The Michigamea (Mihs^ikamiia) are one of the divisions of the Miami-Illinois-speaking Illinois alliance. However, Marquette and Joliet indicate clearly that in 1673 they needed a translator from Miami-Illinois to something else to communicate with the Michigamea. What this language was is not indicated. However, Jean-Be'nard Bossu, in his Nouveaux voyages aux Indes Occidentales, quotes in passing two sentences which he attributes (1) to a Michigamea man (1752) and (2) to the Peoria (during a visit from the Michigamea in 1756). The annecdotes are peculiar, and raise many questions that I will not address here. The sentences are not well transcribed, and they are glossed in a very vague, overblown way. But as little as the sentences offer in terms of data, they are clearly not Miami-Illinois. I present below the bare bones of an attempt to interpret them as a Siouan language, specifically as a Mississippi Valley Siouan language.
The first example is indage' ouai panis, glossed as 'je suis indigne de vivre, je ne me'rite plus de porter le doux nom de pe're'. The second is tikalabe', houe' ni que', glossed as 'c'est a' dire, nous te croyons, tu as raison'. These can be interpreted representing as a Siouan language in the following fashion.
'I am not his father.'
'Your thinking is not lacking.'
I will not here present lists of cognates in various Mississippi Valley Siouan languages that closely resemble these forms, or the rules that would fit these forms regularly into those cognate sets. The forms, however, are all well attested, and the rules required would be both regular and paralleled elsewhere within Mississippi Valley Siouan, especially in the histories of the various Dhegiha dialects and in Ioway-Otoe, though the particular combination represented here is unique.
The morphology is also all reasonable, except for the possessive prefix on father, which looks like a first person where a third person would be expected, and except for the formation of the negative, which is unusual, though not inconceivable.
In regard to the negative, it seems to involve a prefix *we'-, or a possible circumfix *we'-...-s (or maybe *we'-...s^?). Neither pattern is attested elsewhere per se, but the general pattern in the second case matches the Mandan negative wa-...-riN-x ~ wa-...-xi fairly closely. The match between the second, circumfixal interpretation and the second variant of the Mandan negative is particularly close. The uncertain suffix -s (or -s^?), if it exists, is actually a very reasonable match for the Mandan negative suffix -x(i), the Dhegiha negative sufffix -z^i, and the initial of the Dakotan negative suffix -s^-niN, perhaps also for the Dakotan adversative suffix -s^(i), as well as the initial sequences of the Ioway-Otoe negative suffix -s-ku-niN ~ -s-ku-ne and its cognate, the Winnebago dubitative suffix -s^-kuN-niN, both reflecting *-s^-kuN-niN.
Suffixal negatives are common in Siouan, but circumfixal constructions occur in Winnebago, Mandan, and Biloxi. The suffixed elements are approximately the same in the suffixal negatives and circumfixal negatives, while the prefixal elements in the various circumfixal negatives are clearly not cognate. The common suffixal elements in Siouan negatives are *-riN and *-s^(i), in various orders. It is usually assumed that the original pattern was suffixal, with a suffix sequence something like *=s^(i)=riN. Some reorganization of the suffixes has occurred in the various language, and prefixes are sometimes innovated to produce circumfixal patterns.
If Michigamea had a circumfixal pattern like Mandan it probably developed from the earlier suffixal pattern. If it had a prefixal pattern this was probably a further development of a circumfixal pattern. It's not clear which pattern Michigamea actually had, or whether it might not have had both, under conditions not clear.
This material was presented at the Siouan and Caddoan Conference in 1995 in Albuquerque.
These two sentences were called to the attention of Robert Rankin by Emanuel Drechsel. Rankin made several morphological identifications critical to this analysis, but at present he thinks it may be too strained to be worth much. This is clearly a fair assessment! But, though there are undeniably peculiarities in both context (ignored here) and analysis (not detailed) with these sentences, not to mention the sheer paucity of material, I am inclined to believe that Bossu was employing a real language, and got it more or less correct, within the limitations of his knowledge of it, and his abilities to transcribe it. Economy suggests the source was something spoken among the Michigamea he was living with. It was within this time frame (1750s), one assumes, that Miami-Illinois began to replace this language, whatever it was.
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