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Native Languages of the Americas:
Lenape (Unami, Delaware, Lenni Lenape)

Language: Lenape or Unami Delaware is an Algonquian language originally spoken in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. There are no fully fluent speakers of Lenape Delaware anymore, but the younger generation of Lenapes has undergone a resurgence of interest in reviving the Delaware language. Southern Delaware or Nanticoke, last spoken in the mid-1800's, and Munsee Delaware, still spoken by elders in Ontario, are considered distinct languages by most linguists because the different groups of Delawares could not easily understand each other. Today, however, some Lenape language activists are trying to combine the Unami and Munsee languages into a single Delaware language to improve its chances of survival. Lenape is a polysynthetic language with complex verb structure and fairly free word order.

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Names: Historically, the Lenape were most often known as the Delaware Indians, after the colonial name for the Delaware River where the tribe was first encountered.) Their own name for themselves, Lenape, comes from the word for "people" and is spelled a few different ways including Lenapé, Lenápë, and Lenapi. In some books, they are referred to as the Lenni Lenape (also spelled Lëni Lenapë, Lene Lenape, Lenne Lanape, end other ways), which means "ordinary people." The Lenape language is also known as Unami Delaware, to distinguish it from the closely related language Munsee Delaware. A third historical Delaware language, Unalachtigo, was not well recorded and was probably a dialect of Unami/Lenape.

People: The Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians are often said to be extinct. This is not true--there are 11,000 Lenape people in Oklahoma, where they were sent by the US government (which only recently stopped incorrectly classifying them as Cherokees), and another 5000 Lenape Indian descendents in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There are also 3000 Munsee Delawares in Ontario and Wisconsin, and around 1000 Nanticokes in Delaware.

History: Indian oral traditions call the Lenape homeland the original birthplace of the Algonquian tribes, and the Lenape tribe was called "grandfather" by other Algonquian Indian nations on account of this. However, the "walum olum," purported to be a pictographic history of the Lenape people, begins with the Lenapes migrating south from Labrador. Whichever version is correct, by the time of European colonization, the Lenape Indians had been settled in the Delaware River area for centuries. But the Lenapes, like many Native Americans, were decimated by European diseases, and the survivors were driven west by first British and then American expansion. Most Lenape Indians were eventually forced to relocate to Oklahoma in the 1860's, where they entered an uneasy union with the Cherokee Nation and regained independent tribal status only in 1996. Other Lenape bands remained scattered in their own traditional lands or along the westward routes, where their descendents still live today. There are two Lenni-Lenape tribes recognized by the state of New Jersey, and one by the state of Delaware.

Lenape Language Resources
Delaware Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Lenape Delaware History and Culture
Related links about the Delaware tribe past and present.

Lenni Lenape Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to frequently asked questions about the Delaware Indians.

Lenape Legends
Introduction to Lenape Indian mythology.

Lenape Language Resources

Our Online Lenape Language Materials

Lenape Vocabulary:
    List of vocabulary words in the Lenape language, compared to words in other Algonquian languages.
Lenape Pronunciation Guide:
    How to pronounce Lenape words.
Lenape Animal Words:
    Illustrated glossary of animal words in the Lenape language.
Lenape Body Parts:
    Online and printable worksheets showing parts of the body in the Lenape Delaware language.
Lenape Colors:
    Worksheet showing color words in the Lenape language.
Lenape Numbers:
    Worksheet showing how to count in Lenape.
Lenape Foods:
    Worksheet with pictures of food words in the Lenape language.
Lenape Animate Nouns:
    Lesson on Lenape animate and inanimate nouns.
Lenape Possession:
    Lesson on the use of Lenape possessive prefixes.

Lenape Dictionaries, Audio Tapes and Language Materials For Sale
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Western Oklahoma Delaware * Leni Lenape Language Programs * Lenape Language Course:
    Lenape language-learning audio courses.
A Vocabulary of New Jersey Delaware * An Ancient New Jersey Indian Jargon:
    Denny's Delaware Vocabulary * Cummings' Delaware Vocabulary:
    English-Lenape dictionaries.
Handbook of the Delaware Indian Language:
    Lene Lenape grammar book.
A Vocabulary of the Unami Jargon:
    Dictionary of the old Delaware trade pidgin.
Legends of the Delaware Indians:
    Collection of tribal stories in Lenape and English.
Native American Language Dictionaries:
    Lenape and other American Indian dictionaries and language books.

Lenape Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions

Lenape Indian Language:
    Pronunciation guide and overview of the Lenape language.
Delaware Alphabet:
    Phonological inventory of the Unami Delaware language, with a sample text.
Hello Oklahoma: Lenape Tribe:
    Lenape alphabet, greeting, and sample text.
Unami Language Tree:
    Theories about Delaware language relationships compiled by Linguist List.
Unami Language Structures:
    Unami Delaware linguistic profile and academic bibliography.

Lenape Glossaries and Sound Files

Talking Lenape Dictionary:
    Online English-Lenape dictionary lookup.
Lenape-English Dictionary:
    Lenape glossary of words.
Lenape Names for Birds:
    Picture dictionary of eastern birds with their Lenape names.
Lenape Words and Phrases * Lenape Language Lessons:
    Audio phrasebooks from Nora Thomson Dean's Lenape language cassettes.

Literature and Texts in the Lenape Language

Lenape "Silent Night":
    Lenape translation of the Christmas song.
Lenape Language Prayer:
    A Lenape prayer and several wordlists.
Language Museum: Unami:
    Lenape Delaware language sample.
Canadian Human Rights Tribute: Lenape:
    Plaque written in the Delaware Indian language.

Lenape Language Preservation and Usage

Triathlon for the Delaware Language:
    Story of a Lenape woman raising money for the revival of the Lenape language.
Lenape Language Project Preserving Tapes:
    Article on the Delaware Tribe's efforts to preserve the Lenape language.
Vanishing voice of the Lenape:
    Munsee and Unami Delaware language loss and maintenance.
House of Languages: Unami:
    Information about Unami language usage.
    Demographic information about Unami Delaware from the Ethnologue of Languages.

Lenape Proper Names

Delaware Indian Placenames:
    Chart of Lenne Lenape place names in the United States.
Lenape Voices:
    New Jersey Lenape Indian map with sound clips of the native names of various locations.
Indian Dog Names:
    Our new fundraiser offering names for dogs and other animals in Native American languages (including Lenape).

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Additional Lenape Resources

   Lenape Delaware Language:
   Bibliography of Lenape language-learning materials.
   Lenape Language:
   Encyclopedia articles about the Delaware language.
   Lenape language links.
   Lengua Delaware:
   Information about the Delaware language in Spanish.

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