How's your Michif and Bungi?

Mark Abley, Freelance The Gazette Saturday, April 13, 2013 We are the inheritors of silence, the heirs of languages that have fallen over ti e! "n 1#3#, $hen a baffled %ac&ues 'artier sailed upriver to $hat $e kno$ as the island of Montreal, he $as discovered by the people of (ochelaga! )ut they and the language they spoke * so e call it +,aurentian,+ others +St! ,a$rence "ro&uoian+ * soon disappeared! -ver the ensuing centuries, the river and the island $ould echo $ith voices speaking (uron, Moha$k, Algon&uin, .aelic, /iddish and other languages that struggle no$ to survive! What ost of us take for granted * a city $hose t$o ain languages are French and 0nglish * is the product of a particular history! For better or $orse, history could have taken a different course! 1he only place in 'anada that can rival Montreal in the richness of its linguistic past is the first a2or city of the $est3 Winnipeg! Apart fro the variety of aboriginal and 0uropean tongues that $ere and are still spoken there, the Winnipeg region also $itnessed the gro$th of a uni&ue language * and of a re arkable dialect of 0nglish! 1he language, $hich goes by the na e of Michif, is a byproduct of the 14th*and 15th* century fur trade! French*speaking voyageurs venturing $est for ed alliances $ith aboriginal $o en, and their children beca e fluent in the languages of both parents! 1he M6tis culture that gre$ up around the 7ed 7iver in southern Manitoba relied not only on French and 'ree 8and, to so e e9tent, -2ib$a and Assiniboine:, but also on a rich and subtle blend of these languages3 Michif! "ts nouns consistently co e fro French, its verbs fro aboriginal tongues! ;ntil they found out about Michif, e9perts considered such a language i possible! 1oday, hundreds of M6tis people across Western 'anada kno$ so e for of Michif, and efforts are under$ay to preserve it for the future! /ou can $atch kitchen*table conversations in the language on /ou1ube! 1he proble is that Michif, al$ays an infor al eans of conversing, has no standard or accepted version! 1he vocabulary differs fro place to place, depending largely on $hich aboriginal nation the voyageurs ade contact $ith generations ago! Michif is, at least, alive! Which is ore than can be said about )ungi 8also spelled )ungee:, a dialect of 0nglish that has nothing to do $ith 2u ping into oblivion $hile attached to an elastic cord! "t<s a counterpart to Michif3 an idio that developed in $hat<s no$ northern Manitoba, a ong the children of aboriginal $o en and Scottish traders e ployed by the (udson<s )ay 'o pany! ;nlike Michif, ho$ever, )ungi $as not a separate language! A dialect of 0nglish, it incorporated both 'ree and Scottish $ords 8the na e itself probably co es fro the -2ib$a $ord +panki,+ eaning +a little+:!

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0ventually, it spread south as far as Winnipeg! 1he final speakers are thought to have died in recent years! So e $ords typical of )ungi $ould be fa iliar to ost people $ith a )ritish background, such as +cheeky+ 8i pudent: and +tuck+ 8a s&uare eal:! ,ess fa iliar are e9pressions like +kitchen s$eats+ 8a dance in a private ho e: and + oo*ley+ 8dehorned:, $hich clearly had a 'eltic origin! 1hen there are the 'ree ter s! +'hi uck+ eant to die suddenly, as in +When " die, "<ll go chi uck!+ "f a boat $ent +apichek$ani,+ it turned upside do$n! +=eeya + eant +never ind!+ And so on! Speakers of )ungi had a distinctive pronunciation, too * influenced by 'ree, they gave e&ual $eight to the syllables in $ords like +bannock+ and +canoe!+ 1hey also talked in a lilting, singsong tone! )ungi ight be alive yet if only its speakers hadn<t gro$n self*conscious, even asha ed! " gre$ up in Western 'anada, yet " never heard a $ord about either Michif or )ungi! Much of the infor ation in this colu n is derived fro a 154> thesis by 0leanor )lain, a linguist in Manitoba $ho recorded a fe$ of the re aining speakers! -ne of the , a lady over ?0, told her +that " don<t like to hear yself on tape because <" sound 2ust like an old "ndian!< + )ungee, in short, $as stig ati@ed! ,ike so any rural dialects, it carried a social disadvantage! 1he ainstrea , by contrast, shone $ith a pale and terrible gla our! As usual, %oni Mitchell $as right3 +/ou don<t kno$ $hat you got till it<s gone!+ arkableyAsy patico!ca B Montreal .a@ette 2013 )ungi ight be alive yet if only its speakers hadn<t gro$n self*conscious, even asha ed! " gre$ up in Western 'anada, yet " never heard a $ord about either Michif or )ungi! Much of the infor ation in this colu n is derived fro a 154> thesis by 0leanor )lain Csee belo$D, a linguist in Manitoba $ho recorded a fe$ of the re aining speakers! -ne of the , a lady over ?0, told her +that " don<t like to hear yself on tape because <" sound 2ust like an old "ndian!< + )ungee, in short, $as stig ati@ed! ,ike so any rural dialects, it carried a social disadvantage! 1he ainstrea , by contrast, shone $ith a pale and terrible gla our! As usual, %oni Mitchell $as right3 +/ou don<t kno$ $hat you got till it<s gone!+ arkableyAsy patico!ca )iography of 0leanor M! )lain 0leanor M! )lain $as a graduate student 8,inguistics: at the ;niversity of Manitoba! She graduated $ith a Master degree in 1545! While $orking on her thesis The Bungee dialect of the Red River Settlement, , she collected an oral history of the 7ed 7iver Settle ent

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and )ungee dialect! 1he part of this collection also contains aterial collected by Frank Walters 8Eieces of the East3 'ollection of 1ales of -ld 7ed 7iver:!

0dited and 'o piled by ,a$rence )ark$ell 'oordinator of Metis (eritage and (istory 7esearch ,ouis 7iel "nstitute

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