Mingo Folksongs

I know everyone says this, but this page really is a work in progress. We thoughtw we'd put it up so you could send us comments as we go....Feedback For Jason Sheri and the others.

One of the best ways to get a language under your skin, so to speak, is music. We present here a collection of folksongs in the Euro-American tradition in Mingo, an Iroquoian language with very few speakers left. The recordings are made at informal gatherings in our living room. The singers are our friends and family. We give them little to no practice before we switch on the mic and just have at it! So, don't expect Peter Paul and Mary just yet!

We'll add more songs as time goes on and include more details, lyrics etc. We hope you find them fun and useful.--Sheri Wells-Jensen, Jason Wells-Jensen and the BGSU Mingo Language Study Group.

Mingo Songs

Click to access the MP3 of the song whose description seems the least silly or most useful to you:

nyakwai káênö'

Full Lyrics

Káwé tkanôke' ne nyakwai?
Káwé tkanôke' ne nyakwai?
Káwé tkanôke' ne nyakwai?
Ne' aknöhsút tkanôke' ne nyakwai.

Káwé tkanôke' ne takutsi?
Káwé tkanôke' ne takutsi?
Káwé tkanôke' ne takutsi?
Ne' aknöhsút tkanôke' ne takutsi, khu nyakwai.

Káwé tkanôke' ne tsiyæ?
Káwé tkanôke' ne tsiyæ?
Káwé tkanôke' ne tsiyæ?
Ne' aknöhsút tkanôke' ne tsiyæ, khu takutsi, khu nyakwai.

Káwé tkanôke' ne këtsö?
Káwé tkanôke' ne këtsö?
Káwé tkanôke' ne këtsö?
Ne' aknöhsút tkanôke' ne këtsö, khu tsiyæ, khu takutsi, khu nyakwai.

Káwé tkanôke' ne súwæk?
Káwé tkanôke' ne súwæk?
Káwé tkanôke' ne súwæk?
Ne' aknöhsút tkanôke' ne súwæk, khu këtsö, khu tsiyæ, khu takutsi, khu nyakwai....



Káwé - where
tkanôke' it lives there
ne - no direct English translation
Káwé tkanôke' ne X - Where does X live?
Ne' - Sentence beginning particle: no direct translation
aknöhsút - my house
Ne' aknöhsút tkanôke' ne X. - X lives in/at my house.
nyakwai - bear
takútsi - cat
tsiyæ - dog
këtsö - fish
súwæk - duck
khu - and

Grammar Notes

  1. Just like in English, question words like

    Káwé (where),
    të'ë ()what)
    të'ë kúwá (why) and
    sô: (who)

    come first in the Mingo sentence.

  2. The single Mingo word tkanôke' means 'it lives there'. Although it is often difficult to break Mingo words into their parts and clearly say which part means what, it is possible in this case to point out a few things.
    • The t- that begins tkanôke' means something like 'there' or 'at that place'.
    • The -ka- means 'it'. Although this is singular, you might also translate it as 'the bear' meaning all of them as in the English sentence 'The bear come here to drink eggnog and play bingo on Thursdays.'
    • So far, you can divide the word tkanôke' into three meaningful parts like this: t-ka-nôke'.
  3. It's possible to easily ask where other things and people live. You don't need the t- to do this.

    Káwé knôke'? - Where do I live?
    Káwé snôke'? - Where do you live?
    Káwé hanôke'? - Where does he live?
    Káwé yenôke'? - Where does she live?
    Káwé kanôke'? - Where does it live?

    Yes, you can ask 'where do they live', 'where do we live; etc. You will rapidly discover that the Mingo verb has many, many prefixes for that sort of thing. there are so many that we'll have to save it for another song later on.

  4. The single Mingo word aknöhsút means 'my house'. Although not all Mingo nouns will work this way, in this case ak- means my. You can talk about other people's houses as well:

    aknöhsút - my house
    sanöhsút - your house
    hunöhsút - his house
    kunöhsút - her house
    unöhsút - its house

  5. The song take sliberty with one aspect of Mingo grammar (as songs do). this is the us of the word khu (and). khu usually follows the two things it refers to in Mingo rather than coming between them. In Mingo you would say nyakwai' takútsi khu (literally bear cat and). "nyakwai' khu takútsi khu ..." is nice for the song, but don't make lists that way when talking!

Playing with the Song

The first thing you can do, of course, is to add animal names to the song. Don't be afraid to get silly:

You might then try using kinship terms, asking where does my grandfather/my father/my son live. This would mean you would have to change
Káwé kanôke'? - Where does it live? to
Káwé hanôke'? - Where does he live?

In the ssame way, if you use female family members, remember to change
Káwé kanôke'? - Where does it live? to
Káwé yenôke'? - Where does she live?

You might also try changing whose house the vast congregation of critters lives at (see above).

To make things even more interesting, have someone yell out an English word at the beginning of the verse and the rest of the singers try to come up with, and smoothly insert the Mingo word without pausing the song.


Ehsenyusyúta't!: sit Down


The beautiful thing about this song is that it has a total of three words!

Ehsenyusyúta't! Ehsenyusyúta't!
Tësta't! Tësta't!
Ehsenyusyúta't! Tësta't!
Ehsenyusyúta't! Tësta't!
Tesaskéyô? Tesaskéyô?



Ehsenyusyúta't! - Sit down!
Tësta't! - Stand up!
Tesaskéyô? - Are you tired?

Grammar: Asking Questions

One nifty thing about Mingo grammar is that it is simple to make statements into questions. The word stays exactly the same. So, Tesaskéyô? means (are you tired" and Tesaskéyô also means the statement "You are tired".

If you want to answer the question, by the way, you can say:

Túkës, tewakeskééyô.
Right! I'm tired!


Hë'ë, ta'tewakeskéé:yô.
No, I'm not tired.

Playing with the Song

Of course, we're all expecting that you'll do all that standing up and sitting down as you sing the song! And, as you know, you can do this round in three parts. could make for a wild time. Speeding up increases the fun (and exercise value!)

If you need more action, try this version:

Kátsi Jason. Kátsi Jason.
Síkwá shô! Síkwá shô!
Kátsi Jason. Síkwá shô!
Kátsi Jason. Síkwá shô!

Kátsi - Come here
Síkwá - get outa here!
shô - Indeed!
Tesaskéyô - Are you tired?

This can get poor Jason scuttling toward then away from the singers as fast as you can sing the song. You can (and should) replace poor Jason with the names of your other friends and then try using names of animals. You might assign each singer the name of an animal and then sing:
Kátsi, nyakwai - Come here, Bear.
Kátsi, takútsi' - Come here, Cat.
Kátsi, këtsö - Come here, Fish.

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kátsi, akátsi


No one ever said that Ring Around the Rosie made any kind of (contemporary) sense, so nobody went to much trouble to pump sense into this version either. It's fun, though. Make up your own reason why it is how it is.

kátsi, akátsi:
Nyakwai' ne wátsí,
Sasháék! Sasháék!


kátsi, come here!
akátsi my friend.
Nyakwai' the bear
ne grammatical particle (you just need it there)
wátsí It is dark, or the dark one.
Sasháék! Look out!
Twayatë's! Let's all fall down.


One of these versions was recorded at language camp summer 2003. Listen carefully and you can hear some little ones laughing their heads off. a year later, they still know the song.
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Skát to washêumflex;


This is essentially a call and response song. The only lyrics that aren't numbers themselves are:
is ti? -- and you? (meaning, in this case, your turn!
wíyú -- It's good!
nae -- indeed!

skát -- one
tekní -- two
së -- three
kéí -- four
wis -- five
yéí' -- six
tsátak -- seven
teknyô -- eight
tyuhtôumflex; -- nine
washêumflex; -- ten

For more on numbers, see: nifty numbers translator on the Mingo Language page: http://www.mingolanguage.org/cgi-bin/numbers.pl

Recording and other notes

Another outdoor recording from language camp, this one has the sound of a friendly dog counting along, some random children wandering past and a few other background sounds. The rhythm is a small drum and hand clapping: or actually two people clapping and slapping each other's hands in time with the counting. This kind of rhythm is good for learning almost anything.
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Updated June, 2004