American Indian languages * American Indian tribes * American Indians for kids

Uncertain/Extinct Algonquian Languages:
Etchemin, Loup, Powhatan, Lumbee, Beothuk

So little has survived of some Amerindian languages that there is no chance of reviving them even for cultural purposes. Some cultures were eradicated by Europeans; other tribes survived but their languages were lost so long ago they were never adequately recorded; in other cases, like Etchemin and the Loup languages, we have only a few vocabulary lists and don't even know what tribe they once belonged to. (Some of these may not even have been languages at all, just words from an already-known Indian language copied down by an inexpert recorder. Some Indians, especially older women, may also have used modified "baby talk" with foreigners, which could have been mistaken for a distinct language.)

Sponsored Links

Here are the "remnant" languages considered by some or most scholars to have been Algonquian:

Beothuk: Little is known of the Beothuk language today. The Beothuk were wiped out in the 18th century, and the only remaining information about their language is vocabulary lists collected from a few Beothuks the British captured as slaves. It's possible that they intentionally gave their captors wrong or incomplete language information, or it may have just been linguistic ignorance of the Englishmen who wrote down the words; but for whatever reason, the vocabulary sets from these prisoners are small and don't match each other well. Nothing was recorded about the structure of the language at all. Many scholars believe Beothuk was an Algonquian language, possibly related to Innu. Others consider it a language isolate. It's unlikely this debate will ever be conclusively resolved due to the paucity of data. Here is some existing Beothuk vocabulary.

Etchemin: It's not certain whether there ever was an actual Etchemin language. "Etchemin" is a French corruption of an Algonquian word for "canoe," chiman, and the French indiscriminately referred to the Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and other coastal Algonquian bands as Etchemins. Most of the early "Etchemin" recordings are actually in Maliseet-Passamaquoddy. The Etchemin vocabulary that don't appear to be Maliseet-Passamaquoddy may come from an extinct Eastern Algonquian language, an extinct dialect of Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, or erroneous transcription from the (still-living) Maliseet-Passamaquoddy language. You can judge for yourself from the 17th-century Vocabulary of Etchemin, or see an online sample of the existing Etchemin vocabulary.

Loup: Similar to Etchemin, "Loup" was a French catch-all term, used for the Mohegans, Mahicans, Massachusetts, Nipmucs, and other Algonquian-speaking Indians of New England. There are still two sets of "Loup" vocabulary that haven't been associated with a known language yet; known to linguists as Loup A and Loup B, they could be otherwise unattested extinct Eastern Algonquian languages, dialects or idiosyncratic renditions of known Eastern Algonquian languages like Mahican, or some sort of Algonquian pidgin or trade language. Here is some existing Loup A and Loup B vocabulary.

Lumbee (Croatan): The language most commonly called 'Lumbee' was an Algonquian language also known as Croatan or Pamlico (though the ancestors of the modern-day Lumbee Indians also included speakers of Iroquoian and Siouan languages, including Tuscarora and Cheraw.) English quickly became the dominant language of the Lumbee tribe, due to intermarriage with early English colonists, and the original Pamlico and Cheraw languages died out with little trace. Here is some existing Lumbee vocabulary. The Roanoke vocabularies are also available for purchase.

Powhatan (Virginia Algonquian): There may actually have been more than one language used in the short-lived Powhatan Empire, but none survived past the 18th century. The Powhatan language that historical figures John Smith and William Strachey recorded vocabulary from was definitely an Eastern Algonquian language, related to Lenape (Delaware). Here is some existing Powhatan vocabulary. You can also purchase the Powhatan vocabularies of Strachey and Smith.

Quiripi (Wampano): Only a few scanty records remain of the Algonquian language once used in western Connecticut. The only one that can be readily found in libraries is Some Helps For The Indians, which is a Quiripi catechism written in the 1650's. Here is an excerpt from that text. Thomas Jefferson compiled a dictionary of the Unquachog dialect as well, but most of it was destroyed during a robbery. The language was probably closely related to Mohican.

Return to the Algonquian Indian languages
Go back to the Amerindian language homepage
Go back to Native American History and Culture

Indian art * Indian clothing * Loup-garou legend * Lac Naskapi * Tribes of Quebec

Would you like to support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?

Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2020 * Contacts and FAQ page