Title

The French of the French Cree (Michif) Language

Author

Mary J. Peske

Date of Award

8-1-1981

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

Abstract

French Cree is a language with a verb system based primarily on a Plains Cree dialect and with noun phrases stemming almost entirely from a French dialect or dialects. This study focuses on the French portion of the language and its historical origins. To determine these origins, phonological and semantic features that distinguish French Cree French from standard French are presented and compared with modern French of France and of Canada, archaic French dialects of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and a few other North American French dialects. The considerable amount of literature dealing with the historical development of the French language made it possible to review what was occurring with the French language--the archaic dialects--during the time when French people were emigrating to Canada--the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. North American, particularly Canadian, French dialect studies made it possible to compare French Cree French with other North American French dialects.

Specifically, each French Cree French phonological feature that was distinct from standard French is presented and compared to standard French and other French dialects. Then any relevant historical data dealing with the particular feature is discussed. Some French Cree French lexical items that exhibit a semantic variation from standard French or that do not exist in standard French today are traced in French language etymologies, dictionaries and glossary studies to further substantiate the historical origins of this French dialect. A paragraph dealing with these etymological findings is presented for each word traced.

I conclude that French Cree French originates in the 16th and 17th century popular French speech of northwest, west and central France. It does not resemble any single French dialect of those times and places but the Ile de France dialect appears to have influenced it more than the other archaic dialects. Finally, French Cree French has some unique features that can be attributed to Canadian French and to Cree and English influences operating on the language as it evolves.

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