Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Menominee is a highly endangered language, with only a handful of elderly speakers left. According to a 1997 report by the Menominee Historic Preservation Office, 39 people speak Menominee as their first language, 26 as their second language, and 65 others have learned some of it for the purpose of understanding the language and/or teaching it to others.
The main characteristics of Menominee, as compared to other Algonquian languages, are its heavy use of the low front vowel /ae/, its rich negation morphology, and its lexicon. Some scholars (notable Bloomfield and Sapir) have classified it as a Central Algonquian language base on its phonology. There is some debate about this, however, since it shares several interesting morphological and syntactic characteristics with its more eastern relatives (e.g. Passamaquoddy).
The name of the tribe, and the language, omae:qnomenew, comes from the word for wild rice, which was a staple of this tribe's diet for millennia. This designation for them is also used by their Algonquian neighbors to the north - the Anishnaabe (Ojibwa).
For good sources of information on both the Menominee and their language, some valuable resources include Leonard Bloomfield's 1928 bilingual text collection, his 1962 grammar (a landmark in its own right), and Skinner's earlier anthropological work.
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