The Ojibwe language is spoken in a series of dialects occupying adjacent territories, forming a language complex in which mutual intelligibility between adjacent dialects may be comparatively high but declines between some non-adjacent dialects. Mutual intelligibility between some non-adjacent dialects, notably Ottawa, Severn Ojibwe, and Algonquin, is low enough that they could be considered distinct languages. There is no single dialect that is considered the most prestigious or most prominent, and no standard writing system that covers all dialects. The relative autonomy of the regional dialects of Ojibwe is associated with an absence of linguistic or political unity among Ojibwe-speaking groups.
The general name for the language in Ojibwe is /anɪʃɪnaːpeːmowɪn/, written in one common orthography as Anishinaabemowin and as ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒧᐎᓐ in 'Eastern' syllabics, with local pronunciation and spelling variants, and in some cases distinctive local names for particular dialects. The dialects of Ojibwe are spoken in Canada from western Québec, through Ontario, Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan, with outlying communities in Alberta and British Columbia, and in the United States from Michigan through Wisconsin and Minnesota, with a number of communities in North Dakota and Montana, as well as migrant groups in Kansas and Oklahoma. The dialects of Ojibwe are divided into distinctive northern and southern groups, with intervening transition dialects that have a mixture of features from the adjacent dialects.
This article lays out the general structure of Ojibwe dialectology, with links to separate articles on each dialect. The Potawatomi language is closely related to Ojibwe; information is at Ojibwe language: Relationship of Ojibwe and Potawatomi. An Ojibwe pidgin language is discussed at Ojibwe language: Broken Ogghibbeway, and the use of various dialects of Ojibwe as lingua franca is at Ojibwe language: Lingua franca. Ojibwe borrowed words are found in Menominee and Michif; for discussion see Ojibwe language: Ojibwe influence on other languages.
The recognized dialects of Ojibwe are spoken in the region surrounding the Great Lakes, in Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, with other groups of speakers in western Québec in the area along the Québec-Ontario border, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and a few communities in Alberta, North Dakota, Montana, British Columbia, Oklahoma and Kansas. While there is some variation in the classification of Ojibwe dialects, at a minimum the following are recognized, proceeding west to east: Western Ojibwe (Saulteaux), Southwestern Ojibwe (Chippewa), Northwestern Ojibwe, Severn Ojibwe (Oji-Cree), Ottawa (Odawa), Eastern Ojibwe, and Algonquin. Field research conducted in the 1980s and 1990s led to the recognition of several other dialects: (a) Berens Ojibwe along the Berens River in northwestern Ontario, to be distinguished from Northwestern Ojibwe; (b) Border Lakes Ojibwe, in western Ontario in the area bounded by the borders of Ontario, Manitoba, and Minnesota; (c) North of (Lake) Superior; and (d) Nipissing. Some sources recognize a Central Ojibwe dialect, covering approximately the same territory as North of (Lake) Superior and Nipissing. In this article the analysis in which Central Ojibwe is not recognized is accepted.
Two analyses of the relationships between the Ojibwe dialects are in agreement on the assignment of the strongly differentiated Ottawa dialect to a separate subgroup, and the assignment of Severn Ojibwe and Algonquin to another subgroup, and differ primarily with respect to the relationships between the less strongly differentiated dialects. Rhodes and Todd recognize several different dialectal subgroupings within Ojibwe: (a) Ottawa; (b) Severn and Algonquin; (c) a third subgroup which is further divided into (i) a subgrouping of Northwestern Ojibwe and Saulteaux, and a subgrouping consisting of Eastern Ojibwe and a further subgrouping comprising Southwestern Ojibwe and Central Ojibwe (see figure, this section).
Valentine has proposed that Ojibwe dialects are divided into three groups: a northern tier consisting of Severn Ojibwe and Algonquin; a southern tier consisting of "Odawa, Chippewa, Eastern Ojibwe, the Ojibwe of the Border Lakes region between Minnesota and Ontario, and Saulteaux; and third, a transitional zone between these two polar groups, in which there is a mixture of northern and southern features." In this article the classification proposed by Valentine is utilized for the classification and subgrouping of Ojibwe dialects.
The distinction between the northern and southern dialect groupings is argued to "align to some extent with traditional subsistence patterns, in that the southern groups typically harvested maple sugar and wild rice, allowing for population aggregations that promoted such social institutions as medicine societies and totemic clan structures." Similarly, northern groups have made most extensive use of northern "waterways that flow into James and Hudson Bays, while southern groups were situated on the Great Lakes, Huron and Superior."
Ojibwe dialects are distinguished by features of phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. Some dialects, most notably Severn Ojibwe, Algonquin, and Ottawa are characterized by many distinct features; such extensive differentiation is associated with lengthy "periods of isolation from other varieties of Ojibwe". Dialects that are adjacent to strongly differentiated dialects may show a mixture of transitional features. For example, the Border Lakes dialect is not strongly distinguished from the adjacent Western Ojibwe (Saulteaux) and Southwestern Ojibwe (Chippewa) dialects, and is characterized by the "grading of a few minor features."
In some situations there is a mismatch between speakers' self-designations and what is supported by linguistic data. For example, the communities at Golden Lake, Ontario and Maniwaki, Quebec are described by speakers at those locations as members of the Algonquin dialect, although linguistically both are distinct from the clearly Algonquin communities north of those locations, and are assigned to the Nipissing dialect.
The degree of mutually intelligibility between nonadjacent dialects of Ojibwe varies considerably; recent research has helped to show the extent of the distance between Ottawa and the maximally different Severn Ojibwe dialect spoken in northwestern Ontario. Because the dialects of Ojibwe are at least partly mutually intelligible, Ojibwe is usually considered to be a single language with a number of dialects. However, the relatively low degrees of mutual intelligibility between some nonadjacent Ojibwe dialects led to the suggestion that Ojibwe "...could be said to consist of several languages...".
The Northern dialects of Ojibwe are Severn Ojibwe and Algonquin; they are strongly differentiated from other dialects of Ojibwe. A set of features characterise the northern dialects, and are found to varying degrees in adjacent transition dialects.
Severn Ojibwe, also called Oji-Cree or Northern Ojibwa, and Anihshininiimowin in the language itself, is spoken in northern Ontario and northern Manitoba. Although there is a significant increment of vocabulary borrowed from several Cree dialects, Severn Ojibwe is a dialect of Ojibwe. Two minor sub-dialects have been identified: Big Trout Lake, and Deer Lake, with Big Trout Lake being further subdivided into a Severn subgroup and a Winisk River subgroup. Severn Ojibwe is primarily written by its speakers using the Cree syllabary.
The Algonquin dialect of Ojibwe is spoken in communities in northwestern Quebec and eastern Ontario (to be distinguished from the name of the Algonquian language family). Algonquin is spoken along the Ottawa River valley east of the Quebec-Ontario border, centered around Lake Abitibi. Recognized Algonquin communities include: Amos (Pikogan), Cadillac, Grand Lac Victoria, Hunter's Point, Kipawa (Eagle Village), Notre Dame du Nord (Timiskaming), Rapid Lake (Barriere Lake), Rapid Sept, Lac Simon, Québec, Winneway (Long Point). The communities of Grand Lac Victoria (Kitcisakik) on Grand Lac Victoria and Lac Rapide on Cabonga Reservoir are within La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, a provincial park in Québec.
Algonquin is sometimes referred to as 'Northern Algonquin' to distinguish it from the southern communities at Golden Lake, Ontario and Maniwaki, Québec which have traditionally been grouped with Algonquin, but are here classified as belonging to the Nipissing dialect.
Although speakers of Ojibwe in the community of Kitigan Zibi (also called River Desert and formerly called Maniwaki) at Maniwaki, Québec self-identify as Algonquin, the language spoken there is Nipissing; Maniwaki speakers were among those who migrated from Oka, Quebec. Similarly, the nineteenth-century missionary Grammaire de la language algonquine ('Grammar of the Algonquin language') describes Nipissing speech.
Algonquin orthography is not standardized. Some older texts were written in a French-based orthography in which the acute accent is used to indicate vowel length and the use of several consonant symbols accords with their general French values. Modern Algonquin-language resources tend to use a more English-based system, in which long vowels are marked with a grave accent (or alternatively by doubling the vowel).
The Nipissing dialect term omàmìwininì 'downriver people' refers to Algonquin speakers, with the term for the language being omàmìwininìmowin. The general Algonquin self-designation is Anicinàbe or orthographic equivalent Anishinàbe.
There is support for a Western Algonquin subdialect, extending "…inland from Lake Huron and east of Lake Superior…" toward the Ontario-Québec border. Representative communities from this area include Temagami, Ontario and Biscotasing, Ontario.
The southern dialects are presented east to west.
The Ottawa dialect is spoken in southern Ontario and northern Michigan, with main communities on Manitoulin Island, Ontario; at Walpole Island, Ontario; as well as Saugeen and Cape Croker. Ottawa and the neighboring Eastern Ojibwe dialect are characterized by extensive vowel Syncope, which deletes metrically weak short vowels.
The most general term for the Ottawa dialect is Nishnaabemwin, which is also applied to Eastern Ojibwe. The term Daawaamwin '(speaking the) Ottawa language' is also used to refer specifically to Ottawa.
The Eastern Ojibwe dialect is spoken east of Georgian Bay, Ontario. The main Eastern Ojibwe communities are Curve Lake, Ontario and Rama, Ontario. Eastern Ojibwe and the neighboring Ottawa dialect are characterized by extensive vowel Syncope, which deletes metrically weak short vowels.
The most general term for the Eastern Ojibwe dialect is Nishnaabemwin, which is also applied to Ottawa. The term Jibwemwin '(speaking the) Ojibwe language' is not restricted to a specific dialect; a recent Eastern Ojibwe dictionary notes that Jibwemwin and Nishnaabemwin are interchangeable.
Southwestern Ojibwe is spoken in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This dialect is also referred in English as "Chippewa". The general Ojibwe term Anishinaabemowin is applied to this dialect. Southwestern Ojibwe is most generally written using the Double vowel writing system.
Border Lakes Ojibwe is spoken in the Lake of the Woods area of Ontario near the borders of Ontario, Minnesota, and Manitoba. Although communities within the Border Lakes area have been considered part of the Saulteaux dialect, current classification treats Border Lakes as a separate dialect in the Southern tier. Communities identified as Border Lakes include Lac La Croix, Emo (Rainy River First Nation), and Whitefish Bay, all in Ontario.
Saulteaux Ojibwe (also Western Ojibwe or Plains Ojibwe) is spoken in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, with an outlying group in British Columbia. The language is referred to, as written in the local orthography, Anihšināpēmowin, Nahkawēwin, or Nahkawēmowin (as written in the local system).
The writing system commonly used for Saulteaux incorporates the Americanist phonetic symbols /š/ for /ʃ/ and /č/ for /tʃ/; marks long vowels with the macron; writes lenis consonants with voiceless symbols, and writes fortis consonants with /h/ before a lenis consonant, as in the name for the language, Anihšināpēmowin.
The transition dialects are listed east to west.
Nipissing communities have sometimes been classified as Eastern Ojibwe, but other research notes that several features distinguish the dialect documented at Gitigan Zibi (Maniwaki) from Eastern Ojibwe material documented from the core Eastern Ojibwe communities of Curve Lake and Rama.
The Nipissing dialect of Ojibwe is spoken in the area of Lake Nipissing in Ontario. A representative community in the Nipissing dialect area is Golden Lake, although the language is moribund at that location. Although speakers of Ojibwe in the community of Kitigan Zibi (also called River Desert) at Maniwaki, Québec self-identify as Algonquin, the language spoken there is Nipissing. Maniwaki speakers were among those who migrated from Oka, Quebec. Similarly, the nineteenth-century missionary Grammaire de la language algonquine ('Grammar of the Algonquin language') describes Nipissing speech.
The term odishkwaagamii 'those at the end of the lake' is attributed to Algonquin speakers as a term for Nipissing dialect speakers, with related odishkwaagamiimowin 'Nipissing language'. It is also cited from Ojibwe dialects other than Nipissing or Algonquin with the meaning 'Algonquin Indian', for example from Southwestern Ojibwe; other sources ranging from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries cite the same form from several different Ojibwe dialects, including Ottawa.
North of Superior
The North of Superior dialect is spoken on the north shore of Lake Superior in the area to the west and east of Lake Nipigon. Communities include (east to west) Pic Mobert, Pic Heron, Pays Plat, Long Lac, Aroland, Rocky Bay, and Lake Helen, all in Ontario.
Berens River Ojibwe
The Northwestern dialect of Ojibwe is spoken approximately from northwest of Lake Nipigon, north of the Lake of the Woods area south of the Berens River to the Manitoba border. Communities identified as Northwestern include (east to west) Armstrong, Osnaburgh House, Cat Lake, Lac Seul, Grassy Narrows, and Red Lake.
Dialect not recognized in this analysis
The Central Ojibwe dialect (also known as Central Ojibwe, Ojibway) is recognized in some analyses as a dialect of Ojibwe spoken in Ontario from Lake Nipigon in the west to Lake Nipissing in the east. In the analysis accepted in this article Central Ojibwe is not recognized; it is divided into North of (Lake) Superior and Nipissing.
Language code correspondence table
|This article and related articles||Ethnologue||Linguasphere||Moseley||Glottolog|
|Ojibwe||Severn Ojibwe||Eastern Big Trout||oji
|Winisk River Ojibwa||62-ADA-dh
Winisk River Ojibwa
|Western Big Trout||Severn River Ojibwa||seve1241|
Severn River Ojibwa
|Northern Algonquin||Northern Algonquin
|Nipissing Ojibwe||Maniwaki Algonquin||Maniwaki Algonquin||Southern Algonquin
|North of Superior Ojibwe|
Upper Michigan-Wisconsin Chippewa
|Central Minnesota Chippewa||cent2135|
Central Minnesota Chippewa
|Minnesota Border Chippewa||minn1250|
Minnesota Border Chippewa
|Red Lake Chippewa||redl1238|
Red Lake Chippewa
Turtle Mountain Chippewa
|Border Lakes Ojibwe||ojb
|Rainy River Ojibwa||62-ADA-df
Rainy River Ojibwa
|Northwestern Ojibwe||Lake of the
Lake of the Woods Ojibwa
|Lac Seul Ojibwa||Northern Ojibwe||lacs1238|
Lac Seul Ojibwa
|Albany River Ojibwa||alba1270|
Albany River Ojibwa
|Berens River Ojibwe||Berens River Ojibwa||bere1251|
Berens River Ojibwa
In regionally specific dictionaries
|This article and related articles||Ethnologue||Eastern Ojibwa-Chippewa-Ottawa Dictionary|
Ojibwe People's Dictionary
|Oj: Eastern Ojibwa||R: Rama|
|CL: Curve Lake|
|(CI: Christian Island)|
|(CT: Chippewa of the Thames)|
|CC: Cape Croker|
|Ot: Chippewa/Ottawa||W: Walpole Island|
|(KP: Kettle Point)|
|BC: Bay City|
|CV: Cross Village|
|Upper Michigan-Wisconsin Chippewa||N/A (Upper Peninsula Michigan)|
|N/A (Northeastern Wisconsin)|
|RC: Red Cliff|
|BR: Bad River|
|LCO: Lac Courte Oreilles|
|S: South Central Region||SC: St. Croix|
|ML: Mille Lacs (District 3)|
|Central Minnesota Chippewa||C: North Central Minnesota||ML: Mille Lacs (District 1 & 2)|
|WE: White Earth (Central & South)|
|FL: Fond du Lac|
|LL: Leech Lake (Central & South)|
|Minnesota Border Chippewa||N: Northern Minnesota||LL: Leech Lake (North)|
|BF: Bois Forte|
|N/A (Grand Portage)|
|Red Lake Chippewa||RL: Red Lake (Ponemah)|
|N/A (White Earth (North))|
|N/A (Turtle Mountain)|
|Border Lakes Ojibwe||ojb
|Rainy River Ojibwa||BL: Eastern Canadian Border Lakes||LLC: Lac La Croix|
|Northwestern Ojibwe||Lake of the Woods Ojibwa||N/A (Western Canadian Border Lakes)|
|Lac Seul Ojibwa||[unmarked]
|[English River]||LS: Lac Seul|
|Albany River Ojibwa||[Albany River]||CL: Cat Lake|
|Os: Osnaburgh (Mishkeegogamang)|
|Berens River Ojibwe||Berens River Ojibwa||[Berens River]||Pi: Pikangikum|
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