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Of the dialects of the Abenaquis, two now remain in this State, retained with all that tenacity and perseverance with which the Indian grasp has always been distinguished. The one dialect is the Penobscot, and the other the Passamaquoddy. Of others no record has been preserved ;* yet, although the contrary has been affirmed by a respectable writer, it is evident that all the natives of Maine could understand each other without an interpreter. The fact is so now, although the words used to express the same idea are very variant in the tongues of the Passamaquoddies and the Penobscots. There is, undoubtedly, a common root to both.
The Penobscot language is the same as that of the ancient Norridgewock, of which Father Råle is the only person entitled to the honor of having preserved written specimens. These consist of a collection of phrases, of which, taking his own orthography and French sounds of letters, some use may be made.
To the confederacy of the Abenaquis also belonged the Micmacs or Souriquois, who were the natives of Nova Scotia. Residing, as they do, beyond the limits of Maine, it will not be proper to use the comparatively ample materials for their his. tory, which might be obtained. Like the rest of the Abenaquis, they were of the most daring courage, and so adventurous, that they passed the stormy gulf of the St. Lawrence in their bark
canoes to meet their enemies, the Esquimaux, in their caves and : on their rocks in battle. There is also evidence that they
trafficked along our shores and fought many battles, at different times, with the tribes spread over our territory.
It is evident that the great object of studying a language, so constructed as the Abenaquis must have appeared to be, would consist in obtaining a knowledge of its terms and the rules by which they are compounded. The analysis of the student will show distinctly those elements, from which the art of speech proceeded, from a simple material to a vast fabric, and will give him possession, not only of the plan of the vast edifice, but will make him acquainted with the harmony of its parts and the beauty of the whole. In the instance under consideration, he
* (Ràle's Dictionary preserves a large portion of the Norridgewock dialect.]
would find a language, which, if it varied from its primitive model, yet adopted no incongruous piece work, and is free from the jargon of accidental and interpolated terms of foreign growth and a forced introduction, making a secondary and anomalous formation. He would find a language, probably essentially, original, but at least of the synthetic cast, and that so extensively as not to require the borrowing of shreds of other tongues for mending its defects, but containing in itself the elements of new combinations, without the occasion for any furtive measures for increasing its stores.
THE NORRIDGE WOCK.
The most remarkable property of the Norridgewock tongue is its unbounded susceptibility of composition, which rendered it copious and expressive. That this tribe had some rule of formation or composition of words, not in use with us, appears from the fact that in their long intercourse with the French and Eng. lish, they very rarely adopted words from either, and even when they had no personal knowledge of the objects to be represented by vocal sounds, they preserved themselves as a distinct people, with all that pertinacity with which they have clung to their other habits of life, and retained their own dress for thought as faithfully as they did their peculiar garb. They formed words from domestic materials having no analogy in sound or structure with those by which the stranger presented his ideas and images to the ear and the mind. The Penobscots, in like manner to this day, have preserved the spirit of their language, and have not suffered it to be corrupted or changed, although they have for centuries, nearly, been familiar with English and French. Thus they have their Indian names for elephant, lion, and a great diversity of objects, unknown to them, except through the medium of verbal or pictured representation.
It is an advantage of a language, thus susceptible of composition, that it exhibits complex ideas by the least possible machinery, or rather, by the shortest mode. This is the most forcible. When ideas are thus presented, the imagination is excited by the full, bold, and sudden introduction of the object or
action, advanced at once in its beauty, or thrust forward in its terrors, instead of being gradually exhibited, so that the discovery of what it is, shall be as painful as the tedious tale of a verbose and circumlocutory storyteller. Selecting a mere common-place from the Norridgewock language, I will offer an example, not the case of an object with adjuncts, of which many might be produced, but of action as expressed by the verb, I break:
I break it-nepeskessamen.
I break it with the feet-napooskookahmen. Entire English sentences are, in like manner, represented by a single word. It is apparent that a language of such a structure varies essentially from our own. We take the parts—the person, the verb, and the substance, with its qualities, and producing one only at a time, make out at last a proposition. The Norridgewock embodied all, and showed you the finished object at a glance.
Even their vocabulary, therefore, as was that of other Indians, as also of the Hebrew and all primitive tongues, was that of poetry. Thus, when we find the Indian word God signifying “the great father of life," the name alone elevates the thought and kindles the fancy, while the flat and arbitrary term escapes the lips, and of itself, produces no excitement and no association of ideas. But this is the result of the descriptive character of a language combining in a word the sonorous and expressive power of composition.
Without a susceptibility of inflection and composition, without the capacity to take the materials which would have been
necessary to exhibit each component part of a complex object - and reduce them into a single mass to describe the united whole,
a language would be, like that of hieroglyphics or Chinese characters, exceedingly barren; but when variation and synthesis can be adapted to it, energy, copiousness, and beauty are the results.
Such advantages the Norridgewock tongue clearly possessed. By what process the operation of forming words and the modifi
cation as to tense, number, and gender was conducted, it has been impossible for me to discover, so far as to be able to infer more than a very few general rules. In other tongues it is easy to do so; as, for instance, in the English, the uniform use of the auxiliary verbs marks time with precision ; and the inflections of the verb in the Greek and Latin have the same effect. The Norridgewocks had no auxiliaries, and even seem not to have regulated mode and tense by any determined and regular formations upon an indicative or primitive word. These qualities, however, of acting and being, belong to them so universally, that no intelligible communication can be held without means of describing them, and hence the language, the rudest ever formed, has contained methods of discriminating the present from the past, and the past from the future. For this purpose the Norridgewocks used, to a considerable extent, certain particles in combination with the verb, both so modified that they fitted together in a manner consistent with brevity and euphony. Thus the particle amptsee signified now, yet, while ; and hence, in combination with action, determined the period of progress. Thus amptsepoo signified, he is now eating, and the terminating letter a was also used to express existing action. There were notes of the future, of a similar character, and these were either used as prefixes or suffixes of the capital word. This mode of inflexion is however supposed to be the origin of those in other languages, in which the primitive particle is now lost.
The singularity of this language, in regard to the verb, was not confined to the circumstances mentioned. That part of speech, with indeed all the others, were continually subjected to the process of being melted and amalgamated with each other, producing sometimes a very close compound, in which the original elements were scarcely discernible, and sometimes one in which they were perfectly obvious. Thus ooahooomee, snow, is easily seen in the word nooisanooanre-ahgonbahdam, I am dazzled by the snow.
So perfect and multifarious was the power of compounding, that it was varied even in reference to the person speaking, at least in some instances; so that the same affirmation when made
by the man and the woman was stated by a different term, and by still different ones by different persons, according to office, &c. Thus, when a man said, "I am married," he made the assertion by the word nakitooda, a woman, by noossee, &c.
It must be admitted that there is not generally any connection between sounds and ideas or external objects; but an artificial connection having been formed by use, as to those ideas and external objects of primary consideration, the formation of other sounds by which to represent other ideas and objects, being made upon the basis which had been established, the mind more naturally and readily forms its associations, than when arbi. trary words are accidentally and capriciously adopted. Hence a striking beauty of the Greek tongue, and hence an excellence in the Abenaquis language worthy of observation. Arbitrary and foreign words are not significant until, by the continued application of them, they have been rendered so by practice, and the memory is heavily taxed to retain them; but by composition significant terms are at once produced which strike the imagination agreeably and do not burden the memory. I revert to this point for the purpose of excusing the brevity of the vocabulary I shall offer, by impressing the primary importance of an acquaintance with the nature and character of the capacity of combination in such a language. This power of composition so extensive is undoubtedly as necessarily regulated and not capricious, and thus effect in a double sense is given to every letter. In this respect the Abenaquis has one of those striking beauties belonging to the Sanscrit language, as illustrated by Sir William Jones, and which is also a characteristic of some of the most admired languages of the world.
To show, in reference to the particulars above named, the genius of the Norridgewock language, I will cite a few phrases containing the combinations of the English word to sing, with various parts of speech : *
I sing slowly-namonnahronmootahmen. *[In this vocabulary, Gov. Lincoln has given the vowel sounds as they struck his ear, though iu form to the eye somewhat different from the forms given by Ràle, in whose Dictionary they may be found.) Ed.