Linguistic Evidence Against:
Lenape/Algonquin and Old Norse
The renowned American linguist Leonard Bloomfield wrote a precedent setting book, Language, in 1933. The book truly demonstrated his overall knowledge of languages. He knew many languages, including two Algonquin tongues in depth, and Scandinavian languages including Old Norse. He used many examples of both in his book. Bloomfield, by his own examples in the book, knew Algonquin pronouns and Old Norse pronouns, including the reflexive pronouns.
In Language Bloomfield explains how an original language, for example, Latin, can influence the language of near-by cultures and how different sounding words in two diverse languages, such as Old Norse and Spanish, could be traced back to the root language. Bloomfield gave several examples to show how the different words from different Algonquin tribes can be analyzed to yield a prototype word, which can be assumed to be similar to the original language. Bloomfield is a respected pioneer of the techniques still practiced by modern linguists.
The renowned American linguist Leonard Bloomfield who is the first one who showed that the methods of historical-comparative linguistics work for establishing language families when the only evidence available are modern languages. He did so by working out the Algonquian language family (the article was published in 1946). Prof. Bloomfield was trained as a Germanist. If there had been anything to note about the relationship between anything Germanic and anything Algonquian, Bloomfield would have noted it. He didn't.
(Dr. Richard Rhodes, 2004)
Critique of Bloomfield:
With Bloomfield having all those language credentials, there remains a puzzle. For many examples, he cited Algonquin "words," which are really Norse phrases with a main Norse word used with Norse pronouns, adjectives, and other words. Why did he not recognize that the core Algonquin syllables were free form Norse words? A 1999 Norwegian "...pocket dictionary for tourists..." (Gabrielsen) lists twenty-two Norse words with similar sounds and meanings for thirty-six Algonquin words used by Bloomfield for examples. When Old Norse dictionaries are used, thirty-four Norse words (94%) appear to be equivalent to Algonquin words. So the data do show there is something "to note about the relationship" between Norse and Algonquian languages. But Bloomfield did not note it. Because he did not note the relationship does not "prove" the evidence was not there. The evidence is still there, supporting a hypothesis that Bloomfield overlooked the relationship between the Algonquin and Old Norse languages. On the following pages are Bloomfield's chosen Algonquin "words," (really phrases). They are compared to the equivalent primary Norse word. The pronouns and adjectives that Bloomfield, and others, incorporated into the "root" Algonquin "word" have not been defined here for simplicity. Why did Bloomfield not recognize that he was dealing with Algonquin phrases and that the core Algonquin syllables were really Norse words?
From the forward of biography of Edward Sapir:
"Edward Sapir was one of those rare men ... who are spoken of by their colleagues in terms of genius. His talents were manifest in many fields, in none more brilliantly and effective than in linguistics. Sapir wrote, at least, 274 papers, books, or reviews."
(Mandelbaum, 1949 Bibliography)
"The other major early 20th century American linguist who concerned himself with distant relationships between language families was Edward Sapir. Again, he has been shown to have had remarkable insight into which language families were related to one another. "
(Dr. Richard Rhodes, 2004)
"... Edward Sapir ... had remarkable insight into which language families were related to one another. At no time did he even vaguely consider any European language family to be even remotely related to any North American language family.
Sapir's forerunner Franz Boaz, sent students out to document native languages and in the process look for possible connections between Old World and New World languages. None panned out."
(Dr. Richard Rhodes, 2004)
Critique of Sapir:
Although Sapir was regarded as a linguistic genius and although he spent fifteen (15) years in Ottawa, Canada, his focus of study was on the tribes of the North American West Coast.
Comment: Thus, the Lenape/Algonquin languages of Northeast America were not Sapir's focus of interest. Given his lack of study on the topic, he could not have made definitive judgement on the Lenape/Algonquin - Old Norse hypothesis. He wrote four papers (1.4%) about the West Coast Algonquin tribes. He wrote two papers (0.7%) on western plains Algonquins. He wrote one paper (0.35%) evaluating the Nordic race superiority. To believe he would have indentified the relationship between Lenape/Algonquin - Old Norse, without intensive study, is an attempt to turn a genius into a god. Because Sapir did not catch the relationship only proves that his focus was on other things.
One man, Sherwin, spent more than sixteen years of his life focused only on the hypothesis that the Lenape/Algonquin language was Old Norse. Even though he spoke a lanugage similar to Old Norse and became interested in the Lenape/Algonquin language by what he heard, he studied for eight more years before he could declare with assurance that the relationship was true.
Frank Boaz was born on July 9, 1858 at Minden, Germany. He studied at Heidelberg and Bonn Universities before going to Kiel, where, at the age of 23, he was awarded the Degree of Philosophy. ... But it was his minor, geography, that most influenced his later career, ... They led him logically ... to the new discipline of anthropology.
He studied Eskimos and Indians of Northwest Pacific Coast of North America. He worked at Berlin Ethnological Museum, Science (NY), Clark University, World Columbian University, Field Museum (Chicago), American Museum of Natural History (NY), and Columbia University.
Publications included the Mind of the Primitive Man, Primitive Art, Anthropology and Modern Life, and Race, Language, and Culture.
Critique of Boaz:
Comment: Comment: Dr. Boaz was a talented busy man who did not focus on the Norse or the Algonquins. But the following paragraph covers some of his views on language.
"These two phenomena--retention of type with change of language and retention of language with change of type--apparently opposed to each other--often go hand in hand. An example is the distribution of the Arabs along the north coast of Africa. On the whole, the Arab element has retained its language, but at the same time intermarriages with the native races were common, so that the descendants of the Arabs have retained their old [Arab] language and have changed their type. On the other hand, the natives have to a certain extent given up their own languages, but have continued to intermarry among themselves, and have thus preserved their type."(Boaz, 1963, p. 140-1)
Comment: If Boaz had focused his attention on the Norse and Lenape/Algonquin, he probably would have written a similar paragraph substituting "Norse" for "Arab" and "Lenape" or "Algonquin" for "native." Dr. Boaz' written testimony is more in favor of the Norse language transfer to the Algonquin culture than evidence that the transfer of language never happened.