Lenape Tribe Seal

Lenape Talking Dictionary

By English WORD or PHRASE

By Lenape WORD or PHRASE

Historical Examples

Some dictionary users have expressed an interest in viewing historical examples of Lenape. We have added a section under the Detailed View where we have been adding examples beginning with a vocabulary list of seventy-five words from 1628 taken down in New Jersey and published in 1633. The spellings used at that time to try and represent Lenape words were very irregular and based on the language of the person writing the words, usually Dutch or Swedish. The words in these early examples are from what is referred to as the Lenape or Delaware jargon, and it was the language used to communicate between the Europeans and the Lenape. To fluent Lenape speakers some of the jargon terms probably sounded amusing but it did afford a means of communication. A good example is the term for a lion which may have been an attempt to come up with a term for a mountain lion. In the jargon it is called, Manunckus mochijrick singwæs, which literally could be translated as "angry big bobcat." It should also be noted that at that early time it would appear that some of the Lenape dialects were undergoing a shift from the sound of  R to  L which is the sound in present-day Lenape.

The following is a list of the early Lenape vocabularies added to the Lenape Talking Dictionary.  Each is listed by a specific date to identify the source, although in some cases they are the result of several years of work writing down the language. 

1633  Johannes de Laet  -  The Latin edition of his book he added a section on the Indians of New Netherland that had not been present in the Dutch edition of 1630.  In this new section is the vocabulary that he specifically states to be from the Sankhikan Indians living on the upper Delaware River (that is, the Falls area). Most of the words de Laet gives could be either true Unami or Delaware Jargon, but there is a complete lack of plural endings, which is a jargon feature. 

1648  Johannes Campanius  -  A vocabulary compiled by the Swedish Lutheran minister Johannes Campanius during his service in New Sweden from 1642-1648.

1684  Salem Record/ The Indian Interpreter  -  An extensive example of the Delaware Jargon it is a five-page English manuscript from 1684 or earlier and also called "The Indian Interpreter."  It was found among the early New Jersey land records in Trenton.  

The following wordlists are all from heretofore unavailable Moravian missionary vocabulary manuscripts.  They have been edited and published by Raymond Whritenour.  A number of these complete manuscripts have since been made available by Whritenour and can be found on Amazon.com.  He has shared them for use in the Lenape Talking Dictionary.   Most of these words are mainly in the very closely related Northern Unami dialect. The Moravians were German speakers and they wrote Lenape in a German orthography. The main differences are as follows with their spelling first then the way the sounds are written with Lenape spelling:  CH = X;   J =  Y;  QU = KW;  SCH = SH;  TSCH = CH;  X = KS or KWS; and  Z = TS.   

1755  Bernhard Adam Grube -  This Grube manuscript is in [MS 767 (5)] in the Houghton Library at Harvard,  It is the oldest extensive Northern Unami vocabulary in existence, which is simultaneously the first broad sketch of the true Delaware language — i.e., the language spoken by the Lenape Indians when conversing among themselves; as opposed to the grammatically simplified Pidgin Delaware used to communicate with European traders and settlers.

1760  Bernhard Adam Grube - The Grube manuscript [MS Am 767 (15)] is in the Houghton Library at Harvard University.  The Delaware words are written in Roman letters and the translations are written in German. The manuscript is titled "Einige Dellawarische Redensarten und Worte" ['Some Delaware Words and Phrases'] 

1770  John Ettwein -   A long manuscript vocabulary of Delaware words and short phrases, with German translation, deposited in the Moravian Archives (Box 333, Folder 1, Item 1) at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  The manuscript, itself is untitled but the first page has the heading, "J Ettwein." 

1824  C. C. Trowbridge -  A manuscript about Lenape grammar, words, and phrases.  Trowbridge was sent by Gov. Cass to Indiana to answer a series of questions about the Delaware language and at least one other language, the Miami Indian language. In responding to the questions Trowbridge produced what is basically a grammar of the dialect of Lenape as later used by both groups of Delawares who had been moved to Oklahoma.  He returned to Cass with a 280+ page manuscript.  The spelling system which Trowbridge used was one that is based on English spelling and was suggested by Gov. Cass.  The manuscript has since been edited by James Rementer and published under the title of  Delaware Indian Language of 1824, published in 2011 by Evolution Publishing and is available from various booksellers.

Orthography Used By Trowbridge

 The orthography used by Trowbridge is that recommended by Lewis Cass in his questionnaire, Inquiries Respecting the History, Traditions, Languages, Manners, Customs, Religion, etc. of the Indians, living within the United States. (Inquires, pp.46-49).   It is a rather complicated system using English spelling which is very irregular. The orthography is as follows:


                                                             ALPHABET

 

 Notes:  NU =  Sound not used in Lenape.

              LTD =  As spelled in the orthography in the Lenape Talking

                          Dictionary.

              IPA =   As written using the International Phonetic Alphabet.

               *    =  The sound of the consonant is voiced only when following a

                           nasal sound like N or M, thus it is written throughout as a

       voiceless sound.

               **  =  The sound of L is voiceless at the end of a word in within a

       word before a consonant, otherwise it is voiced.

 

Vowels and Diphthongs

 

Cass

LTD

IPA

English Sounds (as suggested by Cass)

a

NU

NU

A in hat, flat, etc.

aa

e

e

to have the sound of A in hate, and of AA in haak.

ar

a

ɑ

A in father, and of AR in art, arm, article.  [Note – In this

   the R is silent  – Lenape has no R sound, but see

   Comment 4 below.]

au

a

ɑ

A in fall, and of AU in auction, audience, author.

ay

ai - ay

ɑi

AY in aye.              

e

è

ε - Ə

E in met.

ee

i

i

E in me, and of EE in meet, fleet, greet, meed, etc

i

ì

ɪ - Ə

I in pin, him.

ii

ai - ay

ɑi

I in pine, fine.

o

a

ɑ

to have the sound of O in not, hot, pot.

oa

o

o

O in note, tone, and of OA in groan moan.,

oe

ù

ʊ

the short sound of OO, being the sound of U in bull, full, and the sound of OO in wool.

oi

oi - oy

oi

OI in voice.

o

u

u

O in move, prove, and of 00 in moon, noon, mood.

u

à - ë

ʌ - Ə

U in tub, run

u

yu

ju

U in pure, immure, and of UE in due, cue, hue, and the Latin puer.

w

w

w

to precede the proper vowel, where the sound is required of UA in assuage, of UE in consuetude, of UI in languid, and of UO in languor.

 

 

Original and Additional Consonants

 

Cass

LTD

IPA

Cass Suggested Equivalents

b

p *

p *

as in English.

d

t *

t *

as in English.

dg

ch *

ǰ * [dʒ]

the sound of J and DG in judge.

dh

NU

NU

as in this, that.

ds

NU

NU

 

dz

NU

NU

The ear must determine when these compounds ought

f

NU

NU

as in English.

g

k *

k *

always hard as in game.

gk

x

x

Guttural sound of the Irish, as heard in Drogheda.

h

h – x

h - x

an aspiration, as in English.

hw

hw

hw

English WH in what, when.

k

k

k

as in English.

kh

x

x

The sharp guttural of the German, Ich.

ku

kw

kw

English QU as in question.

l

l **

l **

as in English.

m

m

m

as in English.

n

n

m

as in English.

ng

nk

ŋ

Nasal as in singer and long.

nng

 

 

as in linger.

p

p

p

as in English.

r

NU

NU

as in English.

s

s

s

as in the beginning of words, being its hissing sound.

sh

sh

š   [ʃ]

 

t

t

t

as in English.

th

NU

NU

as in there.

ts

ts

ts

respectively to be used.

tsh

ch

č   [tʃ]

 English CH as in chair.

tz

NU

NU

 

v

NU

NU

as in English.

w

w

w

as in English.

wt

wt

wt

The sound which is found in some of the Indian languages, and which most nearly resembles an attempt to pronounce WET as though spelt WTE. It is the short sound of W pronounced before a consonant.

y

y

j

as in the English words you, yet.  The sound produced by Y before A is heard in yarn, and of Y before in yonder.

z

s *

s *

as in English.

zh

sh *

ž * [ʒ]

S in pleasure, and Z in azure.

 

Comments

  

1.  The apostrophe, as used by Trowbridge after an initial consonant (ex., m'soathwAt), is apparantly intended to indicate that the initial consonant is voiceless. In this Trowbridge deviates from the Cass orthography, where the apostrophe is used to denote accent.

 

2.  In Trowbridge's Delaware grammar manuscript, he indicates that the macron denotes accent.  Apparently the same mark is used for accent in his other manuscripts also.

 

3.  Trowbridge also did not follow the suggested spelling of GH or KH for the guttural sounds preferring to use H in their place. 

 

4.  At the time of first contact with the Europeans it seems that the Lenape people were using an R-sound that later shifted to an L-sound.  The R-sound was probably a flapped R such as the single R in Spanish or the R in Japanese as opposed to the R sound we use in English.  The use of the R-sound is attested in early spellings such as Renappi (Lenape) and words like hirussus (hilusës); rackans (lokëns); and wijr (wil).