Tuscarora, sometimes called Skarò˙rə̨ˀ', is an Iroquoian language of the Tuscarora people, spoken in southern Ontario, Canada, and northwestern New York around Niagara Falls, in the United States. The historic homeland of the Tuscarora was in eastern North Carolina, in and around the Goldsboro, Kinston, and Smithfield areas. Some Tuscarora descendants, though few, still live in this region. The name Tuscarora (/tʌskəˈrɔrə/tus-kə-ROR-ə) means "hemp people," after the Indian hemp or milkweed which they use in many aspects of their society. Skarureh refers to the long shirt worn as part of the men's regalia, hence "long shirt people".
Tuscarora is a living but severely endangered language. As of the mid-1970s, only about 52 people spoke the language on the Tuscarora Reservation (Lewiston, New York) and the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation (near Brantford, Ontario). The Tuscarora School in Lewiston has strived to keep the language alive, teaching children from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade. Despite this, Ethnologue reports a total of only 11 to 13 speakers in the 1990s, all of whom are older adults.
The Tuscarora language can appear complex to those unfamiliar with it, more in terms of the grammar than the sound system. Many ideas can be expressed in a single word. Most words involve several components that must be considered before speaking (or writing). It is written using mostly symbols from the Roman alphabet, with some variations, additions, and diacritics.
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“The writers language is to some degree the product of his own action; he is both the historian and the agent of his own language.”
—Paul De Man (19191983)