Inge Genee inge.genee at ULETH.CA
Sun Mar 7 08:05:21 UTC 1999

Sally Thomason wrote:
> About the hypothesis that Michif is a French-based creole: this
> is a recurring suggestion, but it really doesn't fit either the
> linguistic or the social facts of Michif development and current
> state.  Creoles, in all cases, show the effects of imperfect
> learning, usually of a European colonizer's language; in almost
> all creoles the vocabulary comes overwhelmingly from a single
> language (namely, the colonial power's language).  But the
> grammar, notoriously, doesn't come from that language or from any
> other single language. True, there are a few creoles, like
> Berbice Dutch, that derive a significant portion of their grammar
> from a single substrate language, and a few, like Reunionese,
> that derive a significant portion of their grammar from the
> colonial language.  But even in those cases quite a bit of the
> grammar can't be traced to any single language.
> Michif contrasts very sharply with this situation: both grammatical
> components, the French and the Cree parts, can be traced directly
> to French and Cree, respectively, with very little distortion of
> any kind.  The lexicon is also split half-and-half (roughly).  The
> language *had* to have been created by fluent bilinguals; there
> is no other way to account for the intact French and Cree grammar
> in the noun phrases and verb phrases, respectively.  But creoles,
> notoriously, are not created by fluent bilinguals.
> Languages like Michif and creoles do share one important feature:
> they are all mixed languages, not the result of ordinary gradual
> language change but of (relatively abrupt) creation.  They don't
> fit into a traditional family tree of language relationship.  But
> they arose through quite different sorts of linguistic processes.
>    -- Sally Thomason

I think it has been mentioned before, but the nature of Michif is
explored and explained in great and lucid detail in Peter Bakker's book
_A language of our own_, recently published by Oxford University Press.
Although this was written by a linguist for linguists, it is eminently
readable and contains a great deal of interesting historical detail.

Inge Genee

More information about the Chinook mailing list