How would you introduce yourself to Pocahontas' father? It's not an easy task, considering that the language used by the great chief Powhatan no longer exists, except in a smattering of historical writings.
Blair Rudes, a linguist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was given the job of translating dialogue for "The New World" into Powhatan's Virginia Algonquian language — or at least Rudes' best guess of what the language must have been like.
Here is a transcript for a scene from "The New World," in which Captain John Smith tells Powhatan about himself. Rudes provides translations of the dialogue into Virginia Algonquian for the benefit of the actor playing Powhatan's interpreter, Raoul Trujillo. You can also listen to an audio clip of Rudes reading the dual-language dialogue. The audio and the transcript are provided here with permission from New Line Cinema.
INTERPRETER (I) and SMITH (S)
I: Where have you come from?
Tá^nar kunowá^‹mow ?
S: The sky? No. We come from England – an island on the other side of the sea.
Árahkwat? Mahta. Inkuruntunk nunowámun – mununaqus akámunk yapám.
I: Why have you come here?
Tá wunci kupuyámow?
S: We come looking for new things. I hope that it is not a crime if a man does his job. At sea we fought with our enemies, the Spaniards, and they overcame us. We retreated. Then, the ships were blown onto a new course by strong winds, and came to this shore. The boats leaked so Captain Newport went back to England where they could be repaired and to get supplies.
Kekwayas wuskuyuwas nunatonehuwak. Nahkeweruntam mahta macisuwákan ta nik nimaruw árahket. Yapámunk numikorewak numarápewak, Spainuwak, koc numárohekok. Nupaskemunup. Nik muhshoras pámáhshunas muhshirotunas wuskimewunk koc nupyámun yo ehkwanuw-yapámunk. Muhshoras wuncikawiyuwas, riyuw Captain Newport mácámup Inkuruntunk wenci nir wurihtásik koc kekwayas ayumumuk.
I: When will you go away?
S: When? We won’t leave before spring. The ships will not return until that time. Then we will leave. Anyway, I will urge it. Forgive me, Great King — I would not choose to stay long in this place.
Tánuw? Maht-ic numácámun wucarunt sutikipákatuw. Ne peci mehci mahta kwaskíyuwas muhshoras. Nar-ic numácámun. Arot-ic nucitímuwám. Ehkwáruntamas nir, Mamanatowik, mahta yo cepsínunk nupipína eri kwuni apiyu.
S: You aren’t trying to fatten me up, are you? That would be an evil trick.
Sá mahta kuqucíhtá kuwirunihin? Á ni macisuwákan.
I: Why have you come here on the river if your boats are only going home and returning?
Tá wunci kupuyámow yowunk yo akántank ta nik ápácíhshun muhshoras koc qaskiyuwas?
I: Why have we found you here, you are far from camp? What are you looking for?
Tá wunci kumuhkawuhshak yowunk, kunawsukámun kahsuns? Keqay kunatonehuwak?
Reprinted with permission of New Line Cinema, courtesy of Blair Rudes, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.