In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Algonquian Linguistics

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Resources
  • Text Collections and Native Writings
  • Dictionaries
  • Algonquian, Algic, and Contact Languages
  • Nomenclature
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Semantics
  • Discourse and Pragmatics
  • Acquisition
  • Descriptive and Analytical Grammars

Linguistics Algonquian Linguistics
Conor McDonough Quinn
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0049


The traditional and post-European contact range of the Algonquian languages covers an enormous area: roughly centered along most of the Canadian-US border, extending down the Atlantic coast, into the Great Lakes area, and down the Mississippi and even into northern Mexico. The languages themselves are in general conservative in their core grammatical properties, so that specialists often refer to a notional “Algonquian” when speaking of patterns shared across all or most of the family. These include many linguistically noteworthy phenomena, some (e.g., obviation) possibly unique to the family, and others (e.g., polysynthesis, head-marking, nominal tense, verbal shape classifiers) common in North America but with enough distinct properties in realization to make cross-linguistic comparison worthwhile.

Introductory Works

Perhaps the best starting point for a rank beginner to Algonquian linguistics is Valentine 2001; a shorter but solid introductory sketch grammar is Wolfart 1996.

  • Valentine, J. Randolph. 2001. Nishnaabemwin reference grammar. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

    A comprehensive reference grammar of Nishnaabemwin, with extensive explanations, examples, and glossary. It is targeted at nonspecialist readers (the terminological glossary is particularly useful for beginners) but maintains solid and deep coverage of a Central Algonquian grammatical system, the bulk of which readily applies to most of the rest of the family.

  • Wolfart, H. Christoph. 1996. Sketch of Cree, an Algonquian language. In Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 17: Languages. Edited by Ives Goddard, 391–398. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

    A sketch grammar of Cree that outlines most of the core grammatical features shared among Algonquian languages.

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