Mitchif vs. French vs. English

The McDonald Family mcdonald at ISN.NET
Fri Mar 5 21:09:06 UTC 1999

At 09:14 PM 3/5/1999 +0000, you wrote:
>> I'm sure Bob will back me up on this - that the Metis were and are a
>> French-speaking community, at least according to the historic definition of
>> Metis (rather than the new legalistic one).
>Initially yes (as far asthe French-speaking community comment is
>concerned), especially as long as the fur-trade, the exploration and the
>initial settlement of Canada continued to develop in an east-west
>manner.  But, more and more, as the English and the Hudson's Bay Company
>began their inroads into the fur-trade via the Hudson's Bay route...more
>and more English and especially Scottish words began making their way
>into the Michif language (of course, once again, it was very much
>hinging on the "balance of power" and "balance of economics" in a given
>For instance, both my paternal and maternal ancestors are from the Red
>River Settlement...the Bremners, the Ouellettes and the Dumonts and the
>Bouchers were all instrumental in injecting my "Metisness" in this
>fragile vessel that is me.  My uncle Josie Bremner spoke French, Michif,
>Cree and he still had a slight "Scottish" accent to his spoken
>English...consequently, his brand of Michif, would be sprinkled with
>certain Scottish words and references.  He loved haggis and he loved his
>Scoch (mon medcine--he'd call it).  I just mention all of the above to
>try and relate the complexities involved in trying to decipher the
>"Frenchness" or the "Englishness" or the "Creeness" of the overall
>umbrella Michif language.
>And to complicate matters further...there was a great influx of French
>from France people to the Domremy, St. Isadore de Bellevue, St. Louis
>and Duck Lake the local Michif around Batoche, St. Louis and
>area...tended to take on a very "French from France" lilt and vocabulary
>for a while there.

>From my limited knowledge of the linguistic situation, the various
Mitchif-speaking communities had largely shifted to French by the middle of
the 20th century, and are now in the process of shifting to English from French.

>> I have no idea how much Michif
>> or French were spoken relatively to each other; that's an interesting
>> subject that it'll be good to hear any info Bob has on it.  Metis French is
>> an old branch of the French language in North America, and is distinct from
>> Quebecois as much as Acadien or Ontarien or Manitobaine is; I don't think
>> it's spoken as much nowadays, though, as English is pretty much the only
>> intercommunal language in western Canada's land of multi-ethnicity.  I know
>> franco-manitobaines in the Red River Valley (s. of Winnipeg) still speak
>> French at home and at the local store, but they're mostly a different
>> element historically distinct from the Metis, who have been in the West
>> much longer and have a separate history.

Not necessarily -- there was a fair amount of intermixing between the Métis
and recently arrived French Canadian settlers in the late 19th century, and
apparently some Métis chjose to adopt French Canadian identities, to pass as
it was, in order to avoid pervasive anti-Native/Métis/Asian/[fill in a
blank] prejudice. 
And in passing, I'd say that there are really only two major dialect areas
of French in Canada, the Acadien and the French Canadian/Québécois-Ontarien.
Acadie and Canada were both settled at different period by different
populations from France -- most French Canadians trace their ancestry to
Norman and Breton migrants, most Acadiens have ancestors from Poitou, Aunis,
and Saintonge, though there are of course exceptions. Franco-Ontarien may be
a nascent dialect, but then again it probably is just a waystation on the
route to the assimilation of Ontario's Francophones. From what I've seen of
Mitchif, I'd classify it as a French-based creole, like _biche-la-mer_ in
New Caledonia/Nouvelle-Calédonie/Kanaky or Haitien creole.

>> Mike
>> Mike Cleven
>> ironmtn at
>> The thunderbolt steers all things.
>>                            - Herakleitos
>All the best folks,
>Talk to you later,
>Bob Rock

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