The Mi’kmaw language is an important and integral part of the culture and world view of the Mi’kmaq. Through our language, our way of seeing our life is highlighted by relationships and connectedness between sentient/insentient things. In the hopes of preserving the language we have featured language glossaries to help beginners looking to learn the language, as well more advanced readings by linguists who have spent their careers exploring the complexities within the language and helping even fluent speakers learn the ability to read and write in the Mi’kmaw language.
In 1888 Silas T. Rand, a Baptist missionary worked more than 40 years to develop, among other works, an orthography that would adequately represent the sound system of the Mi'kmaw language. He published the "Dictionary of the Language of the Micmac Indians" as well as transcribed in Mi'kmaw many stories told to him by our people in the relatively recent past. Unfortunately, his orthography (writing system) over-differentiated the Mi'kmaw sounds. In other words he used too many letters of the Roman alphabet (English alphabet) causing problems with reading.
Father Pacifique who was with us until 1946 in his attempt at improving on an orthography under-differentiated the sound system (using too few letters of the Roman alphabet), once again creating problems. His orthography left us with having to guess at the pronunciation of Mi'kmaw words. Once again, this writing system didn't go far for this as well as other reasons. With a few minor variations allowing for dialectal differences the Mi'kmaq of New Brunswick, P.E.I, Newfoundland and Quebec are now using a very similar orthography used in Nova Scotia known as the Smith/Francis orthography.
At the insistence of Dr. Peter Christmas, former director of Micmac Association of Cultural Studies work began in 1974 to create a new orthography which would represent the Mi'kmaw sound system accurately. After much research and many visits to the various Mi'kmaw communities throughout the province of Nova Scotia as well as other provinces the job was completed in 1980. Having used the latest linguistic technique to develop this system it has proven itself to work well with the 27 or so distinctive sounds of Mi'kmaw using only 17 letters of the Roman alphabet. It has been chosen by the chiefs of N.S. as the official writing system for Mi'kmaw in Nova Scotia.
Two books which would enhance a more in-depth knowledge of the Mi'kmaw culture and language are "The Language of this Land, Mi'kmaki" as well as a reworked Pacifique's version of "The Grammatical Structure of the Mi'kmaw Language" by Dr. Bern Francis and Dr. John Hewson soon to be re-published at Cape Breton University Press. This new book contains all of the major grammatical categories of the Mi'kmaw verbs with their subtle distinctions.
Language Introduction by Mi’kmaw Linguist Bernie Francis
http://www.mikmaqonline.org Mi’kmaq Online Talking Dictionary
http://firstnationhelp.com/ali/posters/pdf.html Mi’kmaq Talking Posters Produced for Patsy Paul-Martin
The Language of This Land, Mi’kma’ki by Francis & Sable