A NEW WORLD IN LANGUAGE
So--you're about to set out on an adventure. The world of the Muskogee is vast, beautiful, and surprisingly different from the world of European-American culture. The Muskogee language, too, differs from English and other Indo-European tongues in wonderful and surprising ways. In learning Muskogee, you will be learning another worldview, a new way of perceiving and thinking about the world around you. Studying Muskogee culture will help you to learn the language, and studying the language will help you to understand the culture--language and culture are intimately related. For this reason, we include writings on the "old ways" of the Muskogee and other Southeastern Native Americans in this book.
The English language is full of nouns--a name for everything imaginable. Although there are plenty of nouns and other words, Muskogee is all about verbs! Many Muskogee words form by altering a verb a little bit--adding something to it, or taking something away from it. Muskogee is a language of process. Nothing stays still in the Muskogee world! Everything is in motion--actual or potential. Power and the flow of the world, the growth, change and decay of life, are all-important to Muskogee peoples. Muskogee verbs transmit this view with every utterance.
Often, what requires whole sentences in English can be said in one word in Muskogee. The opposite is also true. Many Muskogee concepts do not have exact parallels in contemporary American culture or speech. Even simple Muskogee words will sometimes require lengthy English language explanation in this book. In addition, Muskogee perceptions of color differ in important ways from English usage. You will learn new ways to divide and conquer the spectrum!
Languages differ not only in vocabulary (the words a language uses), but also in the way words are put together to make sentences, to say things, to communicate with others. You understand the English sentence "The cow grazes in the pasture"-- but what does "pasture the grazes in cow the" mean? The words aren't in the "right" order for English speakers. "Right" order is different for each language. Be sure to learn the rules for Muskogee syntax ("syntax" is the technical term for the order of words--what comes first in a sentence, what occupies the last slot and all that in-between).
Even if you don't intend to learn the language, but have merely picked up this book or found this web page in order to read essays on culture and history, you will benefit by at least glancing through the grammatical sections. It's impossible to talk about Muskogee languages without discussing the understanding of the world it defines or that underlies it.
Whatever your reasons for looking through this book or web page, it is hoped that it helps in some small way in the immense task that faces modern America--learning to respect, understand, and communicate with Native Americans. The importance of such communication cannot be exaggerated. The "savages" of European and American legend simply never existed --when Europeans came to this continent they found, not "wild men," but thoughtful, intelligent, very human, human beings. After nearly 500 years of war, perhaps at last it is time to make peace. It is time to know your neighbors.
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