg'eha], the e vowel lies in between IPA [e] and [ɛ], to my ears it’s closer to the latter in this context. The en vowel is quite far back, so the [ʌ̃] is appropriate. Many speakers pronounce a as [ɑ]. I’d vote for [ganjʌ̃ʔg'ɛha] Languagegeek 09:27, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

No labials?[edit]

In one of my Mohawk books, <wh> is described as "wh is a soft f by letting breath through the lips", an example given is sentawha (peach). I have a sound sample of that word (though I don't remember where I found it), and it sounds like a voiceless bilabial fricative [ɸ], which was what I had suspected. When going over some of the more detailed pronounciation guides it does seem that Mohawk has a quite extensive consonant inventory in general. In addition to the voiced allophones, there seems to be an aspirated, palatalized, and a labialized set. The nasal also seems to occur palatalized or even palatal, and the "w" occurs devoiced. Am I fantasizing here or can someone confirm this? --Chlämens 00:03, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes, there is lots of interesting phonology in the Mohawk language. Mohawk is written in a phonemic orthography, compared with Cayuga, where one can see the letters <g>~<k>, <d>~<t>, and <f>. In Mohawk, <wh> (in my experience) is pronounced [f]. <w> is pronounced [] (voiceless) word finally. This shouldn’t strike one as unusual—sounds tend to become devoiced before [h] and word finally across languages. As for aspirated, palatalized, and labialized consonants: these are consequences of two phonemes occurring side by side. The /kh/ in <khá:le’> (again) is not a single aspirated phoneme, it is /k/ followed by /h/. This is a cluster /kh/, not an aspirate /kʰ/. Same goes for <ny> in <kanonhtónnyon> (I’m thinking). This is a combination of /n/ + /j/, not a single phoneme [ɲ]. There is some support for considering <kw> a single phoneme /kʷ/; /w/ does not appear after any other same-syllable consonant cluster apart from /k/, thus */sw/ and */tw/ are not permitted. Some interesting things happen to some sounds when followed by /j/; these vary according to dialect. In Eastern dialects, /t/ and /k/ > [dʒ] before /j/. In Central dialects, /t/ and /k/ > [k] before /j/, and /ts/ > [dʒ] before /j/. However, [dʒ] isn’t a phoneme as such, but a product of phonological rules which differ dialectically. If you're looking for labial allophones, <akáonha> (she) is often pronounced [agamha]. Languagegeek 14:41, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Consonant Table[edit]

Are the consonants in the "Dental" column really dental and not alveolar? If so, the dental diacritic should be added to all of them. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Limetom (talkcontribs) 00:06, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

Inconsistent phonotactics[edit]

There's something odd in here, when a dialect called "Ahkwesáhsne" is listed as only having 2-consonant clusters. Also, furthermore there are mentions of /tj kj kw/ clusters, which aren't covered in the list (or now, table) either. Is this a case of simple omission, or are these eg. only the syllable-initial clusters (with other clusters resulting from syllable-final C + syllable-initial C(C)?) --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 10:04, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

You're right. If you check the Bonvillain grammar you will see an extensive list of CCC CCCC and CCCCC clusters which are acceptable in the language. DS Another source is Karin Michelson's "A comparative study of lake-iroquoian accent" where she has similar tables for Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Seneca. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:34, 13 December 2011 (UTC)

the Mohawk letter e[edit]

In Mohawk, the letter e has two pronunciations, ɛ and e. Is there any way to tell which pronunciation should be used? -Mike Oosting (talk) 23:02, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Judging from the phonemic inventory given it would seem that the two are in free variation. In languages with three height levels of vowels the front mid vowel often tends to be slightly lower than [i] and slightly higher than [ɛ].·Maunus·ƛ· 23:35, 10 September 2009 (UTC)


The main article could be improved by adding a link to an article on Mohawk grammar. Dexter Nextnumber (talk) 09:40, 22 November 2009 (UTC)

The issue is that no such article exists in the English language online. There's a French language one through the government of Québec - but even then it's not extensive. If you want, go out looking for "A Grammar of Akwesasne Mohawk" - it's old, and rare, but currently the best grammar out there and the only compendium of Mohawk verb conjugation I've ever found. (talk) 03:16, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

Number of speakers[edit]

This sentence in the article is quite confusing: "As of 1994 there were approximately 7,500 (as of 2008) speakers of Mohawk, primarily in Quebec, Ontario and western New York." Does this mean the numbers remained stable in the period 1994 - 2008? If so, I'm sure this could worded more clearly. - Duncan Sneddon — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:27, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Grammar Section[edit]

Greetings all. I am a linguistics student in university, and one of our tasks was to expand a section of an endangered native american language. I have chosen mohawk. As far as the edits go, I have gotten my hands on two books, "A Thousand Words Of Mohawk" and "A Grammar Of Awkwesasne Mohawk." I will be importing information from these texts and try to expand on the grammar section of this page. I am new to wikipedia editing however, so any and all help formatting would be greatly appreciated.

Additionally, I will be attempting to expand the French version of this page. Any help there would be greatly appreciated.

External links modified[edit]

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Conflicting IPA[edit]

In the lead, the IPA is given as [ɡa.njʌ̃ʔ.ˈɡe.ha], but in the infobox it's [ɡɑ.njʌ̃ʔ.ˈɡɛ.ha]—there are differences in both the first and third syllables. Curly "JFC" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 03:01, 6 July 2017 (UTC)

Not really a significant difference since Mohawk phonology doesn't distinguish betwen e/ɛ and a/ɑ - it is basically a questoin of how narrow a transcription is used.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 04:33, 6 July 2017 (UTC)
It's not a matter of "which is correct"—it's a matter of consistency. We don't allow "color" in the lead but "colour" in the infobox. Curly "JFC" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 04:39, 6 July 2017 (UTC)

Sources for the phonology section[edit]

I've noticed that the phonology section is unsourced (except for one source to firstvoices, which I just removed -- it's not RS I don't think). Can this be alleviated? Additionally, I am very interested in whatever source it is for the claim that the alveopalatal affricate is voiced. Although I admit there are some problematic issues with recordings of Native American/First Nations languages, this phoneme has always sounded quite voiceless to me-- but I am interested in finding more literature on this, so please give me a ping. Cheers all and thanks. --Calthinus (talk) 01:30, 21 January 2018 (UTC)

Pinging @Lbiswim: on this point, who I see from the history has done some good work on this page, for help. Thanks for any time you can spare. Cheers, --Calthinus (talk) 01:32, 21 January 2018 (UTC)