The Maliseet Language: A Living Legacy of Eastern Algonquian Traditions

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The Maliseet language, also known as Wolastoqey or Amalecite, is an Eastern Algonquian language spoken by the Maliseet people in New Brunswick, Canada, and in Maine, USA. 

Where it is spoken today

Today, the Maliseet language is spoken by a small number of people in New Brunswick, Canada, and in Maine, USA. There are ongoing efforts to revitalize the language and increase the number of fluent speakers.

Language Tree

The Maliseet language is part of the Eastern Algonquian language family, which includes several other indigenous languages spoken in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. The Eastern Algonquian language family is part of the larger Algonquian language family, which includes dozens of indigenous languages spoken across North America.

Where it was spoken in the past

The Maliseet language has been spoken by the Maliseet people for hundreds of years. The Maliseet people traditionally lived in the Saint John River valley in present-day New Brunswick, Canada, but also had communities in Maine, USA.

Alternate Language Families

It is closely related to the Passamaquoddy language, and the two languages are sometimes considered dialects of a single language.

Alternate Parent Subgroups

The Maliseet language is part of the Eastern Algonquian subgroup, with no known alternate parent subgroups.

Written Alphabet

The Maliseet language has a written alphabet based on the Latin script, with some additional characters for specific vowel sounds. It includes 15 consonants and 7 vowels.

Consonants: p, t, k, q, s, h, m, n, l, w, y, c, j, ch, sh

Vowels: a, e, i, o, u, â, ô

Note that the â and ô vowels are nasalized, which means they are pronounced with air flowing through the nose as well as the mouth.

Number of Fluent Speakers Today

According to the 2016 Canadian Census, there were 550 speakers of Maliseet in Canada. In the United States, there are estimated to be fewer than 100 speakers. The Maliseet language is primarily spoken on the Tobique and Madawaska Maliseet First Nations in New Brunswick, Canada.

Maliseet Words and their English translation

  1. Woliwon – Thank you
  2. Ntolihsen – Good morning
  3. Wtolihsen – Good afternoon
  4. Ntolimaqnik – Good evening
  5. Pila mohtuhson – Happy birthday
  6. Kci mawita’nej – I love you
  7. Woliwon tel-niw – Thank you very much
  8. Tleyawin – I’m sorry
  9. Woliwon ciw amsqocehkan – Thank you for the gift
  10. Woliwon eli-peciyayin – Thank you for coming