Five Linguistic Methods for Revitalizing Indigenous Laws

33 Pages Posted: 17 May 2022 Last revised: 23 May 2022

See all articles by Naiomi Metallic

Naiomi Metallic

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law

Date Written: August 20, 2021


Building on the ground-breaking work on the revitalization of Indigenous laws ongoing over the past decade, this article seeks to contribute to our understanding of how Indigenous languages can be used to recover Indigenous laws. It posits that there is not one single linguistic method, but at least five: 1) the ‘Meta-principle’ method; 2) the ‘Grammar as revealing worldview’ method; 3) the ‘Word-part’ method; 4) the ‘Word-clusters’ method; and 5) the ‘Place names’ method. Using the Mìgmaq language to illustrate, the article explains each method and provides examples of how they can be used to inform Indigenous law revitalization. The article also shows that one does not have to be a fluent, first-language speaker to engage with linguistic methods for Indigenous law revitalization, by highlighting the various published resources like dictionaries and lexicons, reference and teaching texts, atlases, and more, that can be harnessed to engage in this work. This makes engaging with the linguistic methods accessible to the many Indigenous peoples who, because of the impacts of colonialism, are only starting to re-learn their Indigenous language. This revelation should give greater confidence to the non-fluent that they too can play a role in the revitalization of both their language and laws.

Keywords: Indigenous law; Indigenous languages; Mìgmaq; Mi'kmaq

Suggested Citation

Metallic, Naiomi, Five Linguistic Methods for Revitalizing Indigenous Laws (August 20, 2021). McGill Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Naiomi Metallic (Contact Author)

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law ( email )

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Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4H9
902-494-4500 (Phone)

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