What is the Language?
ALGONQUIN < LENAPE > OLD NORSE
According to some authorities (Cunliffe 2003), about 6,000 years ago the sea peoples language may have been nearly the same near the Atlantic shores from the eastern end of the Mediterranean, through the arc of the north Atlantic, to the narrows of Panama. There is evidence (Jewell, 2004) that, about 4,500 years ago, more than fifty large ships made voyages around the Atlantic every year.
About 880 years ago the name "Lenape" appears in the Genesis portion of the Maalan Aarum, one of the oldest histories of America. Historical records indicate that the Genesis portion of the Maalan Aarum may have been created by Roman Catholic Bishop Eric Gnuppson about 1121.
So Lenape is the oldest name for the language of the North Atlantic.
In 1350 the Lenape walked away from Greenland.
To the east of Greenland, the language developed in the relative isolation of Iceland. When European style writing became available in Iceland, the language was recorded into dictionaries. It was called "Old Norse" by the Europeans. So, today, the most precise definitions for Lenape words may be found in Old Norse dictionaries.
To the west of Greenland the Lenape used oral stanzas to record history.
The oral accents changed depending of the voices of the people that intermarried with the Lenape along a 4,000 mile migration route. As the Lenape migrated more than 25 tribes evolved from the main Lenape group. Each tribe developed its own accents and used new borrowed words from the neighbors. Some meanings for the same sounds deviated from the original Lenape.
About 1650, the French began to study the Algonquin tribe near Montreal. Then the Europeans and EurAmericans used the word "Algonquin" to label most the language of most Lenape tribes and several sea people's languages. Although the language of the sea people's descendants in America is called "Algonquin," their language did derive from Lenape speaking people.
In this web site languages will be labeled as follows,
Lenape = Lenape language and the language for the 25, or more, tribes that evolved from Lenape, including Old Norse.
Algonquin = the other "Algonquin" languages and where necessary for accurate quotations of authors, who did not know about the Lenape history. The word "Algonquin" was used in this web site until about 2010. Older web site text will not be changed.
Old Norse = the modern precise definitions of Lenape.
Linguistic Evidence For:
Lenape (aka Algonquin) and the Old Norse Language
Roger Williams, in his book, Key to the Indian Language, 1644, had no trouble believing the Algonquins were speaking Norse, he wrote:
"There are two kinds of Old Norse. One is called "Gamle-Norsk" (Old Norse); the still older language is called "Ur-Norsk" (Primitive Norse). By marking the various words used by several tribes it should be possible to determine when each Norse settlement was made in America. I am in hopes it may be possible to do this at some future date, as it would give an idea how long the Norsemen did travel to these shores. It appears from my translations that such migrations continued into the fourteenth century or to the time of the Black Death."
(Sherwin, the Viking and the Redman, 1940, p. 338)
Sherwin had no problem believing Algonquin words had Norse roots. He grew up speaking a dialect similar to Old Norse in remote Norway. After migrating to northeast North America, he was surprised to recognize that many Indian place names, when spoken out loud, described the land he was seeing. Sherwin compared over 15,000 phrases with Old Norse roots to Algonquin words.
In The VIKING and the RED MAN Sherwin wrote in the preface to Vol. 4, of The Viking and the Red Man, "...the Algonquin language is Old Norse... The truth cannot be successfully attacked."
(Sherwin, the Viking and the Redman, Volumes 1-7, 1940-1953)
For example, Sherwin recognized Algonquin "Agawam" as "marsh." There were six "Agawam" place names in Massachusetts. Early Europeans defined three of them as "ground overflowed by water," two of them were defined as "marsh," and one had no definition.
Stromsted also could speak a dialect similar to Old Norse, because her parents sent her to a remote island for safety during World War II. She added to the list of northeast North American place names that had Norse roots. For example, she thought "Massachusetts" meant "The land of many hills."
The Algonquin language must have been close to Old Norse because some Algonquin words can still be translated using a modern Norwegian dictionary. "Quebec" and "tomahak" are two examples.