Ojibwe (language)

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Ojibwe ( Anishinaabemowin, ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒧᐎᓐ )

Spoken in

Canada , USA
speaker 63,868 in Canada ; 14,710 in the US
Official status
Official language in -
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3

oji ( macro language )

The language of the Ojibwe or Anishinaabe ( ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒧᐎᓐ Anishinaabemowin ) belongs to the Algonquin language family and is spoken by almost 80,000 people in several regional variants in large parts of Canada and in the north of the USA .


Traditional language area of ​​the Ojibwe

Ojibwe is spoken in Canada in southwest Québec , in Ontario , in southern Manitoba and parts of southern Saskatchewan , in the USA in northern Michigan , in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota , and in smaller groups in northern North Dakota and in northern Montana .

According to the Canadian statistics agency, the number of speakers for Oji-Cree increased from 5,480 to 5,610 people from 1996 to 2001, i.e. by 2.4%, while that of the Ojibway variants by 6% (and that of the Cree by 3, 1%) decreased.

According to Census data from the USA from 2000 and Canada from 2006, there are 56,531 speakers of all variants, 8,791 of them in the USA (7,355 of them Native Americans ) and 47,740 in Canada .

Regional variant Canada United States All in all Ethnic population (according to Ethnologue)
Algonquin 2,680 0 2,680 8,266
Oji-Cree 12,600 0 12,600 12,600
Ojibwe 24,896 8,355 33,251 219.711
Ottawa 7,564 436 8,000 60,000
All groups 47,740 8,791 56,531 300,577

Regional variants (dialects)

Ojibwe is a dialect continuum , to which the variants West-Ojibwe (Saulteaux), Southwest-Ojibwe (Chippewa), Northwest-Ojibwe, Severn-Ojibwe (Oji-Cree), Ottawa (Odawa), East-Ojibwe and Algonquin (in the narrower sense ) belong.

ISO 639-3 dialect Language area Proper name Reflex
of * r / * l
of * k
Word for "human", "Indian"
← * elenyiwa
Word for “you”
← * kīla
Number of speakers
(crk) Plains-Cree (for comparison) Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories Nēhiyawēwin
y / ⁠ j ⁠ / k / ⁠ k ⁠ / iyiniw / iyiniwak kīya (29,900)
ojs Oji-Cree (Severn-Ojibwe) Ontario, Manitoba Anishininiimowin
n / ⁠ n ⁠ / k / ⁠ k ⁠ / inini / ininiwak kīn 11,800
ojb Northwest Ojibwe Ontario, Manitoba 6,000
ojw West Ojibwe (Saulteaux) Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia Nakawēmowin
ojc Central Ojibwe Ontario 750
otw Odawa Ontario, Michigan, Oklahoma Nishnaabemwin, Daawaamwin n / ⁠ n ⁠ / g / ⁠ g ⁠ / nini / ninwag
(nini / ninwak)
ojg East Ojibwe Ontario Nishnaabemwin, Jibwemwin 1,200
alq Algonquin Quebec, Ontario Anicinàbemowin, Anishinàbemiwin n / ⁠ n ⁠ / k / ⁠ k ⁠ / irini / irinìk
inini / ininìk
(inini / ininīk)
ciw Southwest Ojibwe (Chippewa) Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana Anishinaabemowin, Ojibwemowin n / ⁠ n ⁠ / g / ⁠ g ⁠ / inini / ininiwag
(inini / ininiwak)
pot Potawatomi Ontario, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma Neshnabémwen n / ⁠ n ⁠ / k / ⁠ k ⁠ / neni / nenwek
(nəni / nənwək)
ki 50



A characteristic of many Ojibwa dialects is the occurrence of the voiced consonants b, d, g, j (dž), z, zh (ž), whereas in other Algonquin languages ​​the unvoiced p, t, k, ch (č), s , sh (š) stand. The following consonants can occur in the various Ojibwe dialects taken together:

labial Alveolar Postalveolar
and Palatal
Velar Glottal
Plosive and Affricates p [pʰ] b [p ~ b] t [tʰ] d [t ~ d] ch [tʃʰ] j [tʃ ~ dʒ] k [kʰ] g [k ~ ɡ] ' [⁠ ʔ ⁠]
Fricative s [sʰ] z [s ~ z] sh [ʃʰ] zh [ʃ ~ ʒ] ( H [⁠ h ⁠] )
nasal m [⁠ m ⁠] n [⁠ n ⁠]
Approximant y [⁠ j ⁠] w [⁠ w ⁠]


All Ojibwe dialects have seven vowels, to which there are nasal equivalents.

Of the seven simple vowels, three are short and four are long:

Simple vowels
Before the Central Behind
Closed ~
Almost closed ɪ o ~ ʊ
center ə

There are four long nasal vowels:

Nasal vowels
Before the Central Behind
Closed ĩː õː ~ ũː
center ẽː
Open ãː

The long nasal vowels are written iinh [ĩː] , enh [ẽː] , aanh [ãː] and oonh [õː] . The letter combination nh expresses that the previous vowel is nasalized. These nasal vowels occur most often at the end of nouns with a diminutive ending . Word examples from Southwest Ojibwe are: -iijikiwenh- "brother", -noshenh- "father's sister", -oozhishenh- "grandson", bineshiinh "bird", asabikeshiinh "spider", awesiinh "wild animal".


In the USA, but also in most parts of Canada, Ojibwe is now usually written with Latin letters, with Charles Fiero's system being preferred, in which long vowels are expressed by doubling the letter. The Cree script is still used in northern Ontario and Manitoba , a syllabary script developed by the Methodist missionary James Evans between 1840 and 1846 in collaboration with indigenous people of the Cree and Ojibwe at Norway House on Hudson Bay .

Ojibwa literature

As with many indigenous languages ​​in North America, translations of portions of the Bible make up a large part of the text corpus of the Ojibwe language. The New Testament has been translated three times, once in 1833 by Edwin James, a second time in 1844 by Henry Blatchford (reprints 1856 and 1875) and finally in 1854 by Frederick O'Meara (reprints 1874). O'Meara also translated the Psalms (1856) and the Torah (1861), while Robert McDonald translated the Twelve Minor Prophets in 1874 . A translation of half of the Old Testament including a revision of the New Testament by Jim Keesic in collaboration with Bob Bryce and Henry Hostetler was published in August 2008 by the Canadian Bible Society.

In the Odawa dialect there is a translation of the Gospels of Matthew and John by Jonathan Meeker from 1841 to 1844 and a translation of Genesis by P. Jones from 1835.

There is little original Ojibwe literature. The American writer David Treuer , who was born in Minnesota in 1970 and has published four English-language novels, plans to compile a first “practical” grammar in this language, his mother tongue. In addition, he makes sound recordings of stories on Ojibwe with speakers in his home region, where the language is mostly only spoken by the elderly.

Sample text: Two women who went fishing

Ojibwe shares its linguistic structure and complex grammatical structures with the other Algonquian languages ​​(see there: grammar) .

A sample text from the cultural context of the Ojibwe can give an impression of this. This text from Bemidji State University - Niizh Ikwewag (Two Women) - is recorded in the Southwestern Ojibwe dialect and comes from Minnesota, USA.

Wording in Ojibwe

  1. Aabiding gii-ayaawag niizh ikwewag: mindimooyenh, odaanisan bezhig.
  2. Iwidi Chi-achaabaaning akeyaa gii-onjibaawag.
  3. Inashke naa mewinzha gii-aawan, mii eta go imaa sa wiigiwaaming gaa-taawaad ​​igo.
  4. Mii dash iwapii, aabiding igo gii-awi-bagida'waawaad, giigoonyan wii-amwaawaad.

German translation

  1. Once upon a time there were two women: an old lady and one of her daughters.
  2. They were over at Inger's from there .
  3. See now, it was a long time ago; they just lived there in a house .
  4. And at that time they went fishing once because they wanted to eat fish.


Aabiding gii-ayaawag niizh ikwewag: mindimooyenh, odaanisan bezhig.
aabiding gii- ayaa -wag niizh ikwe -wag mindimooyenh, O- daanis -on bezhig.
once PRAET - be in a certain place - 3PL two woman - 3PL old woman, 3SG.POSS - daughter - OBV a).
once (they) were in a certain place two Women: old woman, her daughter a.
Iwidi Chi-achaabaaning akeyaa gii-onjibaawag.
iwidi chi- achaabaan -ing akeyaa gii- onjibaa -wag.
over there big- Bowstring - LOC there long PRAET - come from - 3PL .
Over there at the Great Bowstring [river]
(today: Inger, Minnesota )
there long came (they) from there.
Inashke naa mewinzha gii-aawan, mii eta go imaa sa wiigiwaaming gaa-taawaad igo.
inashke naa mewinzha gii- aawan mii eta go imaa sa wiigiwaam -ing gaa- daa -waad igo.
please refer now a long time ago PRAET - be so just EMPH there EMPH House - LOC PRAET.CONJ - Life - 3PL.CONJ EMPH .
Please refer now a long time ago (it was, just there so in a house that (they) lived right then.
Mii dash iwapii, aabiding igo gii-awi-bagida'waawaad, giigoonyan wii-amwaawaad.
mii dash iw- -apii aabiding igo gii- awi- bagida'waa -waad, giigoonh -yan wii- amw -aawaad.
So CONTR the- - by the time once EMPH PRAET - go to - fish with a net - 3PL.CONJ fish - OBV DESD - eat - 3PL / OBV.CONJ
And at that time back then, once right then that they went and fished with a net those fish to eat those.


3 Third person (he / she / it ...)
SG Singular (singular)
PL Plural (plural)
POSS Possessive prefix (my [e], your [e], his [e], her [e] etc.)
OBV Obviative : marking a person / thing according to its relationship to the topic
LOC Locative : in, on, on
EMPH Empathic
PRAET Past tense (past)
CONJ Conjunctor (verb form with subordinate clause function)
CONTR Contrastive (comparative)
DESD Desiderative (intent)


  • ikwe = woman
  • inini = man
  • ikwezens = girl
  • gwiiwizens = boy
  • mitig = tree
  • miskwi = blood
  • doodooshaaboo = milk
  • doodoosh = chest
  • giigoonh = fish
  • miskwimin = raspberry
  • gookookoo'oo = owl
  • bemaadizid = person
  • makizin = shoe
  • wiigiwaam = house
  • manoomin = wild rice
  • onjibaa = he / she is coming
  • izhaa = he / she goes
  • wiisini = he / she eats
  • minikwe = he / she drinks

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Statistics Canada: Aboriginal peoples of Canada, 2001 (archive) .
  2. US Census Bureau: Characteristics of American Indians and Alaska Natives by Tribe and Language: 2000 .
  3. Usefoundation: Ojibwa, Number of Speakers: 8,355
  4. Statistics Canada: Various languages ​​spoken, 2006 (archive)
  5. Total: 42,217 native speakers; Source: UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages ​​in Danger (3rd ed. 2010) based on the Census data 2006 (Canada) and 2000 (USA)
  6. ^ David Treuer: A language too beautiful to lose . Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2008.
  7. ^ Niizh Ikwewag (Two Women). Told by Earl Nyholm. Bemidji State University, Brian Donovan's webpage., February 1, 2012, archived from the original on December 12, 2013 ; accessed on February 14, 2017 .

Web links