American history has just been slightly rewritten. Previously, experts had believed that the Native Americans of central Massachusetts spoke a single language, Loup (pronounced “Lou,” literally meaning “wolf”). But new research shows that they spoke at least five different languages.
“It's like some European families where you can have three different languages at the dinner table,” says Ives Goddard, curator emeritus and senior linguist in the department of anthropology at the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History. “There was probably a lot of bilingualism. A question that is raised by there being so many languages is 'how did that work?' How did they manage to maintain five different languages in such a small area?"