Introduction


Words are tools to communication, without meaning they are useless.

With the mixing of cultures and languages in the world today, communication is becomming increasingly difficult. In his book House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday uses the feast of Santiago to parallel what has happened to language. The feast had become a mixture of Indian culture and Spanish culture. The cultures and languages had gotten mixed together and the events were strange and without meaning. The people there went ahead celebrating, not really knowing what it was that they were doing. They played games and watched the processions and cheered. The narrarator comments,"so empty of meaning it all was, and yet so full of appearance." Many words appeared to say so much, but in reality, had begun to say nothing at all.
Momaday (and I believe he speaks accurately for most of the Native American community) believes words should be used sparingly and in a way that they carry much meaning. One of Momaday's characters in his book says about his grandma,"her regard for words was always keen in proportion as she depended upon them . . . she never threw words away."
According to Momaday, the word should be sacred, a vehicle to communicating meaning and a completed action having a living impact on the listener.


Ojibwe and English

The Ojibwe language is thousands of years old and very specific in meaning. Misunderstandings in word meaning are almost impossible. Here's an example:

"Are you going to town?"

With a combination of how the language is set up and cultural"rules" there are few misunderstandings and a person is then responsible for the actions/decisions he or she makes.
With the English language and in American culture "double meanings" are common. They are used in poetry, humor, and sarcasm (which is sometimes humor, but can also be meant as cut-downs).


General Pronunciation Chart

Vowels
Vowel   English sounds

a       account
aa      ah, box
e       bait, rate
i       tin
ii      team, seem
o       oak
oo      boot

There are also nazalized vowels (like in the French and other languages), and consonant clusters. The language and the sounds are complex, to learn the language one must really learn it from a Native speaker. What is here is probably enough to give an idea how to pronounce the words in the language section.
Language
Cross-cultural page

Nancy Vogt,
nancyv@citilink.com, November 1995.