Published on November 11, 2014 by Amy
The Abenaki language is classified by linguists as belonging to the Algonquin family of Native American Languages. Therefore, there are many similarities between the terms used by the tribes ranging from New England to Northeast and Central Canada, and often it is possible for these distinct groups to verbally communicate. In our homeland encompassing Southern Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire and parts of Maine and New York, many modern place names are derived from their original Native pronunciation. For example, the name of the well-known Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire originated from the Abenaki word Winninebesakik or region of the land around lakes. The main difficulty in understanding the Abenaki language from many published sources is that, unlike the English language, there is not always a literal translation for a word. For example, according to Gordon Day’s Abenaki Dictionary, the Abenaki word for clock is babizookwazik. However, in Abenaki translation this word loses some of its meaning and becomes “that thing that ticks.” The concept of a clock and other terms is further complicated because Native Americans do not think along Western European lines, and have an altogether different concept of what time is and how it is measured. Consequently, while many place names have remained similar to their original names, a literal translation of many other Abenaki words is not possible.
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