Iroquoian Languages

Karin Michelson

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Iroquoian Languages

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The Iroquoian languages include Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora (the languages spoken by the People of the Longhouse or Haudenosaunee, and the nations that comprise the Iroquois Confederacy or League of the Five [Six] Nations), Huron-Wyandot, and a few lesser-known languages (e.g., Laurentian and Susquehannock or Andaste). These languages form the northern branch of the Iroquoian family, Cherokee being the sole member of the southern branch. They were among the first nations encountered by European explorers and voyagers to North America, who left some early records of the languages. Attempts to convert the Iroquois to Christianity were made by various religious orders, and some of the missionary works are outstanding in terms of their linguistic description. The languages have intriguing metrical systems, elaborate verbal morphology, large pronominal paradigms (in the order of about 60–70 pronominal prefixes), robust noun incorporation, sparse nominal morphology (and a significant number of nominals are lexicalized morphological verbs), and complex kinship terminology. Intensive work on the languages still spoken has been done by a relatively small cohort of scholars, many of whom are actively involved in programs designed to teach the languages. Some languages have a fair number of linguistic, as well as teaching, resources (e.g., Oneida) and some fewer (e.g., Cayuga). While much linguistic research in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s focused on relationships within the family and on reconstruction of Proto-Northern-Iroquoian and Proto-Iroquoian, more recent research has concentrated on explanations of structures with reference to historical developments and grammaticalization, discourse phenomena, syntax-semantics interface, and formal (universal) structures.

Article.  8621 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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