Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wampanoag Numbers

 Q: I'm going to be talking to a 2nd-grade class about the Wampanoag and Timucua Indians for a few minutes.  I've been  making presentation cards comparing the two indigenous tribes that, hopefully, are geared towards 7 and 8 year olds.  Anyway, I thought it would be fun to show them how to count to 10 in both languages, but I can only find  numbers to 1 to 5 for the Wampanoag on your site.  Is that all that's known?  Do you happen to have  numbers 6 through 10 anywhere?

 A: Yes, those numbers were taken from an 18th-century dictionary of Massachusett (Wampanoag). Here is the full set of ten numbers from that dictionary:

1) aquit
2) nees
3) nis
4) yoaw
5) abbona
6) nota
7) enotta
8) sonaske
9) assaquoquin
10) piocke

The source is Wood's Vocabulary of Massachusett.

Of course, this is a very old dictionary, and it lacks a pronunciation guide or standardized spelling even for the English words. The modern Wampanoag tribe is working on a language revival program, where they are taking words from old texts and from cultural memory and comparing them with words from related Algonquian languages to reconstruct their native language with a real alphabet, pronunciation guide, etc. to help their children learn to speak it again. This is a work in progress, but if you're interested, here's their webpage:

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Wampanoag language
Wampanoag Indians
American Indian numbers


  1. My maternal grandmother Florence Bell (Snow) Anderson was, according to her and her mother and grandmother, descended from the Wampanoag Sachem Metacom - aka as King Philip,(naturally I have zero proof of that, only my late [born Oct 9, 1902] grandmothers word for it) - taught us kids to count to ten in "Indian" and her's my best interpretation. I am Rhode Island Jim - Jim Magee, born April 4, 1949
    1 - Nek
    2 - Tok
    3 - Cees
    4 - Nees
    5 - Noz
    6 - Nuzzigan
    7 - Aquamublit
    8 - Aquamublen
    9 - Tequalay
    10 - Tollence

    1. Interesting number set! It looks more like Passamaquoddy than Wampanoag/Massachuset to me. Did your mother have any family from further to the north (Canada or Maine?) Here are the Passamaquoddy numbers:

      1: Neqt
      2: Tapu
      3: Sis
      4: New
      5: Nan
      6: Kamacin
      7: Oluwikonok
      8: Oqomolcin
      9: Esqonatek
      10: Qotinsk

      The matches to your wordset get fuzzier as the numbers get higher, but that's typical when you're talking about number sets remembered from 100 years ago by a few different generations. The presence of the letter "L" (rare in other Algonquian languages) and the similarity between "oqomolcin" and "aquamublen" particularly stand out to me, as well as a number 2 beginning with "t."

      Passamaquoddy/Maliseet speakers, what do you think? :-) Happy New Year, everyone!