The Iroquoian languages are a language family of indigenous peoples of North America. They are known for their general lack of labial consonants. The Iroquoian languages are polysynthetic and head-marking.
|eastern North America|
|Linguistic classification||One of the world's primary language families|
|ISO 639-2 / 5||iro|
Pre-European contact distribution of the Iroquoian languages.
As of 2008 and as of 2017, all surviving Iroquoian languages except Cherokee in Oklahoma and Mohawk are severely endangered or critically endangered, with only a few elderly speakers remaining. Cherokee in North Carolina is considered severely endangered.
- Northern Iroquoian
- Lake Iroquoian
- Southern Iroquoian:
(†) — language extinct
Evidence is emerging that what has been called the Laurentian language appears to be more than one dialect or language. Ethnographic and linguistic field work with the Wyandot tribal elders (Barbeau 1960) yielded enough documentation for scholars to characterize and classify the Huron and Petun languages.
The languages of the tribes that constituted the tiny Wenrohronon, the powerful Susquehannock and the confederations of the Neutral Nation and the Erie Nation are very poorly documented. They are historically grouped together, and geographically the Wenro's range on the eastern end of Lake Erie placed them between the two much larger confederations. To the east of the Wenro, beyond the Genesee Gorge, were the lands of the Iroquois and southeast, beyond the headwaters of the Allegheny River, lay the Susquehannocks. The Susquehannocks and Erie were militarily powerful and respected by neighboring tribes. These groups were called Atiwandaronk, meaning 'they who understand the language' by the surviving Huron (Wyandot people). By 1660 all of these peoples but the Susquehannocks and Iroquois were defeated and scattered, migrating to form new tribes or to be adopted into others—the practice of adopting valiant enemies into the tribe was a common cultural tradition of the Iroquoian peoples.
The group known as the Meherrin were neighbors to the Tuscarora and the Nottoway (Binford 1967) in the American South and may have spoken an Iroquoian language. There is not enough data to determine this with certainty.
Linguistics and language revitalization
As of 2012, a program in Iroquois linguistics at Syracuse University, the Certificate in Iroquois Linguistics for Language Learners, is designed for students and language teachers working in language revitalization.
Starting in September 2017, the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario have started offering a credit course in Mohawk; the classes are to be given at Renison University College in collaboration with the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre, St. Paul's University College.
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