Lenape Tribe Seal

Lenape Talking Dictionary

By English WORD or PHRASE

By Lenape WORD or PHRASE

Lenape Lesson #1

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. 

 

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

ahas

crow

like -a- in English "father"

 

hatapi

bow

 

à

làpi

again

like -u- in English "cup"

 

ntàpi

I am here

 

e

eyok

they go

like -a- in English "fate"

 

newa

four

 

è

wèmi

all      

like -e- in English "net"

 

tèpi

enough

 

ë

ntëmpëm

my brain

like -a- in English "sofa"

 

sëke

it is black  

 

i

ila

warrior

like -i- in English "machine"

 

nitis

my friend

man speaking of a man

ì

kìtkil

he is huge

like -i- in English "it"

 

kìtpùl

industrious person

 

o

konaèt

perhaps

like -o- in English "open"

 

shohpe

shore

 

ò

òk

and

like -o- in English "for"

 

òkwës

fox

 

u

hus

bucket

like -oo- in English "fool"

 

chusku

he wades through the water

 

ù

hùkòn

pot-hook

like -u- in English "pull"

 

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:

 

           Kulamàlsi hàch?                          Do you feel well?

           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:

 

           Nulamàlsi                                    I am fine

           Osòmi                                         Fine

           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:

 

         Ku kèku                                        Nothing

         Mësi kèku                                     Various things

         Xaheli kèku                                   Many things

 

Small  Talk:

 

Wëli kishku                                   It is a good day

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:

 

         Ntalëmska                                    I am leaving

         Nëmachi                                       I am going home

        

The usual response is:

 

          Yuh!                                            Okay!

 

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

 

         Làpìch knewël                               I'll see you again

           (again-will  I-see-you)       

 

Xu làpi knewël                               I'll see you again

           (will  again  I-see-you)