A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Métis

A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Métis

A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Métis

A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Métis

Synopsis

The Michif language -- spoken by descendants of French Canadian fur traders and Cree Indians in western Canada -- is considered an "impossible language" since it uses French for nouns and Cree for verbs, and comprises two different sets of grammatical rules. Bakker uses historical research and fieldwork data to present the first detailed analysis of this language and how it came into being.

Excerpt

In Native communities in Canada, people often wondered why a Dutchman traveled so far to learn and study the Michif language. Actually, I became involved in this language by chance. I was studying linguistics with an emphasis on language contact, and I happened to read an article called "Indian Lingua Francas" by Allan Taylor, in which a language that allegedly consists of Cree Indian verbs and French nouns was mentioned in passing. Because this seemed to violate so many theories and presumptions taken for granted in linguistics, I mentioned this language, called Michif, to Norval Smith. Within half a minute he retrieved from his archives a photocopied article called "French Cree: A Case of Borrowing" by Richard Rhodes, which was a detailed grammatical sketch of the Michif language. From that moment I felt the urge to find out more about this fascinating language. Fortunately, I received a nine-month grant from the Canadian Embassy in the Netherlands to study the language on the spot, and after that a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) in The Hague to write this book and do more fieldwork on location. This book contains the results of my research and my ideas about the genesis of this unique language.

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