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Anishinaabemowin (and closely related languages) is the second most widely spoken Native language in Canada. The people and language go under many English names: Ojibway, Ojibwa, Ojibwe, Chippewa, etc. Anishinaabe is the appropriate Native name, although there are spelling and pronunciation variants. The language is spoken throughout Ontario, southern Manitoba, eastern Saskatchewan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Michigan, basically the area surrounding the Great Lakes, and west of that region. Ojibway is often grouped together with Odawa as well as other Algonquian languages which are quite similar, including: Potawatomi, Algonquin, and Oji-Cree.

The dialects of the Ojibway langauge can be seen on the following maps: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, Saskatchewan.

As the language crosses many different modern-day borders and jurisdictions, it is no surprise that there have been a plethora of writing systems devised, by missionaries, linguists, educators, as well as Native speakers themselves. Over the years, several have become more commonly used, including the Nichols-Fiero Roman orthography and Syllabics. Syllabics is restricted primarily to Saulteaux (Plains Ojibway) and dialects in Northern Ontario. The Nichols-Fiero writing system has become very wide-spread recently, and is currently used by many teachers and textbooks. For information on Syllabics, please see the links at the top right of this page, or see the general Syllabics pages. The sounds of Ojibway are given below, using Nichols-Fiero. This orthography is recognisable by its double vowels.

Note: There are several Roman Orthography conventions on this site that may require further explanation. On the charts below, there is lots of phonetic terminology that may not be familiar to everyone.


The Canadian Census counts 32,460 Ojibway speakers in 2006, up from 30,505 in 2001. According to Howe and Cook, there are 45,000 (including other related languages). There are 4,518 speakers in the United States (U.S. Census)

Nichols-Fiero Roman Orthography: Consonants (Syllabics)

  bilabial alveolar palato-alveolar palatal velar glottal
voiceless stop
voiced stop
voiceless fricative
voiced fricative

Vowels (Syllabics)

  front central back
high tense
high lax
mid tense
low lax
low tense


  • Nasal vowels are indicated by ‹nh› written after the vowel, or by ‹n› before fricatives and approximates.
  • The /ch/ sound may also be written ‹c›, and the voiceless sounds are written by some as hp, ht, hc, hk, hs, hsh (as is done in Oji-Cree). The voiceless sounds may also be realised as double consonants: pp, tt, cc, kk, ss, šš. Furthermore, the palato-alveolar sounds may be represented by the “caron” accent, as in č ǰ š ž. The actual phonetic sounds of the voiceless consonants varies amongst the dialects.
  • The voiceless and voiced consonants in the table above could also be labelled phonologically as fortis (strong) and lenis (weak) respectively. In many dialects, the voiceless consonants are more heavily aspirated (with a strong [h] sound afterwards) than in English. At the end of a word, the voiceless and voiced sounds coalesce to varying degrees.
  • The tense vowels are always held long, while the lax vowels are quite short (and may disappear in unstressed syllables in some dialects). The vowel /e/ is always tense/long—there is no short /e/—so the orthography does not require it to be doubled.
  • The status of /h/ and /’/ change depending on dialect, so that the letter ‹h› may represent the glottal stop. An ‹h› after an ‹n› is likely indicating a nasal vowel, so the ‹h› should not be pronounced.
  • Some people prefer an accented vowel (e.g. á) instead of the double vowel. This is certainly the case in Roman orthography Saulteaux, where ‹aa› could be a series of two short /a/, or a long /aa/. Using an accent prevents any ambiguity.
  • Hyphens are used to separate some prefixes/preverbs from verbs.


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Last Update: December 12, 2007