MI'KMAW CULTURE
- MI'KMAW WRITING

Mi'kmaq Orthographies

Orthography literally means 'correct writing'. An orthography is the representation of the sounds of a language by written or printed symbols, according to a standard usage. The Mi'kmaq language has several different orthographies, which begs the question: is there only one way (or indeed any way?) to 'correctly write' a language that was almost exclusively oral?

 

Rand Orthography

The Rand Orthography was developed by the Reverend Silas Tertius Rand in 1875. Rand was an exceptional linguist, and published the first dictionaries of the Mi'kmaw language. His orthography appears in several 19th century publications, but it is no longer used.

A

a

Sounds like A in Father

H

h

Sounds like H in Hat

Ŏ

ŏ

Sounds like O in Not

Sounds like A in Abaft

I

i

Sounds like I in Bit

P

p

Sounds like P in Peter

Ā

ā

Sounds like A in Fate

Ĭ

ĭ

Sounds like I in Bit

S

s

Sounds like S in Snake

Ă

ă

Sounds like A in Fat

J

j

Sounds like J in Job

T

t

Sounds like T in Toy

B

b

Sounds like B in Boat

K

k

Sounds like K in Kilo

U

u

Sounds like U in Bugle

C

c

Sounds like C in Cat

L

l

Sounds like L in Lemon

Ŭ

ŭ

Sounds like U in Tub

D

d

Sounds like D in Dog

M

m

Sounds like M in Mom

W

w

Sounds like W in Water

E

e

Sounds like E in Me

N

n

Sounds like N in Night

Y

y

Sounds like Y in Yes

Ĕ

ĕ

Sounds like E in Met

O

o

Sounds like O in Note

G

g

Sounds like G in Goat

Ō

ō

Sounds like O in Also

 

Pacifique Orthography

The Pacifique Orthography was developed by Father Pacifique (Henri Buisson d'Valigny) in 1894, and appears in his books. It is used by people in New Brunswick.

A

a

Sounds like AW in Saw

G

g

Sounds like G in Big

S

s

Sounds like S in Was

E

e

Sounds like E in Beth

L

l

Sounds like L in Bell

T

t

Sounds like D in Loud

I

i

Sounds like E in Seen

M

m

Sounds like M in Sam

TJ

tj

Sounds like CH in Chow

Sounds like O in Stove

N

n

Sounds like N in Man

O

o

Sounds like OO in Loon

P

p

Sounds like P in Skip

 

CONTEMPORARY ORTHOGRAPHIES

The following are more contemporary orthographies, and differ mainly in how they represent different pronunciation marks. For example, A' (Listuguj), A: (Lexicon) and (Francis-Smith) all represent the same sound, the A as in Palm. In addition, the pronunciations of certain characters are in some cases positional, depending on the adjacent characters. We also see the introduction  of the schwa ( I ), which is a character representing an indistinct, almost unvocalized sound, as in the second syllable of the word "common".

 

Listuguj Orthography

The Listuguj Orthography is used by people in Quebec. Listuguj is located on the southwestern shore of the Gasp peninsula.

A 

a

Sounds like A in Amen

O'

o'

Sounds like O in Go

S

s

Sounds like S in Sit, Was

E

e

Sounds like E in Met

u'

u'

Sounds like U in Sue

L

l

Sounds like L in Like, Feel

I

i

Sounds like I in Bit

I

i

(schwa) Indistinct, like second O in Common

M

m

Sounds like M in Me, Him

O

o

Sounds like O in Also

P

p

B as in Ball, P as in Put*

N

n

Sounds like N in New, Can

U

u

Sounds like U in Put

T

t

D as in Dog, T as in Toy*

W

w

Sounds like W in Will, How

A'

a'

Sounds like A in Palm

G

g

G as in Go, K as in Cake*

Y

y

Sounds like Y in Yes, Grey

E'

e'

Sounds like E in Where

Q

q

A guttural sound as in the German word Bach

I'

i'

Sounds like I in Ski

J

j

J as in Jim, Ch as in Church

* where more than one pronunciation is given, the pronunciation depends on the character's position: 
        the first pronunciation applies when the character is between vowels or follows l, m or n; 
        the second pronunciation applies when the character is next to a consonant, except for l, m or n.

 

Francis-Smith Orthography

The Francis-Smith Orthography was developed by Bernard Francis and Douglas Smith in 1974. In 1980 it became the official orthography of the Mkmaq Nation as declared by the Grand Council.

A

a

Sounds like A in Amen

Sounds like O in Go

S

s

Sounds like S in Sit, Was

E

e

Sounds like E in Met

Sounds like U in Sue

L

l

Sounds like L in Like, Feel

I

i

Sounds like I in Bit

I

i

(schwa) Indistinct, like second O in Common

M

m

Sounds like M in Me, Him

O

o

Sounds like O in Also

P

p

B as in Ball, P as in Put*

N

n

Sounds like N in New, Can

U

u

Sounds like U in Put

T

t

D as in Dog, T as in Toy*

W

w

Sounds like W in Will, How

Sounds like A in Palm

K

k

G as in Go, K as in Cake*

Y

y

Sounds like Y in Yes, Grey

Sounds like E in Where

Q

q

A guttural sound as in the German word Bach

Sounds like I in Ski

J

j

J as in Jim, Ch as in Church*

*where more than one pronunciation is given, the pronunciation depends on the character's position: 
        the first pronunciation applies when the character is between vowels or follows l, m or n; 
        the second pronunciation applies when the character is next to a consonant, except for l, m or n.

 

Lexicon Orthography

The Lexicon Orthography was developed by Albert D. DeBlois and Alphonse Metallic in 1984.

A

a

Sounds like A in Amen

O:

o:

Sounds like O in Go

S

s

Sounds like S in Sit, Was

E

e

Sounds like E in Met

U:

u:

Sounds like U in Sue

L

l

Sounds like L in Like, Feel

I

i

Sounds like I in Bit

I

i

(schwa) Indistinct, like second O in Common

M

m

Sounds like M in Me, Him

O

o

Sounds like O in Also

P

p

B as in Ball, P as in Put*

N

n

Sounds like N in New, Can

U

u

Sounds like U in Put

T

t

D as in Dog, T as in Toy*

W

w

Sounds like W in Will, How

A:

a:

Sounds like A in Palm

K

k

G as in Go, K as in Cake*

Y

y

Sounds like Y in Yes, Grey

E:

e:

Sounds like E in Where

Q

q

A guttural sound as in the German word Bach

I:

i:

Sounds like I in Ski

J

j

J as in Jim, Ch as in Church

* where more than one pronunciation is given, the pronunciation depends on the character's position: 
        the first pronunciation applies when the character is between vowels or follows l, m or n; 
        the second pronunciation applies when the character is next to a consonant, except for l, m or n.

Online Mi'kmaw Books

A number of books are available online which contain Mi'kmaw words and text in various orthographies:

Grammaire De La Langue Mikmaque (Abb Antoine Maillard, 1864)

A first reading book in the Micmac language (Rev. Silas T. Rand, 1875)

Dictionary Of The Language Of The Micmac Indians (Rev. Silas T. Rand. 1888)

A List of Micmac Names of Places, Rivers, Etc., in Nova Scotia (Elizabeth Frame, 1892)

 

Online language resources

Shubenacadie resident Curtis Michael has created a large number of videos intended to assist those who are trying to learn the Mi'kmaw language. These have been collected in a special YouTube channel, and are available for all to use.

 

The talking dictionary project is developing an Internet resource for the Mi'gmaq/Mikmaq language. Each headword is recorded by a minimum of three speakers. Multiple speakers allow one to hear differences and variations in how a word is pronounced. Each recorded word is used in an accompanying phrase. This permits learners the opportunity to develop the difficult skill of distinguishing individual words when they are spoken in a phrase.

 

Atlantic Canada's First Nation Help Desk's Aboriginal Language Initiative was made possible with funding from Heritage Canada administered by the Assembly of First Nations. Our purpose is to help revitalize and promote the use of aboriginal languages among our people.

 


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Updated: 26 Mar 2016 Print Page