northern North America
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
ISO 639-5aql
Pre-contact distribution of Algic languages
Notes† - extinct language

The Algic languages (also Algonquian–Wiyot–Yurok or Algonquian–Ritwan)[1][2] are an indigenous language family of North America. Most Algic languages belong to the Algonquian subfamily, dispersed over a broad area from the Rocky Mountains to Atlantic Canada. The other Algic languages are the Yurok and Wiyot of northwestern California, which, despite their geographic proximity, are not closely related. All these languages descend from Proto-Algic, a second-order proto-language estimated to have been spoken about 7,000 years ago and reconstructed using the reconstructed Proto-Algonquian language and the Wiyot and Yurok languages.

Text in Cree. Cree is the most widely spoken Algic language.


The term Algic was first coined by Henry Schoolcraft in his Algic Researches, published in 1839. Schoolcraft defined the term as "derived from the words Allegheny and Atlantic, in reference to the indigenous people anciently located in this geographical area."[3] Schoolcraft's terminology was not retained. The peoples he called "Algic" were later included among the speakers of Algonquian languages. This language group is also referred to as "Algonquian-Ritwan" and "Wiyot-Yurok-Algonquian."

When Edward Sapir proposed that the well-established Algonquian family was genetically related to the Wiyot and Yurok languages of northern California, he applied the term Algic to this larger family. The Algic urheimat is thought to have been located in the Northwestern United States somewhere between the suspected homeland of the Algonquian branch (to the west of Lake Superior according to Goddard[4]) and the earliest known location of the Wiyot and Yurok (along the middle Columbia River according to Whistler[5]).

Classification of Algic

The genetic relation of Wiyot and Yurok to Algonquian was first proposed by Edward Sapir (1913, 1915, 1923), and argued against by Algonquianist Truman Michelson (1914, 1914, 1935). According to Lyle Campbell (1997), the relationship "has subsequently been demonstrated to the satisfaction of all."[6] This controversy in the early classification of North American languages was called the "Ritwan controversy" because Wiyot and Yurok were assigned to a genetic grouping called "Ritwan." Most specialists now reject the validity of the Ritwan genetic node.[7] Berman (1982) suggested that Wiyot and Yurok share sound changes not shared by the rest of Algic (which would be explainable by either areal diffusion or genetic relatedness); Proulx (2004) argued against Berman's conclusion of common sound changes.[1]

More recently, Sergei Nikolaev has argued in two papers for a systematic relationship between the Nivkh language of Sakhalin and the Amur river basin and the Algic languages, and a secondary relationship between these two together and the Wakashan languages.[8][9]


Main article: Proto-Algic language

See also


  1. ^ a b Berman, Howard (July 1984). "Proto-Algonquian-Ritwan Verbal Roots". International Journal of American Linguistics. 50 (3): 335–342. doi:10.1086/465840. ISSN 0020-7071. S2CID 144285942.
  2. ^ Golla, Victor (September 20, 2011). California Indian languages. Berkeley. p. 61. ISBN 9780520949522. OCLC 755008853.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ Schoolcraft 1839:12
  4. ^ Goddard 1994:207
  5. ^ Moratto 1984:540, 546, 564
  6. ^ Campbell 2000, p. 152, who cites among others Haas 1958
  7. ^ Campbell 2000, p. 152; Mithun 1999, p. 337
  8. ^ Nikolaev 2015.
  9. ^ Nikolaev 2016.


Journals and books