Mi'kmaq language

Mi'kmaq language
Spoken in Canada, United States
Region Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Gaspe Peninsula (Quebec), Newfoundland, northern Maine, Boston (Massachusetts)
Ethnicity Mi'kmaq people
Native speakers 9,080 (8,750 in Canada,[1] 330 in the United States)[2]  (date missing)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-2 mic
ISO 639-3 mic

The Mi'kmaq language (spelled Micmac in English, and Míkmaq, Míkmaw or Mìgmao in Mi'kmaq) is an Eastern Algonquian language spoken by nearly 9,100 Mi'kmaq in Canada and the United States out of a total ethnic Mi'kmaq population of roughly 20,000.[1][2] The word Mi'kmaq is a plural word meaning 'my friends' (singular Míkm[3]); the adjectival form is Míkmaw.[4] The language's native name is Lnuismk, Míkmawísimk [5] or Míkmwei[3] (in some dialects).



The phonemic inventory of Mi'kmaq is shown below.


Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open a


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
plain lab.
Plosive p t k
Affricate t͡ʃ
Fricative s x
Nasal m n
Approximant w l j

The obstruents (/p, t, k, kʷ, t͡ʃ, s, x, xʷ/) are voiceless initially or next to another obstruent, but allophonically voiced [b], [d], [ɡ], [ɡʷ], [d͡ʒ], [z], [ɣ], [ɣʷ] between sonorants (vowels or the voiced consonants /m, n, w, l, j/). Thus ⟨Mi'kmaq⟩, phonemically /miːkmax/, is pronounced [miːɡmax].

Writing system

Mi'kmaq-language stop sign in Elsipogtog First Nation

Mi'kmaq is written using a number of Roman alphabet schemes based on those devised by missionaries in the 19th century. Previously, the language was written in Mi'kmaq hieroglyphic writing, a script of partially native origin. The Francis-Smith orthography used here was developed in 1974, and adopted as the official orthography of the Míkmaq Nation in 1980. It is the most widely used orthography, used by Nova Scotian Mikmaq and by the Míkmaq Grand Council. It is quite similar to the "Lexicon" orthography, differing from it only in its use of the straight apostrophe ⟨'⟩ or acute accent ⟨´⟩ instead of the colon ⟨:⟩ to mark vowel length. When the Francis-Smith orthography was first developed, the straight apostrophe (often called a "tick") was the designated symbol for vowel length, however due to software applications incorrectly auto-correcting the tick to a curly apostrophe, a secondary means of indicating vowel length was formally accepted: the acute accent. The barred-i ⟨ɨ⟩ is sometimes replaced by the more common circumflex-i ⟨î⟩. In Listuguj orthography, an apostrophe marks long vowels, and the letter ⟨g⟩ is used instead of the letter ⟨k⟩. The 19th-century Pacifique orthography omits ⟨w⟩ and ⟨y⟩, using ⟨o⟩ and ⟨i⟩ for these. It also ignores vowel length. The 19th-century orthography of Silas Tertius Rand is also given in the table below; this orthography is more complex than the table suggests, particularly as far as vowel quantity and quality is concerned.

Mi'kmaq orthographies
IPA a e i ə k l m n o p x s t u w j
Francis-Smith a a'/á e e'/é i i'/í ɨ j k l m n o o'/ó p q s t u u'/ú w y
Listuguj a a' e e' i i' ' j g l m n o o' p q s t u u' w y
Lexicon a a: e e: i i: ɨ j k l m n o o: p q s t u u: w y
Pacifique a e i tj g l m n ô p s t o
Rand ă a â ĕ ā ĭ e ŭ ch c k l m n ŏ o ō b h s d t ŏŏ oo u w y



  • Maillard, M. l'abbé, redigée et mise en ordre par Joseph M.Bellenger, ptre. 1864. Grammaire de la langue mikmaque. Nouvelle-York, Presse Cramoisy de J.M. Shea. Reprinted 2007: Toronto: Global Language Press, ISBN 1-897367-14-7
  • Delisle, Gilles L.; Metallic, Emmanuel L. 1976. Micmac Teaching Grammar. Preliminary version. La Macaza, Quebec: Manitou Community College.
  • Pacifique, Père. 1939. Leçons grammaticales théoriques et pratiques de la langue micmaque. Sainte-Anne de Restigouche, P.Q. Reprinted 2007: Toronto: Global Language Press, ISBN 1-897367-15-5
  • Rand, Silas Tertius. 1875. First reading book in the Micmac language. Halifax: Nova Scotia Printing Company. Reprinted 2006: Vancouver: Global Language Press, ISBN 0-9738924-8-X
  • Rand, Silas Tertius. 1888. Dictionary of the language of the Micmac Indians, who reside in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton and Newfoundland. Halifax: Nova Scotia Printing Company. Reprinted 1994: New Delhi & Madras: Asian Educational Services, ISBN 81-206-0954-9

External links

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