pishimu month, moon, sun mitshim food
tshiam correctly atimu dog
tashkaimu s/he splits something with an axe nishim my little sister
asham snowshoe tutamu s/he does something
upuam his/her thigh uapatamu s/he sees something
tutamupan s/he did something num partially
pishimuss December ashamiss small snowshoe
uitimua her brother-in-law, his sister-in-law nitimu my brother-in-law
apam on the other side atimuss small dog or puppy
Identifying labialized m consonants [ww] is a bit more difficult than identifying ku because at the end of words, there is no audible difference between mu and m. On the other hand, when a suffix is added to mu, the presence of [u] or [w] can be heard clearly, as with ku.

Description of the Two m Consonants

In all dialects of Innu, there are two kinds of m consonants that can be found at the end of a word:

  • ordinary m: mitshim food, asham snowshoe, nutim all;
  • labialized m, specific to Innu: pishimu month, atimu dog, tutamu s/he does something, tashkaimu s/he splits something.

In addition, the consonant mu has an influence on the vowel of the preceding syllableLINGUISTICS: This is a phenomenon called vowel harmonization (or vowel assimilation): « modification subie par un phonème au contact d’un phonème voisin ».
Dubois et al. 2012. Le dictionnaire de linguistique et des sciences du langage. Larousse, p. 55.
if it is a short vowel. This explains why this vowel is often pronounced [u], despite the vowel historically being a short i, as if the [u] sound contained in the labialized consonant was rubbing off on the short vowel preceding it: pishimu [pi:∫um], atimu [ǝtum]. This phenomenon is very common with labialized consonants.

If it wasn’t for the TI inflections of the 3rd person, mu would be pretty rare as a final consonant, as we only find it in three nouns (and their derived forms): pishimu, atimu et nitimu :

pishimu month, moon, sun atimu dog
upau-pishimu August napeshtimu male dog
shetan-pishimu July ishkueshtimu female dog
tshishe-pishimu January utukaitimu dog ear

There not many (uninflected) nouns ending in m either; however, if we add the possessive suffix to nouns (e.g., niminushim), the number increases. There are, however, many particles ending in m: num partially, nem a small number nanim against the wind, etc.

As for verbs, the entire verb class TI takes the mu ending in the 3rd person of the Independent Indicative Present, which is the dictionary form.

uapatamu he sees something iteńitamu he thinks of something
puatamu he dreams of something petamu he hears something
tshipaimu he cuts something apaimu he unscrews something
sheimu he opens something tapitsheimu he combs something

Spelling Solution

The spelling solution retained to write labialized consonants in Innu is to indicate the labialization with an exponent (or suspended) u: muDIALECTOLOGY: Other Algonquian languages use the mw spelling instead. This solution was not retained in Innu because the letter w is not used.. The adoption of this solution was done later in the elaboration of Innu spelling than for the labialized kThis explains why, in the Drapeau (1991) and Mailhot & Lescop (1977) dictionaries, on don’t yet mark mu. This consonant’s particular behaviour (vowel harmonization or suffixation) finally convinced the participants to the standardization of spelling that it was a good solution for all labialized consonants.
– Mailhot, J. et K. Lescop. 1977. Lexique montagnais-français du dialecte de Schefferville, Sept-Îles et Maliotenam. Québec : Ministère des Affaires culturelles. Direction du Patrimoine.
– Drapeau, L. 1991. Dictionnaire montagnais français. Presses de l’Université du Québec.


The online dictionary is a good tool to find words ending in mu because we can search by the ends of words. The printed dictionary is useful for verifying the spelling of particular words.


Marking the labialization of [mw] by mu is very useful to understand the formation of:

  • the plural of TI verbs:
    tutamu + at = tutamuat they do something
    tashkaimu + at = tashkaimuat they split something
  • the diminutive of certain nouns:
    pishimu + iss = pishimuss December (the little month)
    atimu + iss = atimuss puppy
  • the plural of certain nouns:
    pishimu + at = pishimuat months
    atimu + at = atimuat dogs
    tshitimu + at = tshitimuat your brothers-in-law
  • the animate obviative of certain nouns:
    pishimu + a = pishimua
    atimu + a = atimua
    nitimu + a = nitimua

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