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 ir 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 a 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 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


ahsën rock
ahpòn bread
shëmu horn
salàpòn frybrean

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:

Lenape English
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:

Singular Plural English
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:

Singular Plural English
mwekane mwekaneyok dogs
uche ucheyok flies
amëwe amëweyok bees


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

Singular Plural English
ahsën ahsëna rocks
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:

Singular Plural English
skikw skiko blades of grass


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