Full Text

Cree syllabary

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


A script invented around 1840 by missionary James Evans for the Cree-speaking peoples of northern Canada. The system makes use of an extremely small set of basic signs ( table 16 ). Most Cree dialects can be written in this script using 12 signs or fewer. Each sign indicates a CV syllable or an independent V. The great economy of signs is made possible by exploiting the orientation of each sign's position as a distinctive feature. For example, independent vowel quality is indicated by a triangle. Depending on whether it faces south, north, east or west, the vowel is /e/, /i/, /o/ or /a/, respectively. In the same manner, each CV sign changes its vowel quality with its orientation. Since Cree has seven vowels rather than only four, a few diacritical marks are needed to indicate the three additional vowels. For example, a large dot placed over the CV sign modifies the vowel quality by marking length. A set of ‘finals’ is employed to indicate syllable-final consonants. Table 16 The Cree syllabary Although not an indigenous creation, the syllabic script was adopted enthusiastically by the Cree people. Within a short time virtually the entire community became literate in this script. The ingenious simplicity of the system clearly played a part in this achievement. However, it is also thought that the four orientations contributed to the system's acceptability, because the number four ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top