Înîhiyawîtwâw ‘They are Speaking Cree’: Cree Language Use and Issues in Northern Alberta, Canada

Clinton N. Westman, Christine Schreyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we consider the status of Northern Cree, commonly considered a sub-dialect of Plains Cree. Although northern Alberta, where Northern Cree is spoken, is home to thousands of Cree speakers, the sub-dialect's characteristics and dynamics are understudied. Based on our Cree language training since 2000 and our fieldwork since 1996, we provide new data on Northern Cree and on Cree language use and issues in northern Alberta. We elucidate some general structural features of Plains Cree before looking specifically at some slightly differing features of the sub-dialect, Northern Cree. We also pay special attention to questions of language in use: who is speaking Northern Cree, when and why? We include data on multilingualism and convergence of Northern Cree with Plains Cree, French, English and other languages. We demonstrate that northern Alberta is, in many respects, a heartland for the Cree language, and not a periphery. We also suggest that Northern Cree likely ought to be considered a dialect in its own right and that this dialect is worthy of further linguistic and socio-linguistic research, as well as deserving of more coordinated status and corpus planning efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-140
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number230
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Cree
  • Alberta Canada
  • indigenous languages
  • linguistic anthropology


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