East Cree dialects

map of east cree dialect

There are two main dialects of Eastern James Bay Cree, northern and southern. Each dialect has its own spelling conventions. (The ISO 639-3 code is  crl  for Northern East Cree, and  crj  for Southern East Cree).

The communities where the northern dialect is spoken are Wemindji, Chisasibi and Whapmagoostui. The communities where the southern dialect is spoken are Waskaganish, Nemaska, Waswanipi, Ouje-Bougoumou and Mistissini. The community of Eastmain is in between northern and southern dialects, but has chosen to belong to the Southern dialect by adopting the southern writing system.

The southern dialect area can be further subdivided into the coastal and inland dialects. The southern communities on the coast are: Eastmain and Waskaganish. The inland communities are: Nemaska, Waswanipi, Ouje-Bougoumou and Mistissini.

A common misconception with respect to the division of East Cree is that the two dialects are Inland and Coastal, bundling together all the Coastal communities from Waskaganish to Whapmagoostui. This geographical distinction does not accurately characterize the Cree dialects; the northern and southern dialect distinction is the basic divide and within the southern dialects a further distinction can be made between coastal and inland, as explained above.

The following table shows a few of the differences in pronunciation between the various East Cree dialects (reflected in the different spellings).

English

Southern Inland

Southern Coastal

Northern

man

naapeu

naapeu

naapaau

Cree

iinuu

iyiyuu

iyiyiu

net

ahapii

ahiipii

ahiipii

thing

chekwaan

chekwaan

chaakwaan

on the side

napate

napate

nipitaa

English

Southern Inland

Southern Coastal

Northern

man

ᓈᐯᐤ

ᓈᐯᐤ

ᓈᐹᐤ

Cree

ᐄᓅ

ᐃᔨᔫ

ᐃᔨᔨᐤ

net

ᐊᐦᐊᐲ

ᐊᐦᐄᐲ

ᐊᐦᐄᐲ

thing

ᒉᒀᓐ

ᒉᒀᓐ

ᒑᒀᓐ

to the side

ᓇᐸᑌ

ᓇᐸᑌ

ᓂᐱᑖ

Note that the Northern dialect has the vowel aa where the Southern one has the vowel e, and that Northern usually has the vowel i where Southern has the vowel a. The coastal dialects have y in some words when the inland dialects have n. There are also a few differences in spelling rules, such as writing ᐃᔨᔫ iyiyuu and ᐃᔨᔨᐤ iyiyiu, but they are minor.