Ojibwe is a member of the Ojibwe-Potawatomi branch of the Algonquian language family. It is spoken in parts of Canada and the USA by about 89,000 people. There are several dialects known as Ojibwe or Ojibwa, each of which is classified as a separate language in some sources. Varieties of Ojibwe include:
In about 1830 James Evans, a Wesleyan missionary, devised a way to write the Ojibwe language of Rice Lake with the Latin alphabet. His goal was to produce a dictionary of Ojibwe to help him to learn the language better, and to help him teach English to the Ojibwe people.
In about 1840, while working at Norway House in Hudson's Bay, Evans invented a syllabic script for the Ojibwe language, based partly on Pitman shorthand, which had been published in 1837. It is thought that his idea to create a syllabic script was based on the Cherokee script.
Evans' syllabary for Ojibwe consisted of just nine symbols, each of which could be written in four different orientations to indicate different vowels. This was sufficient to write Ojibwe. Evans translated parts of the Bible and other religious works into Ojibwe, and later Cree, and printed them using type carved from wood, or made from melted-down linings of tea chests.
Evans later adapted it to write Cree. The script proved popular with Ojibwe and Cree speakers, and within about 10 years, many of them had learnt to read and write it, learning mainly from family or friends. As paper was scarce at the time, they wrote on birch bark with soot from burnt sticks, or carved messages in wood, and nicknamed James Evans 'The man who made birch bark talk'.
The Ojibwe script continued to be widely used until the 1950s and 1960s, when the integration policies of Department of Indian and Northern Affairs led to a decline in use to the script among Ojibwe children taught to write in the Roman alphabet.
Main source: Murdoch, John Stewart, Syllabics: A Successful Educational Innovation (University of Manitoba, 1981).
Hear Ojibwe pronunciation
Each variety of Ojibwe that uses the Latin alphabet has its own spelling system, most of which are based on English or French orthographies. The double vowel system, devised by Charles Fiero, is the most popular as it is easy to use.
Kakinawenen kapimatisiwat nitawikiwak tipenimitisowinik mina tapita kiciinetakosiwin kaye tepaketakosiwin. Otayanawa mikawiwin kaye nipwakawin minawa tash ciishikanawapatiwapan acako minowiciwitiwinik.
Source (pointed text): http://anishinabemowin.21.forumer.com/viewtopic.php?t=34
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about the Ojibwe language and script
Ojibwemowin Zagaswe'idiwin (Ojibwe Language Society)
Information about James Evans
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Page last modified: 10.08.21
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