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The Comanche Language

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

The Comanche language is a Native American language that, in modern times, had very few speakers. An effort to preserve and teach the language is currently being made by the Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee. Let's take a brief look at some useful phrases in this language.

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    The Comanche Language

    The Comanche language is spoken by the Comanche Indians. The name is pronounced "kuh-MAN-chee," and it is derived from the word "kɨmmantsi," a word from the Ute language meaning "enemy"; the Utes and the Comanches were frequently at war with each other. The Comanches themselves went under the name "Numinu," which, in their language, means "the people."

    The Comanche Indians were originally part of the Shoshone Tribe of Wyoming, but separated and went their own way sometime in the early 1700s. They then moved to the Southern Plains, and they were in these parts when the Europeans arrived on the American continent. Given their common origins, there is some similarity between the Comanche and the Shoshone languages.

    The arrival of the Europeans did not bode well for the Comanches or their language. They were herded off to reservations, and their children were taken from them and taught to speak in English and forbidden to speak Comanche. There are very few native language speakers now, although an effort is being made by the Comanche Nation and the Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee to renew the language. They organize regular as well as correspondence language courses for the younger generation. Books and dictionaries in the language are also now available.

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    Comanche Alphabet

    Dr. Alice Anderton, a linguistic anthropologist from the University of Oklahoma, developed the Comanche Alphabet; previously the language did not have any written script. The Comanche Nation in 1994 adopted the alphabet she had devised in 1994.

    The Comanche alphabet is as follows:

    • A a - ah, as in dandy
    • B b - same as English
    • E e - eh, as in bet
    • H h - same as English
    • I i - ee, as in slipper
    • K k - same as English
    • M m - same as English
    • N n - same as English
    • O o - like o in soap
    • P p - same as English. May also be pronounced as 'b'.
    • R r - r is stressed
    • S s - same as English
    • T t - t of stockade. May also be pronounced as 'r'
    • U u - oo, as in root
    • U u - uh, as in mustache
    • W w - same as English
    • Y y - same as English
    • ? - pronounced like the end of Doh. May also be used as a regular question mark.

    The Comanche language has six vowels, which can be either long (shown by double vowel symbols) or short. Voiceless vowels are shown with by underlining.

    There are twelve consonant symbols and two consonant combinations: ts and kw.

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    Some Phrases in the Comanche Language

    Here are some basic words and phrases to get started with this language:

    • Marúawe - Hello, if you are addressing one person
    • Marúawebukwu - Hello, if you are addressing two persons
    • Marúaweeka - Hello, if you are addressing a group
    • Unha hakai nuusuka? - How are you?
    • Tsaatu, ura, untse? - Fine, thank you, and you?
    • Haamee, unha hakai nahniaka? - Please, what is your name?
    • Nu nahnia tsa XYZ - My name is XYZ.
    • Haa - Yes
    • Kee - No
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    Resources

    • The Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee - http://www.comanchelanguage.org/
    • Comanche Language (Numinu) - http://www.native-languages.org/comanche.htm