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Oji-Cree language

Oji-Cree language

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The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language
The Severn Ojibwa or the Oji-Cree language (ᐊᓂᐦᔑᓂᓃᒧᐏᐣ, Anishininiimowin; Unpointed: ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᒧᐏᐣ) is the indigenous name for a dialect of the Ojibwe language
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...

 spoken in a series of Oji-Cree communities in northern 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....

 and at Island Lake, 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...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Ojibwa is a member of the 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...

 language family, itself a member of the Algic
Algic languages
The Algic languages are an indigenous language family of North America. Most Algic languages belong to the Algonquian family, dispersed over a broad area from the Rocky Mountains to Atlantic Canada...

 language family.

The language is often referred in English as Oji-Cree, with the term Severn Ojibwa (or Ojibwe) primarily used by linguists and anthropologists. Severn Ojibwa speakers have also been identified as Northern Ojibwa, and the same term has been applied to their dialect.

Severn Ojibwa speakers use two self-designations in their own language. The first is Anishinini ‘ordinary person’ (plural Anishininiwag) This term has been compared to Plains Cree ayisiyiniw ‘person, human being.’ The term Anishinaabe ‘ordinary man,’ which is widely used as a self-designation across the Ojibwa dialect continuum, is also used and accepted by Severn speakers.

The term Anishininiimowin is the general word used in Severn Ojibwa to refer to the language itself (noun Anishinini 'ordinary person,' suffix -mo 'speak a language,' suffix -win 'nominalizer'). A similar term Anishinaabemowin with the same structure would be expected but has not been documented in published sources.

Anishininiimowin was one of only six aboriginal languages in Canada to report an increase in use in the 2001 Canadian census
Canada 2001 Census
The Canada 2001 Census was a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population. Census day was May 15, 2001. On that day, Statistics Canada attempted to count every person in Canada. The total population count of Canada was 30,007,094. This was a 4% increase over 1996 Census of 28,846,761. In...

 over the 1996 census.

Relationship to other Ojibwa dialects

Although sometimes described as a separate language, Severn Ojibwa is most accurately described as a dialect of the larger Ojibwe language complex, with a number of distinctive innovations, in addition to an increment of vocabulary borrowed from Cree
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...

 and a modest amount of Cree morphology.

Valentine has proposed that Ojibwe dialects are divided into three groups: a northern tier consisting of Severn and Algonquin; a southern tier consisting of “Odawa, Chippewa, Eastern Ojibwe, the Ojibwe of the Border Lakes region between Minnesota and Ontario, and Saulteaux; and third, a transitional zone between these two polar groups, in which there is a mixture of northern and southern features.”

It has been noted that, along with Algonquin
Algonquin language
Algonquin is either a distinct Algonquian language closely related to the Ojibwe language or a particularly divergent Ojibwe dialect. It is spoken, alongside French and to some extent English, by the Algonquin First Nations of Quebec and Ontario...

 and Odawa
Ottawa language
Ottawa is a dialect of the Ojibwe language, spoken by the Ottawa people in southern Ontario in Canada, and northern Michigan in the United States. Descendants of migrant Ottawa speakers live in Kansas and Oklahoma...

, Severn Ojibwa “…show[s] many distinct features, which suggest periods of relative isolation from other varieties of Ojibwe.” However, while each of these dialects has undergone innovations that make each of them distinctive in some respects, their status as part of the Ojibwa language complex is not in dispute. Many communities adjacent to these relatively sharply differentiated dialects show a mix of transitional features, reflecting overlap with other nearby dialects.

Cree influence

Cree has historically had a significant cultural influence on Severn Ojibwa and its speakers. Cree Anglican catechists evangelized Severn Ojibwa speakers in the late nineteenth century. For example, Cree missionary William Dick established an Anglican mission in Severn Ojibwa territory at Big Trout Lake, where he served from the late nineteenth century until the early twentieth century (approximate dates 1887-1917). Although their language is clearly a dialect of Ojibwe, in the late 1970s it was noted that “The northern bands of Northern Ojibwa prefer to be called Cree, a usage that has confused students and government officials: the Trout Lake, Deer Lake, and Caribou Lake bands of Northern Ojibwa are not distinguished from their Cree-speaking neighbors to the north in Canadian government publications …”

Referring specifically to grammatical features in Severn Ojibwe, research indicates that “… the amount of Cree influence on Ojibwe grammar actually appears rather small. The common designation of northern Ojibwe linguistic varieties [i.e. as ‘Oji-Cree’] is profoundly misleading in terms of the relative grammatical representation of each language, in that these varieties are decidedly Ojibwe in structure.”

Several different Cree dialects appear to have been sources of Severn Ojibwa vocabulary. For example, a layer of vocabulary items in Severn appears to be of Plains Cree
Plains Cree language
Plains Cree is a dialect of the Algonquian language, Cree, which is the most common Canadian indigenous language. Plains Cree is sometimes considered a dialect of the Cree-Montagnais language, or sometimes a dialect of the Cree language, distinct from the Montagnais language...

 origin, despite the fact that Severn speakers are at a significant distance from Plains Cree speakers. Valentine has suggested that “The logical means by which Plains Cree could exert an influence on Severn Ojibwe is through the Cree Bible, and other liturgical materials, which are used widely and extensively in the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in the Severn region.” The liturgical language of many of these communities is Plains Cree, a separate mutually unintelligible language.

Severn Ojibwa Sub-Dialects

A number of core Severn speaking communities have been identified. Dialect research in the 1970s suggested a relatively shallow set of differences that distinguish a core Big Trout Lake sub-group (itself further divided into two minor sub-groups), and a Deer Lake area sub-group.

“Nichols 1976 determined that there exist two minor sub-dialects of Severn Ojibwe, one designated the Big Trout Lake area and the other the Deer Lake area. The Big Trout Lake area is divided into two sub-groups, Western, composed of communities situated in the Severn River system, and Eastern, made up mostly of communities in the drainage area of the Winisk River.”

(A) Big Trout Area

(i) Western Big Trout (Severn River System)
Bearskin Lake
Bearskin Lake First Nation
Bearskin Lake First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nation in the Canadian province of Ontario, located in the Kenora District 425 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout. Bearskin First Nation's total registered population in September, 2007, was 831, of which their on-reserve population was 423.Three...

Big Trout Lake
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug , also known as Big Trout Lake First Nation or KI for short, is a First Nations community in Northwestern Ontario. Part of Treaty 9...

Muskrat Dam
Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation
The Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nation in Northern Ontario. They reside on the Muskrat Dam Lake reserve, located on Muskrat Dam Lake in the Kenora District. The community of Muskrat Dam, Ontario, is located on this reserve...

Sachigo Lake
Sachigo Lake First Nation
Sachigo Lake First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nation in Unorganized Kenora District in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. It is located on Sachigo Lake, part of the Sachigo River system and Hudson Bay drainage basin, approximately north of the town of Sioux Lookout...

(ii) Eastern Big Trout (Winisk River System)
Angling Lake
Wapekeka First Nation
Wapekeka First Nation is a First Nation in the Canadian province of Ontario. An Oji-Cree community in the Kenora District, the community is located approximately 450 kilometres northeast of Sioux Lookout...

Kingfisher Lake
Kingfisher First Nation
Kingfisher First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nation located north of Sioux Lookout, Ontario. It is accessible by air all year round, waterways during summer and ice roads in winter...

Webequie First Nation
Webequie First Nation is located on the northern peninsula of Eastwood Island on Winisk Lake, 540 km north of the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Webequie is a fly-in community with no summer road access. The primary way into the community is by air to Webequie Airport or winter road, which...

Wunnumin Lake
Wunnumin Lake First Nation
Wunnumin Lake First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nation located 360 km northeast of Sioux Lookout in Ontario, Canada...

(B) Deer Lake Area
Deer Lake
Deer Lake First Nation
Deer Lake First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nation in Northern Ontario, located north of Red Lake, Ontario. It is one of the few First Nations in Ontario to have signed Treaty 5. It is part of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Council and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation...

North Spirit Lake
North Spirit Lake First Nation
North Spirit Lake First Nation is a small Oji-Cree community in Northern Ontario, located north of Red Lake, Ontario. It is connected to Sandy Lake First Nation, and Deer Lake First Nation by winter/ice roads...

Sandy Lake
Sandy Lake First Nation
Sandy Lake First Nation is an independent Oji-Cree First Nation. The First Nation community, in the west part of Northern Ontario, is located in the Kenora District, northeast of Red Lake, Ontario. Its registered population in June 2007 was 2,474...

The Keewaywin
Keewaywin First Nation
Keewaywin is a small Oji-Cree community in Northern Ontario, located north of Red Lake, Ontario. It is connected to Sandy Lake First Nation by Sandy Lake. It is part of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Council and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation...

 community is a group that recently broke off from the main Sandy Lake community; their dialect is the same as Sandy Lake.

A number of communities around the periphery of the core Severn Ojibwa area share some Severn features, but also share features of other dialects, and have been described as transitional communities. These include Round Lake, Lansdowne House, Ogoki Post
Marten Falls First Nation
Marten Falls First Nation is an Anishinaabe First Nation located in northern Ontario. The First Nation occupies communities on both sides of the Albany River in Northern Ontario, including Ogoki Post in the Cochrane District and Marten Falls in the Kenora District...

, Fort Hope
Eabametoong First Nation
Eabametoong, also known as Fort Hope, is an Ojibway First Nation in Kenora District, Ontario, Canada. Located on the shore of Eabamet Lake in the Albany River system, the community is located approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and is accessible only by airplane to Fort Hope...

, and Summer Beaver
Nibinamik First Nation
Nibinamik First Nation , also known as Summer Beaver Band, is a small Oji-Cree First Nation in Northern Ontario, located on the Summer Beaver Settlement that is connected to the rest of the province by its airport, and a winter/ice road that leads to the Northern Ontario Resource...


Island Lake, Manitoba

The Island Lake community in northern Manitoba consists of a series of adjacent settlements: Garden Hill, Red Sucker Lake, St. Theresa Point First Nation, and Wasagamack, referred to collectively as Island Lake.

As with Severn Ojibwa communities in northwestern Ontario, “According to Canadian Government sources (Canada, 1970), the Island Lake people speak “Cree” and they are in no way distinguished from the Cree of Oxford House, Gods Lake, or Norway House.”

Island Lake speech has been described by residents and outsiders alike as containing features of Ojibwe and Cree. A dialect study conducted in the early 1970s concluded that “the speech of Island Lake is Ojibwa with an admixture of Cree.” Available information indicates as well that Island Lake Ojibwe shares Severn features: “The dialect affiliation of Island Lake Ojibwa is with Severn Ojibwe. Consistent informant responses indicate almost complete intelligibility with Severn Ojibwa on the one hand, and reduced intelligibility with Berens River, Bloodvein, Little Grand Rapids, and Pikangikaum…”

A review of Island Lake family history indicates that approximately 50% of families listed in 1909 documents originated in the Deer Lake-Favourable Lake area and approximately 25% in the Sandy Lake-Big Trout Lake areas of northwestern Ontario. A complex migration history includes the return of a number of these migrants to their original communities, with a subsequent migration of some back to Island Lake.

Vocabulary Examples

Oji-Cree words are shown in both Oji-Cree syllabics and Saulteaux-Cree Roman (with the Hybrid Double Vowel Roman in parentheses). Along with the Oji-Cree words, for comparison, Swampy Cree in Western Syllabics and Salteaux-Cree Roman, and Northwestern Ojibwa in Eastern Ojibwe Syllabics and Saulteaux-Cree Roman (with Fiero Double Vowel Roman in parentheses) are also shown. Translations of the words are also given.
Swampy Cree
Swampy Cree language
Swampy Cree is a dialect of the Cree language complex. Swampy Cree is spoken in a series of communities in northern Manitoba, central northeast of Saskatchewan along the Saskatchewan River and along the Hudson Bay coast and adjacent inland areas to the south and west, and Ontario along the coast...

Northwestern Ojibwa language
Northwestern Ojibwe is a dialect of the Ojibwe language, spoken in Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. Ojibwe is a member of the Algonquian language family.-References:...

lit. "Goose-Moon"
ᐅᓯᑕᐣ [Island Lake: ᐅᑎᐦᑕᐣ]
ositan [Island Lake: othitan]
(ositan [Island Lake: othitan])

External links