Algonquian Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Algonquian Languages


one of the major language families of the North American Indians. Since most Algon-quian tribes have been exterminated, the Algonquian languages are now spoken only in a few places in the United States and Canada, mainly in the Great Lakes region and farther south.

The Algonquian language family consists of five groups: the languages of the Blackfoot Indians; Cheyenne; Arapaho; the central and eastern groups; and the California group. The central and eastern groups, which are the most widespread, include the Algonquian language proper, Ojibway,Ottawa (in the region of lakes Superior and Huron), Cree (in Labrador), Delaware (in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey), Fox (in the Mississippi Valley), and the extinct languages of the Mohicans, Massachusetts, and other tribes. The Black-foot languages are spoken in Canada, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and northern Montana; Cheyenne in southeastern Minnesota and northeastern South Dakota; and Arapaho in eastern North Dakota and southern Montana. The California group is represented by two languages—Wiyot and Yurok.

The grammar of the Algonquian languages is characterized by polysynthesism: word elements which correspond to secondary members of a sentence and depend on a predicate are combined to form morphs (the smallest units of language that have meaning). The resulting word is the equivalent of a sentence.


Boas, F. Handbook of American Indian Languages, part 1. Washington, 1911.
Pilling, J. C. Bibliography of the Algonquian Languages. Washington, 1891.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.