About Wendat

Wendat is an Iroquoian language, whose close relatives include Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. It is also related to Wyandot (also called Wandot or Wyandotte), which is a dialect of Wendat that was spoken in Michigan, Kansas and Oklahoma and is now being revitalized as well. Although the language has previously been called Huron or Huron-Wendat, Wendat is the preferred name for this language.

Although Wendat has been dormant or ‘sleeping’ (i.e. no living speakers) since the second half of the 19th century, there is abundant documentation of the language, primarily dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Recollect and Jesuit missionaries wrote down the language during their efforts to evangelize the Wendat people. Today, these same documents, consisting of dictionaries, grammars and catechisms, are being used to reawaken the Wendat language.

Since the documentation was written by French missionaries, these individuals often misheard certain Wendat words and simply did not hear certain sounds, such as aspiration (h) and glottal stops. In order to restore the Wendat language to how it was originally spoken, it is necessary to conduct linguistic research. This research, termed ‘linguistic reconstruction’, consists of analyzing each Wendat verb, noun and particle with information from these historical documents in conjunction with data from its sister languages. Once the root or word has been reconstructed using this historical and comparative information, the form is standardized using the orthographic system adopted by the Huron-Wendat Nation.

The reconstruction process is long and sometimes difficult, but it is an important step in restoring and reinstating our ancestral language in the heart of the Wendat community. Each of the entries found in this online dictionary have been reconstructed and standardized through research conducted by the linguist. On occasion, certain entries may be modified as more research is performed and new comparative Iroquoian linguistic data are made available.