Michif language

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Michif (also Mitchif, Mechif, Michif-Cree, Métif, Métchif, French Cree) is the language of the Métis people of Canada and the United States, who are the descendants of First Nations women (mainly Cree, Nakota and Ojibwe) and fur trade workers of European ancestry (mainly French Canadians and Scottish Canadians). Nowadays Michif is spoken in scattered Métis communities in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada and in North Dakota. There are some 230 speakers of Mitchif in the United States (down from 390 at the 1990 census [1]), most of whom live in North Dakota, particularly in the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.[2] Michif emerged in the early 19th century as a mixed language (not to be confused with a creole), and adopted a consistent character between about 1820 and 1840.

Michif combines Cree and Métis French (Rhodes 1977, Bakker 1997:85), a variety of Canadian French, with some additional borrowing from English and First Nation languages such as Ojibwe and Assiniboine. In general, Michif noun phrase phonology, lexicon, morphology, and syntax are derived from Métis French, while verb phrase phonology, lexicon, morphology, and syntax are from a southern variety of Plains Cree. (Plains Cree is a western dialect of Cree.) Articles and adjectives are also of Métis French origin, but demonstratives are from Plains Cree.

The Michif language is unusual (and possibly even unique) among mixed languages, in that rather than forming a simplified grammar, it developed by incorporating complex elements of the chief languages from which it was born. French-origin noun phrases retain lexical gender and adjective agreement; Cree-origin verbs retain much of their polysynthetic structure. This suggests that instead of haltingly using words from another's tongue, the people who gradually came to speak Michif were fully fluent in both French and Cree.

The number of speakers is estimated at fewer than 1,000; it was probably double or triple this number at the close of the 19th century, but never much higher.

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