Indspire Guiding the Journey Award Recipient: Janice Vicaire.

My siblings and I were taught to expand our minds through knowledge and to always take advantage of educating ourselves. The benefits of education were often praised in my family because my mother, Janice, realized how important it would be for our future. She would often say, “No one can take your education away from you”. Along with her emphasis in investing in our education, she stressed the importance of being a Mi’gmaw speaker. Our family stood out because we had a household of Mi’gmaw speakers and most families in Listuguj spoke English. We are aware that our language makes us a close-knit family because we share something that not many families in Listuguj have. This kind of compassion for language is evident in her work, which brings forth an awareness to preserve our rapidly disappearing language.

More recently, the community of Listuguj has been motivated to reconnect with the Mi’gmaw language. Though many people in the community are familiar with my mother, her contributions to language often go unnoticed. She works full time as a Nursery Mi’gmaw Immersion teacher with a goal of making Mi’gmaq a part of these children’s everyday lives. She incorporates other aspects of the Mi’gmaw culture in unique ways that stimulate the children’s minds, making them eager to learn. In addition to her work as an educator, she is often asked to translate various projects into Mi’gmaw. For example, in the past she has contributed to translations of a Ph.D dissertation, a Mi’gmaq/English dictionary, scripts and community journals. Occasionally, she also co-teaches Mi’gmaw Language classes with her sister Mary Ann for community members and has assisted in teaching a Mi’gmaw Language course for Cape Breton University.

A group of colleagues at the Listuguj Education Directorate came across the Indspire Educator Awards that had a category suitable for my mother’s nomination—Language, Culture and Traditions. The award was created for an indigenous educator who made a vital contribution to his/her community by inspiring people through education. Her colleagues saw this as an opportunity to enlighten her accomplishments and decided to construct a nomination package. The nomination package also included letters of support from community members who had been moved by her efforts.

My mother’s impeccable knowledge in the Mi’gmaw Language, her diligence as an educator and her willingness to help others is inspiring to many. The passion she radiates for educating the people of Listuguj, and the energy she spends in language revitalization, is key to cultural awareness. Her fundamental contribution to the Mi’gmaw Language is the reason why she had been chosen to receive the Indspire Educator’s Award. Knowing that she is a humbled woman, we are thrilled that she finally has been acknowledged in a way that she deserves.

Wellugwen aq Wela’lieg!
Congratulations and Thank You!

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Janice and her Granddaughter Mila
Photographer: Marsha Vicaire. 

Dual forms — English had them too!

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, . 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.

Intro to Algonquianist terminology – Part 5 Obviative, theme sign, inverse

This is part five of a beginner’s guide to Algonquianist terminology with a focus on Mi’gmaq. Here’s parts one, two, three, and four. In this part, I talk about a few other Algonquianist terms that didn’t make it into the previous posts: obviation, theme signs, and direct/inverse.

Obviative/Proximate

The grammar wiki article for obviation is quite detailed, and Conor Quinn has a really good description of how obviation works here, which he calls “spotlighting” (start on page 5 about halfway down – section 3). To translate his terms, the “spotlighted” or more important person is the proximate, and any people not in the spotlight are obviative. Continue reading

Intro to Algonquianist terminology – Part 4 Medials and concrete finals

This is part four of a beginner’s guide to Algonquianist terminology with a focus on Mi’gmaq. Here’s parts one, two, and three. In this part I talk about other parts of an Algonquian verb, medials and concrete finals.

In the previous post I talked about the smallest number of parts that you can identify in a verb in Algonquian languages: an initial (such as tel- “thus, in such a way”) that indicates the general meaning, plus a final (such as -e’ VAI) that indicates its animacy and transitivity, plus person/number marking, to get for example tele’g “s/he is in such a way (used idiomatically to mean “is pregnant”). However, those aren’t the only parts found in verbs: other, more complicated verbs can also have a concrete final and/or a medial.

Here’s the table you saw in the last post, based on how Bloomfield splits up Algonquian words. This post will focus on medials and concrete finals:

Preverb(s)

Initial

Medial

Final

Person/number marking etc.

Continue reading

Intro to Algonquianist terminology – Part 3 Initials and finals

This is part three of a beginner’s guide to Algonquianist terminology with a focus on Mi’gmaq. Here’s parts one and two. In this part, I talk about two important parts of an Algonquian verb or noun, initials and finals, plus two topics related to initials: preverbs and initial change.

The big thing that people these days find useful about Bloomfield’s writing is that he divided the Algonquian verb into a template with a whole bunch of different positions

Here’s the basic positions, although there are also a lot of things that go after that “Person/number marking” slot.

Preverb(s)

Initial

Medial

Final

Person/number marking etc.

This is a lot to get a handle on all at once, so this post is only going to talk about two of the ones that are found in every verb. That’s the initial and final (verbs also have person/number marking, which I mention HERE). We’ll get back to preverbs and medials, as well as other types of finals in future posts. Continue reading

Intro to Algonquianist terminology – Part 2 General terms

This is part two of a beginner’s guide to Algonquianist terminology with a focus on Mi’gmaq. Here’s part one. In this part, I describe briefly a few terms that aren’t Algonquian-specific but which often come up when referring to parts of Mi’gmaq words: you can see a longer list at the wiki.

Morphemes

A morpheme is a part of a word that has a distinct meaning: for example, in English, dogs has two morphemes: dog refers to a particular type of animal and -s indicates that it’s plural. We can see the same thing in Mi’gmaq: mui’naq “bears” has a morpheme mui’n “bear” and a morpheme -aq “plural (animate)”. Some morphemes like dog or mui’n can stand as words by themselves, while others like -s or -aq can’t.* Conventionally, we write morphemes that don’t stand by themselves with a hyphen that indicates the side that attaches (e.g. pre- in preschool but -ation as in concentration).

*aq can also mean “and”, but that’s different from the plural one.  Continue reading

Intro to Algonquianist terminology – Part 1 Background

This is part one of a series of posts giving an introduction to Algonquianist terminology, starting out with a short background on where it comes from in the first place. Subsequent posts will give descriptions and Mi’gmaq examples of various terms and are linked to below. 

Where does Algonquianist terminology come from?

Leonard Bloomfield, primarily, although also other early and later linguists who worked with Algonquian languages, especially in describing how they are related to each other and what their common ancestor language (known as Proto-Algonquian) might have sounded like.

Why is it so unlike the terms used to describe other languages?

Initial? Medial? Final? Why doesn’t English or French have any of these? Continue reading

New Pages Added to the Grammar Wiki

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!

‘Nnu’gina’masultinej!

Let’s Learn the Native Language – ‘Nnu’gina’masultinej!

MaryAnn just launched the Facebook page ‘Nnu’gina’masultinej. There are a wealth of references to help learners improve their Mi’gmaw. Pictures from her classroom as well as grammatical explanations will be updated throughout Mi’gmaw classes. Stay tuned for more information. We invite everyone to like and follow it! ‘Nnugina’masultinej!

LingSync database glossing conventions

Since we’re getting a lot of work done with the LingSync application* from the programming side of things, we decided it was high time we start using it the way it was intended to be used; as a database making it easier for us to share data and collaborate.

As we’ve started putting in data, we’ve been laying down some conventions for us to follow in the rest of the database. This blog seemed like a good place to discuss the conventions we’ve established, and an even better place to debate new conventions for areas we haven’t fully fleshed out yet (verbs…).

All of this information and more is stored also on the specific wiki page for LingSync glossing: http://wiki.migmaq.org/index.php?title=LingSync_Glosses

Our general guiding principles are as follow:

  • Gloss everything–no defaults!
    • This is mainly to make search easier and more intuitive. If we had, for instance, “animate” as the understood default person and only glossed inanimate morphology as such, it would be very difficult to get a datalist of all animate words. Having no default glossing means that all our glosses will be very explicit and therefore easy to search.
    • This will be painful at the start, but once we have enough data in there, LingSync will autogloss and make our lives much easier! Hang in there.
  • When in doubt, don’t parse it out!
    • Only separate morphemes if you and a collaborator are completely, 100% sure that they are separable. Make sure you pass your theory by someone else’s eyes first, too!
    • Feel free to use dots frequently in your glosses. It is safer, generally speaking, to group morphemes (and later split them up) than it is to be over-enthusiastic about splitting them up (and later having to go back and re-group).
  • In general, be faithful to the surface/pronounced form when drawing morpheme boundaries. (ie match the morpheme line to the utterance line as closely as possible)
    • Please use the Notes section to leave comments about phonology if you think there is a predictable process going on!
    • (One exception is the palatalization of ‘t’ at morpheme boundaries. Throughout LingSync we will assume that t -> j / _-i, so it is safe to have the utterance and morpheme lines different here.)

As far as specifics go, there is more information on the wiki page itself (WordPress hyperlinks seem broken, here’s the address again http://wiki.migmaq.org/index.php?title=LingSync_Glosses ).

Please use the comments to discuss…

  • Verbs! Since we are glossing with the maximal amount of information, including tense and mood (ie. present indicative), where should we put this information? So far we’ve been sticking it onto the end of the root using dots (ie. tli’ma-tis = tell.TA.PRES.IND-1SG>2SG). Any other suggestions for the placement of tense/aspect/mood?
  • Verbs part 2! How should we identify the difference between various evidentialities? And what about tense, aspect, mood? Right now we’re marking present indicative, imperative, future, evidential past, inferentialiOpen discussion in comments below!

*(The LingSync extension can be found here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/lingsync/ocmdknddgpmjngkhcbcofoogkommjfoj )