Our latest venture has brought us (Alan, Carol Rose, Douglas, Lola, and Yuliya) 739 km southeast of Listuguj to Eskasoni, a Mi’gmaq First Nations Reserve in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Eskasoni is a model community where the Mi’gmaq language is alive and spoken daily between its community members. Leaving on Sunday, we set out to meet with community members and Mi’gmaq teachers who are helping preserve the language.
The first day we met with our host, Blaire Gould, the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey Mi’gmaq Language Coordinator. Blaire Gould works with all programs related to education and the Mi’gmaq language. These tasks include working with Mi’gmaq online dictionary, leading professional development workshops, presenting on the Mi’gmaq language programs around the continent, coordinating Mi’gmaq language programs in and around Eskasoni and between all that she organizes the bienniel L’nuisultinej conference at St. Francis Xavier University.
Retired teachers (a.k.a. The Pioneers of the Immersion Program) Barbara Joe and Fran Young and former Mi’gmaq immersion teacher Mary Propser-Paul joined us over tea to talk about their experiences teaching Mi’gmaq.
We talked to them about our newest development, learnmigmaq quizlet, which they received with enthusiasm. Grade 1 Mi’gmaq immersion teacher Cindy Poulette, has been using a flashcard game in her classroom. The grade 1 children sit in groups while Cindy holds up a card with a picture on it. Whichever group gueses the correct Mi’gmaq word first receives a point. She liked the audio and image function that quizlet provides. Due to its versatile and accessible nature, quizlet can be used in classrooms via the internet and projected on a screen for such games. When offline, the quizlet app can also be accessed with a smartphone or tablet and any list that had been opened beforehand can be used. The quizlet interface can accommodate a game such as Cindy’s for classes of all ages and all levels.
Meeting at the Elder Centre, we talked with retired and current teachers about the state of the Mi’gmaq language in Eskasoni as well as the programs in effect and under development. Eskasoni has an immersion program up to grade 4. The immersion program is taught at the community school in Eskasoni where all courses are transmitted in the Mi’gmaq language. Grade 4 is the transition year where classes are bilingual English and Mi’gmaq to prepare them for grade 5 where all classes are in English.
In the afternoon we took a tour of Goat Island, a cultural walking experienced located in Eskasoni. We walked around the island which had various mini villages set up along the way, each one having different theme. The themes of the mini villages included basket-making, waltes (a traditional Mi’gmaq game) and replicas of wigwams.
There are many new developments going on this summer to spread the Mi’gmaq language. Follow us on instagram, twitter and facebook to stay involved!
Twitter – @learnmigmaq follow word of the day #migmaqwordoftheday
Listuguj Mi’gmaw Language Club – Weekly conversation group meeting every Thursday at 6pm at the Listuguj Education Directorate. All activities are solely in Mi’gmaq – a great way to practice conversation in Mi’gmaq.
Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop 2 - Check out our webpage under the workshop section for more information. This event will take place August 5th at the Listuguj Bingo Hall.
How to get involved
Be a part of our social media team! For Mi’gmaq videos, posts or pictures just use the hashtag #SpeakMikmaq or #SpeakMigmaq
Summer 2014, the McGill students are back. Yuliya, McGill PhD Candiate, and Carol Rose, beginning her doctoral studies at Cornell University in the fall, will both be traveling to Listuguj for their second and third summers, respectively. Douglas Gordon, an undergraduate in the linguistics department, will also be joining them after having been awarded the McGill Arts Scholarship.
New possibilities for summer 2014 are the following:
- Twitter word of the day
- Instagram/vine video of the day featuring a conversation or vocabulary word in Mi’gmaq
- A new web site, separate from the linguistic-y one, devoted to Mi’gmaq learning resources
- Buzzfeed-esque top 10 lists (e.g. top 10 essential words in Mi’gmaq, five ways to say hello)
- Weekly language club
- Surveys posted around in visible places of students learning Mi’gmaq similar to the survey posted below for AMEX by Beyoncé (except “why I learn Mi’gmaq” rather than “my card..”)
Please comment with thoughts about this below. All input is greatly appreciated!
A recent New York Times article brings up an interesting trend of authors writing in a second language. This is very common in the academic sphere as many academics chose English as the language for publication. However, in the literature sphere, writing in a second language is becoming more common. And it is not just English they are writing in.
The authors say a second language gives them a different perspective, some say even freeing them from the automaticism of a native language. They are able to play with words in ways that native speakers may not do. For example, Bosnian writer, Aleksandar Hemon, has invented new phrases like “clouds and cloudettes”.
Italian writer, Francesca Marciano, says about writing in a second language: “You discover not just words but new things about yourself when you learn a language…I am a different person because I fell in love with English…”
How does Mi’gmaq factor into this? Learners of Mi’gmaq should not think of their second language skills as a crutch. Rather, they can bring new and exciting flavour to the language they are speaking. There have been many successful writers and orators who use a non-native language as their language of choice. A second language can be a new and exciting medium of expression. Not only do you learn about another culture and history but you can also learn about yourself.
Anyone who is familiar with Mi’gmaq verb paradigms will recall the dizzingly large number of conjugations. Some forms that learners struggle to grasp are the dual and plural forms. The dual form is used when referring to two things and the plural, for three or more. This surfaces on verb endings. For example, the tongue twister migjigjg mijjijig means two turtles are eating. This is conveyed by the -jig verb ending (bolded). If three or more turtles were eating, it would be migjigjg mijjultijig.
Many English speakers, however, will be surprised to find that English had dual forms too! Old(e) English, that is. They were rare, even for the time, but a millennium ago English speakers distinguished between dual and plural in pronouns. Modern English first person plural form we comes from the Old English plural form, wē. The dual form of first person, wit, fell out of usage by the time Middle English had evolved. The plural form of ‘you’, gē, and the dual, git, were also used when addressing people directly. Though, today you wouldn’t want to refer any two people with the Old English dual form!
This is just one such instance of the underlying similarities between languages of completely different families. Though English and Mi’gmaq are very different in terms of grammar and lexicon, they do have some things in common. Or, at least, they did.
There have been some recent developments on the Mi’gmaq grammar wiki. These include the addition of two new pages.
One new page in the works is a subpage of the Mi’gmaq tense page. In light of the recent presentation at the 45th Algonquian Conference (Little, 2013), I have created a new page on Evidentiality in Mi’gmaq. Evidentiality is the grammatical marking of information source. This page includes an overlay of the evidentiality system in Mi’gmaq. This page indicates that are two clear evidentiality markers–direct and indirect. The direct evidentiality marker is used for information that the speaker is certain about or has witnessed firsthand. The indirect marker is used for when the speaker is unsure of the information or when he has witnessed this second-hand. It is also used in questions in the past tense. Nota bene: this page is still under construction! Stay tuned for more!
I have also included a page devoted to Conversational Mi’gmaq. This page has the essentials of Mi’gmaq conversation, i.e. from hello/goodbye to what is your name/where are you from, and how to respond to such questions. This page can be found from the main page of the wiki. This section, too, is still under construction. The intended use for this page is for those interested in getting a jump-start in their Mi’gmaq learning. Knowing these phrases will help anyone wanting to learn ‘nnueiei tli’suti [the Native language]!
As the wiki is always under new developments, any suggestions, corrections or advice will always be greatly appreciated. So please do not hesitate to comment if you see any mistakes or if you would like to see a certain topic addressed!
Mi’gmaq Research Partnership members were well represented at this year’s 45th Algonquian Conference at University of Ottawa in the Canadian national capital. Here is the conference round-up:
- Brandon Fry (University of Ottawa) & Mike Hamilton - Long-distance agreement in Mi’gmaq and Ojibwe: towards a comparative study
- Mike Hamilton - An account of verbal person suffixes
- Carol Little – Evidentiality in Mi’gmaq
- Yuliya Manyakina - The role of -ew in Mi’gmaq
- Gretchen McCulloch - Mi’gmaq -asi as a middle voice marker
Mary Ann Metallic, Mi’gmaq language teacher at Listuguj Education Directorate, receives LSA’s Excellence in Community Linguistics Award. The LSA writes:
Mary Ann Metallic has done exemplary work to revitalize the Mi’gmaq language in her home community of Listuguj, Quebec. Her infectious passion for Mi’gmaq has led to the development of a successful teaching program, and her work with linguists has resulted in significant contributions to language documentation and linguistic theory.
The annual LSA meeting will be held in Minneapolis, MN January 2-5, 2014. Mary Ann and her daughter, Janine, will be traveling there. Congratulations Mary Ann!
Mi’gmaq language classes have started this week at the Listuguj Education Directorate. Supposed to be three days a week, students have requested a fourth day in order to improve their language skills. Classes are off to a wonderful start! Wellugutioq ms’t wen!
Listuguj Education Directorate and the McGill Linguistics department will host a Mi’gmaq Language Summer workshop. See the new Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop page for more information.