Iroquoian
Geographic
distribution
eastern North America
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Proto-languageProto-Iroquoian
Subdivisions
ISO 639-2 / 5iro
Glottologiroq1247
Iroquoian langs.png
Pre-European contact distribution of the Iroquoian languages.

The Iroquoian languages are a language family of indigenous peoples of North America. They are known for their general lack of labial consonants. The Iroquoian languages are polysynthetic and head-marking.[1]

As of 2020, all surviving Iroquoian languages are severely or critically endangered, with only a few elderly speakers remaining. The two languages with the most speakers, Mohawk in New York and Cherokee, are spoken by less than 10% of the populations of their tribes.[2][3]

Labeled map showing pre-contact distribution of the Iroquoian languages
Labeled map showing pre-contact distribution of the Iroquoian languages

Family division

Northern Iroquoian
Lake Iroquoian
Iroquois Proper
Seneca (severely endangered)
Cayuga (severely endangered)
Onondaga (severely endangered)
Susquehannock/Conestoga (†)
Mohawk–Oneida
Oneida (severely endangered)
Mohawk
Huronian (†)
Huron-Wyandot (†)
Petun (Tobacco) (†)
Tuscarora–Nottoway (†)
Tuscarora (†)
Nottoway (†)
Unclear
Wenrohronon/Wenro (†)
Neutral (†)
Erie (†)
Laurentian (†)
Southern Iroquoian:
Cherokee language
Cherokee (South Carolina-Georgia Dialect) (Also known as Lower Dialect) (†)
Cherokee (North Carolina Dialect) (Also known as Middle or Kituwah Dialect) (severely endangered)
Cherokee (Oklahoma Dialect) (Also known as Overhill or Western Dialect) (definitely endangered)

(†) — language extinct/dormant

Evidence is emerging that what has been called the Laurentian language appears to be more than one dialect or language.[4] Ethnographic and linguistic field work with the Wyandot tribal elders (Barbeau 1960) yielded enough documentation for scholars to characterize and classify the Huron and Petun languages.

The languages of the tribes that constituted the tiny Wenrohronon,[a] the powerful Conestoga Confederacy and the confederations of the Neutral Nation and the Erie Nation are very poorly documented in print. The Neutral were called Atiwandaronk, meaning 'they who understand the language' by the Huron (Wyandot people). They are historically grouped together, and geographically the Wenro's range on the eastern end of Lake Erie placed them between the larger confederations. To the east of the Wenro, beyond the Genesee Gorge, were the lands of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and southeast, beyond the headwaters of the Allegheny River, lay the Conestoga (Susquehannocks).[5] The Conestoga Confederacy and Erie were militarily powerful and respected by neighboring tribes.[5] By 1660 all of these peoples but the Conestoga Confederacy and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy were defeated and scattered, migrating to form new tribes or adopted into others—the practice of adopting valiant enemies into the tribe was a common cultural tradition of the Iroquoian peoples.[5]

The group known as the Meherrin were neighbors to the Tuscarora and the Nottoway (Binford 1967) in the American South and may have spoken an Iroquoian language. There is not enough data to determine this with certainty.

External relationships

Attempts to link the Iroquoian, Siouan, and Caddoan languages in a Macro-Siouan family are suggestive but remain unproven (Mithun 1999:305).

Linguistics and language revitalization

As of 2012, a program in Iroquois linguistics at Syracuse University, the Certificate in Iroquois Linguistics for Language Learners, is designed for students and language teachers working in language revitalization.[6][7]

Six Nations Polytechnic in Ohsweken, Ontario offers Ogwehoweh language Diploma and Degree Programs in Mohawk or Cayuga.[8]

Starting in September 2017, the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario started offering a credit course in Mohawk; the classes are to be given at Renison University College in collaboration with the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre, St. Paul's University College.[9]


See also

Notes

  1. ^ Historical examination of the Jesuits records suggest that, following the Seneca conquest of Oil Spring in 1638, the Wenro may have had as few as three villages sandwiched between Buffalo & Rochester (i.e., between the Niagara and Genesee Rivers).[5]

References

  1. ^ Mithun, Marianne. "Grammaticalization and Polysynthesis: Iroquoian" (PDF). Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 14, 2020. Retrieved June 8, 2015. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". unesco.org. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  3. ^ "Iroquoian Languages". languagegeek.com. February 22, 2008. Archived from the original on February 23, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  4. ^ "Laurentian Language and the Laurentian Indian Tribe (Stadaconan, Kwedech, Hochelagan)". www.native-languages.org. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Editor: Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., by The editors of American Heritage Magazine (1961). pages 188-219 (ed.). The American Heritage Book of Indians. American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. LCCN 61-14871. ((cite encyclopedia)): |author= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Certificate in Iroquois Linguistics for Language Learners". University College. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  7. ^ Gale Courey Toensing (September 2, 2012). "Iroquois Linguistics Certificate at Syracuse University Comes at Important Time for Native Languages". Indian Country Today Media Network. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  8. ^ "University Program". Six Nations Polytechnic. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  9. ^ Bueckert, Kate (August 17, 2017). "Mohawk language course to be offered for 1st time at UW". CBC News. Retrieved August 17, 2017.

Bibliography

Further reading