For years; our ancestors’ language had been lost and forgotten by our people. It has not been habitually spoken since the late 1800s and its last known fluent speaker died in the mid- 1930s. Since then; only a few words were remembered by some families.
Unknowingly to the tribe was a vast amount of the Mohican language lying in old dictionaries; field notes, letters, and books written about the language. It wasn’t until the late 70s when some of these things written in the "Muhheconuk" language began to surface.
On this dawn of a new day for our people; the words of our ancestors are beginning to find the lips of our people once again. Our culture and our language is our identity among Native Americans.
I began studying the language for about two years now. I have learned much and have much more to learn as well. Hopefully this year we will begin having study groups working with the language to get more of our people involved with our own spelling and pronunciation systems. The language and culture board is open to all who wish to attend to participate, or learn.
In this article I will give the reader a very basic idea on how the Mohican Language structures words, in this case verbs (action words). If you are one wanting to learn more about the language, it would be wise to save this article for your studies.
To begin we will start with a word that is most familiar with our people." Mohican" (Muh-he-can). Below is an excerpt from Carl Masthays’ "MAHICAN: the word as a dictionary entry".
Mahican Words Compiled by Carl Masthay, 1998" with modifications:
Abbreviations: E, Jonathan Edwards, 1788; Ho, Frederick Webb Hodge, 1907; R, Edward M. Ruttenber, 1872; R1, Ruttenber, 1906; V, C.F. and F.M. Voegelin, 1977.
The primary form: Muhheakanneuw [R1], Mukkekaneew [E]; plural Muhhekaneok [E], Muhheakunnuk [R1], Muhheakunneyuk [R], meaning ‘the great tidal river of the Muhheakan′neuw nation’ [R1] or ‘those dwelling on the great tidewater’, from Mah. machche ‘great’ + hekan, akin to Del. hikan ‘ebb-tide’ + -eew ‘he/she is’, or -ok ‘(plural)’. Further translations are ‘the people of the waters that are never still’ (Davidson 1893, p. 45) and ‘seaside people’. There is only one original, constant pronunciation for "Mahican/Mohican" and that is like the first syllable in "mother" /muh-/, not /mo-/.
Chief Hendrick Aupaumut in [R1] wrote: Muhheakun′nuk, "The great waters or sea, which are constantly in motion, either ebbing or flowing." [R1] added: "Muhheakun was the national name . . . and -nuk, the equivalent of Massachusetts -tuk, Lenape -ittuck, ‘tidal river, or estuary’." This is not true; instead -[n]uk is really a form of the plural [C.M.].
Carl Masthay, 838 Larkin Ave., Saint Louis, Missouri 63141, 16 May 2005
There is what is called 1st, 2nd, and 3rd persons in language. This must be remembered for future learning. 1st person is the person speaking. 1st person, words begin, or end with I, me, we, us etc. 2nd person(s) are the person or persons that the first person is talking to. 2nd person words begin or end with the words "you" or 2nd person plural such as "yous". (Ye) 3rd person is the one or ones that the first person is telling the second person about. Such as "he", "she"," him," "her"," it" "that" or plural "they", "those" etc.
Here are the basic 1st – 3rd person(s) in Mohican.
1st person singular
- I, me, my= "Nia". Or "Ne" when used with another word ("e" sounds like in "be")
2nd person singular
- You = "Kia", or "Ke" when used with another word.
3rdt person singular
- He/she/it/that person or thing = "Uwa". "Nahkma" is used usually when referring to a person.
1st person plural (Exclusive)
When this form of "we" is used it does not include the listener(s).
2nd person plural
- Ye, yous (you plural) =" kiawa"
1st person plural (inclusive)
When this form of "we" is used it includes the listener(s)
3rd person plural
- They/ them/those people = "Nahkmawa"