About the Cree Language

[the following is from the introduction to "A Cree Phrase Book"]

The Cree language is spoken in many communities across north-central Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and in northern Ontario and Quebec, and they form a majority in the population of much of this area.

The Cree language is one of the most widely used North American Native languages.

Any language that is spoken over a wide area for a long while develops regional differences in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Such differences are already apparent in North American English, for example, the so-called accents of the United States, of Canada, of the Souther States, of Newfoundland, of New England, of New York city, etc. Note that the differences are most pronounced along the Atlantic coast where English has been spoken longest.

Cree was already widely spoken in North America before English was spoken here at all, so it is only natural that regional variation in Cree is greater than in North American English. A favorite illustration of the regional differences in Cree are the words for 'I' and 'you' which are (in the transcription used in this book) ni'ya and ki'ya in most of Alberta and Saskatchewan, ni'na and ki'na in most of Manitoba and Ontario, ni'tha and ki'tha in part of Manitoba, ni'la and ki'la in part of Ontario, and ni'ya and ci'ya in part of Quebec.

The type of Cree, or English, or any other language that is spoken in a given area is called the dialect of that area. This book is based on the Cree dialects of Manitoba. Where these dialects differ from one another, the dialect of Norway House (= kinose'wi si'pi'hk) is used, not because it is preferable, but only because most of the contributors to this book are from there. As much as possible, other Manitoba dialect forms are given also, with 'W.' or 'western' indicating dialects spoken west of Norway House, with 'E.' or 'eastern' indicating dialects spoken east of Norway House, and 'N.' or 'northern' indicating dialects spoken north of Norway House. Many dialectal differences must have been missed, however, and it is up to the teacher to adapt the words, phrases, and sentences given here to their own dialect.

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