Native Languages of the Americas:
Abnaki-Penobscot (Abenaki Language)
Language: Abenaki-Penobscot is an Algonkian language
spoken by two related tribes, the Abenaki and the
Penobscot. Today only a handful of Canadian Abenakis
still speak the Western Abenaki language. The last fully fluent speaker of Eastern Abnaki/Penobscot has passed on, but
several Penobscot elders still speak some of the language and are working to
revive its use in the Penobscot Nation today.
Abenaki-Penobscot is a polysynthetic language with complex verbs and fairly free word order.
Names: There are two dialects of the Abenaki-Penobscot language, Abenaki and Penobscot
(also known as Western Abenaki and Eastern Abenaki.) In their own language,
Alnôbak is the original name for the Abenaki language, and Penawahpskewi is the name for
Penobscot. Other spellings include Alnobak, Alnombak, or Aln8bak (the 8 was used by Jesuit linguists to represent a
nasalized, unrounded 'o'); Abanaki, Abnaki, Abénaki, Abinaki, Abenakai, Abenaqui, Abenaquis, Abenaquise, Abenakis, or Abnakis;
and Panawahpskek, Penobscott, Old Town, or Eastern Abnaki. The Western Abenaki were also sometimes known as the St. Francis Indians, after the
Saint Francois River in Quebec (where the Abenaki First Nation of Odanak is located.) Eastern Abenaki-speaking bands included
the Caniba (Kennebec), Norridgewock, Aroosagunticook (Androscoggin), Pigwacket (Pequawket), Wawenock, and Old Town Penobscots.
Bands speaking the Western Abenaki language included the Sokoki (Sokokis), Cowasuck (Cowass), and Missisquoi (Mazipskwik).
Another group which is sometimes associated with the Abenakis is the Pennacook band, though it's not certain which language they spoke
(some people believe their language was a form of Abenaki, while others believe that it was a dialect of Wampanoag.)
People: The Abnakis and Penobscots, together with the
Passamaquoddys, and the
Mi'kmaqs, were me mbers of the
old Wabanaki Confederacy,
traditional adversaries of the Iroquois. These allies from the
eastern seaboard spoke related languages, and "Abnaki" and "Wabanaki" have the
same Algonquian root, meaning "people from the east." Today there are about 12,000 Abnakis living in
New England and Quebec (where they fled British aggression in the 1600's), and 3000 Penobscots
living primarily in Maine.
Western Abenaki Radio:
Homepage of a Native radio station airing language lessons and programs in Abenaki.
Abenaki-language MP3's can be downloaded directly from their site!
Wijokadoak: Abenaki Language Project:
This non-profit Abenaki organization runs a language learning camp for children, among other projects.
Abenaki-Penobscot Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions