MuseumLink Project Info
  Language Pre-Contact
Illinois Country
The Illinois
Art and Music
How Do We Know?
Image Credits
Teacher Orientation
      I was told that the languages of the Illinois and of the Miami were the same, and this is true, there being no difference except that the accent of the Illinois is very short and that of the Miami very long. One prounounces the h and the other the f. (Pierre Delliette, 1702)

The Illinois spoke a language in the Algonquian language family called "Miami-Illinois." Miami and Illinois peoples could easily understand one another. The only differences in their speech were different ways of pronouncing certain words. For example, the Illinois spoke with short accents while the Miami spoke with long accents. The Miami-Illinois language changed over time. In the 1600s, speakers of the language pronounced the sound of the letter r. However, during the 1700s speakers began to replace the r sound with the sound of the letter l.

Fathers Jacques Gravier and Jean Le Boullenger, two French missionaries who lived among the Illinois in the late 1600s and early 1700s, prepared dictionaries of the Illinois dialect. The dictionaries include Illinois words for many different entities and actions. For example, there are words for the Illinois, people, places, natural resources, and technology. These word lists reflect the rich linguistic heritage of the Illinois people. Until recently, however, there were no living speakers of the Miami-Illinois language and it was considered extinct. Today, descendants of the Miami and Illinois peoples are attempting to reestablish Miami-Illinois as an actively spoken language through a project called the Miami Tribe Language Revitalization Effort. For more information on the Miami Tribe Language Revitalization Effort, contact the Miami Tribe Web site []


Behind the ScenesArtNative AmericanForestPrairieSite Index Home
Contact Us

© 2000 Illinois State Museum