Innu-aimun or Montagnais Language is an Algonquian language spoken by over 10,000 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.
Innu-aimun is related to East Cree (Īyiyū Ayimūn – Northern/Coastal dialect and Īnū Ayimūn – Southern/Inland dialect) spoken by the James Bay Cree of the James Bay region of Quebec and Ontario and the Atikamekw (Nēhinawēwin and Nehirâmowin) of the Atikamekw (‘Nehiraw’, ‘Nehirowisiw’).
Innu-aimun is divided into four dialects:
- Southern Montagnais (Mashteuiatsh and Betsiamites)
- Eastern Montagnais (Mingan, Natashquan, La Romaine, Pakuashipi)
- Central Montagnais (Sept-Iles and Maliotenam, Matimekosh)
- Labrador -Montagnais (Sheshatshit).
The speakers of the different dialects can communicate well with each other.
The Naskapi language and culture are quite different from those of the Montagnais, in which the dialect changes from y to n as in “Iiyuu” versus “Innu.”
11 communities in Quebec and Labrador, from Lake St. John eastward along the Saguenay Valley to the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and Gulf of St. Lawrence eastward to St. Augustin, northward to the height of land at Schefferville and inland Labrador (Goose Bay, Lake Melville). Western Montagnais is in 4 communities: Mashteuiatsh (near Roberval, Quebec), Betsiamites, Uashat-Maliotenam (near Sept-Iles, Quebec), and Matimekosh (near Schefferville, Quebec). The others speak Eastern Montagnais: Mingan, Natashquan, La Romaine, Pakuashipi (St. Augustine, Quebec, sometimes called Pakuashipu), and Sheshatshiu (North-West River, Labrador).