Lenape Lessons





Let's talk Lenape!

Lesson 1 -

        In daily life we often greet people, and so the act of speaking and greeting can be important.  In Lenape, here are some commonly used expressions.



Useful Expressions




1. If you see someone you know, you say:


  Kulamàlsi hàch?                                   How are you?

            Hè! Kulamàlsi hàch?                            Hi!  How are you?


                  [You are literally asking, "Do you feel well?"]


[Note:  The Lenape word “hàch,”  or as some speakers say, “hèch,” is like a spoken question mark.  It lets you know that the person speaking to you is asking a question.]


The person may reply:        


        Nulamàlsi                                            I am fine  

        Osòmi                                                  Fine

            Ku mayay                                            Not really


When you are greeting two persons or more at the same time, you will use:


           Kulamàlsihëmo hàch?                       How are y'all?

           Hè!  Kulamàlsihëmo hàch?               Hi!  How are y'all?


[Note:  We know that “y’all” is probably not considered the best English, but it is shorter than writing “you people” every time.]


The response may be Osòmi  or  Ku mayay  as given above, or it may be:


            Nulamàlsihëna                                     We're fine



Other Things to Say When you Meet:


         Kèku hàch kuwatu?                      What do you know?

          Kuwatu hàch kèku?                      Do you know anything?


Common Answers:


Some common answers to the questions above might be:


           Ku kèku                                            Nothing

           Mësi kèku                                        This and that

           Xaheli kèku                                     Many things



Small  Talk:


      Wëli kishku                                       It is a good day

      Wëli lòku                                           It is a good evening


{{Note:  In Lenape it would not be common to use these expressions as greetings as is done in English, (Good Day!).  They are more like comments on the weather rather than greetings in Lenape.}}


Wèchi èt xu sukëlan                     Perhaps it will rain


There are many things you can say about the weather, and we will learn them later.


2. After a brief conversation, you may want to go to somewhere else and you can say:


          Ntalëmska                              I am leaving

          Ntalëmskahëna                     We are leaving

          Nëmachi                                  I am going home

          Nëmachihëna                        We are going home


The usual response is:


           Yuh!                                        Okay!


When you are about to leave, you may say to that person:


          Làpìch knewël                              I'll see you again

           (again-will  I-see-you)      


         Làpi knewëlch                               I'll see you again

           (again  I-see-you-will)


         Xu làpi knewël                               I'll see you again

            (will  again  I-see-you)



Or to those people:


          Làpìch knewëluhëmo                   I'll see y'all again

          Xu làpi knewëluhëmo                   I'll see y'all again



Beyond regular greetings: 


If you see a person who you consider a friend, there are special terms you can use to greet that person. 


{{Note:  Among the Lenape the use of the term “friend” is not used as freely as it is in English.  You would not normally use the friendship terms for someone you had only met a few days before.}}


In Lenape the terms for “friend” are used only as man-to-man or woman-to-woman, and they are as follows:


          Nchu                  Friend!  (man-speaking-to-man)

          Nchutia             Dear Friend!  (man-speaking-to-man)

          Ichu                   Friend!  (woman-speaking-to-woman)


A man can greet his man friend as follows:


          Hè, Nchu! Kulamàlsi hàch?    Hi, Friend!  How are you?


or the words could be arranged as:


          Hè! Kulamàlsi hàch, Nchu?    Hi!  How are you, Friend?



If you meet a person whom you haven't seen for a long time, you may say:


          Kpaihàkwinakwsi                       I haven't seen you

                                                                 for a long time


Then you can add:


          Ta(ni) hàch kta?                        Where did you go?

          Ta(ni) hàch kum?                      Where have you been?


                                                                Where are you

                                                                    coming from?


You can answer the question above by saying:


          Kamink nta                                  I went to Bartlesville.

          Kàpink num                                 I came from Coffeyville.



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Lesson 2 -

Grammar is a subject that scares most people away in the study of language. Lenape has rules of grammar that are in many ways different from those of English and languages related to English. We will explain these as we progress with the lessons. First, let’s discuss categories in Lenape.

Categories of Words in Lenape:

In some languages, words are put into categories according to sex or gender, so that some words are masculine, and some are feminine. Lenape also uses categories, but they are not based on gender.

The two categories in Lenape are ANIMATE and INANIMATE. The terms "animate" and "inanimate" are simply convenient labels that reflect the Lenape division of everything in the world. Nearly all living things are Animate. For example:


ahas crow  
tipas chicken  
ila warrior  
mwekane dog  

Things that have never lived (or never lived independently) are usually Inanimate (such as the parts of a corn plant: shucks, stalk, ear, etc.). For example:


ahsën rock  
ahpòn bread  
shëmu horn  
salàpòn frybread  

There are exceptions to every rule, and in Lenape some words are Animate that would not be thought of as being such. Here are two examples:

èmhònës spoon  
hus bucket  

And some you would expect to be Animate but are not, such as:

skiko grass (plural form)  

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The Articles in Lenape:

Articles: a, an, the, this, that

There are no words in Lenape for ‘a’ or ‘an’, as in 'a boy' or 'an animal'. In Lenape we use no word where English uses 'a' or 'an'. For example:

neyo tipas - I see a chicken


The most common article in English is ‘the,’ but Lenape is more specific. The Article will tell you if the subject is Animate or Inanimate, nearby or far away, and if there is one or more than one.

wa ______ this animate ______  
na ______ that animate ______  
yu ______ this inanimate _____  
në ______ that inanimate _____  

Some examples:

wa chulëns this bird  
na mwekane that dog  
yu lokèns this dish  
në ahpòn that bread  

As further explanation, one reason there is no word in Lenape which exactly matches the English word 'the' is because in English 'the' is used for one thing, or for several things, or for people or any living creatures. Lenape is more specific. The Article will tell you if the subject is Animate or Inanimate, nearby or far away, and if there is one or more than one. The Article is actually more like the words 'this', 'that', 'these', or 'those'. The articles are as follows:




Not Nearby (or)
Not Present




wa (this)


na (that)



yuki (these)


nèki (those)



yu (this)


në (that)



yuli (these)


nèl (those)

To give a better idea how these are used, here are some short sentences in Lenape. First the Animate forms.

Lenape English
sëksu wa pushis this cat is black
seksuwàk yuki pushisàk these cats are black
sëksu na pushis that cat is black
sëksuwàk nèki pushisàk those cats are black

Note how the verb ('to be black') and the Article change to match the subject ('cat'). Now for some Inanimate forms.

sëke yu ahsën this rock is black
sëkeyo yuli ahsëna these rocks are black
sëke në ahsën that rock is black
sëkeyo nèl ahsëna those rocks are black

As with ('cat') in the first set of sentences, here too the verb and the Article change to match the subject ('rock'). English does this somewhat also, because you know you would not say, "Look at the rock, he is black" for the simple reason that it does not sound correct.

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Lesson 3 -

More on the Categories of Words in Lenape


As discussed in the last lesson, in using the Lenape language (or any other Algonquian languages) the world is divided into two categories: ANIMATE and INANIMATE. It is important to learn which category the words are in. As stated, for the most part this is a fairly simple choice since nearly all living things would be ANIMATE and non-living things would be INANIMATE.


To show how important using the correct form can be, here is a true story that took place at the old Big House Church west of Copan, Oklahoma in the early 1920's.


It was customary for the ceremonial attendants there to prepare and sell food to the campers and to be paid in wampum beads.One young man whose Lenape was not as good as it should have been went to them and said, "Kulhala hàch 'pie'?" (lit:- Do you have him 'pie'?) (He should have said 'kulhatu' since a pie is not alive). When the attendant gave him the piece of pie, she also told him in Lenape, "Be careful! Don't break his thigh!"



Indicating the Category of Lenape Words:


In the Talking Dictionary we will mark words to indicate their category. Some words seem to be an exception to the rule, such as “spoon” being animate. The nouns (remember that a noun “names a person, place or thing”) will be followed by (NA) which means “Noun – Animate” or (NI) which means “Noun – Inanimate.” So in the dictionary the nouns will be written as:


èmhònës (NA) spoon



Plurals of Lenape Nouns:


The regular plural ending for Animate Nouns is [-àk]. Some examples are:






pushis pushisàk cats
tipas tipasàk chickens
ahas ahasàk crows
èshkansh èshkanshàk needles



Note that we wrote “regular plural ending” above as sometimes the ending sounds a bit different. Most of these differences are predictable.


For words ending with –e the Animate Plural is [-yok]. Some examples are:

mwekane mwekaneyok


uche ucheyok flies
amëwe amëweyok bees




The regular plural for Inanimate Nouns is [-a]. Some examples are:


ahsën ahsëna


ahpòn ahpòna bread(s)
lokèns lokènsa dishes
salàpòn salàpòna frybread(s)


Often when the plural ending is added to a word ending in [–w], the [–w] and the [–a] combine to make [-o]. For example:

skikw skiko blades of grass



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