Many languages, one family
All Algonquians belong to the same linguistic family. That means all the different languages spoken by the Algonquian nations come from a single language. Over time, each nation developed its own words and expressions, until they eventually used different words than neighbouring nations, even though they were speaking the same language. This is somewhat like French, Italian and Spanish, which are all Romance languages of the same origin. Some words are very similar, such as the word “night”, which is “nuit” in French, “notte” in Italian and “noche” in Spanish. The same goes for the Algonquian languages. They belong to same language family, but people did not always understand each other. Native people also used a common language that was shared by all nations and linguistic families so that they could understand one another when they met and did trade.
The meaning of words
Native people always give names to places and things that reflect the kind of activity that takes place there. This is particularly true when it comes to important features on their territory such as lakes, rivers and mountains.
Did you know?
Several cities and regions of Québec still have Native names today. Do you know any? Here are some examples: Magog means “long body of water”, Abitibi means “where the waters divide”, Oka means “pickerel” and Maniwaki means “Mary’s land.”
Author: Alexandre Lanoix