Iroquoian Language

Iroquoian Language Group

The Iroquoian languages are a First Nation and Native American language family. This language family includes Mohawk, Huron-Wyandot and Cherokee, among others.

Every language in this family has at least one nasal vowel phoneme.

Cherokee’s is a nasal schwa, written in transliteration as ‘v’ (for example, “Hv?” sounds like “Huh?” nasalized, and means the same thing).
What has been called the Laurentian language appears to be actually more than one dialect or language.

In 1649 the tribes constituting the Huron and Petun confederations were displaced by war parties from Five Nations villages (Mithun 1985). Many of the survivors went on to form the Wyandot tribe.

Ethnographic and linguistic field work with the Wyandot (Barbeau 1960) yielded enough documentation to be able to make some characterizations of the Huron and Petun languages.

The languages of the tribes that constituted the Neutral and the Erie confederations were very poorly documented. These groups were called Atiwandaronk meaning ‘they who understand the language’ by the Huron, and thus are historically grouped with them.

The group known as the Meherrin were neighbors to the Tuscarora and the Nottoway (Binford 1967) and may have spoken an Iroquoian language, but there is not enough data to determine this with certainty.

The last two Huronian languages, as well as Nottoway and Susquehannock, are probably now extinct.

Attempts to link the Iroquoian and Caddoan languages in a Macro-Siouan family are suggestive but remain hypothetical.

Similar attempts to find a connection with the Algonkian languages has been partially useful, but not enough evidence for linguists to propose a hypothetical Macro-Algonkian/Iroquoian language family.

Iroquoian Family Divisions:

Northern Iroquoian

Lakes Iroquoian

Five Nations and Susquehannock









     Susquehannock Susquehannock (extinct)

Huronian Wyandot (Huron-Petun) (extinct) 

Neutral (extinct)

Erie (extinct)


     Tuscarora (seriously endangered)

     Nottoway (extinct)

Southern Iroquoian