This spelling issue only affects the Mamit (Lower North Shore) dialect. 

Example Words
shikaku skunk shikuteu bakeapple, cloudberry
pashiku s/he gets up nikamu s/he sings
nutim all atimapu s/he sits with her/his back turned
nikaui my mother atimuteu s/he walks away
atipish fine babiche shiputenamu s/he closes the tent door

Description of the Spelling Issue

In the Mamit dialect, there is a tendency to pronounce the short i as a before the consonants k, m and p: nikamu [nakamu] s/he sings, nutim [nutam] all, shiputenamu [shapute:nam], etc.

Spelling Solution

The decision was made to always write the historical vowel (that is, the vowel used in ancient Innu).

It is difficult to know when to write a particular short vowel (here the short i) but to pronounce another ([a]), especially since short vowels occur in a large number of words, and verb endings.

Caution: It is important not to assume that all short vowels followed by the consonants k, m, p are written with i:

  • Sometimes a is followed by k, m or p: mishanakau it’s a big island, ashameu s/he feeds her/him, ushakai skin or fur (of an animal).
  • Sometimes short u preceeds k, m or p: pitukamit inside, manukashu s/he sets up her/his tent


The Innu dictionary is an excellent tool for checking the spelling of words written with short, historical vowels.


Making lists of these words can help to learn their spelling, particularly for speakers of Mamit.

ushpikai her/his side; its rib cage pitshenik it’s just beginning
nanikapeshamu s/he cuts something into strips tshiniku mixed with another liquid
nikuashkateu s/he buries someone nutimau it is whole
uitimushu s/he has a lover nanimissuat thunder, lightning
uatshishimu the road curves ishkueshtimu female dog
nashipetimit on the shore, bank utitiman her/his shoulder
atipish-amaku snowshoe netting needle for fine babiche natimit upstream