Algonquin language

Last updated
Native to Canada
Region Quebec and into Ontario.
Native speakers
3,330 (2016 census) [1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 alq
Glottolog algo1255 [2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

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.

Algonquian languages subfamily of Native American languages

The Algonquian languages are a subfamily of Native American languages which includes most of the languages in the Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the indigenous Ojibwe language (Chippewa), which is a senior member of the Algonquian language family. The term "Algonquin" has been suggested to derive from the Maliseet word elakómkwik, "they are our relatives/allies". A number of Algonquian languages, like many other Native American languages, are now extinct.

Ojibwe language language

Ojibwe, also known as Ojibwa, Ojibway or Otchipwe, is an indigenous language of North America of the Algonquian language family. The language is characterized by a series of dialects that have local names and frequently local writing systems. There is no single dialect that is considered the most prestigious or most prominent, and no standard writing system that covers all dialects.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.



Sign at La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve in French, Algonquin and English. The Algonquin text "Manadjitodan kakina kegon netawigig kakina e-dashiyag" literally translates to "Be gentle with all things of nature for everyone." Panneau algonquin.jpg
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."

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 Anicinàbe ("Anishinaabe"), the Ojibwe call them Odishkwaagamii (those at the end of the lake). Among the Algonquins, however, the Nipissing are called Otickwàgamì (the Algonquin orthography for the Ojibwe Odishkwaagamii) and their language as Otickwàgamìmowin. The rest of the Algonquin communities call themselves Omàmiwininiwak (down-stream men), and the language Omàmiwininìmowin (speech of the down-stream men).

Proto-Algonquian is the proto-language from which the various Algonquian languages are descended. It is generally estimated to have been spoken around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, but on the question of where it was spoken, there is less agreement. The Algonquian family, which is a branch of the larger Algic language family, is usually divided into three subgroups: Eastern Algonquian, which is a genetic subgroup, and Central Algonquian and Plains Algonquian, both of which are areal groupings. In the historical linguistics of North America, Proto-Algonquian is one of the best studied, most thoroughly reconstructed proto-languages. It is descended from Proto-Algic.

Anishinaabe Indigenous ethnic groups of the U.S. and Canada

Anishinaabe is the autonym for a group of culturally related indigenous peoples in what are now Canada and the United States. These include the Odawa, Saulteaux, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, and Algonquin peoples. The Anishinaabe speak Anishinaabemowin, or Anishinaabe languages that belong to the Algonquian language family. They historically lived in the Northeast Woodlands and Subarctic.

Other than 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 the Anishinaabe language but now is considered a separate language. Culturally, the Algonquin and the Mississaugas were not part of the Ojibwe–Odawa–Potawatomi alliance known as the Council of Three Fires. The Algonquins maintained stronger cultural ties with the Abenaki, Atikamekw and Cree.

Mississauga City in Ontario, Canada

Mississauga is a city in the Canadian province of Ontario and a suburb of Toronto. It is situated on the shores of Lake Ontario in the Regional Municipality of Peel, bordering Toronto. With a population of 721,599 as of the 2016 census, Mississauga is the sixth-most populous municipality in Canada, third-most in Ontario, and second-most in the Greater Toronto Area.

Potawatomi is a Central Algonquian language. It was historically spoken by the Pottawatomi people who lived around the Great Lakes in what are now Michigan and Wisconsin in the United States, and in southern Ontario in Canada. Federally recognized tribes in Michigan and Oklahoma are working to revive the language.

Mississaugas subtribe of the First Nations people in southern Ontario, Canada

The Mississauga are a subtribe of the Anishinaabe-speaking First Nations people located in southern Ontario, Canada. They are closely related to the Ojibwe. The name "Mississauga" comes from the Anishinaabe word Misi-zaagiing, meaning "[Those at the] Great River-mouth." It is closely related to the Ojibwe word Misswezahging, which means ‘a river with many outlets.’

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 Blackfoot language, also called Siksiká, , often anglicised as Siksika, is an Algonquian language spoken by the Blackfoot or Niitsitapi people, who currently live in the northwestern plains of North America. There are four dialects, three of which are spoken in Alberta, Canada, and one of which is spoken in the United States: Siksiká (Blackfoot), to the southeast of Calgary, Alberta; Kainai, spoken in Alberta between Cardston and Lethbridge; Aapátohsipikani, to the west of Fort MacLeod; and Aamsskáápipikani, in northwestern Montana. The name Blackfoot probably comes from the blackened soles of the leather shoes that the people wore.

Cheyenne language Native American language spoken by the Cheyenne people, predominantly in present-day Montana and Oklahoma in the United States

The Cheyenne language, is the Native American language spoken by the Cheyenne people, predominantly in present-day Montana and Oklahoma, in the United States. It is part of the Algonquian language family. Like all other Algonquian languages, it has complex agglutinative morphology. This language is considered endangered, at different levels, in both states.

Cree language Algonquian language spoken by people across Canada, from the Northwest Territories and Alberta to Labrador, making it the aboriginal language with the highest number of speakers in Canada

Cree is a dialect continuum of Algonquian languages spoken by approximately 117,000 people across Canada, from the Northwest Territories to Alberta to Labrador. If classified as one language, it is the aboriginal language with the highest number of speakers in Canada. The only region where Cree has any official status is in the Northwest Territories, alongside eight other aboriginal languages. There, Cree is spoken mainly in Fort Smith and Hay River.

The northern Algonquin 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 km as the crow flies.


There are several dialects of the Algonquin language. Speakers at Maniwaki consider their language to be Algonquin, though linguistically it is a dialect of Eastern Ojibwa.



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

A phoneme is one of the units of sound that distinguish one word from another in a particular language.

Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Glottal
Plosive voiced b [b]d [d]g [ɡ]
voiceless p [p]t [t]k [k]'[ʔ]
aspirated p [pʰ]t [tʰ]k [kʰ]
Affricate voiceddj [note 1]  [d͡ʒ]
voicelesstc [note 2]  [t͡ʃ]
Fricative voicedz [z]j [note 3]  [ʒ]
voicelesss [s]c [note 4]  [ʃ]h [h]
Nasal m [m]n [n]
Approximant w [note 5]  [w]y [j]
  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).

Aspiration and allophony

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]

Allophone Sounds considered the same in a language

In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or phones, or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. For example, in English, and the aspirated form are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in some languages such as Thai and Hindi. On the other hand, in Spanish, and are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in English.




  • aw[aw]
  • ay[aj]
  • ew[ew]
  • ey[ej]
  • iw[ew]
  • ow[ow]

Nasal vowels

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, ng, 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 it doesn't). 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

Related Research Articles

Canadian Aboriginal syllabics

Canadian syllabic writing, or simply syllabics, is a family of abugidas created by James Evans to write a number of indigenous Canadian languages of the Algonquian, Inuit, and (formerly) Athabaskan language families, of which had no formal writing system previously. They are valued for their distinctiveness from the Latin script of the dominant languages and for the ease with which literacy can be achieved; indeed, by the late 19th century the Cree had achieved what may have been one of the highest rates of literacy in the world.


In Anishinaabe aadizookaan, particularly among the Ojibwe, Nanabozho[nɐˌnɐbʊˈʒʊ] also known as Nanabush is a spirit, and figures prominently in their storytelling, including the story of the world's creation. Nanabozho is the Ojibwe trickster figure and culture hero.

Atikamekw, which the endonym is Atikamekw Nehiromowin, literally the "Atikamekw Native language", is an Algonquian language, Cree, is the language of the Atikamekw people of southwestern Quebec. It is spoken by nearly all the Atikamekw, and therefore it is among the indigenous languages least threatened with extinction according to some studies. The Atikamekw reflex of Proto-Algonquian liquid *l is. The corresponding sound in other Cree dialects is, ,, or. Another way in which Atikamekw is distinctive among dialects of Cree is in having many loanwords from the Anishinaabe language.

Gitche Manitou Algonquian language term for Great Spirit and later for God by Christian missionaries

Gitche Manitou means "Great Spirit" in several Algonquian languages. Christian missionaries have translated God as Gitche Manitou in scriptures and prayers in the Algonquian languages.

Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics is a writing system for several Algonquian languages that emerged during the nineteenth century and whose existence was first noted in 1880. It was originally used near the Great Lakes: Fox, Sac, and Kickapoo, in addition to Potawatomi. Use of the script was subsequently extended to the Siouan language Ho-Chunk. Use of the Great Lakes script has also been attributed to speakers of the Ottawa dialect of the Ojibwe language, but supporting evidence is weak.

The phonology of the Ojibwe language varies from dialect to dialect, but all varieties share common features. Ojibwe is an indigenous language of the Algonquian language family spoken in Canada and the United States in the areas surrounding the Great Lakes, and westward onto the northern plains in both countries, as well as in northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec. The article on Ojibwe dialects discusses linguistic variation in more detail, and contains links to separate articles on each dialect. There is no standard language and no dialect that is accepted as representing a standard. Ojibwe words in this article are written in the practical orthography commonly known as the Double vowel system.

The Ojibwe language is an Algonquian American Indian language spoken throughout the Great Lakes region and westward onto the northern plains. It is one of the largest American Indian languages north of Mexico in terms of number of speakers, and exhibits a large number of divergent dialects. For the most part, this article describes the Minnesota variety of the Southwestern dialect. The orthography used is the Fiero Double-Vowel System.

Ojibwe writing systems

Ojibwe is an indigenous language of North America from the Algonquian language family. Ojibwe is one of the largest Native American languages north of Mexico in terms of number of speakers and is characterized by a series of dialects, some of which differ significantly. The dialects of Ojibwe are spoken in Canada from southwestern Quebec, through Ontario, Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan, with outlying communities in Alberta and British Columbia, and in the United States from Michigan through Wisconsin and Minnesota, with a number of communities in North Dakota and Montana, as well as migrant groups in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language is the indigenous name for a dialect of the Ojibwe language spoken in a series of Oji-Cree communities in northern Ontario and at Island Lake, Manitoba, Canada. Ojibwa is a member of the Algonquian language family, itself a member of the Algic language family.

The Ojibwe language is spoken in a series of dialects occupying adjacent territories, forming a language complex in which mutual intelligibility between adjacent dialects may be comparatively high but declines between some non-adjacent dialects. Mutual intelligibility between some non-adjacent dialects, notably Ottawa, Severn Ojibwe, and Algonquin, is low enough that they could be considered distinct languages. There is no single dialect that is considered the most prestigious or most prominent, and no standard writing system that covers all dialects. The relative autonomy of the regional dialects of Ojibwe is associated with an absence of linguistic or political unity among Ojibwe-speaking groups.

The Central Algonquian languages are commonly grouped together as a subgroup of the larger Algonquian family, itself a member of the Algic family. Though the grouping is often encountered in the literature, it is an areal grouping, not a genetic grouping. In other words, the languages are grouped together because they were spoken near one another, not because they are more closely related to one another than to other Algonquian languages. Within the Algonquian family, only Eastern Algonquian is a valid genealogical group.

Western Ojibwa is a dialect of the Ojibwe language, a member of the Algonquian language family. It is spoken by the Saulteaux, a sub-Nation of the Ojibwe people, in southern Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan, Canada, westward from Lake Winnipeg. Saulteaux is the generally used term by its speakers while Nakawēmowin is the general term in the language itself.

Ottawa is a dialect of the Ojibwe language spoken in a series of communities in southern Ontario and a smaller number of communities in northern Michigan. Ottawa has a phonological inventory of seventeen consonants and seven oral vowels; in addition, there are long nasal vowels the phonological status of which are discussed below. An overview of general Ojibwa phonology and phonetics can be found in the article on Ojibwe phonology. The Ottawa writing system described in Modern orthography is used to write Ottawa words, with transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) used as needed.

The Nipissing dialect of Ojibwe is spoken in the area of Lake Nipissing in Ontario. Representative communities in the Nipissing dialect area are Golden Lake, although the language is moribund at that location, and Maniwaki, Quebec. Although speakers of Ojibwe in the community of Kitigan Zibi at Maniwaki, Québec self-identify as Algonquin, the language spoken there is Nipissing. Maniwaki speakers were among those who migrated from Oka, Quebec. Similarly, the nineteenth-century missionary Grammaire de la language algonquine describes Nipissing speech.

The phonology of the Massachusett language was re-introduced to the Mashpee, Aquinnah, Herring Pond and Assonet tribes that participate in the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, co-founded by Jessie Little Doe Baird in 1993. The phonology is based regular sound changes that took place in the development of Proto-Eastern Algonquian from Proto-Algonquian, as well as cues in the colonial orthography regarding pronunciation, as the writing system was based on English pronunciation and spelling conventions in use at the time, keeping in mind differences in late seventeenth century English versus today. Other resources included information from extant Algonquian languages with native speakers.


  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.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Algonquin". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Statistics Canada, 2006.
  4. 1 2 3 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