The visible speech language of the Mohawk

Alexander Graham Bell, one of the inventors of the telephone came across the Six Nations Reserve, where he learned the Mohawk language. He then went on to turn the unwritten language into visible speech symbols. The Mohawk community were greatly impressed and awarded him for his efforts. He was given the Honorary Chief title. During the award ceremony, Bell participated in the traditional dances with a Mohawk headdress on. The Mohawk people love music. They fill their drums with water so as to produce a unique sound, which is a trademark of their nation. It has been speculated that the Mohawk people were cannibals and ate their enemies who died. Up to date, it has never been proved whether these speculations are true or not.

Mohawk is an Iroquoian language. Approximately 3,500 people speak this language, most of whom are the elderly. There are a few young speakers. Most speakers are bilingual and can also speak English. 6 different communities speak this language. The communities can be found in Canada and in the US in Ontario, Quebec and New York. The first people to put down the Mohawk language into written form were French missionaries in the 18th century. The missionaries came up with a spelling system that was based on French pronunciation. Since then, several spelling systems have been used for the Mohawk language. A standard written form was agreed on during the Mohawk Language Standardization Conference held in 1993. Learning the Mohawk language is not that difficult as words are pronounced the way they are written. The Roman alphabet that is used to write the Mohawk language has 12 letters.

Mohawk is traditionally known as Kanien’keha, which translates to ‘people of the flint’. This name was derived from the present region where they live and mine flint, which they use to produce arrow heads and different tools. The Mohawks are known to be very good when it comes to molding flint. The word Mohawk was coined by the Algonquian enemies of the Mohawks. It was coined from a term that means ‘man eaters’. Mohawk has the largest number of speakers in the Northern Iroquoian language group.

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