Naskapi is a many faceted and complex language.
The term Naskapi is chiefly used to describe the language of the people living in the interior of Quebec and Labrador in or around the village of Kawawachikamach. Naskapi is a y-dialect which has many linguistic features in common with the Northern dialect of East Cree, and also shares many lexical items with Mushuau Innu. While there is a much closer linguistic and cultural relationship between Kawawachikamach (Western, or Koksoak variety) and Natuashish (Eastern, Mushuau Innu, or Davis Inlet variety) than between Naskapi and the other Cree and Innu language communities, Naskapi remains unique and distinct from all other language varieties in the Quebec-labrador penninsula.
Naskapi is spoken in the community of ᑲᐛᐛᒋᑲᒪᒡ (Kawawachikamach), in Northern Québec. Some have grouped the language together with Innu (Montagnais) and Quebec Cree, but it has its own orthography and the Naskapi people see themselves as a distinct first nation. Although there are a small number of total speakers, the language is spoken by all ages, and has a vibrant presence in the community. The language is very similar to northern East-Cree. Labrador Naskapi is written in Roman orthography, and is better classified as a eastern Innu dialect.
Except for linguistic works, Naskapi is virtually always written in Syllabics. The Syllabics system differs is several ways from its Cree neighbour. Several of the main differences are: long vowels are not marked by a superimposed dot. Symbols do not combine with a mid-dot to indicate a /w/ glide before a vowel, instead, a colon-like character appears before the syllabic, but only for a-series syllabics. There is no e-series. When an /s/ precedes a consonant + /w/ + vowel, a special s-final is used, merging the colon and s-final into one glyph.
The 2006 Canadian Census combines Naskapi with Innu. In looking at the Census information for Kawawachikamach, 545 out of 570 speak the Naskapi language.
Here you will find resources relating to the speaking, writing, and understanding of Naskapi.
- Naskapi Syllabic Chart
- Write & Read Naskapi on your computer in Windows or Mac
- Naskapi Dictionary (external page)
- Naskapi Library