Innu-aimun or Montagnais is an Algonquian language spoken by over 11,000 people, called the Innu, in Labrador and Quebec in Eastern Canada. It is a member of the Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi dialect continuum and is spoken in various dialects depending on the community.


In recent years, the Innu-aimun language has had considerable exposure in the popular culture of Canada and France due to the success of the rock music band Kashtin and the later solo careers of its founders Claude McKenzie and Florent Vollant. Widely heard hit songs with Innu-language lyrics have included Ish-kuess ("Girl"), E Uassiuian ("My Childhood"),Tipatshimun ("Song of the devil") and in particular Akua tuta ("Take care of yourself"), which appeared on soundtrack compilations for the popular television series Due South and the documentary Music for The Native Americans. The lyrics of Akua Tuta are featured on over 50 websites, making this one of the most broadly accessible pieces of text written in any native North American language. Florent Vollant has also rendered several well known Christmas carols into Innu in his 1999 album Nipaiamianan.


Innu-aimun has the following phonemes (written using the standard orthography, with IPA equivalents in brackets):

Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Velar Glottal
center Labial
Nasal m /m/ n /n/
Stop p /p/ t /t/ tsh /tʃ/ k /k/ ku/ku /kʷ/
Fricative ss /s/ sh /ʃ~s/ (h /h/)
Lateral (l /l/)

The voiceless stops are voiced to between vowels.

  • Long vowels: î /i/, e /e~ɛ/, â /a/, û /o/
  • Short vowels: i /ɪ~ə/, a /ʌ~ə/, u /o~ʊ~u/


Innu-aimun is a polysynthetic, head-marking language with relatively free word order. Its three basic parts of speech are nouns, verbs, and particles. Nouns are grouped into two genders, animate and inanimate, and may carry affixes indicating plurality, possession, obviation, and location. Verbs are divided into four classes based on their transitivity: animate intransitive (AI), inanimate intransitive (II), transitive inanimate (TI), and transitive animate (TA). Verbs may carry affixes indicating agreement (with both subject and object arguments), tense, mood, and inversion. Two different sets, or orders, of verbal affixes are used depending on the verb's syntactic context. In simple main clauses, the verb is marked using affixes of the independent order, while in subordinate clauses and content-word questions, affixes of the conjunct order are used.


  • Clarke, Sandra. 1982. North-West River (Sheshatshit) Montagnais: A grammatical sketch. National Museum of Man Mercury Series, 80. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada.
  • Clarke, Sandra, and Marguerite MacKenzie. 2005. Montagnais/Innu-aimun (Algonquian). In Geert Booij et al. (eds.), Morphology: An international handbook on inflection and word formation, vol. 2, 1411-1421. Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter.
  • Clarke, Sandra, and Marguerite MacKenzie. 2006. Labrador Innu-aimun: An introduction to the Sheshatshiu dialect. St. John's, Newfoundland: Department of Linguistics, Memorial University of Newfoundland.


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