Friday, December 15, 2006

Native Words for "Map"

"Tracing word roots back through ancient languages -- looking in an unabridged dictionary, finding word roots, looking them up, and so on back -- not only enriches their meanings for us, but shows us how history of English language use carries thousands of years of history encapsulated in meanings of many everyday and most special-use, longer words. Many years ago, when I first encountered Anishinaabemowin, from an elderly lady who was teaching some of us beadwork, I learned that it is automatic for Native speakers to do this -- that it is an intrinsic part of knowing the language, though not so much to trace historic roots back to ancient languages.... " "Most of the words for writing come from an old one 'mark with a stripe,' -- beshibii'an -- because we first learned in school to write script, and it was like making one curly stripe with paint for each word, and then the lines of writing looked like stripes across the page. But designs came long before writing, before the white man came. Our first new word using 'design' was probably our word for map, because maps were the first designs that the explorers, travelling traders, voyageurs, woods-runners brought with them -- to look at or they were continuing to make them. "Akii-mazina'igan", map. Aki or akiin means both earth, dirt that you work in gardening, and land, countryside. So our word for 'map' means 'land-design.' "

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