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Structure of Language

Shadow Meanings

Oneida words are often combinations of smaller components. If you know the meanings of the components, you can see how they describe the meaning of the word. The components are like shadows behind the word meanings. For english it is often possible to look up the etymologies of words (where the words come from), but for Oneida the roots and stems in the shadow meanings are often more transparent to people who know the language.
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Word Order

Word order in Oneida is more dependent on the important things to say rather than rules of grammar


Many words have different pronunciations depending on where they occur in sentences and whispering is part of one of the pronunciations

Beginnings and Endings

Pay close attention to how the words begin and end, i.e. as a word goes from present tense to past tense there will be a change in how the word ends.

Opposite of English

As you begin to see samples of Oneida language, you will notice the sentence structure is far different from the sentence structure of English. (As many languages are.)

It’s All Verbs

Verbs are very important in the Oneida language. Where English uses nouns and adjectives, Oneida often expresses those as verbs. All Oneida verbs have pronoun prefixes and that means Oneida verbs can often be translated as short sentences. So an Oneida verb with its attached pronoun prefix might be translated focussing on the action ‘he does X’ or focussing on the pronoun ‘he who does X’ or ‘the doer’.
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Writing Systems

Traditionally Oneida had no writing system but several methods emerged in writing it. For a beginner it would be best not to focus on the writing until later in the learning process.


For those learning Oneida language, sound practice is very important! There are many sounds that are not in the English language, so some may find it a challenge to make certain sounds that are heard in Oneida. Oneida has a small inventory of sounds but complex combinations of sounds and distinctive rhythm patterns


A good place to start with the language would be with the stem patterns. Oneida has stem patterns which are the fundamental foundation to the language. Understanding these patterns are a must for anyone who wants to be able to speak Oneida. They are relationship based specific to who and how many people you are addressing i.e. me, you, him, her, it…ect. For more information on stem patterns, the Oneida language house has a book available for those interested.

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