Abenaki-Penobscot: A musical language that is almost extinct

KwaiKwai and WoiWoi are some of the musical words of the Abenaki-Penobscot that you can learn from some of the few tutors struggling to keep the Abenaki-Penobscot language alive. KwaiKwai is a form of greeting while WoiWoi means “Thank you.” Declared as one of the top languages that are in danger of extinction, a few people have dedicated themselves to teaching Abenaki-Penobscot to interested students in daycare centers, high schools and even communities. Gabe Paul, one of the language’s tutors states that the major danger to the language is English. This is because most of the native speakers prefer English to Abenaki-Penobscot, as a viable means of communication. Currently, only a handful of people speak the language. Most of them cannot speak it fluently as elderly people who know the language can only speak some words. The language uses complex verbs. Various writing systems have been developed for writing various sounds in Abenaki. Though the writing systems differ, they have some common letters. These systems were developed by Henry Lorne Masta, Pial Pol Wzokihlain, Gordon Day and Sozap Lolô.

Abenaki-Penobscot is essentially one language spoken by two tribes, the Aenaki and Penobscot. The only difference is that it is spoken using two different accents, the same way that both Americans and Britons speak English, but with different accents. The community became extinct due to its early contact with European fishermen and various epidemics that affected the community in the 16th century. As a result of that, a large section of the tribes was affected leaving only a few thousand survivors. Most Abenaki-Penobscot, now speak English.

There are a number of literature that you can review that will help you understand more about the Abenaki-Penobscot. This includes Crossing the Starlight Bridge by Alice Meade which tells the story of a young Abenaki-Penobscot girl trying to find herself and maintain her culture after her parents divorce. Also, the autobiography of Louis Sockalexis, a ball player, who is one of the most famous Abenaki-Penobscot will give you more insight into the community.

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