Onǫda’géga’ – Onoñda’géga’

Onondaga Language

The traditional territory of the Onondaga people is in the area around Onondaga lake in New York state. Today, there are two communities, one south of Syracuse, the other being Six Nations in Ontario.

Each of the communities has its own writing system. There are only a few cosmetic differences between them. Both these orthographies are briefly discussed in the Onondaga Dictionary, which itself uses a more Iroquoianist linguistics writing system.

Note: There are several Roman Orthography conventions on this site that may require further explanation. On the charts below, there is lots of phonetic terminology that may not be familiar to everyone.  

ISO 639-3 language code: ono

The United States Census counts 29 speakers, and the Canadian Census groups the Onǫnda’géga’ language together with other Iroquoian languages. Howe and Cook report fewer than 50 speakers in Canada, and less than 15 in the U.S. Compare these figures to those on the main Iroquoian page on this site, which were collected from within the communities themselves.


  bilabial alveolar pal.-alveolar velar glottal
lenis stop   t / d   k / g
affricate     j    
voiceless fricative   s sh   h
nasal   n      
approximate w   y    


  front oral front nasal back oral back nasal
high i     ǫ / oñ
mid e ę / eñ o  
low ä   a  


  • Six Nations writes the nasal vowels with an ogonek (nasal hook accent): ę ǫ. Onondaga (New York) writes them with a following ñ. Although the back nasal vowel is written with an ǫ/oñ, it is pronounced more like a nasalised [ũ].
  • Phonologically (in the grammar of the language), ‹t› and ‹d› are the same sound: /t/. The phoneme /t/ is written ‹d› when pronounced as voiced – i.e. before a vowel or approximate – and ‹t› elsewhere. The same situation exists for ‹g› (voiced) and ‹k› (elsewhere), which are used for /k/.
  • Vowel length is shown by a colon proceeding the vowel, so long a is written ‹a:›.
  • Stress is shown by an acute accent: á ä́ é ę́/éñ í ó ǫ́/óñ
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Last Modified: 26-Aug-2011