Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Native American English

Yesterday I went to the National Museum of the American Indian in NYC. It was pretty cool for a free museum, and the best part by far was this random presentation set up on a card table in the middle of this huge, beautifully painted rotunda. The guy was talking about various aspects of Native American life and he mentioned several words that native languages contributed to American English. Generally speaking they are vocab words for things that they invented or foods that are native to this hemisphere, and many words were first adopted by the Spanish and were borrowed into English from the Spanglicized words.

Here are some examples and the Native American word from which they originate:
cashew: Tupi (Brazillian) acajoba
canoe: (Haiti) canoa
hammock: (Caribbean) hamaca
potato: (Haiti) batata
tobacco: (Haiti) tabaco - actually the word for a smoking pipe, the plant had a different name
crab: (South American) - means crab tree, not the crustatian
skunk: Abenaki segankw
woodchuck: Cree wuchak

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