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Massachusett phonology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The phonology of the Massachusett language was re-introduced to the Mashpee, Aquinnah, Herring Pond and Assonet tribes that participate in the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, co-founded by Jessie Little Doe Baird in 1993. The phonology is based regular sound changes that took place in the development of Proto-Eastern Algonquian from Proto-Algonquian, as well as cues in the colonial orthography regarding pronunciation, as the writing system was based on English pronunciation and spelling conventions in use at the time, keeping in mind differences in late seventeenth century English versus today. Other resources included information from extant Algonquian languages with native speakers.[1]

The Massachusett language is an eastern branch Algonquian language within the Algic language family. It was historically spoken by the Massachusett people of Greater Boston, the Pawtucket of southernmost Maine, coastal New Hampshire and the lower Merrimack River watershed, the Wampanoag of southeastern Massachusetts but specifically Cape Cod and the Islands and portions of Rhode Island, the Nauset (possibly a Wampanoag sub-group) of the outer Cape and the Coweset of north-western Rhode Island, and likely spread as a common second language to many Nipmuc and Pennacook speaking groups. In a simplified Pidgin form, it was a common medium of intertribal communication across most of New England and Long Island.[2]

The historical phonology of the language is hampered by the dormancy of the language with the death of the last speakers at the end of the nineteenth century as well as dialect leveling. Since the Bible and most of the missionary translations were based on the dialect of the Massachusett people, specifically its Natick variety, that form gained prestige. The use of Natick as a training center for Indian missionaries and teachers, who were literate and often drawn from Natick's local families, helped spread the prestige of the particular variety, so that most dialectal differences were quickly lost.[3] Dialects certainly existed given the diversity of peoples that used it and its broad distribution.[2]

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Hello! I'm Emma from mmmEnglish and in this lesson, I found an American all the way down here in Australia and I thought that I'd use him to show you some of the pronunciation differences between Australian English and American English. You don't mind if I use you, Allan? Use away! How long have you been in Australia Allan? Two weeks now. Two weeks! And what do you think of it so far? It's beautiful. Yeah. Actually this is our first rainy day but for most days it's been really, really nice out here in the west side. Rainy days are good for filming actually! Oh! That's good, perfect day. Hey, what's one weird thing that Australians say? Australians say a lot of weird things with slang words. What kinds of things have you heard that have kind of just weirded you out? Maybe if someone said, you know, "Go to the boot and get some bush chooks and we'll crack a tinnie." And you're like, "I have no idea what you're talking about!" Nobody knows what you're talking about! What he actually said was can you go to the car, the back of the car, open it, get out a can of beer and open the beer. Drink it. And drink the beer. So we can drink beer. Boot is actually not that weird, that's just you know, you have a different name in America, right? We just call it a trunk. A trunk. The back of the car in America is called a trunk but here in Australia and in the UK too it's boot. Yes. You also say some really weird things actually, this morning you said to me "I'm going to go and pet that horse out there." and I was like "what?" because pet is just like an animal in Australia, like a dog or a cat. Right, right. But you're using it as a verb like you would - like we say pat, pat the animal and you say pet. Yeah, yeah pet. Yeah. Pet the animal. But my point is that even native English speakers have, you know, sometimes we have words or even pronunciation that we don't quite understand about each other and you have to sort of piece the puzzle together and that's definitely what we've been doing the last few days, right? Since I met you. Definitely. Piecing it together. Yeah right, piecing it together. Figuring it out. I'm going to, I've got some words actually written down here that I want to, I want to test your pronunciation on because I think that the way that you say these words is quite different to the way that we say them here in Australia. So I want to test that out and I want to demonstrate to you guys what that actually, what it looks like or what it sounds like. The different - the difference between the American accent and the Australian accent. So the first one is this one, Allan. How do you say this? That's hot. Hot. Hot. OK, so we would say hot. So more like oh rather than ah. Yeah so it's a little bit different - that's an easy one to start with. What about this one? Going to be very different. We say car. This one, Car. Car. Car. So the main difference there is that Allan pronounces the 'r' at the end of this word. You say car. We use the 'r', yes. And we just dropped that 'r' sound, it's kind of silent. It's just ah. Car. Yeah! That's like, that's proper Australian accent. Car. All right, what about this one? Bottle. Bottle. Bottle. Now the way that I say bottle is - with T's. Yeah but it's not, actually, lots of Australians have the same pronunciation of these two T's like, like you do and often I say bottle as well. So you instead of pronouncing that T, it's like a 'd' sound, like a lazy D sound. Bottle. Bottle. Yeah. Bottle. Bottle. Yeah that's pretty good, it's pretty close. But that's one similarity between the Australian accent and the American accent - is this double T or even just a single T in the middle of words like a bottle of water. A bottle of water. Yeah, like someone from the UK would say a bottle of water - in a better accent than me. OK, how about this one? Burger. I think the way he says this is hilarious! We say burger but you pronounce this 'u' in a different way. Burger. Yes. Bur- Burger. Burger. And I just say burger. OK! Sometimes we'd drop the 'a' there, we'll say garage. Garage? Oh, like that's really, really soft. Yeah, sometimes it's garage or sometimes it's just garage. So the main difference between the American and the Australian or the UK British accent pronunciation of this word is that we would put the stress on the first syllable and we would say ga-rage, garage. And you would say garage so the stress pattern is different for this word. Garage. Garage. OK. Bought. That is not how you say that! Bought. Yes. Bought. It's pretty similar! Bought. Bought. Yeah it's pretty similar. Bought. What about this one, then? Daughter. Daughter. Daughter. Daughter or daughter. That's another good example of that 't'. Daughter. How about this one? Aunt. Or aunt. But it's mostly, I think you hear people say aunt more. Aunt. We say aunt. Aunt. My auntie. Do you say auntie? No, we just say aunt. We don't really use auntie as much. OK so that's quite different! Aunt and aunt. How about this one? Entreprenuer. OK so the main difference there is in this last couple of syllables. We say entrepreneur. Oh really? Entrepreneur. Yeah. Now I don't even know how to say it! Entrepreneur. So you kind of do two syllables at the end here, where we just go entrepreneur or entrepreneur. Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur. That's a weird word. Entrepreneur. What about.. this is kind of related, this word. Yeah. There's niche or niche. What do you say? I say niche but maybe I've been saying it wrong for a while but I think people say niche though. It's your niche. Everyone, lots of people in America say niche but everyone outside of America says niche. Is that true? Did you have to look that up? No that's true! I want to make sure I'm not the only one here. It's not just you! Lots of Americans say niche and add a 't' sound in there but the rest of the world, the rest of the English-speaking world, says niche. Find your niche. Interesting, very interesting. OK. Caramel. Sorry what? Caramel. We'll say caramel, caramel apple! Caramel, caramel apple! Yeah. Caramel. Yes it's very different. Caramel. And I don't know why it's caramel, but it's caramel or people will say it both ways. It's caramel or caramel. Yeah and even then, - caramel - if you say caramel, you put like a stronger stress on this third syllable, don't you? Caramel. Yeah -mel. Caramel. OK this one. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Very different. It's quite different. But this is like - - you say it correctly. You would normally, you would normally say just cell phone, right? Yeah, we say cell phone. When do you use this word? Like a mobile home, like to move things. Yeah, not like a phone? Right. Right because we would use this for a phone. Even, well actually, I jumped in the ocean with my mobile. You did too! and I went to look for cell phones and it's like in Australia it's not really, they just always use mobile phones so I was searching for what's the best cell phone plan and it's not how they say it. Oh like you were Google-ing that? Yeah yeah. But if you said that to someone here though, they'd know exactly what you were talking about. Cell phone, mobile phone. Right, right. But if you did say mobile or what do you say? Mobile? Mobile. Mobile. They'd be like 'what?'. Actually that's like the petrol company. Yeah we don't use petrol either, we call it gas. It's just gas or gasoline. So these are like loads of vocabulary differences between American and Australian English. We're trying to focus on pronunciation but there's a whole 'nother lesson in vocabulary for sure! OK what about this one? This one is one of my favorites! It's very simply said. Aluminium. Aluminium is what we say but actually when I when I looked this up, you guys spell it differently - That's why! Because I'm looking at it, I'm like I don't think that's how we spell it, right. You actually have changed the spelling so instead of aluminium, aluminium. You, you just write it aluminum. Is that right? Aluminum. Yeah. Yeah. Aluminum. Just the -um at the end. Stop knocking that plant! Hey buddy! OK how about this? Leisure. Leisure. Leisure. Leisure. But I can see why leisure, that would make probably makes more sense but American pronunciation, leisure, with the 'r' and Australian pronunciation, leisure, bit lazier. Turmeric. Turmeric. Yeah turmeric. Here, turmeric. Yeah, yeah. This is like - maybe I'm wrong but I think I've called it turmeric for all that I can remember. Don't doubt yourself that's just totally how you - Try not to doubt myself. Don't doubt yourself in everything you've known for thirty years! Yeah yeah. But this is the spice, the yellow spice that's used a lot in Indian cooking and Malaysian cooking. Very, very tasty, delicious spice. So are you kind of surprised by how many differences there are or did you already know about a lot of those differences between American and Australian English? I think I get surprised by something almost every day! That you're here! Yeah it's still very new for you, isn't it? Yeah, It's just pronunciation, it is very different. Yes. Yeah, yeah. But it's fun! Yeah? Do you find the Australian accent easy to understand or is it sometimes quite difficult? I think for the most part you can understand it. There's just, there's that I think the more harder things in Australia is like using different words for different meanings. Different vocabulary, slang words and stuff like that. Yes definitely. Alright well if you would like to watch any more videos about the difference between American English, Australian English, British English, I want you to go and check out these two here that I've just right on top of Allan right now. Sorry about that Allan but can you just hold these videos for me? Right here. Yeah. Thank you that's perfect! If you would like to watch more of these videos and get updates when I release new videos, make sure that you subscribe to my channel by clicking this red button here and I will see you in the next lesson. Thanks for joining us and thanks Allan! Well you're very welcome! Thank you for having me. Bye for now!



Front Central Back
Mid ə
Open , aːj ã

Massachusett vowels can be subdivided into two categories, the short vowels /a/ and /ə/ and the long vowels /aː/, /ã/, /aːj/, /iː/, and /uː/—although /ã/ is sometimes considered in its own category of nasal vowel.[4] /aːj/ is technically a diphthong, and is particularly prevalent in inanimate intransitive verbs that translate as 'it is X.' PA *wapyawi > PEA *wa·pe·yɘw > PSNEA *wąpa·yɘw > Massachusett wompi (wôpay) /wãpaːj/, ('it is white.')[5]

Vocalic allophones

The exact values and ranges for allophonic variation of the vowels is unknown, given the death of the last native speakers a century and a quarter in the past, but given that the colonial orthography was based on English values as spoken in the seventeenth century, some clues are provided. The short vowel /a/ before /h/ was often replaced by ⟨u⟩ in colonial documents. Given that open front unrounded /a/ before /h/ was often syncopated, it is likely this allophone approached [ə].[6] Dialectal variation aside, it is likely that /a/ may have also backed to [ɑ] in some environments.[7]

The long vowel /iː/ was often written with ⟨i⟩ in colonial documents before /sk/ or /ʃk/, indicating it may have shortened to [i] in these environments. A similar process also occurs in Abenakian languages. In the development of Massachusett, /iː/ weakens to [ə], which triggers k-palatization and vowel affection in certain environments.[6]

The long vowel /aː/ is written in a myriad of ways, which may just be the difficulty in rendering the vowel according to English spelling rules as used in the colonial orthography. It is likely that most instances were generally [aː], but it most likely backed [ɑː] or [ɔː].[6]

The long, nasal vowel /ã/ (possibly better represented by /ãː/ to indicate length in addition to nasality) may also frequently approach the mid-open nasal [ɔ̃ː]. Before /h/, colonial writers used ⟨u⟩, possibly indicating an allophone [ə̃ː] before /h/. The colonial orthography assigns vowels with a circumflex to write them, but this was not done consistently. A silent ⟨m⟩ (before /p/) and ⟨n⟩ (elsewhere) was often used to indicate nasality, but writers often confused usage of the circumflex, to mark nasality, and the acute accent, to mark stress and length.[8]

The long vowel /uː/, represented in the colonial orthography by⟨ꝏ⟩ or ⟨oo⟩ and ⟨8⟩ in the modern one, was often written with ⟨o⟩ in the earliest colonial writings, suggesting a change from a mid-back vowel or close-mid vowel [oː] to a close-back [uː], which can be reconstructed from development.[6] For example, 'snake' is askꝏk (ask8k) /askuːk/ and descends from Proto-Algonquian *aθko·ka and Proto-Eastern Algonquian *axko·k.[9] Eliot created a letter ⟨ꝏ⟩ represented in the modern Wampanoag script as ⟨8⟩ to distinguish the long 'oo' from the short 'oo,' but noted that the vowel he was trying to represent was between the two.[6] Just as /oː/, represented in Algonquian linguistics as ⟨*⟩, shifted to /uː/, a similar process occurred in English just a few generations before Eliot's time during the Great Vowel Shift, and both book and mood would have rhymed with the current pronunciations of poke and mode; even in the Early Modern English of Eliot's time, the distinction between mood and book shared the same vowel.[10][clarification needed]


Labial Alveolar Palatal/
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop p t k
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant w j

Massachusett has thirteen consonant phonemes, not including possible allophones. They are divided into the affricate /tʃ/; stop /p/, /t/, /k/, /kʷ/ and the voiceless alveolo-palatal stop /tʲ/; the voiceless affricates /s/, /ʃ/ and /h/ and the voiced continuants, which comprises the voiced nasal /m/ and /n/ and the voiced approximants /w/ and /j/. The stop consonants were particularly difficult for early English missionaries to record with the Latin alphabet because Massachusett did not make phonemic distinctions of voicing with these consonants, and these consonants likely had voiced allophones of [b, d, ɡ, ɡʷ, dʲ], dependent upon word environment, dialect, or speaker. In addition, Massachusett consonants probably lacked distinctions based on aspiration for these consonants. In English, the equivalent stop consonants are aspirated in stressed and in final positions, but not in consonant clusters after /s/ (for example, English spin is pronounced [spɪn] while pin is pronounced [pʰɪn]).[11]

As a result of these differing phonologies, the colonial orthography can be separated into unvoiced/voiced pairs that do not change meaning, such as ⟨c⟩, ⟨k⟩/⟨g⟩, ⟨p⟩/⟨b⟩, ⟨q[u]⟩/⟨g[w]⟩, ⟨s⟩/⟨z⟩ and ⟨d⟩/⟨t⟩, which correspond to ⟨k⟩, ⟨p⟩, ⟨q⟩, ⟨s⟩ and ⟨t⟩, respectively, in the modern orthography.[7] Eliot and the other colonial missionaries often switched between the unvoiced-voiced pairs, and it is possible that the consonants themselves had allophones dependent on word position and dialect.[12][7]

The phonetic value of /s/ in clusters probably approached [s̪], given the alteration of /hs/ and /hʃ/ and /sk/ and /ʃk/ in representation in the colonial orthography. As /s/ and /ʃ/ had merged in Proto-Southern New England Algonquian, restoration of /ʃ/ in consonants, especially in clusters with /h/, indicates that the allophone of /s/ in these environments was generally [s̪], which sounds closer to /ʃ/[dubious ] and generally represented by ⟨sh⟩ in the WLRP new orthography.[13]

As a result of borrowings, English-language religious, technical, agricultural, legal, societal, cultural, and governmental terminology was adopted by the Indians. Foreign sounds, or recognition of the preferred allophone, led to the adoption of /b/, /d/, /f/, /g/, /dʒ/, /ʒ/, /θ/, /ð/ and /ŋ/ as phonemes in these English loanwords. However, it is likely that only bilingual speakers or those exposed to English speakers pronounced these words more akin to their English values, whereas monolingual Massachusett speakers and those further from English contact would have likely used native approximantions. For example, colonial-era documents include both preserved Frenchmenog (possibly [frɛntʃmənak]) vs. nativized panachmanog (possibly [pənãtʃmənak]). In addition, anecdotal evidence from accounts of English colonists indicate that the Massachusett or related N-dialect speakers had trouble with English /r/ and /l/, even though they existed in related languages, since they pronounced English words sleep and lobster as sneep and nobstah. However, final /r/ goes unnoticed as English in New England developed non-rhotically.

Although the revived dialect of the Wampanoag continues to use some loan words from English (such as pâyum-, /paːjəm/ from English pay), most borrowings are eschewed for native equivalents, neologisms coined from known Massachusett radicals and adoption of terms from cognate, extant Algonquian languages since the new speakers of the language are all bilingual or more proficient in English.[14] For example, the colonial-era Indians adopted the English calendrical system, and adopted all the terms for units of time and names for the days and months. Thus, 'Thursday' and as well as its alternate Early Modern English form Yurſday existed along the lesser-used Massachusett coinage nappanatashikquinishonk (nôpanatahshuquneehshôk) /nãpanatahʃəkʷəniːhʃãk/, which can be translated as 'that which goes five days long' (after the [original] Sabbath).[15] However, nappanatashikquinishonk is created from Massachusett radicals by the Indians, even if it referred to a Western cultural introduction.[16]


Few consonant clusters, especially in relation to Proto-Eastern Algonquian and Proto-Algonquian, are permitted in the Massachusett language; however, syncopation, i.e., deletion of /a/, /ə/ or /iː/ when they fall in weak or weaker stress positions in a word, increased the number of possible clusters in the rare Massachusett dialects that employed it. Clusters also tend to occur at the end of a root word before a following suffix, often restoring etymological /ʷ/ and /ʲ/[clarification needed] or even entire syllables, which were dropped at the end of consonants as early as Proto-Eastern Algonquian, but are common enough that they have to be learned. For example, annum (anum, 'dog,') but annúmmwag (anumwak, /anəmwak/, 'dogs')[17] Also, additional morphemes attached to the root word often begin with consonants themselves, thus increasing their likelihood at these junctures.

Massachusett uses /hk/, /hkʷ/, /hp/, /hpw/, /hs/, /hsw/, /hʃ/, /hʃw/, /htʲ/, /htʃ/, /htw/, /hw/, /mw/, /nw/, /pw/, /sk/, /skʷ/, /sp/ and /ʃk/.[18][19] In the rare dialects that permitted syncopation, combinations such as /kskʷ/, /ths/, /skʷ/, /ks/, /kʷs/, /skʷh/ and /mʃ/ have been recorded in the literature, although some examples from translations of the Book of Psalms that were intended to be sung were forcibly altered to fit the meter of the music. The Massachusett word, wussuhquohhonk (wusuhqahôk /wəsəhkʷahɔ̃k/, 'writing' or 'book') was altered to wussukwhonk (*wusuhqhôk /wəsəhkʷhãk/),[20] yielding a cluster /hkʷh/.[21]


Stress in the language is unknown, but Massachusett likely had a stress system similar to extant languages, such as Ojibwe, Algonquin, M'ikmaq, Munsee and Unami.[22] In Ojibwe, the rule is as follows: A metrical foot consists of two syllables, ideally with the stress on the second syllable. All long vowels are stressed, and when they occur in the weaker syllable of a metrical foot, the syllable that contains them is counted as its own foot and counting begins on the next syllable pair, and the last syllable is always stressed.[23]

In M'ikmaq, Unami and Munsee, languages that are more closely related to Massachusett, the rules are a little more complex. In these languages, metrical feet consist of two syllables or morae, forming either strong right-foot iambs or strong left-foot trochees. Primary stress generally falls on either the rightmost (iambic) or leftmost (trochaic) syllables, but there are numerous exceptions. Unlike the Ojibwe system, these Eastern Algonquian languages allow for word-final unstressed syllables. Long vowels tend to be stressed, but may be shortened when long vowels fall in the weaker position. Long vowels and short syllables in the strong part of the foot receive secondary stress. Stressed words, especially the primary stress, are pronounced louder and at a higher pitch, with secondary stress the effects less so.[23] Because Massachusett, generally, does not undergo vowel syncope, weak vowels can receive secondary stress and entire words can consist of weak, short vowel syllables as in Mi'kmaq and Unami.[24][23]

  • weyaus (weeyâws) /ˈwiː ˌjaːws/, ('flesh')
  • sépꝏ (seepuw) /ˈsiːp ˌəw/, ('river')
  • sábahég (sâpaheek) /ˈsaːp aˌhiːk/, ('soup')
  • wampanoag (wôpanâak) /ˌwãp an ˈaː ak/, ('Wampanoag')
  • keen (keen) /ˈkiːn/, ('you')
  • askꝏk (ask8k) /ask ˈuːk/, ('snake')
  • mishoon (muhsh8n) /ˈməhʃ ˌuːn/, ('canoe')
  • kuttuntantamummin (kutunantamumun) /ˌkə tə ˈnan ˌtam əm ˌən/, ('we (inclusive) think')
  • peyaumꝏash (peeyômuwash) /ˌpiː ˈjãm ˌəw ˌaʃ/, ('they come' or 'they are coming')
  • ohkeomꝏs (âhkeeôm8s) /ˌaːhk ˈiː ˌãm ˌuːs/, ('bee')
  • waskétop (waskeetôp) /ˈwask ˌee ˌtãp/, ('man')
  • mockus (mahkus) /ˈmahk əs/, ('shoe')

Phonological processes

Vowel affection

A /j/ is inserted before vowels that follow /n/, /ht/, /t/ or /h/, only when these consonants in turn come after the vowels /iː/ or /ə/ This /j/ is written with a single ⟨e⟩ in both the colonial and modern orthographies of the Massachusett language. This is not triggered in every instance, but it generally occurs when the short vowel /ə/ is the weakened form of Proto-Algonquian * and *i (both of which merged into Proto-Eastern Alqonquian *i before weakening in Proto-Southern New England Algonquian) or /iː/ which did not undergo weakening.[25]

  • nepitt (neeput) /niːpət/, ('my tooth') and nepitteash (neeputeash) /niːpətjaʃ/,[26] ('my teeth') from PA *ni·piči (singular) [27] via PEA *nīpītar (plural).
  • sekeneam or sekunyam (seekuneam) /siːkənjam/[28] ('she/he refuses to') from PEA *sīnkīnam.
  • wuskannemunneash (wuskaneemuneash) /wəskaniːmənjaʃ/ ('seeds') from PA *[weškin]imi·ni[29] (singular) via PEA *wəθkanīmīnar (plural).
  • ogquenneoquss (aquneôqus) /akʷənjãkʷəs/[30] ('to resemble').

Palatization of /k/

Unique to Southern New England Alonquian, the same processes that trigger vowel affection also bring about palatization. When /k/ is followed by an /ə/ that is etymologically a weakened form of PEA *ī, which is in turn followed by either /hp/, /p/, /m/, /hk/ or /k/, the consonant shifts to /tʲ/. Palatization is also triggered when /k/ is followed by /aː/, which derives from PEA *ē, and /əw/, which remains unchanged from PEA *əw. The palatization of /k/ followed by /ə/ is common, but in Massachusett, /k/ is often restored before /aː/ and /əw/ by analogy to prevent excessive alteration of forms.[31] In the colonial orthography, this was represented by ⟨ch⟩, ⟨dj⟩, ⟨j⟩, ⟨te⟩, ⟨ti⟩, ⟨ty⟩, or simply ⟨t⟩ before ⟨u⟩. In the modern orthography, ⟨ty⟩ represents /tʲ/, the palatization of ⟨k⟩, and ⟨te⟩ represents /t/ followed by the /j/ of the following affected vowel, or /t/ + /j/[vowel]; this has the same pronunciation, but is distinguished for etymological reasons.[32][33]

  • wetu (weetyuw), /wiːəw/ ('home') from PA *wi·kiwa·ʔmi,[34] but week[u] (weekuw) /wiːkəw/,[35] ('it is her/his home').
  • sachem (tyum)[36] /sãəm/ ('chief') from PA *sa·kima·wa[37] but sonksquaw (sôkusqâ) /sãkəskʷaː/,[38] ('female chief').
  • keteau (keetyâw) /kiːaːw/ ('he/she recovers') from PEA *kīkēw.
  • pittu (putyuw) /pəəw/,[31] ('pitch' or 'gum') from PEA *pəkəw.
  • -uhpeteog[un] (-uhpeetyâk[an]) /əhpiːaːk[an]/,[31] ('rib') from PA *spike·kani.

Historical phonology

Consonant and consonant cluster development from PA[39][40]
*p *p /p/
*t *t /t/
*č *č /tʃ/
* * /htʃ/
*k *k, *ty /k/, /tʲ/
*nk *k
*s *s *s /s/
*ç *r
*m *m /m/
*ˀm *hm
*l *r *r, *š /n/, /ʃ/
*w /w/
*hk *hk /hk/
*čk *sk
*θk *xk *sk /sk/
*çk *rk
*hp *hp /hp/
*šp *šp *sp /sp/
*çp *rp
*ht *ht /ht/
*hs *hs /hs/
* * * /hʃ/
*ˀl *hr
*hl *hx
*nl *h, *hr *r, *h, *š /n/, /h/, /ʃ/

The most ancient reconstructed ancestor of the Massachusett language is Proto-Algic, believed to have been spoken circa 5000 BC in what is now the Northwest Plateau region, such as the inland regions of the Pacific Northwest along the Columbia River separated from the coast by rugged mountains. Movements of people and competition for resources, shifts to other languages that developed or arrived in the region pushed the Algic languages out of their original homeland. The only known non-Algonquian Algic languages are Yurokan and Wiyotan, known only from the current languages Yurok and Wiyot, which despite sharing cultural similarities and inhabiting adjacent areas of the northernmost coastal area of California, their languages are relics of a historically more widespread group of languages which diverged in the very distant past.[41][42]

From an unknown Algic ancestor, Proto-Algonquian emerged sometime around 1000 BC, posited to have been spoken anywhere from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Montana or an area just west of the Great Lakes. The Algonquian languages spread, covering southern Canada and the northern half of the United States from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Around 1000 AD, Proto-Eastern Algonquian emerged, probably somewhere in southern Ontario about the Great Lakes region, and spread from the Maritimes to the Carolinas and separated by speakers of Iroquoian languages. The Eastern languages, which are the only genetic grouping to have emerged from Algonquian, can be further differentiated.[43]

Proto-Eastern Algonquian had a daughter language, Proto-Southern New England Algonquian, which is the ancestor of all the languages of southern New England and most of Long Island. This includes related languages such as Nipmuc, Mohegan-Pequot, Niantic, Narragansett and Quiripi-Naugatuck. The timeline for the development of PSNEA is unclear, but it might be linked to the local adoption of corn, beans and squash agriculture slowly introduced from the south. When Massachusett as a spoke language is unclear, but by the 1400s, cultural practices and peoples would probably be recognizable to the Pilgrims and Puritans that encountered their descendants two centuries later.[44]

Consonant development

The most striking feature in the development of Proto-Eastern Algonquian was the collapse of PA *θ and *l into PEA *r. As a result, reconstructed PA *aθemwa ('dog') and **e·likwa ('ant') become PEA *arəm and *e·ri·kw, respectively. This is in contrast to Arapaho heθ (he3, 'dog'), which preserves PA *θ and the 'Illu' dialects of western Montagnais (Innu) eylig and the 'Irru' dialect of the Atikamekw eyrig (since PA *l was most likely realized as [r] in most Algonquian languages, or a fricative [ɬ] that was somewhere between [θ] and [l]). Note that PSNEA inherited *arəm unaltered, but either reduplication or an unknown prefix, PA *e·ri·kw yields Massachusett anuneks or annuncks (possibly */aː[nə]nəkw[ee]s/ with diminutive suffix) instead of expected PSNEA *a·nəkw.

In consonant clusters, however, PA *θ and *l behave very differently. Proto-Algonquian *Cθ generally yields *Cx, save PA * which develops into PEA *hr. In clusters of PA *θC, most merge into PEA *sC with the exception of PA *θp which is realized as PEA *šp. Very few PA clusters of *Cl are permitted. The development of PA *ˀl to PEA *hr is expected, but PA *hl falls into PEA *hx and PA *nl is even more erratic. Under normal development, *nl would yield PEA *hr, but it morphs into *h in transitive inanimate singular imperatives. Furthermore, PA *ˀl, *nl and * > PEA *hr, *PA *hl, * and *ˀθ > PEA *hx.

Other general mergers include the collapse of PA *hC and *ˀC into PEA *hC. For example, PA *ht and *ˀt > PEA **ht and PA *ht, PA *hp and *ˀp > PEA **hp and * and *ˀč > PEA **. With the exception of *nl and *, all instances of PA *nC are retained in PEA. Proto-Algonquian *ç develops into *r in PEA even in clusters. PA *č before *p and *k altered to PEA *š and *s, respectively. Also, PA *x and *s merge into PEA *s. Proto-Eastern Algonquian also prefers to drop PA *w and *y after consonants and clusters in PEA, but these are often restored by analogy when there are inflectional endings. For example, PA *maθkwa > PEA *maxk > PSNEA *mask > Massachusett mosk (masq) /mask/, but Massachusett mosgquak (masqash) /maskʷash/.

In the development of Proto-Southern New England Algonquian, several notable developments take place, especially in regards to PEA *r. In PEA, all instances of *r that descend from PA *ç must have been unstable or had a unique treatment in PEA as they all shifted to PSNEA *s, e.g., PA *ç > PEA *r > PSNEA *s, PA *çk > PEA *rk > PSNEA *sk and PA *çp > PEA *rp > PSNEA *sp. Clusters from PEA with *r also show the same instability. Whereas PEA *r yields PSNEA *r, in final positions, it becomes PSNEA *š, most noticeable in treatments of inanimate plurals. For example, PA *meçkw- > PEA *mərkw- > PSNEA *məskw- > Massachusett musqu (mushq-), 'red.' But also PA *mehθo·θši > PEA *məhxo·r > PSNEA *məhšo·r > Massachusett mishoon (muhsh8n) /məhʃuːn/.

In a similar vein, PEA *hr, * and *hx all merge into PSNEA *. As a result of these mergers, the sound of /ʃ/ was preserved in PSNEA, since PEA *s and *š merge in PSNEA as *s. Even PEA * and *šp yield PSNEA *s and *sp, respectively. For example, PA *le·hle- > PEA *re·hxe- > PSNEA *ra·hš > Massachusett náhsh- (nâhsh-) /naːhʃ/[45] and PEA *wi·nkwe·hre·w > PSNEA *wi·kwahš > Massachusett wégquosh (weeqahsh) /wiːkʷaːʃ/[46]

A major development is the palatization of PEA *k. As described in other sections, this causes a shift to PSNEA *ty in restrictive environments. For example, PA *kakakiwa > PEA *kakakiw > PSNEA *kąkąntyəw > Massachusett kôkontu (kôkôtyuw) /kãkãtʲəw/, 'crow.' Furthermore, PEA *sk undergoes palatization to PSNEA *. For example, PA *niswineθke·k > PEA *ni·sinǝxke·k (northern PEA *ni·sinǝške·k and possibly even *ni·sinǝske·k in New England PEA) > PSNEA *ni·sǝnǝhča·k > Massachusett nesnehchag (neesnuhchâk) /niːsnəhtʃaːk/, 'twenty' (literally 'two [pairs of] hands'). Otherwise, the typical development of PA *θk is PSNEA *sk.

In the development of Massachusett from PSNEA, a few noticeable differences arise. Mainly, PSNEA *r is /n/ in Massachusett dialects, but within the SNEA languages, there are varieties that have replaced PSNEA *r with /l/ (Nipmuc), /j/ (Niantic), /n/ (some Narragansett dialects) or retained historical /r/ (Quiripi). For instance, PSNEA *arəm ('dog') was Massachusett anum, Narragansett ayimp, Nipmuc alum, and Quiripi arum. Massachusett preserves final PEA *r as /ʃ/ and the general merger of PSNEA merger of *s and *š, but [ʃ] re-appears as an allophone of /s/, probably due to the influence of emerging /hʃ/ and /ʃ/ in other environments, but the alteration may have varied by dialect or perhaps imparted some unknown semantic meaning.

The instability of PA *nl is also preserved. While it tends to follow that it evolves into PEA *hr and then it should yield PSNEA *, however, it seems to have, in certain words, evolved into PEA *r or *h, especially in transitive inanimate second person imperative verbs but appears in Massachusett as /n/, /s/ or /ʃ/ (and not /hʃ/), however, words in this category seem to have been altered by analogy to other words, such as PA *no·nle·waki > PEA *no·hre·wak > PSNEA *no·ra·wak > Massachusett nꝏnáog (n8nâwak /nuːnaːwak/, 'she suckles them' or 'she nurses them') or appears as /h/ or /s/.

Vowel development

Vowel development from Proto-Algonquian[39][40]
*i * *, *ə /iː/, /ə/
*e *ə /ə/
* * /aː/
*a /a/
* *ą /ã/
*o * /uː/

The vowels of Proto-Algonquian were very symmetric, comprising short vowels *a, *e, *i and *o followed by their long counterparts *, *, * and *. These remained relatively intact in some of the Central Algonquian languages, but were radically restructured in most of the Plains Algonquian languages and Eastern Algonquian languages.

Both PA *i and *o are lost and merge into their long counterparts in PEA, e.g., PA *i and * > PEA * and PA *o and * > PEA *. Proto-Algonquian *e alters to PEA *ə but PA *a, * and * remain unchanged. This left PEA Algonquian with two short vowels *a and *ə and four long vowels *, *, * and *.

Proto-Southern New England Algonquian kept the PEA vowels *a, *ə and * unaltered. Proto-Eastern Algonquian * shifted to PSNEA *. However, PEA * was lost, instead it was altered to the PSNEA nasal vowel *ą. Although this appears to be diagnostic of the SNEA languages, the intrusive nasal is possibly a feature shared with Algonquian. The PEA long vowel * underwent some alteration. When not in the initial syllable of a word, and probably in an unstressed position often shortened to PSNEA *ə, a process that may also trigger vowel affection and /k/ palatization.

The vowel inventory of PSNEA *a, *, *ą, *ə, * (which are equivalent to their Massachusett phonological representation /a/, /aː/, /ã/, /ə/ and /iː/, respectively) is retained, but PSNEA * becomes * or /uː/. This is reflected by the double-o ligature ⟨ꝏ⟩ or the digraph ⟨oo⟩ in the colonial-era documents and ⟨8⟩ in the modern orthography implemented by the WLRP.[47][7] Eliot claimed that the double o ligature was pronounced like English book and mood, both of which were also pronounced /oː/ before shifting to /uː/, but the word book was probably still pronounced closer to [buːk] than current [bʊk] in Eliot's time, as the effects of the Great Vowel Shift in English were still going on, and may reflect Eliot's use of ⟨o⟩ in his earliest Massachusett writings, whereas the majority use ⟨ꝏ⟩.[48] Eliot also used ⟨ꝏ⟩ for what has been reconstructed as /əw/, especially word-medial or word-final positions, and /wə/ or /ə/ word initially. However, in the modern orthography, ⟨8⟩ is only used for what can be traced back to developments from Proto-Algonquian *.

Development examples

Development from Proto-Algonquian
English PA PEA PSNEA Massachusett
'woods,' 'thickets' *meˀtekwari *məhtəkwar *məhtəkwaš mehtugquosh (muhtuqash) /məhtəkʷaʃ/[49] mitigwakiwan neeyeici
'worm' *o·xhwe·wa *o·xhw *o·hkw ꝏhk (8hq) /uːhk/[50] ookwe ('maggot') hi'iiisoo ('maggot')
'fox' *wa·kwehsa *wa·kwəhs *wąkwəhs wonquiss (wôquhs), /wãkʷəhs/[51] -waagosh (compounds) beexouu
'snake' *aθko·ka *axko·k *asko·k askꝏk (ask8k), /askuːk/[52] ginebig (unrelated) siisiiyei
'fish' *name·ˀsa *name·hs *nama·hs namohs (namâhs) /namaːhs/[53] namens (Alberta dialects) neb
'three' *neˀθw- *nəhxw- *nuhšw- nushw- (nuhshw-) /nəhʃw/[54][55] niswi neeso
'strawberries' *wete·himiniari *wəte·hi·mi·ni·ar *wəte·hi·mənyaš wettohimunneash (wutâheemuneash) /wətaːhiːmənjaʃ/[56] ode`iminan hiteehibino
'duck' *ši·ˀši·pa *ši·hši·p *si·hsi·p seaseepe (seehseep) /siːhsiːp/[57] zhiishiib ('fat flightless duck') siisiiko
'bowstring' *aˀta·pya *ahta·p *ahtąp ohtop (ahtôp) /ahtãp/[58] achaab (Northwest dialects) beete
'house' *wi·kiwa·ˀmi *wi·ki·w[a·hm] *wi·tyəw wetu (weetyuw) /wiːtjəw/[59] wiigiwaam ho'oowu
'earth,' 'land' *ačkyi *aski· *ahki· ohke (ahkee) /ahkiː/[60][61] aki ho'oeet ('clay')


  1. ^ Baird, J. L. D. (2014). 'Project History.' Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. Retrieved 09 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b Goddard, Ives. 1996. "Introduction." Ives Goddard, ed., The Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 17. Languages, pp. 1–16.
  3. ^ Mandell, D. R. (1996). Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts. (p. 59). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  4. ^ Goddard, I. (1990). 'Unhistorical features of massachusett.' J. Fisiak (Ed.), Historical Linguistics and Philology: Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs [TILSM] (Vol. 46, pp. 229-230). Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter.
  5. ^ Wiktionary. *wapyawi.
  6. ^ a b c d e Goddard, I. (1981). p. 69.
  7. ^ a b c d Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). p. 9.
  8. ^ Goddard, I. (1981). p. 70.
  9. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary *aθko·ka.
  10. ^ Görlach, M. (1991). Introduction to Early Modern English. Cambridge University Press. pp. 67-69.
  11. ^ Goddard, I. (1990). 'Unhistorical Features of Massachusett.' J. Fisiak (Ed.), Historical Linguistics and Philology: Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs [TILSM] (Vol. 46, pp. 227–244). Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter.
  12. ^ Goddard, I., & Bragdon, K. (1988). Native writings in Massachusetts. In Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society (185 ed. Part II, pp. 276-279). Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society.
  13. ^ Goddard, I. (1981). pp. 59-68.
  14. ^ Hicks, N. (2006). p. 80.
  15. ^ Cf. Portuguese quinta-feira, 'fifth day' or 'Thursday.'
  16. ^ Cotton, J. (1830). Vocabulary of the Massachusetts (or Natick) Indian Language in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. John Davis (ed.) Vol II(3). pp. 242-243. Cambridge, Massachusetts: E. W. Metcalf Company. Publication of notes compiled in 1707-1708 of by Josiah Cotton, some with the help of his father, John Cotton, Jr.
  17. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). p. 13.
  18. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000).
  19. ^ Hicks, N. (2006).
  20. ^ Hicks, N. (2006). p. 55. From (wusuhqahw-), 'to write,' plus nominalizer (-ôk). When vowels are deleted in same locations as cited in Costa, it yields the cluster /hkʷh/.
  21. ^ Costa, D. J. (2007). 'pp. 97-99.
  22. ^ Randolph, V. J. (2001). Nishnaabemwin Reference Grammar. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
  23. ^ a b c Hayes, B. (1995). Metrical Stress Theory: Principles and Case Studies. (pp. 215-227). Urbana-Champagne, IL: University of Illinois Press.
  24. ^ Olson, E. (Presenter.). (2012). Describing the Accent System of Listuguj Mi’gmaq. Chicago, Il: 44th Algonquian Conference.
  25. ^ Goddard, I. (1990). 'Unhistorical features of massachusett.' J. Fisiak (Ed.), Historical Linguistics and Philology: Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs [TILSM] (Vol. 46, pp. 229-230). Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter.
  26. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). p. 19.
  27. ^ Wiktionary. Proto-Algonquian piči.
  28. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). p. 40.
  29. ^ Wiktionary. Proto-Algonquian *mi·ni.
  30. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). p. 31.
  31. ^ a b c Goddard, I. (1990). p. 230.
  32. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). pp 9, 19.
  33. ^ Hicks, N. (2006). p. 14. Sound change of (kônuk-), 'to pierce,' to (kônuty-).
  34. ^ Wiktionary. Proto-Algonquian wi·kiwa·ʔmi.
  35. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2001). p. 31.
  36. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). p. 34.
  37. ^ Wiktionary. Proto-Algonquian sa·kima·wa.
  38. ^ Based on reconstructions from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary. Proto-Algonquian sa·kima·wa ('chief') and eθkwe·wa ('female').
  39. ^ a b Goddard, I. (1980). 'Eastern Algonquian as a genetic subgroup.' William Cowan, ed., Papers of the eleventh Algonquian Conference/Actes du onzième congrės des algonquinistes, Vol. 11(1980). pp. 143-158. Ottawa, ON: Carleton University.
  40. ^ a b Goddard, I. (1981). 'Eastern Algonquian as a genetic subgroup.' William Cowan, ed., Papers of the twelfth Algonquian Conference/Actes du douzième congrės des algonquinistes, Vol. 12(1981). pp. 143-158. Ottawa, ON: Carleton University.
  41. ^ Cambell, L. (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. In (pp. 151-153). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  42. ^ Goddard, Ives (1994). 'The West-to-East Cline in Algonquian Dialectology'. In Cowan, William. Actes du Vingt-Cinquième Congrès des Algonquinistes. Ottawa, ON: Carleton University. pp. 187–211.
  43. ^ Bragdon, K. J. (2005). The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Northeast. (pp. 93-95, 133-135). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  44. ^ Bragdon, K. (1999). pp. 92-95.
  45. ^ Hicks, N. (2006). p. 21.
  46. ^ Costa. D. J. (2007). p. 37. Based on reconstruction from PEA *wi·nkwe·hre·w ('swan')
  47. ^ Eliot, J. (1832). The Indian Grammar Begun. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, IX(2), 243-312.
  48. ^ Lass, Roger (2000). "Chapter 3: Phonology and Morphology". In Lass, Roger. The Cambridge History of the English Language, Volume III: 1476–1776. Cambridge University Press. pp. 56–186.
  49. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary meʔtekwari.
  50. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary o·xhwe·wa.
  51. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary wa·kwehsa.
  52. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary aθko·ka.
  53. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary name·ʔsa.
  54. ^ Hicks, N. (2006). p. 25.
  55. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary neˀθwi.
  56. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary wete·himini with inanimate plural -ari.
  57. ^ Hewson, John. (2014). 'Proto-Algonquian Roots' compiled from data generated in the publication of Hewson, J. (1993). A Computer-Generated Dictionary of Proto-Algonquian. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Museum of Civilization. Canadian Ethnology Service: Mercury Series Paper 125. Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian ši·ˀši·pa.
  58. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary aˀta·pya with inanimate plural -ari.
  59. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary wi·kiwa·ˀmi.
  60. ^ Fermino, J. L. D. (2000). p. 59.
  61. ^ Based on regular patterns of sound change from Proto-Algonquian. Wiktionary ačkyi.
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