Inanimate Nouns (NI)

Virtually all Inanimate Nouns (NI) in Cree refer to inanimate or non-living entities.  However, the reverse is not strictly true, as not all inanimate or non-living entities are classed as Inanimate Nouns.  As explained under the introduction to Nouns and Gender, some non-living items are classified as Animate Nouns.  Please see Animate Nouns (NA) for more information.

All nouns classed as Inanimate will follow one of four basic patterns: 1) regular, 2) vowel-glide, 3) consonant-/w/, and 4) single-syllable stems.  Each of these patterns is characterized by particular forms of the singular stems and the suffixes for plural-marking, possessive-marking, the locative, and the diminutive.  A brief introduction will be given here, with more detailed information for each subtype provided on the appropriate page for Regular (NI1), Vowel-Glide (NI2), Consonant-/w/ (NA3) and Single-Syllable (NA4) stems.

As discussed in the general introduction to Nouns, Inanimate Nouns will have singular and plural forms, can be marked for person (as possessives) and case (as locatives), and can be converted to diminutives.  Most Inanimate noun stems are identical to their singular form (i.e. no suffix is needed).  However, consonant-/w/ (NA3) stems have a complication in that a stem-final /w/ must be deleted in the singular, and single-syllable (NA4) stems must add an –i suffix.  The inanimate plural suffix –a is regular throughout all stem types, but this means that the stem-final /w/ of NA3 stems shows up before the –a suffix, and the –a suffix replaces the –i suffix in NA4 stems.  Similarly, the addition of all /i/-initial possessive suffixes, the locative (–ihk) and the diminutive (–is(is)) are straightforward when occurring with regular stems, but a variety of complications occur when added to the other stem types.  The following chart summarizes the changes that will occur (and note that Ø means no change occurs at all):

Table 1.1

Stem Types
Word Form Regular Vowel-Glide Consonant-/w/ Single-Syllable
Singular

Ø

maskisin

Ø

mīcimāpoy

delete /w/

mahkahk

–i

wāwi

Plural

–a

maskisina

–a

mīcimāpoya

/w/ –a

mahkahkwa

–a (replaces –i)

wāwa

Possessive

–i…

nimaskisināna

VY+–i…→V:…

nimīcimāpōm

/w/+–i…–o…

nimahkahkonān

–i…

niwāwim

Locative

–ihk

maskisinihk

VY+–ihk→V:hk

mīcimāpōhk

/w/+–ihk–ohk

mahkahkohk

–ihk

wāwihk

Diminutive –is

maskisinis

VY+–is→V:s

mīcimāpōs

/w/+–is–os

mahkahkos

–is

wāwis

 

A further division important for Inanimate Nouns is the distinction between Independent and Dependent stems.  The majority of Inanimate Nouns are independent or “free” stems.  This means that they can stand alone as words in Cree, and the discussion thus far has concentrated on independent stems, such that abbreviations like NI1NI2, etc., imply that the stems are independent.  In contrast, some nouns stems are dependent or “bound” meaning that they cannot stand alone but must be marked by a person-marking prefix in order to be used as words in Cree. Inanimate Dependent stems are primarily body-part terms (plus a few special items).  When a distinction like this occurs in the grammar of a language, linguists refer to these bound nouns as “inalienable” since they represent things that are not normally referred to outside of their relationship to the possessor.  Body parts, for instance, are usually (and preferably) found attached to the whole individual, the possessor.  Thus, such stems usually occur with the person prefixes n–/ni–, k–/ki– or w–/o–.  Still, with most inanimate bound stems, it is possible to make reference to an unpossessed form, in which case, the person prefixes must be replaced by an impersonal m–/mi– prefix.  For example, alongside nitōn “my mouth”, kitōn “your mouth” and otōn “his/her mouth”, it is possible to say mitōn “mouth”, but the basic root word for “mouth”, -tōn-, cannot be used as a word at all.  Thus, it is the presence of this unspecified possessor prefix m–/mi– which identifies most dependent inanimate nouns (NDI).  Just as with independent stems, we can find examples of dependent stems across all stem types, as shown here:

Table 1.2

Bound Stem Types

Word Form

Regular

Vowel-Glide Consonant-/w/

Single-Syllable

Singular

Ø

mitōn

Ø

matay

delete /w/

miskīsik

–i

nīki

Plural

–a

mitōna

–a

mataya

/w/ –a

miskīsikwa

–a (replaces –i)

Possessive

–i…

nitōnināna

VW+–i…V:…

natānāna

/w/+–i…–o…

niskīsikonāna

–i…

nīkināna

Locative

–ihk

mitōnihk

VW+–ihkV:hk

matāhk

/w/+–ihk–ohk

miskīsikohk

–ihk

nīkihk

Diminutive

–is

micōnis

VW+–isV:s

macās

/w/+–is–os

miskīsikos

–is

nīkis

These basic patterns will be described in more detail for each subclass of inanimate nouns on their individual pages:

Independent Inanimate Nouns: Regular Stems (NI1), Vowel-Glide Stems (NI2), Consonant-/w/ Stems (NI3) and Single-Syllable Stems (NI4).

Dependent Inanimate Nouns: Regular Stems (NDI1), Vowel-Glide Stems (NDI2), Consonant-/w/ Stems (NDI3) and Single-Syllable Stems (NDI4).

 

 

Vowel-Glide (VW) Stems – NI2

maskihkiy- “medicine; medicinal herb”

form Cree word English translation
singular maskihkiy medicine
1s nimaskihkiy my medicine
2s kimaskihkiy your (sg) medicine
1p nimaskihkīnān our (excl) medicine
21 kimaskihkīnaw our (incl) medicine
2p kimaskihkīwāw your (pl) medicine
3s omaskihkiy his/her medicine
3p omaskihkīwāw their medicine
4 omaskihkīýiw (an)other’s medicine
plural maskihkiya medicines
1s nimaskihkiya my medicines
2s kimaskihkiya your (sg) medicines
1p nimaskihkīnāna our (excl) medicines
21 kimaskihkīnawa our (incl) medicines
2p kimaskihkīwāwa your (pl) medicines
3s omaskihkiya his/her medicines
3p omaskihkīwāwa their medicines
4 omaskihkīýiwa (an)other’s medicines
locative maskihkīhk in the medicine(s)
1s nimaskihkīhk in my medicine(s)
2s kimaskihkīhk in your (sg) medicine(s)
1p nimaskihkīnāhk in our (excl) medicine(s)
21 kimaskihkīnāhk in our (incl) medicine(s)
2p kimaskihkīwāhk in your (pl) medicine(s)
3s omaskihkīhk in his/her medicine(s)
3p omaskihkīwāhk in their medicine(s)
4 omaskihkīýihk in (an)other’s medicine(s)
dim maskihkīs pill; candy; small amount of medicine

Note: many will prefer to add -im to all possessive forms, in which case all possessive forms ending in /iy(a)/ become /īm(a)/ and all others will have [mi] inserted immediately after /kī/.

NI3

Consonant-/w/ (Cw) Stem:

nipēwikamikw- “bedroom”

form Cree word English translation
singular nipēwikamik bedroom
1s ninipēwikamik my bedroom
2s kinipēwikamik your (sg) bedroom
1p ninipēwikamikonān our (excl) bedroom
21 kinipēwikamikonaw our (incl) bedroom
2p kinipēwikamikowāw your (pl) bedroom
3s onipēwikamik his/her bedroom
3p onipēwikamikowāw their bedroom
4 onipēwikamikoýiw (an)other’s bedroom
plural nipēwikamikwa bedrooms
1s ninipēwikamikwa my bedrooms
2s kinipēwikamikwa your (sg) bedrooms
1p ninipēwikamikonāna our (excl) bedrooms
21 kinipēwikamikonawa our (incl) bedrooms
2p kinipēwikamikowāwa your (pl) bedrooms
3s onipēwikamikwa his/her bedrooms
3p onipēwikamikowāwa their bedrooms
4 onipēwikamikoýiwa (an)other’s bedrooms
locative nipēwikamikohk in the bedroom(s)
1s ninipēwikamikohk in my bedroom(s)
2s kinipēwikamikohk in your (sg) bedroom(s)
1p ninipēwikamikonāhk in our (excl) bedroom(s)
21 kinipēwikamikonāhk in our (incl) bedroom(s)
2p kinipēwikamikowāhk in your (pl) bedroom(s)
3s onipēwikamikohk in his/her bedroom(s)
3p onipēwikamikowāhk in their bedroom(s)
4 onipēwikamikoýihk in (an)other’s bedroom(s)
dim nipēwikamikos little bedroom

NI4

Single-Syllable (1σ) Stem:

wāw- “egg”

form Cree word English translation
singular wāwi egg
1s niwāwim my egg
2s kiwāwim your (sg) egg
1p niwāwiminān our (excl) egg
21 kiwāwiminaw our (incl) egg
2p kiwāwimiwāw your (pl) egg
3s owāwim his/her egg
3p owāwimiwāw their egg
4 owāwimiýiw (an)other’s egg
plural wāwa eggs
1s niwāwima my eggs
2s kiwāwima your (sg) eggs
1p niwāwimināna our (excl) eggs
21 kiwāwiminawa our (incl) eggs
2p kiwāwimiwāwa your (pl) eggs
3s owāwima his/her eggs
3p owāwimiwāwa their eggs
4 owāwimiýiwa (an)other’s eggs
locative wāwihk in the egg(s)
1s niwāwimihk in my egg(s)
2s kiwāwimihk in your (sg) egg(s)
1p niwāwimināhk in our (excl) egg(s)
21 kiwāwimināhk in our (incl) egg(s)
2p kiwāwimiwāhk in your (pl) egg(s)
3s owāwimihk in his/her egg(s)
3p owāwimiwāhk in their egg(s)
4 owāwimiýihk in (an)other’s egg(s)
dim wāwis little egg

Note: possessed forms without -im may be marginally possible.

NI4w

Single-Syllable Consonant-/w/ (1σw) Stem:

mihkw- “blood”

form Cree word English translation
singular mihko blood
1s nimihkom my blood
2s kimihkom your (sg) blood
1p nimihkominān our (excl) blood
21 kimihkominaw our (incl) blood
2p kimihkomiwāw your (pl) blood
3s omihkom his/her blood
3p omihkomiwāw their blood
4 omihkomiýiw (an)other’s blood
plural — (no plural allowed)
1s
2s
1p
21
2p
3s
3p
4
locative mihkohk in the blood
1s nimihkomihk in my blood
2s kimihkomihk in your (sg) blood
1p nimihkomināhk in our (excl) blood
21 kimihkomināhk in our (incl) blood
2p kimihkomiwāhk in your (pl) blood
3s omihkomihk in his/her blood
3p omihkomiwāhk in their blood
4 omihkomiýihk in (an)other’s blood
dim mihkos small amount of blood

Note: there are only 3 known stems of this type: mihkw- “blood”, pihkw- “ashes”, wīkw- “belly-fat”. All are mass nouns which cannot be pluralized; and wīkw– furthermore might not even permit possessive marking (or it may be a NDI4w).