|Īyiyū Ayimūn (N), Īnū Ayimūn (S)|
crl – Northern
crj – Southern
Linguistic subdivisions in Canada
East Cree, also known as (Eastern) James Bay Cree, and East Main Cree, is a group of Cree dialects spoken in Quebec, Canada on the east coast of lower Hudson Bay and James Bay, and inland southeastward from James Bay. Four dialects have been tentatively identified including the Southern Inland dialect (Iyiniw-Ayamiwin) spoken in Mistissini, Oujé-Bougoumou, Waswanipi, and Nemaska; the Southern Coastal dialect (Iyiyiw-Ayamiwin) spoken in Nemaska, Waskaganish, and Eastmain; the Northern Coastal Dialects (Iyiyiw-Ayimiwin), one spoken in Wemindji and Chisasibi and the other spoken in Whapmagoostui. The dialects are mutually intelligible, though difficulty arises as the distance between communities increases.
The long vowels *ē and *ā have merged in the northern coastal dialects but remain distinct in the southern coastal and southern inland dialects; southern inland has merged *s with *š, which remain distinct in the coastal dialects. Neighboring Naskapi has both.
In East Cree there are eleven consonants:
There are eight vowels:
In East Cree you have Primary Derivation, Secondary Derivation, and Composition.
Words constructed by primary derivation, are made up of two or more stems, that are not words that stand on their own.
For example, the verb ᐱᓱᐸᔨᐤ pisupiyiu, s/he/it goes slow is made up of an initial pisu- and a final piyi- that are not words themselves.
English Translation: She/he/it goes slow.
Words constructed by secondary derivation, are made up of core word stems and at least one other stem-building elements.
For example, the verb ᐱᓱᐱᔨᐦᑖᐤ pisupiyihtaau s/he makes it go slow is made up of the stem of the existing verb ᐱᓱᐱᔨᐤ pisupiyiu and the causative final -htaa.
|Initial||Final||Causative final/ Personal suffix|
English Translation: she/he/it makes it go slow.
Words constructed by composition contains independent elements, like two existing word stems, or a preform and another word stem.
For example, the noun ᒥᔥᑎᑯᓈᐹᐤ mishtikunaapaau carpenter is made by conjoining two other noun stems: ᒥᔥᑎᒄ mishtikw wood and ᓈᐹᐤ napaau man.
Independent elements forming with Verbs
|good||it is day|
English Translation: It is a good day
Independent elements forming with Nouns
English Translation: carpenter
Gender, Number, Person
Gender is a grammatical distinction. Within gender, East Cree has 'Animate' and 'Inanimate' gender differentiation. However, unless you are a fluent speaker of the language, it is really hard to know for sure if words are animate or inanimate.
Animate words refer to humans, animals, general living creatures, also including some plants and some personal belongings such as pants and sled. To indicate the plural you add suffix -ich, or in some cases when the word ends with a w, you drop the w and add -uch.
|Singular||paayikw awaashish||one child|
|Plural||niishu awaashishiich||two children|
Some more examples of Animate words are,
|Single||piyichiis||pair of pants|
|Plural||piyichiisich||pairs of pants|
Inanimate Inanimate plural is indicated by suffix -h.
|Single||paayikw mischin||one shoe|
|Plural||niishu mischinh||two shoes|
Number As shown above we can see that the Number is dependent on the Gender therefore if we have an Animate word then the ending for the plural will be ich in most cases and in some cases when the word ends in a w the ending will be uch after you drop the w. On the other hand, for Inanimate words the ending to indicate the plural will be adding an h to the end of the word.
Person to indicate possession, noun stems take a personal prefix. In East Cree there are Independent and Dependent nouns.
Independent nouns are ones that can appear without personal prefixes. Therefore, they can stand alone as a word, and if you want to indicate to whom it belongs to, you would add the prefix. Example shown below.
We can see that for this example the noun is Independent because it can stand alone, also, we see that it is an inanimate noun because the plural form adds an h at the end when the plural is indicted. Please refer to Gender to understand the relationship of Animate and Inanimate nouns in respect to gender.
Dependent nouns are those that can not stand alone without a prefix. These type of nouns express kinship, body parts, and personal belongings, like certain pieces of clothing.
Below is the table of Prefixes and Suffixes for some Dependent Nouns that are Animate
|2||chimis||your older sister|
|1||nimis||my older sister|
|2p||chimisiwaau||your (plural) older sister|
|21p||chimisinuu||our (including you) older sister|
|1p||nimisinaan||our (excluding you) older sister|
|3||umis-h||his/her older sister(s)|
|3pe||umisiwaauh||their older sister(s)|
|3'(p)||umisiyuuh||his/her/their older sister(s)|
Classification on Verbs
East Cree adds suffixes on verbs in order to distinguish classes based on two factors, transitivity and gender. When referring to transitivity it means if the verbs is intransitive or transitive, and when referring to gender, it means if the subject or object of the verb is animate or inanimate. When we are looking at intransitive verbs, we see that the animacy of the subject matters. However, when we are looking at a transitive verb, we see that the animacy of the object is what matters. Below is a table that describes the differences between the transitive, intransitive and animate, inanimate in regards to the verbs and their role.
|One Role (Intransitive)||masinaasuu||masinaateu|
|Two Roles ( Transitive)||masinahweu||masinaham|
|masinahweu||She writes him (his name) down||Transitive Animate (VTA)|
|masinaham||She is writing it||Transitive Inanimate (VTI)|
|masinaasuu||She (her name) is written down||Animate Intransitive (VAI)|
|masinaateu||It is written||Inanimate Intransitive (VII)|
Different classes have different endings. Below is a table that describes the different ending for each classification. The classifications are, Verb Transitive Animate (VTA), Verb Intransitive Inanimate (VII), Verb Transitive Inanimate (VTI), Verb Animate Intransitive (VAI).
Verb Intransitive Inanimate (VII) only have one role (intransitive) filled by an inanimate subject. These verbs have endings such as, -n or vowels.
|chiinaau||It is pointed|
|wiihkan||It is tasty|
|waaskamaau||It is a clear day|
|yuutin||It is windy|
Verb Transitive Inanimate (VTI) have two roles (transitive) filled by an animate subject and an inanimate object. These verbs have an -am ending. They can be found in all orders with all persons.
|masinaham masinahiikaniyuu Ruth||Ruth is writing a book|
|iiskupatam utaas||He is pulling up his socks|
|manaham chiistaaskwaanh||She is pulling out nails|
Verb Transitive Animate (VTA) have two roles (transitive) filled by an animate subject and an animate object. Both the agent and the patient are animate. They can end in many endings, but one of them is -eu.
|misinahuweu utawaashiimh Luci||Luci is enrolling her child|
|chispahweu waahkupaanikiikh Daisy||Daisy is mixing fish-egg pancakes|
|wepaashtimeu umuusuuyaanimh Marguerite||Marguerite let her moosehide blow away|
Verb Animate Intransitive (VAI) usually only have one role (intransitive) filled by an animate subject. They end in -n and -vowels'.
|masinaasuu nuushimish||My grandchild’s name is on the list|
|weyikaapuu Daisy che niimit||Daisy stands ready to dance|
|utaamikachisheshin John||John falls on his behind|
Space & Time
Space in East Cree there are Demonstrative Pronouns this are distinguished by three areas. The Proximal noted by uu, which can occur with suffixes. The proximal is used to indicate either a person or an object that is close to the speaker and in sight of the speaker. Then there is the Distal noted by an at the beginning of a word. The distal is used to indicate something or something specific that is slightly farther away from the speaker. In addition, there is the Remote noted as (a)naa or (a)nwaa and is used to indicate that someone or something is far away from the speaker. In East Cree, there are two sets of demonstratives. One is to use in a normal speech setting which means, to just speak to one another and the other form is used with gestures such as hand gestures, to point or signal.
Below is a table demonstrating the relation of prefixes on the words using the proximal, distal, and the remote for Animate Pronouns. Simple Speech no gestures required.
|Pronoun||Singular||Plural||Singular or Plural|
|Proximal||uu||uuchii / uuch||uuyuuh / uuyeyuuh|
|Distal||an||anichii / anich||anuyuuh / anuyeyuuh|
|Remote||(a)naa / (a)nwaa||(a)nechii / (a)nech||(a)neyuuh|
Below is a table demonstrating the relation of prefixes on the words using the proximal, distal, and the remote for Inanimate Pronouns.
|Proximal||uu||uuyuuh / uuhii||uuyuu / uuyeyuu||uuyuuh / uuyeyuuh|
|Distal||an||aniyuuh / anihii||aniyuu / aniyeyuu||aniyuuh / aniyeyuuh|
|Remote||(a)ne||(a)neyuuh / (a)nehii||aneyuu||aneyuuh|
Time East Cree tense is marked on the preverbs attached to the pronoun. There is an indicative of past and future tense on the preverb such as, che, chii, kata, chika, nika, chechii, wii, nipah, chipah, e, kaa, uhchi. These preverbs indicate different aspects of the tense and when you use each one. Below is a table that shows the different environment for each preverb.
|che||Future marker for conjunct verbs||1. che nikamuyaan, 2. che nikamuyin, 3. che nikamut||1. I will sing 2. You will sing 3. S/he will sing|
|chii||Past tense marker||1. nichii miichisun 2. chichii miichisun 3. chii miichisuu||1. I ate 2. You ate 3. S/he ate|
|kata||Future preverbs for independent verbs used only with 3p.||kata miichisuu utaakushiyiche||S/he will eat this evening|
|chika||future preverb for independent verbs used with second and third persons||1. chika miichisuu utaakushiyiche 2. chika miichisun utaakushiche||1. S/he will eat this evening 2. S/he will eat this evening|
|nika||future preverb for independent verbs used with first persons||nika miichisun utaakushiche||I will eat this evening|
|chechii||conjunct preverb||1. wanichischisuu chechii petaat aniyuu akuhpiyuu 2. nituweyimaau chechii ihtuutahk||1. He forgot to bring that jacket 2. I want him to do it|
|chii||can always preceded by a future preverb||1. nika chii ihtuhten 2. chika chii ihtuten 3. chika chii ihtuteu 4. che chii ihtuhtewaane||1. I can go 2. You can go 3. S/he can go 4. If I can go|
|wii||want||1. niwii miichisun 2. chiwii miichisun 3. wii miichisuu||1. I want to eat 2. You want to eat 3. S/he wants to eat|
|nipah||should used with first persons||1. shaash nipah kuushimuun uu e ishpishipayich||I should be in bed at this hour|
|chipah||should used with second and third persons||shaash chipah kuushimuun uu e ishpishipayich||You should be in bed at this hour|
|e||conjunct preverb||1. nimiyeyihten e masinahiicheyaan 2. chimiyeyihten e masinahiicheyin 3. miyeyihtam e masinahiichet||1. I like to write 2. You like to write 3. S/he likes to write|
|kaa||Conjunct preverb||1. kaa ayimiyaan 2. kaa ayimiyin 3. kaa ayimit||1. When I spoke 2. When you spoke 3. When s/he spoke|
|uhchi||from, because used in the negative independent with namui or in the negative conjunct with ekaa||1. namui uhchi chii nipaau e chii kushtaachit 2. namui nuuhchi chii nipaan e chii kushtaachiyaan||1. S/he could not sleep because s/he was afraid 2. I could not sleep because I was afraid|
In East Cree, all six word orders SVO, SOV, OVS, OSV, VOS, and VSO are grammatical. Below is a chart to see how they could all be used to construct the sentence, The children killed some ducks
|SVO||awasisak nipahewak sisipa||children killed ducks|
|SOV||awasisak sisipa nipahewak||children ducks killed|
|VSO||nipahewak awasisak sisipa||killed children ducks|
|VOS||nipahewak sisipa awasisak||killed ducks children|
|OVS||sisipa nipahewak awasisak||ducks killed children|
|OSV||sisipa awasisak nipahewak||ducks children killed|
There is a ranking system of the grammatical functions where the subject outranks the object. This appears on the transitive verb with an animate object in order to indicate the person hierarchy, whether it be aligned (DIRECT) or crossed (INVERSE). Below is a table that demonstrates the hierarchy and the functions.
For the Direct we can see that the Proximant is reflected on the Subject and the Agent while the Obviative is reflected through the Object and the Patient.
For the Inverse we can see that the Proximate is reflected inversely through the Object and then through the Patient, then we can see that the Obviative is reflected through the Subject and then through the Agent.
For the Passive we can see that the Proximate is reflected through the Subject then through the Patient. Then we see the Obviative through the Object and then the Agent.
The notation in the example is represented with an X to indicate the switch.
|Gloss||S/hePROX likes her/himOBV||S/heOBV likes her/himPROX||S/hePROX is liked|
|------||SUBJ_____ OBJ||SUBJ______ OBJ||SUBJ______ (OBJ)|
|-----||Agent______ Patient||Agent______ Patient||Agent______ Patient|
East Cree marks its possessions on the nouns by adding a secondary suffix to a possessed noun with a third-person prefix. See examples below that indicate the addition of suffixes and prefixes. There is a difference in which suffix and prefix you use if the noun in questions is animate or inanimate.
|-------||Noun||Possessed Noun||Verb "S/he has..."||Verb "I hve..." !|
|Gloss||shoe||his/her shoe||umaschisinuu||I have shoes|
|Gloss||child||his/her child||s/he has a child/children||I have a child/children|
In East Cree sometimes one sentence is contained within another sentence, this is known as a subordinate or embedded clause. The verb of the subordinate clauses have conjunct suffixes and often a conjunct preverb. Below is a table detailing the subordinate clauses.
The bold part of the sentence indicates the subordinate clause in both languages.
|Sentence||nichischeyihtaan e waapach waskahiik|
|Gloss||I know that the house is white|
|Sentence||nichii kukwechimaau wiyaapaach waaskah|
|Gloss||I asked if the house is white|
|Sentence||nichischeyihten ekaa waapaach waaskahiika|
|Gloss||I know that the house is not white|
Adverbial clauses is when the subordinate clause provides information about the time at which something happened, or the frequency with which it happens. Below are some examples of adverbial clauses.
|Sentence||kaa nipaat chitakushiniyuuh|
|Gloss||While she was sleeping, he arrived|
|Sentence||iy aahkusich-h maatuu|
|Gloss||Whenever s/he is sick, it rains|
Relative Clauses is when the subordinate clause functions as a complement to a noun. Below is an example.
|Sentence||Waapahtam muuhkumaan kaa piikupayiyic|
|Gloss||She sees the knife that is (was) broken (the broken knife)|
East Cree is not considered an endangered language due to many young speakers who are using the language (Mela S.; Mali A. 2009). According to the 2011 Canada Census, there are currently 83,475 speakers of Cree alone, and a total of 144,015 Algonquian speakers. According to the statistics, Cree is the largest language practiced and alive in comparison to all the other languages in the Algonquian family. The rest are ranging anywhere from 3250 speakers to 19,275.
Even though the language is not endangered, there are a lot of revitalization programs and resources that are trying to keep that status. One program is, in the Cree bilingual program in an elementary school in Thompson, Manitoba (Nikkel pg. 3) The school is a bilingual Cree/French school that offers 50% of daily instruction in Cree. The way that is designed is that the children learn their school subjects such as, math, science etc. in Cree. In Walter Nikkee's article, Language Revitalization in Northern Manitoba: A Study of a Cree Bilingual Program in an Elementary School he outlines the 3 main purposes as to why these programs are developed. 1) to preserve and revitalize Cree language use, 2)to impart Cree cultural knowledge and perspectives, and 3) to develop students' cultural identity and pride. (pg. 3).
Although this program is a great for the revitalization of the language, we find that, the students are not able to conduct full sentences, instead, they insert Cree words into their English sentences (pg. 9). An example of how the children are using the language is as follows, nepesis (boy) is hiding and iskwesis (girl) is carrying a pail. According to the SOPA scale, they are producing at a Junior Novice Low level in oral production categories. As quoted from a teacher, they can understand some Cree and know a lot of words, but they can't really speak it, they don't have conversational ability yet (pg. 9).
Finally, www.eastcree.org is a great website to visit. It contains lesson plans, a dictionary, and general rules of the language. It also includes stories and vocal data that you can listen to.
- Northern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Southern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Southern East Cree". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Northern East Cree". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Swain, Erin. 2008. "The Acquisition of Stress in Northern East Cree: A Case Study"
- Cree vowels
Swain, Erin. "The Acquisition of Stress in Northern East Cree: A Case Study." Order No. MR55290 Memorial University of Newfoundland (Canada), 2008. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.
"The Structure of Cree Words." Eastern James Bay Cree Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
"Nouns Inflected for Gender." Eastern James Bay Cree Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
"Nouns Inflected for Gender." Eastern James Bay Cree Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
"Nouns with Person Inflection." Eastern James Bay Cree Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
"Demonstrative Pronouns." Eastern James Bay Cree Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar.
"Cree Verb Classes." Eastern James Bay Cree Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Junker, M. (2004). Focus, obviation, and word order in East Cree. Lingua, 114 (3), pp. 345–365
Junker, Marie-Odile, Marguerite MacKenzie, and Julie Brittain. "Comparative Structures of East Cree and English." (2012): 1-57. Print
Nikkel, Walter. Language Revitalization in Northern Manitoba: A study of a Cree Bilingual Program in an Elementary School
Www12.statcan.gc.ca,. (2014). Aboriginal languages in Canada. Retrieved 8 May 2014
- Terry, Kevin. Thesis. The Emergence of Intransitive Verb Inflection in Northern East Cree: A Case Study. Memorial University of Newfoundland (St. Johns, Newfoundland: December 2009).
- Dyck, Carrie, Julie Brittain, Marguerite MacKenzie. "Northern East Cree Accent" in Proceedings of the 2006 annual conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association.
- OLAC resources in and about the Northern East Cree language
- OLAC resources in and about the Southern East Cree language