I read this not to intimately learn the Unami language, but to get a general idea of it before learning it in depth.
This book is about the Unami Lenape language. It was spoken by the Lenape people indigenous to the mid-Atlantic area, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. After forced relocations, most of them are now located in Oklahoma. The last speaker of Unami passed away in 2002, more than 20 years today.
He is a linguist who wrote this grammarian with the assistance of the Delaware Nation in Oklahoma.
How Does It Hold Up…?
One of the themes throughout this grammar book is the fact that Goddard constantly mentions the orthography that Ira Blanchard used when transcribing the Unami language. The purpose of Goddard’s orthography is to make the language as understandable as possible.
Another theme is how the vowels tend to condense when the word enters into a state of inflection. This is done in order to make the sentence sound fluid in its agglutinative state.
There are key words that truly tie the Unami language together. One such word is the word meaning “so,” but is used in a variety of contexts. Words such as that, like “not” and “there,” are typically placed at the beginning of the sentence.
There are also verbs that are causative in such a way that they represent an entirely new meaning or borrow roughly from the original English word.
It includes loanwords from English, Dutch, and Swedish. This has to do with the early colonial period in New Jersey, when these colonies introduced new animals and objects into Lenape life and language. Some introductions include chickens, paper, britches, and shirts.
The entire book also makes use of the biblical translation into Unami, which makes sense considering how a missionary was the one who first transcribed the language. As such, there are a lot of words for “to bless, “kingdom,” and “salvation.”
As it relates to other languages, I will say that like Shoshone, it differentiates between the [uh] and [aw] distinctly. It also has an agglutinative quality to it, differentiating between male and female speech. I also find similarities with German with not just the diacritics, but also the way the verbs are conjugated.
As for the word for “so,” I can definitely see how this would provide a perfect way to translate Shakespeare’s plays. Indeed, it was possible to translate the Bible, so it would be easy to translate the Early Modern English of William Shakespeare’s time.
…How Is The Rhetoric?
It is written in such a way that Goddard is carrying on the work of linguists past in deciphering the Unami language. As dense as it is, I got the feeling that Goddard wanted to correct the mistakes of past linguistics while offering his own contribution.
…What Are The Important Words?
- ali: so…, thus…, for…, what…, as…
- awen: used to mean “someone, somebody, anyone, person, and thing”
- ikaon: house; used in loanwords such as “kingdom” or any other that refers to an enclosed space
- lenu: man, human; literally used within Lenape.
Of course, there are more affixes than individual words that are important.
…How Can It Be Compared To Other Books?
In Drusilla Gould’s book about the Shoshone language, it is written simpler, yet feels devoid of any substantial context. In this book’s case, the opposite is sort of true. While it can be tedious to read, it leaves no room for context. If you have problems with the language, you can always find the sub-chapter in the Table of Contents.
While it is dense and confusing to follow through, it was helpful enough for me to pick up important words. Not only that, but Goddard made the pronunciations as consistent as possible.
Since Unami is an agglutinative language, it is important to learn the language in its various parts rather than the whole words–at least based on my own estimation.
In case the Unami Lenape language speaking community wants to coin new words, they always have a book like this to reference. As mentioned before, any English work, such as ones by Shakespeare, would easily enter the process of translation.
Recommend This To…
- Any Unami speakers who are in their intermediate stages of proficiency. The information might be overwhelming to any new speakers, but it will make sense to any intermediary speakers.
- Goddard, Ives. “A Grammar Of Southern Unami Delaware (Lenape).” Mundart Press. 2021.
- Gould, Drusilla and Christopher Loether. “An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language (Dammen Daigwape).” University of Utah. 2002.
- Strutz, Henry. “501 German Verbs.” 3rd Edition. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 1998.