Root Words

Rankin, Robert L. rankin at
Wed Oct 7 15:08:15 UTC 2009

> I wanted to point out that there may be a striking resemblance between the names/words Hassinunga and Monahassanugh. Is this a root word hassin or hassan as in the root word for Nahyssan (hyssan).  Are the a's and y's interchangable with out significant distortion of meaning? Is it possible that these words share a common root? 

These may indeed be the same word.  The Tutelo term for themselves was transcribed by competent phoneticians as YesaN by modern linguists (where N is the raised "n" that marks nasalization of the preceding vowel).  All of the colonial transcriptions from the 17th and 18th centuries were done by amateurs who did not know the language, so they are prone to include portions of preceding or following words in the "names" they wrote down.  For example the ending -nunga is probably naNke, the verb 'to dwell' that also occurs, spelled differently, in the name Steukenhocks/Stenkenoks, etc. steNki 'island', naNk-s 'they dwell' or 'dwellers'.

As for the a and y, it is pretty common in Indian languages of the Southeast for the sound [a] to be written with a y in colonial sources.  The reason is that the English diphthong [ay], as in the pronoun "I", is pronounced [a:], often written "ah" in comic-book English, by people who speak with a "southern accent".  So when they heard [a] or [a:], they often wrote it "i" or "y".  This only holds true for a "y" written between two consonants, of course.

The mona- part of the name in some sources is unexplained.  It appears in the wrong place syntactically to be 'land', I think.

Bob Rankin

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