Lenape Tribe Seal

Lenape Talking Dictionary

By English WORD or PHRASE

By Lenape WORD or PHRASE

Lenape Lesson #1 - Spelling & Greeting

Alënixsitàm!

Let's talk Lenape!

Lesson 1

 

 

Our hope is that by using the Lessons you will learn at least the basics of the Lenape language and try to use it on a daily basis.  As you do the lessons you will find there are several sounds in Lenape which do not occur in English.  Please make an effort to try to learn these sounds and words and don’t worry if you have some problems at first – we all do in learning another language.  Try to open your mind to the fact that Lenape, like all the languages in the Algonquian language family, has a very different view of the world, and this is expressed in the language and its structure.

 

One thing we would like to stress as you work with the language and are learning it is to make use of this Lenape Talking Dictionary.  For the most part, you will find Lenape pronounced by people who grew up with Lenape as their first language and it is important to try to emulate their pronunciation.  So, Alënixsitàm! 

 

Lenape Spelling System

We have been asked why we don’t spell the words in a similar fashion to the way people’s names were spelled with hyphens on the early tribal rolls.  There are several reasons, and one of them is that English spelling is so confusing.  For example if we wrote the letter A and you read that you might wonder if that is the sound of A in the English word Cat, or the English word Gate, or the English word Father.

Another reason would be the length of Lenape words written that way.  For example, one of the words used in this lesson, Kulamàlsi, would have to be spelled something like coo-lah-mull-see.

We have been working to perfect the easiest orthography possible to use in spelling Lenape words. It is a phonetic alphabet, that is, each letter has only one sound. The normal stress in a word is on the next to last vowel. In these lessons we will underline the vowel if it is other than next to last.

The alphabet is as follows:

a - ch - e - h - i - k - l - m – n - o - p - s - sh - t - u - w - x - y

 

The following are the vowels, all the rest are consonants:

a - e - i - o - u

The vowels are further divided by the use of accents or diacritical marks. These are used only to show vowel length (short), and once you have learned the word, they need not be used in normal writing.

a - à - e - è - ë - i - ì - o - ò - u - ù

The accents or diacritical marks used are:

`  =  a grave accent is used to show a short vowel.  We call this the mikwën (the feather).

ë  =  an umlaut is used on -e- to show that it is the schwa vowel

 =  used to separate two sounds which would otherwise be pronounced differently if they were together

Vowels:

 

Vowel

Lenape Word

English Translation

Comments

a

Sound Icon ahas 

crow

like -a- in English "father"

 

Sound Icon hatapi 

bow

 

à

Sound Icon làpi 

again

like -u- in English "cup"

 

Sound Icon ntàpi 

I am here

 

e

Sound Icon eyok 

they go

like -a- in English "fate"

 

Sound Icon newa 

four

 

è

Sound Icon wèmi 

all      

like -e- in English "net"

 

Sound Icon tèpi 

enough

 

ë

Sound Icon ntëmpëm 

my brain

like -a- in English "sofa"

 

Sound Icon sëke 

it is black  

 

i

Sound Icon ila 

warrior

like -i- in English "machine"

 

Sound Icon nitis 

my friend

man speaking of a man

ì

Sound Icon kìtkil 

he is huge

like -i- in English "it"

 

Sound Icon kìtpùl 

industrious person

 

o

Sound Icon konaèt 

perhaps

like -o- in English "open"

 

Sound Icon shohpe 

shore

 

ò

Sound Icon òk 

and

like -o- in English "for"

 

Sound Icon òkwës 

fox

 

u

Sound Icon hus 

bucket

like -oo- in English "fool"

 

Sound Icon chusku 

he wades through the water

 

ù

Sound Icon hùkòn 

pot-hook

like -u- in English "pull"

 

Sound Icon tùkwim 

black walnut (the nut only)

 

 

Lenape Greetings

 

          In daily life we often greet people, so the act of speaking and greeting can be important.  Here are some commonly used expressions in Lenape.

 

1. If you see someone you know, you say:

 

           Sound Icon Kulamàlsi hàch?                           Do you feel well?

        Sound Icon Hè! Kulamàlsi hàch?              Hi!  Do you feel well? 

 

       [You are basically asking the same kind of question as English, How do you do? or  How are you?

 

[Note:  The Lenape word “hàch,”  or as some speakers say, “hèch,” is like a spoken question mark.  It lets you know that the person is asking a question.]

 

The person may reply:

 

           Sound Icon Nulamàlsi                                     I am fine

           Sound Icon Osòmi                                          Fine

           Sound Icon Ku mayay                                    Not really

 

Other Things to Say When you Meet:

 

         Kèku hàch kuwatu?                       What do you know?

         Kuwatu hàch kèku?                       Do you know anything?

 

Common Answers:

 

Some common answers to the questions above might be:

 

         Sound Icon Ku kèku                                        Nothing

         Sound Icon Mësi kèku                                    Various things

         Xaheli kèku                                        Many things

 

Small  Talk:

 

Sound Icon Wëli kishku                               It is a good day

Sound Icon Wëli lòku                                  It is a good evening

 

[Note:  In Lenape it would not be common to use these expressions as greetings as is done in English, (Good Day!).  In Lenape they are more like comments on the weather than greetings.]

        

There are many things you can say about the weather, and we will learn them later.

 

2. After a brief conversation, you may want to go somewhere else and you can say:

 

         Sound Icon Ntalëmska                                     I am leaving

         Sound Icon Nëmachi                                        I am going home

        

The usual response is:

 

         Sound Icon Yuh!                                            Okay!

 

When you are about to leave, you may say to that person:

 

          Sound Icon Làpìch knewël            I'll see you again      

        (again-will  I-see-you)       

 

Sound Icon Xu làpi knewël            I'll see you again

        (will  again  I-see-you)