JOPOL 3(2020)

Michif Studies: Challenges and Opportunities in Collaborative Language Research

Michif is a mixed language combining Plains Cree verb phrases and Metis French noun phrases. A critical reading of the 2011 Census data suggests that the language is severely endangered, having around 100–150 speakers located in different communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan (Canada), and North Dakota (USA). In this paper, I describe current initiatives of language documentation and revitalization, and I discuss the challenges and opportunities of conducting collaborative linguistic research on Michif. I discuss the involvement of learners and semi-speakers in language-related research activities, as for instance in the Mentor-Apprentice programs organized in different locations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the last decades; moreover, I point out some methodological challenges in doing morphological research on an oral and polysynthetic language, given that methods and theories in linguistics have mostly come out from research on European languages with a strong written tradition.

Keywords: Michif; language endangerment; fieldwork; Indigenous languages; community-based research