Cree is an Algonquian language spoken by more than 45,000 people across southern Canada and into Montana. There are five major Cree dialects: Western/Plains Cree, Northern/Woodlands Cree, Central/Swampy Cree, Moose Cree, and Eastern Cree. Some linguists consider these distinct languages, but they are largely mutually intelligible. The most divergent is Eastern Cree, which some consider a closer relative to the Innu languages Montagnais and Naskapi than to the other Cree dialects--then again, others consider Montagnais, Naskapi, and/or Attikamekw to be dialects of Cree themselves. This lack of linguistic consensus reveals the remarkable diversification of the Cree language. In general, Cree people can understand the dialects of communities closest to them, but not those further away: though a Northern Cree may understand both a Western Cree and an Eastern Cree, they might have trouble understanding each other, and only the East Cree speaker would have hope of understanding Montagnais. All five Cree dialects (though not Atikamekw or the Innu languages) are written in a unique syllabary which uses shapes to represent consonants and rotates them in the Four Directions to represent vowels. There are two more languages which, while not Cree, are heavily influenced by Cree: Michif, a Metis creole combining French nouns with Cree verbs, and Severn Ojibway, an Ojibwe dialect often called "Oji-Cree" because it has borrowed liberally from Cree and uses the Cree syllabary instead of the Roman alphabet used by most other Ojibwe speakers. One of the most important and influential of American Indian languages, Cree also has one of the best chances of conitnued survival, with many children being raised bilingually or in Cree with English or French as a second language.

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