Miami-Illinois language explained

States:Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma
Extinct:mid-20th century

The Miami-Illinois language is a Native American language formerly spoken in the United States, primarily in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, western Ohio and adjacent areas along the Mississippi River by the tribes of the Inoca or Illinois Confederacy, including the Kaskaskia, Peoria, Tamaroa, Cahokia, and Mitchigamea. Miami-Illinois is an Algic language of the Algonquian family. The name 'Miami-Illinois' is a cover term for a cluster of extremely similar dialects, the primary ones being Miami proper, Peoria, Wea, and, in the older Jesuit records, Illinois. Its speakers were displaced from their territories, eventually settling in northeastern Oklahoma as the Miami Nation and the Peoria Tribe. The language was documented in written materials for over 200 years; the largest contribution being a dictionary compiled by Jaques Gravier, a Jesuit missionary who lived among the Kaskaskia tribe in the early 1700s. The document was a Kaskaskia to French dictionary, nearly 600 pages and 20,000 entries in length. The manuscript was edited and published by Carl Masthay in 2002. The closest relatives of the Miami-Illinois are Sauk, Meskwaki, Kickapoo, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi.

David Costa published The Miami-Illinois Language in 1994 as his PhD. dissertation and as a book in 2003. The book reconstructs the Miami-Illinois language and all its grammatical features. This was a huge addition to a revitalization effort spearheaded by the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, ongoing since the mid 1990s. This project, the Myaamia Project, is a joint venture between the tribe and Miami University.[1] The project members have been involved in the translation of missionary documents and publication of Miami culture and language materials. These include a children's book of Miami language and culture, an audio CD set with vocabulary, phrases, conversation, and the Miami origin story and a companion text, and a compilation of traditional stories from the Miami and Peoria tribes recorded in the early 1900s when the language's last speakers were alive.

The language is currently considered "extinct" because there are no fluent native speakers of the language, but there has been a strong language reclamation program since the mid 1990s of the Miami dialect. Many Miami tribal members question the notion of whether "extinct" was the appropriate metaphor and instead use the term "sleeping" since the language was never irretrievably lost (Leonard, 2008).

External links


  1. Statement of Purpose.