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Cree syllabics

Cree syllabics

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Cree syllabics, found in two primary variants, are the versions of Canadian Aboriginal syllabics
Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics
Canadian Aboriginal syllabic writing, or simply syllabics, is a family of abugidas used to write a number of Aboriginal Canadian languages of the Algonquian, Inuit, and Athabaskan language families....

 used to write Cree dialects
Cree language
Cree is an Algonquian language spoken by approximately 117,000 people across Canada, from the Northwest Territories and Alberta to Labrador, making it the aboriginal language with the highest number of speakers in Canada. It is also spoken in the U.S. state of Montana...

, including the original syllabics system created for Cree and Ojibwe
Ojibwe language
Ojibwe , also called Anishinaabemowin, is an indigenous language of the Algonquian language family. Ojibwe is characterized by a series of dialects that have local names and frequently local writing systems...

. Syllabics were later adapted to several other languages. It is estimated that over 70,000 Algonquian
Algonquian languages
The Algonquian languages also Algonkian) are a subfamily of Native American languages which includes most of the languages in the Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the Ojibwe language, which is a...

-speaking people use the script, from Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in Canada, which has an area of . Saskatchewan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota....

 in the west to Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay , sometimes called Hudson's Bay, is a large body of saltwater in northeastern Canada. It drains a very large area, about , that includes parts of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, most of Manitoba, southeastern Nunavut, as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota,...

 in the east, the US border to Mackenzie and Kewatin in the north.

History


Cree syllabics were developed by James Evans, a missionary in what is now Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

, during the 1830s for the Ojibwe language. Evans had originally adapted the Roman alphabet to Ojibwe (see Evans system), but after learning of the success of the Cherokee syllabary
Cherokee syllabary
The Cherokee syllabary is a syllabary invented by Sequoyah to write the Cherokee language in the late 1810s and early 1820s. His creation of the syllabary is particularly noteworthy in that he could not previously read any script. He first experimented with logograms, but his system later developed...

, he experimented with invented scripts based on his familiarity with shorthand
Shorthand
Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed or brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos and graphē or graphie...

 and Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

.

When Evans later worked with the closely related Cree, and ran into trouble with the Latin alphabet, he turned to his Ojibwe project and in 1840 adapted it to the Cree language. The result contained just nine glyph shapes, each of which stood for a syllable with the vowels determined by the orientations of these shapes. With the 1841 publication of a syllabics hymnbook, the new script spread quickly. The Cree valued it because it could be learned in just a few hours, and was visually distinctive from the Latin script of the colonial languages. Virtually all Cree became literate in the new syllabary within a few years. Evans taught by writing on birchbark with soot, and he became known as "the man who made birchbark talk".

Structure


Canadian Aboriginal syllabics are unique among abugida
Abugida
An abugida , also called an alphasyllabary, is a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is obligatory but secondary...

 scripts in that the orientation of a symbol, rather than modifications of its shape or diacritic marks, determines the vowel of a syllable. Each basic shape corresponds to a specific consonant sound; this is flipped or rotated to denote the accompanying vowel.

Like the Latin alphabet, syllabics are written from left to right, with each new line of writing directly under the previous one.

Variants


The Evans syllabary continues in use for dialects of Cree west of the Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

-Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

 border as Western Cree syllabics
Western Cree syllabics
Western Cree syllabics are a variant of Canadian Aboriginal syllabics used to write Plains Cree, Woods Cree and the western dialects of Swampy Cree. It is used for all Cree dialects west of approximately the Manitoba–Ontario border in Canada, as opposed to Eastern Cree syllabics...

. John Horden
John Horden
John Horden was the first Anglican Bishop of Moosonee. He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church and in the Calendar of Saints of the Anglican Church of Canada.-Early life:...

introduced modifications in the 1850s in the James Bay
James Bay
James Bay is a large body of water on the southern end of Hudson Bay in Canada. Both bodies of water extend from the Arctic Ocean. James Bay borders the provinces of Quebec and Ontario; islands within the bay are part of Nunavut...

 area. These were standardized in 1865 to form Eastern Cree syllabics
Eastern Cree syllabics
Eastern Cree syllabics are a variant of Canadian Aboriginal syllabics used to write all the Cree dialects from Moosonee, Ontario to Kawawachikamach on the Quebec–Labrador border in Canada that use syllabics....

, used today for many eastern dialects of Cree, Naskapi
Naskapi language
Naskapi is an Algonquian language spoken by the Naskapi in Quebec and Labrador, Canada. It is written in Eastern Cree syllabics....

, and Ojibwe, though Cree dialects of eastern Quebec use the Latin alphabet. The two versions differ primarily in the way they indicate syllable-final consonants, in how they mark the semi-vowel /w/, and in how they reflect the phonological differences between Cree dialects. There are more minor local differences in orthography, shapes of the characters, writing styles, and punctuation, with some writers using dots or spaces between words, and others not indicating word separation.

Modern usage


Though used for manuscripts, letters, and personal records since the 18th century, the need for special type long restricted printed syllabics to missionary publications. However, with the development of syllabic typewriters and later word processors, control of the script passed to native speakers, and it is now used for schoolbooks, periodicals, and official documents.

See also

  • Canadian Aboriginal syllabics
    Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics
    Canadian Aboriginal syllabic writing, or simply syllabics, is a family of abugidas used to write a number of Aboriginal Canadian languages of the Algonquian, Inuit, and Athabaskan language families....

  • Western Cree syllabics
    Western Cree syllabics
    Western Cree syllabics are a variant of Canadian Aboriginal syllabics used to write Plains Cree, Woods Cree and the western dialects of Swampy Cree. It is used for all Cree dialects west of approximately the Manitoba–Ontario border in Canada, as opposed to Eastern Cree syllabics...

  • Eastern Cree syllabics
    Eastern Cree syllabics
    Eastern Cree syllabics are a variant of Canadian Aboriginal syllabics used to write all the Cree dialects from Moosonee, Ontario to Kawawachikamach on the Quebec–Labrador border in Canada that use syllabics....

  • Inuktitut writing
    Inuktitut writing
    The Inuktitut language is written in different ways in different places. In Greenland, Alaska, Labrador, the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories and in the western part of the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, it is written with the Latin alphabet...

  • Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics (Unicode block)
  • Journal of Indigenous Studies
    Journal of Indigenous Studies
    The Journal of Indigenous Studies was a multilingual, biannual, peer-reviewed academic journal. It was established in 1989 and was sponsored by the Gabriel Dumont Institute, a Métis-directed educational and cultural entity in Saskatoon , affiliated with the University of Regina...


Cree books written in syllabics

  • Hundreds of Eastern James Bay Cree books were published by the Cree School Board of Quebec, Canada. See the catalogue.
  • Hymn Book. (By James Evans) Norway House, 1841.
  • Catechism. (Transl. James Evans) Rossville, É.N.
  • The Holy Bible. (Transl. John Sinclair, Henry Steinhauer) London, 1861.
  • Bunyan: Pilgrim´S Progress. (Transl. John Sinclair) Toronto, 1900.
  • Cree Hymn Book. (By John Mcdougall) Toronto, 1888.
  • Cree Hymn Book. (By Robert Steinauer, Egerton Steinauer) Toronto, 1920.
  • The Epistle of Paul The Apostle To The Galatians. (Transl. Joseph Reader) Oonikup (Northwest Territory), S.A.
  • The Acts of The Apostles And The Epistles. London, 1891.
  • The Books of The New Testament. London, 1859.
  • The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians; the Epistle of Jacob; the First Epistle General of John. (Transl. Thomas Hullburt) Rossville, 1857.
  • The Travellers´ Spiritual Provision (Calendar) S.L., S. A.
  • The Handbook to Scripture Truth: Words of Admonition, Counsel and Comfort. Toronto, 1893.
  • Prières, Cantiques, Catéchisme Etc. En Lanque Crise. Montreal, 1886.
  • The Book of Common Prayer, (Transl. John Horden) London, 1889 (Addl. Printings Through 1970).
In: Paleográfiai kalandozások. Szentendre, 1995. ISBN 9634509223

External links