The spelling used on this wiki will follow the Listuguj orthography, since that is the orthography used by the majority of our consultants. However, other spelling systems, or orthographies, are in use by the Mi'gmaq community and researchers of the Mi'gmaq language. The differences in the systems will be described at the end of the page.
The main differences between Mi'gmaq and English pronunciation are explained in the Pronunciation Differences page.
Main page: Vowels
Mi'gmaq has five main or "full" vowel sounds: a, e, i, o and u. In the International Phonetic Alphabet they are written [a], [e], [i], [o], and [u]. It also has a reduced vowel, [ə] in IPA, called, schwa, that is not always written using the Listuguj orthography. When it is, it is written with an apostrophe.
All of the full vowels may be lengthened. This is written in the Listuguj orthography by following the vowel with an apostrophe: a' , e' , i' , o' and u' . In IPA this would be written [aː], [eː], [iː], [oː] and [uː]. It should be noted that a difference in length will cause a difference in meaning: see e'pit, 'woman', and epit, 'he or she is seated'.
A table with some examples is given below. All Pronunciation examples are taken from the online audio companion to Peter Ladefoged's "A Course in Phonetics" Textbook. All Mi'gmaq examples are taken from the Mi'gmaq Talking Dictionary.
|a||[a]||ala listen||'that, there'|
|e||[e]||epit listen||'he or she is seated'|
|i||[i]||ila'sgw listen||'playing card'|
|i'||[iː]||ji'nm listen||'a man'|
|o||[o]||oqoti listen||'friend, companion'|
|o'||[oː]||majo'qiaq listen||'it wobbles'|
|'||[ə]||e'n ' g listen||'he or she loses it'|
A note on schwa (ə): If a pronounced ə is not written with an apostrophe, this means that it is predictable by rule and is not necessary to be included in the orthography.
Main page: Consonants
There are also twelve consonants recognized in the Listuguj orthography: p, t, g, q, gw, qw, j, s, m, n, l and w. In addition, the letter i is considered to be a consonant (pronounced like English y) if it immediately follows another vowel, like in alawei, 'pea'. These consonants can be grouped into two classes: sonorants, which have the same pronunciation throughout (m, n, l, i and w); and obstruents, which may have two pronunciations depending on what appears on either side of them (these are p, t, g, q, gw, qw, j and s).
For those consonants that have two pronunciations, it is usually the case that they have one pronunciation between vowels and another most everywhere else (these consonants at the beginnings of words usually have a pronunciation that sounds the same as the pronunciation between vowels, but is actually somewhat different). A table with some approximate pronunciations is given below:
|[b]||getapat listen||'he or she sinks'|
|[d]||gesita'tl listen||'he or she hurts someone badly'|
|g||[k]||alsutg listen||'he or she owns it'|
|[g]||tege'g listen||'it is cold'|
|q||[q]||elaptoq listen||'he or she makes tracks toward'|
|[ħ]||iloqomoqwa'toq listen||'he or she wraps it'|
|gw||[kʷ]||ila'sgw listen||'playing card'|
|qw||[qʷ]||esamqwat listen||'he or she drinks'|
|[ħʷ]||esamqwat listen||'he or she drinks'|
|s||[s]||sepei listen||'this morning'|
|m||[m]||maqtawe'g listen||'is being black'|
|n||[n]||nalagit listen||'swift, eager'|
|l||[l]||elpilatl listen||'he or she sends him or her by rope'|
|w||[w]||welp'teg listen||'it is nice and warm'|
Consonants can also be doubled, or lengthened, just as vowels can. This also may lead to a difference in meaning. So, for example, wigatign, 'book', will be different than wigatignn, 'books'.
 Other Orthographies
The following are the different orthographies that Mi'gmaq speakers and researchers have used. The more current ones are listed near the top, while older writing systems are listed near the bottom.
 Hewson & Francis' Translation of Father Pacifique
A common resource that will be used throughout this wiki will be Hewson & Francis' 1990 Translation of Father Pacifique's Mi'gmaq Grammar, published in 1939. The major differences in their orthography and the Listuguj orthography are listed below:
- k is used instead of g
- When i is a consonant, it is written with a y
- [ə] is written using the figure ɨ instead of the apostrophe, but is still only written when unpredictable (see Writing Schwa)
- Doubled consonants are written with an apostrophe after the consonant: e.g., llnuit, 'he is a man', is written l'nuit
 Francis/Smith Orthography
Another common orthography in use for transcribing the Mi'gmaq language is the Francis/Smith Orthography. Differences to the Listuguj orthography are given below:
- k is used instead of g
- When i is a consinant, it is written with a y
- [ə] is written ɨ (when written at all)
- Long vowels are sometimes written using an apostrophe after the vowel, but mostly written with an accent mark: á, é, í, ó, ú
 Lexicon Orthography
This is another orthography that is very similar to the Francis/Smith and Hewson & Francis orthographies. Differences to the Listuguj orthography are listed below:
- k is used instead of g
- When i is a consonant it is written with a y
- Schwa is written ɨ
- Long vowels are written with a colon after the vowel: a:, e:, i:, o:, u:
 Metallic Orthography
The Metallic Orthography is yet another modern system used for transcribing Mi'gmaq. Unlike the Listuguj orthography, all sounds - whether they lead to a difference in meaning or not - are transcribed. Thus, the word meaning 'old or historic' would be spelled amgwesamu'gw in the Listuguj orthography, but amkwesamùgw in the Metallic orthography. A list of differences is given below:
- Listuguj p, t, g, gw and j are written p, b, t, d, k, g, kw, gw, ch and j in the Metallic orthography, depending on how they are pronounced as given in the table above.
- y is used instead of i when i is a consonant
- Long vowels are written with the mark à, è, ì, ò, ù instead of an apostrophe, a', e', i', o', u'
- Schwa - when written - is written ê
 Pacifique's Original Orthography
The following is a list of the differences between the original orthography used by Father Pacifique in his original Mi'gmaq grammar and the Listuguj orthography:
- Vowel length is not written in any way; long and short vowels are written with the same letter.
- u or [u] is written o
- o or [o] is written ô
- q is not written and is replaced instead by g
- j is written tj
- w is written as u
- Schwa is not written
 Rand Orthography
A source that Father Pacifique drew heavily on when he was writing his grammar was "Rand's Micmac Dictionary", published in 1888. The differences in consonants are listed below:
- j is written ch
- g is written with either a c or a k
- p is written b (although sometimes with p, according to Father Pacifique)
- q is written h
- t may be written as t or as d
- y is used instead of i when i is a consonant
The differences in Rand's vowels are too numerous to list. Instead, a table given his vowel orthography compared to the Listuguj orthography and appropriate pronunciations is found below:
|Rand Orthography||ă||a or â||ĕ||ā||ĭ||e||ŏ||o or ō||ŏŏ||oo or u||ŭ|
 Mi'gmaq Hieroglyphic System
The Mi'gmaq hieroglyphic system (or gomgwejwiga'sgl, 'sucker-fish writings') is a writing system that was in use in the 17th to the early 20th centuries by the Mi'gmaq people, and still has some limited use. It was adapted by the missionary Chrétien le Clercq into a logographic system for use in the liturgy, and expanded by the Mi'gmaq people to a general writing system - it was so popular that when le Clercq tried to teach the system to Mi'gmaq who had traveled long distances to visit his parish, they could already read the signs (Le Clercq 1990:130). The general system was one picture (or glyph) = one word, read from left to right. However, Mi'gmaq words change their form depending on the words around them (for example, verbs will change depending on who is doing the action, nouns will change if they are possessed or absent). The hieroglyphic system could account for some of this variation by adding person markers to the left edge of glyphs (the one exception to the general left-to-right reading rule, since person markers usually appear after the verb base in spoken Mi'gmaq), and by doubling noun glyphs to make them plural. It could also encode preverbs by adding a separate glyph to the left edge of a verb. It was, however, unable to mark tense or obviation (Schmidt 1993).
Although most examples of this writing remain only in prayer books handed down from generation to generation (in addition to a published version, Buch das gut, enthaltend den Katechismus, Betrachtung, Gesang, printed in 1866 in Vienna), there are secular documents written in it as well, such as a code native of law (currently titled Reglements) from 1739, a reputed declaration of war by the Mi'gmaq on the British (supposed to have been written in 1749, but it has not been found), and a note recorded by Frank Speck in 1917 which reads Eliei sapo'nug na qospem natang na tia'm na'te'l etlnemi'g'p, 'Tomorrow I go to that lake to kill that moose there where I saw him' (Schmidt 1993).
- Hewson, John, and Bernard Francis. 1990. The Micmac Grammar of Father Pacifique. Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics Memoir 7. Winnipeg, Manitoba.
- Ladefoged, Peter. 2006. A Course in Phonetics. 5th ed. Boston: Thomson Higher Education.
- Metallic, Emanuel N., Danielle E. Cyr, and Alexandre Sévigny. 2005. The Metallic Mìgmaq-English Reference Dictionary. Saint-Nicolas, Québec: Les Presses de l'Université Laval.
- Rand, Silas Tertius. 1888. Dictionary of the language of the Micmac Indians, who reside in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton and Newfoundland. Halifax: Nova Scotia Printing Company. Reprinted 1994: New Delhi & Madras: Asian Educational Services
- Schmidt, David L. 1993. "The Micmac Hieroglyphics: A Reassessment". Papers of the 24th Algonquian Conference. p. 346-363
- Mi'gmaq Talking Dictionary
- Mi'kmaq language
- Mi'kmaq Pronunciation and Spelling Guide
- Ta'n Teloqsi'tij Lnueie'g Gnugwatigng