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Lenape Talking Dictionary

By English WORD or PHRASE

By Lenape WORD or PHRASE

Lenape Lesson #4


Let's Talk Lenape!

Lesson 4


Categories of Words in Lenape


      In using the Lenape language (or any other Algonquian language) the world is divided into two categories:  ANIMATE  and  INANIMATE.   It is important to learn in which category the words are placed.  For the most part this is a fairly simple choice since nearly all living things will be ANIMATE and non-living things will be INANIMATE.


     Nearly all languages divide their words into categories (which linguists usually refer to as GENDER).  In French or Spanish everything is either masculine or feminine, so in learning the language you must also learn that a table is considered feminine while a book is masculine.  In many Germanic languages there are three categories, and in some African languages as many as ten.


     You might wonder why this is important.  The nouns [remember that a noun “names a person, place or thing”] must be classed as either Animate or Inanimate, but so are the words that go with them.  For example, if you ask, “Do you have a dog?” you say, “Kulhala hàch mwekane?” which is literally “you-have-him question dog.”    On the other hand if the noun is Inanimate, such as Lokèns = Dish, then the verb changes.  “Do you have a dish?” is “Kulhatu hàch lokèns?”



The Articles in Lenape


     In English the Articles are the words  A  -  AN  -  THE,  as well as the words  THIS  -  THAT  -  THESE  -  THOSE.  In Lenape there is no word for the English  A  or  AN.  For example:


      mili tipas           - means -         give me a chicken


     There is no word in Lenape which exactly matches the English word THE because in English THE can be used for one thing, several things, and even for people.  Lenape is more specific.  The Article will tell you if the subject is Animate or Inanimate, nearby or far away, and if there is one or more than one.  In many ways the Articles in Lenape are more like the English words THIS, THAT, THESE or THOSE.   The articles are as follows:





         Not Nearby 

(or)  Not Present 

 Animate Singular

    wa    (this)

    na       (that)

 Animate Plural

    yuki  (these)

    nèki     (those)

 Inanimate Singular

    yu     (this)

    në       (that)

 Inanimate Plural

    yuli   (these)

    nèl      (those)


   To give a better idea how these are used, here are some short sentences in Lenape.  First the Animate forms.



       Lenape                                             English


   sëksu wa pushis                                          this cat is black

   seksuwàk yuki pushisàk                               these cats are black

   sëksu na pushis                                           that cat is black

   sëksuwàk nèki pushisàk                               those cats are black


Note how the verb ('to be black') and the Article change to match the subject ('cat').  Now here are some Inanimate forms.


   sëke yu ahsën                                             this rock is black

   sëkeyo yuli ahsëna                                      these rocks are black

   sëke në ahsën                                             that rock is black

   sëkeyo nèl ahsëna                                       those rocks are black


     As with ('cat') in the first set of sentences, here too the verb and the Article change to match the subject ('rock').  English does this somewhat also, because you know you would not say, "Look at the rock, he is black" for the simple reason that it does not sound correct.






     Pointing  -  One interesting old tradition among the Lenape was the custom of pointing with the lips.  It was considered very impolite to point at a person using your finger, and it was also considered very bad to ever point at a grave with your finger.  Instead the Lenape pointed with their lips by slightly pursing the lips in the direction you wish to indicate.  The Lenape word for this custom is Shètunèxin. 




The Weather in Lenape


wëli kishku                                         It is a good day

mushhakòt                                         The sky is clear

lëlëwàxën                                           There is a breeze

kshëlànte                                           It is a hot day

kùmhòkòt                                           It is cloudy

sukëlan                                              It is raining

kshilan                                               It is raining hard

sasapëlehële                                       There is lightning

pèthakhòn                                          It is thundering

aon                                                    It is foggy

kshàxën                                             It is windy

kaoxën                                               Tornado

thapàn                                               It is cool

thè                                                    It is cold

thupàn                                               There is frost

wine                                                  It is snowing