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(Redirected from Innu-aimun language)
Native toCanada
(Quebec, Labrador)
Native speakers
10,075, 36% of ethnic population (2016 census)[1]
Early form
Language codes
ISO 639-3moe
Eastern Montagnais is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Innu, Ilnu / assi
"person" / "land"
PersonInnu / Ilnu
PeopleInnut / Innuat / Ilnuatsh

Innu-aimun or Montagnais is an Algonquian language spoken by over 10,000 Innu[3] in Labrador and Quebec in Eastern Canada. It is a member of the Cree–Montagnais–Naskapi dialect continuum and is spoken in various dialects depending on the community.


"Buckle up your children" sign in Innu-aimun, in the Nutashkuan reserve near Natashquan, Quebec.

Since the 1980s, Innu-aimun has had considerable exposure in the popular culture of Canada and France due to the success of the rock music band Kashtin and the later solo careers of its founders Claude McKenzie and Florent Vollant. Widely heard hit songs with Innu-language lyrics have included "Ish-kuess" ("Girl"), "E Uassiuian" ("My Childhood"), "Tipatshimun" ("Story") and in particular "Akua tuta" ("Take care of yourself"), which appeared on soundtrack compilations for the television series Due South and the documentary Music for The Native Americans. The lyrics of Akua Tuta are featured on over 50 websites, making this one of the most broadly accessible pieces of text written in any native North American language. Florent Vollant has also rendered several well-known Christmas carols into Innu in his 1999 album Nipaiamianan.[4]

In 2013, "a comprehensive pan-Innu dictionary, covering all the Innu dialects spoken in Quebec and Labrador [was] published in Innu, English and French."[5]


Innu-aimun has the following phonemes (with the standard orthography equivalents in angle brackets, this section discusses the Sheshatshit dialect):[6]


Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Velar Glottal
plain labial
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩
Plosive p ⟨p⟩ t ⟨t⟩ ⟨tsh⟩ k ⟨k⟩ ⟨kᵘ/ku⟩
Fricative s ⟨ss⟩ ʃ ⟨sh/s⟩ h ⟨h⟩
Lateral l ⟨l⟩[a]
  1. ^ /l/ only exists in the southern dialects of Mashteuiatsh and Betsiamites. Other dialects, including the standard orthography, use /n/ in those positions.[7]

The plosives are voiced to [b d ɡ ɡʷ] between vowels. /ʃ/ frequently merges with /h/ in younger speakers (shīshīp [ʃiʃip ~ ʃihip ~ hihip] "duck").


There are three pairs of so-called "long" and "short" vowels, and one long vowel with no short counterpart, though the length distinction is giving way to a place distinction. The column titles here refer chiefly to the place of articulation of the long vowel.

High Front Mid Front Mid/Low Central High Back
"Long" i ⟨ī⟩ e ⟨e⟩ a ⟨ā⟩ o ~ u[a] ⟨ū⟩
"Short" ɨ ~ ə ~ j ⟨i⟩ ə ~ ʌ[b] ⟨a⟩ ʊ ~ w ⟨u⟩
  1. ^ [u] particularly after i
  2. ^ [ʌ] particularly before m

Macron accent marks over the long vowels are omitted in general writing. e is not written with a macron because there is no contrasting short e.


Innu-aimun is a polysynthetic, head-marking language with relatively free word order. Its three basic parts of speech are nouns, verbs, and particles. Nouns are grouped into two genders, animate and inanimate, and may carry affixes indicating plurality, possession, obviation, and location. Verbs are divided into four classes based on their transitivity: animate intransitive (AI), inanimate intransitive (II), transitive inanimate (TI), and transitive animate (TA). Verbs may carry affixes indicating agreement (with both subject and object arguments), tense, mood, and inversion. Two different sets, or orders, of verbal affixes are used depending on the verb's syntactic context. In simple main clauses, the verb is marked using affixes of the independent order, whereas in subordinate clauses and content-word questions, affixes of the conjunct order are used.


Innu-aimun is related to East Cree (Īyiyū Ayimūn – Northern/Coastal dialect and Īnū Ayimūn – Southern/Inland dialect) spoken by the James Bay Cree of the James Bay region of Quebec and Ontario and the Atikamekw (Nēhinawēwin and Nehirâmowin) of the Atikamekw (Nehiraw, Nehirowisiw) in the upper Saint-Maurice River valley of Quebec. Innu-aimun is divided into four dialects – Southern Montagnais (Mashteuiatsh, Betsiamites), Eastern Montagnais (Ekuanitshit, Nutashkuan, Unamen Shipu, Pakuashipi), Central Montagnais (Uashat and Maliotenam, Matimekosh) and Labrador-Montagnais (Sheshatshit).[8] The speakers of the different dialects can communicate well with each other. The Naskapi language and culture are quite different from those of the Montagnais,[9] in which the dialect changes from y to n as in Iiyuu versus Innu.


  • Clarke, Sandra (1982). North-West River (Sheshātshīt) Montagnais: A grammatical sketch. National Museum of Man Mercury Series. Vol. 80. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada. ISBN 978-1-77282-242-7.
  • Clarke, Sandra; MacKenzie, Marguerite (2005). "Montagnais/Innu-aimun (Algonquian)". In Booij, Geert; Lehmann, Christian; Mugdan, Joachim; Skopeteas, Stavros; Kesselheim, Wolfgang (eds.). Morphology: An international handbook on inflection and word formation. Vol. 2. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1411–1421. doi:10.1515/9783110172782.2.16.1411.
  • Clarke, Sandra; MacKenzie, Marguerite (2006). Labrador Innu-aimun: An introduction to the Sheshatshiu dialect. St. John's, NL: Memorial University of Newfoundland. ISBN 0-88901-388-8.
  • Drapeau, Lynn (1991). Dictionnaire montagnais-français. Québec: Presses de l'Université du Québec.


  1. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Aboriginal Mother Tongue (90), Single and Multiple Mother Tongue Responses (3), Aboriginal Identity (9), Registered or Treaty Indian Status (3) and Age (12) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces and Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2016 Census - 25% Sample Data". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved 2018-06-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (2022-05-24). "Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi". Glottolog. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Archived from the original on 2022-10-15. Retrieved 2022-10-29.
  3. ^ Lewis, M. Paul; Gary F. Simons; Charles D. Fennig, eds. (2015). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (18th ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International.
  4. ^ "Kashtin". realduesouth.net. Archived from the original on July 31, 2010. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  5. ^ Dooley, Danette (2013-09-21). "Linguistic defender". The Telegram. St. John's, Newfoundland. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  6. ^ Clarke, Sandra (1982). North-West River (Sheshatshit) Montagnais: A Grammatical Sketch (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  7. ^ "The process of spelling standardization of Innu-aimun (Montagnais)" (PDF)., p. 208
  8. ^ Sometimes the dialects are also grouped as follows: Nehilawewin (Western Montagnais, Piyekwâkamî dialect), Leluwewn (Western Montagnais, Betsiamites dialect), Innu-Aimûn (Eastern Montagnais)
  9. ^ "Montagnais and Naskapi – FREE Montagnais and Naskapi information | Encyclopedia.com: Find Montagnais and Naskapi research". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2016-07-31.

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