You are on page 1of 3

Recapturing the Mohawk Language

The article introduces the three different generations in one scenario as well as
the difference in languages being spoken by the different age groups. While the seniors
and the youngsters spoke the Mohawk language, the teenagers spoke another. The
readers are presented with the history of the language. The settlement was quite
mobile, moving from a river in New York State, to Montreal, until they settled in the
Caughnawaga Reserve by the St. Lawrence River. The constant travelling caused the
Mohawk language to change. The article highlights the settlements travelling as the
main reason for the variance in language among generations. The elders, seniors and
young children, speak the Mohawk language while the language is lost within the
teenage Indians as they struggle to fit in with the rest of the teenage generation.
The Mohawk language is then dissected for the average Anglophone. The article
highlights the differences between English versus French and English versus Mohawk.
A lot can be noted in the difference of the order of the words. In the Mohawk language,
changing the order of the words does not change the meaning of the sentence. This is
due to the way the language is set up - the order of the words does not matter because
there is a designated word for almost everything. Also, the gender is included in the
nouns or words so even if you change the order, the meaning always stays the same. In
the most basic term, we can establish that the Mohawk language has a subject-first
word order. Also, in contrast to the English language, the Mohawk language places new
information at the beginning of the sentence rather than at the end.
The article makes a note of the fact that the Mohawk language is polysynthetic,
because as it piles a lot of information into one word. However, learning the Mohawk

language is not an impossible task. The article states that "learning Mohawk involves
learning regular rules for building up words from smaller, meaningful chunks of
language" (12). Therefore, creating words isn't as tough as it seems, because Mohawk
establishes simple rules for all words. Following the rules established, you can form new
words, as well as build onto existing words.
A set of exercises is offered to the reader to help them learn the Mohawk
language. While practicing these exercises, focusing on what I was doing without prior
language of any Indian language was somewhat easy. It was not hard to grasp the
concept of the way the language worked. Despite knowing and being familiar with the
English language, understanding the Mohawk language did not require extensive work.
As we learned in class, the I-language came into play despite knowing English; I didn't
need outside help to be able to understand and figure out how the language worked. I
was able to form words, change tenses, understand how to form same sentences with
dual or singular genders, etc. The article uses and relies on the notion of internal
grammar by using the abstract system of rules that are almost secondary to us as we
subconsciously use them. Our internal grammar comes to use to help us understand
new languages. The set of rules and patterns we see allow our natural grammar to help
generate a better understand of the language we are learning so that we may be able to
retain it.
This article affected my view of language because it shows me that learning a
new language may not be as difficult as I may think it is since our internal grammar
allows us to grasp a better understanding of new languages that we are exposed to. It
has showed me that there is no singular way to look at a language, and learning new

languages is not as tough as we make it out to be. When it comes to leaning new
languages, a lot of us are disheartened by the fact that we cannot grasp the language
right away. Now, I feel that it is crucial to learn how the language works and forms itself,
to dissect the language, and actually understand it in an effort to help learn it. There is a
certain standpoint of language that we humans are naturally born with and without that,
no language would have been formed. Therefore, every language is built with the
internal notion of grammar that humans have, and once that is in place and established,
adding onto that is just the cherry on top.
In conclusion, this course in general has changed my view on language and the
way I look at the how and why of language. It has opened my eyes to things that take
place in order for us humans to be able to do the remarkable things we do. It reinforces
the idea that once you really understand the way some things work and look at them
without any extra complexity, you really can unravel the true beauty of things, just as we
did with languages in this course and with the Mohawk language this article presented.