Saturday, May 13, 2006

My quest to learn (Ecclesiastical) Mohawk

Over the past few months, I've been trying to teach myself Mohawk. Now I've dabbled a bit in Delaware, but I haven't really ever delved into the meat of learning a Native language because...well, to be frank, I didn't see much of a point in it for me personally. We *do* have professional linguists who study these kinds of things after all, and I didn't see me being able to contribute anything new in that regard.

Well over the last few months I've been coming around on that score with the increasing realization that linguists don't generally tend to be well informed on things like liturgical history or Catholic devotional praxis. And one can't reasonably hope to study the native liturgies unless one is prepared to also learn the native languages used in them.

So a few months ago I picked up David Kanatawakhan Maracle's "Let's Speak Mohawk" audio cassette course and have managed to pick up a bit of pronunciation and some basics of the language. Then last weekend, my brother and sister and law graciously rented us a cabin in French Creek State park in Pennsylvania, and I took along a bit of light reading--Cuoq's Tsiatak Nihonon8entsiake (see sidebar) and his Etudes Philologiques, which contains very useful classical-style grammars of Mohawk and Algonquin.

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