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Mohawk language

Mohawk language

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Pronunciation: IPA: [ganjʌ̃ʔg'ɛha]
Spoken in: United States, Canada 
Region: Ontario, Quebec and northern New York
Total speakers: 3,350 (Ethnologue)
Language family: Iroquoian
 Northern Iroquoian
  Proto-Lake Iroquoian
   Iroquois Proper
Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: moh
ISO/FDIS 639-3: moh 

Mohawk is a Native American language spoken by the Mohawk nation in the United States and Canada. It is part of the Iroquoian family.


[edit] Dialects

Mohawk has three major dialects: Western (Six Nations & Tyendinaga), Central (Ahkwesáhsne), and Eastern (Kahnawà:ke & Kanehsatà:ke); the differences between them are largely phonological. The pronunciation of /r/ and several consonant clusters may differ in the dialects.

  Underlying Phonology Western Central Eastern
seven /tsyata/ [ˈʤaːda] [ˈʤaːda] [ˈʣaːda]
nine /tyohtu/ [ˈdjɔhdũ] [ˈgjɔhdũ] [ˈʤɔhdũ]
I fall /kyaʔtʌʔs/ [ˈgjàːdʌ̃ʔs] [ˈgjàːdʌ̃ʔs] [ˈʤàːdʌ̃ʔs]
dog /erhar/ [ˈɛɹhaɹ] [ˈɛlhal] [ˈɛɹhaɹ]

[edit] Phonology

The phoneme inventory is as follows (using the International Phonetic Alphabet). Phonological representation (underlying forms) are in /slashes/, and the standard Mohawk orthography is in bold.

[edit] Consonants

An interesting feature of Mohawk phonology is that there are no labials, except in a few borrowings from French and English, where [m] and [p] appear (e.g., mátsis matches and aplám Abraham); as such, these sounds are late additions to Mohawk phonology and were introduced after widespread European contact.

  Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive t   k ʔ
Affricate   ʤ    
Fricative s     h
Nasal n      
Liquid/Semivowel l / r j w  

Consonant clusters in the Central (Ahkwesáhsne) dialect:

-tt, kt, -ʔt, st, -ht, tk, kk, -ʔk, sk, -hk, -ʔʤ, -hʤ, ts, ks, -ʔs, -ss, -hs, th, kh, sh, -nh, -lh, -wh, -ʔn, sn, -hn, -ʔl, sl, hl, -nl, -ʔj, ʤj, sj, -hj, nj, -lj, -ʔw, sw, -hw.

Those clusters preceded by a hyphen only occur word-medially; the others occur both initially and medially.

The consonants /{k, kw, t, ts}/ are pronounced voiced before any voiced sound (i.e. a vowel or /y/). They are voiceless at the end of a word or before a voiceless sound. /s/ is voiced word initially and between vowels.

carkà:sere [ˈgàːzɛrɛ]
thatthí:ken [ˈthiːgʌ̃]
hello, stillshé:kon [ˈshɛːgũ]
Note that th and sh are pronounced as consonant clusters, not single sounds like in English thing and she.

[edit] Vowels

  Front Central Back
High i   ũ
Mid e ʌ̃ o
Low   a  

i, e, a, and o are oral vowels, while ʌ and u (IPA /ʌ̃/ and /ũ/) are nasalized; oral versions of ʌ and u do not occur in the language.

[edit] Orthography

The Mohawk orthography was standardised in 1993<ref name="Standarization">Mohawk Language Standardization Project. </ref>. The standard allows for some variation of how the language is represented, most notably:, and the clusters /ts(i)/, /ty/, and /ky/ are written as pronunced in each community. The orthography matches the phonological analysis as above except:

  • The glottal stop /ʔ/ is written with an apostrophe , it is often omitted at the end of words, especially in Eastern dialect where it is typically not pronounced.
  • /ʤ/
    • /ʤ/ is written ts in the Eastern dialect (reflecting pronunciation). Seven is tsá:ta [dza:da].
    • /ʤ/ is written tsi in the Central dialect. Seven is tsiá:ta [dʒa:da].
    • /ʤ/ is written tsy in the Western dialect. Seven is tsiá:ta [dʒa:da].
  • /j/
    • /j/ is typically written i in the Central and Eastern dialects. Six is ià:ia’k [jà:jaʔk].
    • /j/ is usually written y in the Western dialect. Six is yà:ya’k [jà:jaʔk].
  • The vowel /ʌ̃/ is written en, as in one énska [ʌ̃ska].
  • The vowel /ũ/ is written on, as in eight sha’té:kon [shaʔdɛ:gũ].

[edit] Stress, Length, and Tone

Stress, vowel length and tone are linked together in Mohawk. There are three kinds of stressed vowels: short-high tone, long-high tone, and long-falling tone. Stress is always written and only occurs once per word.

  • Short-high tone usually (but not always) appears in closed syllables or before /h/. It is written with an acute accent: stick kánhia, road oháha.
  • Long-high tone generally occurs in open syllables. It is written with a combination acute accent and colon: town kaná:ta, man rón:kwe. Notice that when it is one of the nasal vowels which is long, the colon appears after the n.
  • Long-falling tone is the result of the word stress falling on a vowel which comes before a /ʔ/ or /h/ + a consonant (there may be, of course, exceptions to this and other rules). The underlying /ʔ/ or /h/ re-appears when stress is placed elsewhere. It is written with a grave accent and colon: stomach onekwèn:ta (from /onekwʌʔta/).

[edit] Grammar

Mohawk expresses a large number of pronominal distinctions: person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), number (singular, dual, plural), gender (masculine, feminine, neuter, indefinite) and inclusivity/exclusivity on the first person dual and plural. Pronominal information is encoded in prefixes on the verbs, rather than given as separate pronoun words; there are two main paradigms of pronominal prefixes: intransitive and transitive.

[edit] Some phrases (Kahnawake dialect)

Nahò:ten kén:ton'? - What does it mean?
Tiohrhén:sa satá:ti. - Say it in English, Speak in English.
Onkwehonwehnéha satá:ti. - Say it in Indian. Speak in Indian.
Sa'nikonhraién:tas ken? - Do you understand?
Seni'nikonhraién:tas ken? - Do you (d) understand?
Sewa'nikonhraién:tas ken? - Do you (p) understand?
Iah tewake'nikonhraién:ta's. - I don't understand.
Ónhka thi? - Who's that?
Ónhka ki? - Who's this?
Ontiatén:ro' ne thi. - That is my friend. (m to m)
Ontiatén:ro' ne ki. - This is my friend. (m)
Ontiátshi ne thi. - That is my friend. (f talking about f)
Ontiátshi ne ki. - This is my friend.(f)
Raterihwaiénstha ken? - Is he a student?
Ionterihwaiénstha ken? - Is she a student?
Saterihwaiénstha ken? - Are you a student?
Ronterihwaiénstha ken? - Are they (p,m) student?
Hen. - Yes
Tó:ka - I don't know.
Iah tewakaterién:tare'. - I don't know. (polite form)
Tánon' ónhka ne: nakáonha? - And who is she?
Tánon' ónhka ne: ne ráonha? - And who is he?
Tánon' ónhka ní:se'? - And who are you?
Tánon' ónhka ne: ne ronónha? - And who are they(p,m)?
Raterihwaiénstha ni' né:'e. - He's a student, too.
Ionterihwaiénstha ni né:'e. - She's a student, too.
Katerihwaiénstha ni ní:'i. - I'm a student, too.
Ronterihwaiénstha ni né:'e - They (p,m) are students, too.
Ontiátshi né:'e. - She is my friend(f).
Ontiatén:ro' né:'e - He's my friend(m).
Ontiatén:ro' ne ki. - This is my friend(m).
Onkwatén:ro né:'e - They (p,m) are my friends


  • Khwe – hi
  • Kwehkwe - hi there
  • Ó:nen - bye
  • Ó:nen ki' wáhi - goodbye
  • Ó:nen - bye now
  • Oh niiawenhátie? - what’s happening.... what’s going on?

Thank you/You're welcome

  • Niá:wen - thank you
  • Niawen’kó:wa - thank you very much
  • Niá:wenh ki’ wáhi - thanks a lot
  • Tekwanonwerá:tons - welcome
  • Io - you're welcome


  • Atenró:sera- friendship
  • Ontiatén:ro or yonkiatén:ron- he/she and I are friends (Eastern then Western dialect)
  • Onkwatenro'shón:'a- they all and I are friends.
  • Tiatén:ro- you and I are friends.

First/Second Person

  • Í:’i - I, me
  • Í:se - you
  • Akwá:wen - mine


  • Akwé:kon - all
  • Khá:wis - I am carrying
  • Tyorahteken - fisher
  • Iakohsatens – she rides
  • Tsiktsinenná:wen - butterfly
  • Karonhià:ke - in the sky
  • Ohontsà:ke - on earth
  • Otkon - spirit
  • Atonhnhetshera - spirit
  • Tsikenon'waristak - dragonfly
  • Skén:nen - peace; serenity.
  • Skennen'kó:wa - great peace
  • Ka'shatsténhshera - power


  • Ista – mother [isda]
  • Istén:’a – mom [isdʌ̃ʔa]
  • Raké:ni - father
  • Rake'níha - dad
  • Tiakení:teron – wife/husband (when speaking about him/her it works either way).
  • Rakshótha - grandfather (when referring to him).
  • Akshótha - grandmother (when referring to her).
  • Akhso – grandmother (when talking to her).
  • Tóta – can be used in reference to either grandmother/grandfather (slang)


  • Tree- Ó:kwire
  • Birch - Watenake:tarons
  • Cedar - Onen'takwenhten:sera
  • Elm - A'ka:ratsi'
  • Sugar Maple - Wahta
  • Spruce - O'so:ra


  • Tsyoka'wehkowa - raven
  • Ori:te' - dove
  • Ori:te nih wa'a - dove (small)
  • Oskenón:ton - deer
  • É:rhar - dog
  • Atená:ti – elk
  • Tsítsho - fox
  • Akoshá:tens - horse
  • Aióha - mink
  • Tako'skó:wa - mountain lion
  • Otsinò:wen - mouse
  • Tawí:ne - otter
  • Anén:taks - porcupine
  • Tehahonhtané:ken - rabbit
  • Atí:ron - raccoon
  • Otsinowenhkó:wa - rat
  • Anì:tas - skunk -
  • Onón:kote - weasel


  • Skennen’kó:wa kenh ontiatenro'shón:a - how are you my friends?
  • Konnorónhkwa - I love you (I show you I care)

"The best chief is not the one who persuades people to his point of view. It is instead the one in whose presence most people find it easiest to arrive at the truth". –Mohawk-

Onkwehonwehnéha – (the) native way


  • Ko:r ióntiats - My name is Paul
  • Arísawe iesá:iats - Your name is Elizabeth.

[edit] References


[edit] External links

de:Mohawk (Sprache) eo:Mohoka lingvo fr:Mohawk (langue)

Mohawk language

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