Native American languages: Algonquian-Wakashan


The Algonquian-Wakashan language family of North America was one of the most widespread of Native American linguistic stocks; in historical times, tribes speaking its languages extended from coast to coast. Today the surviving languages of the Algonquian-Wakashan family are spoken by about 130,000 people in Canada and a few thousand in the Great Lakes region, Montana, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and the NE United States. The Algonquian branch of the family once had some 50 distinct tongues, among them Algonquin, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Delaware, Kickapoo, Menomini, Mi'kmaq, Ojibwa (or Chippewa), Penobscot, Sac and Fox, Shawnee, and Yurok. Two other important branches of the Algonquian-Wakashan stock are Salishan and Wakashan. Among the tribes speaking Salishan languages are the Bella Coola, Klallam, Coeur d'Alene, Colville, Nisqualli, Okanogan, Pend d'Oreille, Puyallup, Salish or Flathead, Shuswap, Spokan, and Tillamook. The Salishan tongues are spoken in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Tribes speaking Wakashan languages (used along the Pacific Northwest coast) include the Nootka, Nitinat, Makah, Kwakiutl, Bella Bella, and Kitamat. Polysynthesism characterizes the Algonquian-Wakashan languages, which are inflected and make great use of suffixes. Prefixes are employed to a limited extent.

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