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Subject: Native American speech
Question: Dear Ask A Linguist Panel, I work for a production company called Nutopia, and we’re making a television drama series about the Pilgrim Fathers’ voyage to the New World in 1620. Some of our Algonquian native American characters were able to speak a limited amount of English, and indeed one we think would have had a good grasp of the language having spent several years previous living and working in England. Our screenwriter is keen to find out how these people would have spoken, in terms of formulating expressions, word order, degree of fluency and so on. From what I’ve read, a lot of the communication that took place in these early years was through gestures and signs, but we know some of the Wampanoag did make an attempt to learn English. I wonder if you might happen have any advice on this? It may be something that very little is known or can be known about, since records for that time are so scarce, but perhaps an expert on a later period might be able to make suggestions at least about what to avoid. If you had any thoughts, I would be really grateful for your help. Kind regards, James Allnutt
Reply: There are a couple of scholarly resources you might look at: American Indian English, by William Leap, University of Utah Press, 1993. Papers by Walt Wolfram on Lumbee. Neither of these resources will answer your questions directly, but they will tell you a good bit about how American Indian languages have affected English. Good luck with your project! Herb
Reply From: Herbert Frederic Stahlke      click here to access email
Date: 06-Feb-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Native American speech    Norvin Richards     (06-Feb-2013)
  2. Re: Native American speech    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (06-Feb-2013)

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