3. Consonant-/w/ (Cw) Inanimate Noun Stems – NI3
The third subclass of Cree nouns is characterized in part by the appearance or disappearance of a mysterious /w/. Unlike regular and vowel-glide stems, the stem form of a consonant-/w/ (or Cw) stem is not identical to its singular form. Instead, these stems include a sequence of consonant (frequently /k/, sometimes /m/, /n/ or /s/) and a /w/. Examples of these stems include:
(20) ministikw– “island”
pahkēkinw– “leather, rawhide”
The reason why the /w/ is so mysterious is that it disappears in the singular form of these nouns. Thus, when these stems are pronounced in their singular form as words, the /w/ must be dropped to get actual spoken word form:
(21) ministik “island”
pahkēkin “leather, rawhide”
The formal rule has been written as: w → Ø / C __ # . This simply means that the stem-final /w/ is deleted (becomes Ø) when it occurs ( __ ) after a consonant (C) at the end of a word (#). Justification for this rule and the inclusion of the /w/ with the stem (rather than, for instance, the plural) will be found in the numerous irregularities that we find in the inflectional and derivational patterns below.
3.1 Consonant-/w/ Singular and Plural
The plural forms of consonant-/w/ stems have often been considered irregular, since it appears that –wa rather than –a is added to form the plural of these inanimate nouns. If, as has been suggested above, we include the /w/ as part of the stem, then it is, in fact, just the regular plural ending that is once again being added to a Cree noun stem.
Singular and Plural Forms of Consonant-/w/ NI3 Stem ministikw–
|singular||ministikw–||w → Ø||ministik||“island”|
Singular and Plural Forms of Consonant-/w/ NI Stems
|singular||w → Ø|
If it were merely a matter of deciding between whether to treat the /w/ as part of the stem or the plural, it may well have been simplest to suggest that nouns of this type take an irregular –wa plural. However, this is not the only pattern in which the presence of a /w/ is evident. In the subsequent sections, we could conclude that each of the possessive, locative and diminutive forms must also take exceptional, irregular forms when added to this particular noun type, or we can conclude that the irregularity arises because of the interaction of the regular suffixes with an irregularity inherent to the stem itself. We will choose the latter option, and attribute all irregularities to the single source of the Cw stem type, since this is predictable based on a second important rule.
When any of the possessive, locative or diminutive suffixes are added to consonant-/w/ stems, a second vowel adjustment rule comes into play. This rule can be formulated in either of the two ways given in (22):
(22) a) w + –i… → o / C___
b) Cw + –i… → Co
In (22a), the traditional linguistic formula indicates that when a /w/ and an /i/ (as the initial element of an affix) are brought together, they will merge to become an [o]. The final part of this formula (/ C___ ) is important as it specifies that this merger of /w/ and /i/ occurs only if the /w/ occurs immediately after a consonant (C). This can be restated as in (22b), showing explicitly that when a Cw combination (as at the end of a Cw stem) is brought together with an /i/-initial suffix, the result is the merger of /w/ and /i/ to [o] while the preceding consonant remains unchanged. In turn, this second vowel adjustment rule in (22b) can be compared with the first originally given in (16) above and restated here as (23a), showing a similarity of pattern involving the interaction of a glide (e.g. /w/) and /i/.
(23) a) VW + –i… → V: (vowel-glide stem vowel adjustment rule)
b) Cw + –i… → Co (consonant-/w/ stem vowel adjustment rule)
The second vowel adjustment rule, represented in both (22b) and (23b), will become the main characteristic of Cw stems in the subsequent discussion of the possessive, locative and diminutive.
3.2 Consonant-/w/ Possessive
All possessive suffixes were first illustrated as beginning with the vowel /i/, and this was certainly the case when they were added to a regular (NI1) stem. However, we observed some instances of the merger of this vowel with a preceding vowel-glide sequence in NI2 stems (or even in other affixes). Now, we will see the possessive affixes appear to begin with an [o] sound, in place of /i/. This will be due to the second vowel adjustment rule, given in (22) above. The example stem mahkahkw– is illustrated in Table I.3.3, while a general NI3 possessive paradigm is given in Table I.3.4.
Possessive Forms of Consonant-/w/ NI3 Stem mahkahkw–
Possessive Paradigm for Consonant-/w/ NI3 Stems with –im
It must be noted that each of these tables includes the extra possessive suffix –im as it is apparently fairly rare for NI3 stems to occur in possessed form without the use of –im. Examples without this suffix are given in (24) to illustrate the effect of the vowel adjustment rule when the possessive person suffixes are added directly to an NI3 stem.
(24) a) ni– + kiskinwahamātowikamikw– + –inān
→ nikiskinwahamātowikamikonān “our (exclusive) school”
b) ki– + mīcisowināhtikw– + –inaw
→ kimīcisowināhtikonaw “our (inclusive) table”
c) o– + wāpamonāpiskw– + –iwāw
→ owāpamonāpiskowāw “their mirror”
However, it is possible that speakers in some communities will reject these forms in favour of ones which include –im. Alternatives to these including –im would be as in (25).
(25) a) nikiskinwahamātowikamikominān “our (exclusive) school”
b) kimīcisowināhtikominaw “our (inclusive) table”
c) owāpamonāpiskomiwāw “their mirror”
Whichever of the /i/-initial suffixes is attached directly to the Cw stem, the result is an [o], where we expect /i/.
3.3 Consonant-/w/ Locative
Again, locative formation is quite straightforward in comparison to the complexities of the possessive. All Cw stems appear to have a suffix of the form “–ohk” added to the singular form, due to the interaction of the stem-final /w/ and the suffix-initial /i/. This will yield our first paradigm in which two distinct changes are taking place. The singular form of the stem must drop the stem-final /w/, while the locative form merges this same /w/ with the /i/ of the suffix.
Locative Formation of Consonant-/w/ NI3 Stem mahkahkw–
|singular||mahkahkw–||w → Ø||mahkahk||“barrel”|
|locative||mahkahkw–||Cw+i→Co||–ihk||mahkahkohk||“in the barrel”|
Locative Formation of Consonant-/w/ NI3 Stems
|singular||w → Ø|
Additional examples of some Cw locatives are given in (26).
(26) maskēkw– + –ihk → maskēkohk “in the swamp”
āhkosiwikamikw– + –ihk → āhkosiwikamikohk “in the hospital”
kīwētinw– + –ihk → kīwētinohk “in the north”
An important note for teachers at this point is that we recognize that the rules and paradigms given above are somewhat complex and abstract in comparison with a more surface-based analysis of irregular plural (–wa) and “o”-initial suffixes. Younger students, for instance, need not be taught about the vowel contraction rules and the mysterious /w/ can remain mysterious. Regardless of the most appropriate means of teaching this particular class of nouns, though, the fact remains that Cw stems are a valid subdivision of Cree noun stems requiring specific modifications from the regular stem forms.
We could now complete our discussion of the locative with a demonstration of the combination of locative and possessive forms as has already been done for regular and vowel-glide stems. However, given the predominant inclusion of –im in the NI3 possessive paradigms given in Tables I.3.3 and I.3.4 above, locative-possessive NI3 paradigms will consist of the regular /i/-initial locative(-possessive) suffixes added after the –im suffix.
3.4 Consonant-/w/ Diminutive
The last modification to be introduced for NI3 stems is the form of the diminutive. This is again quite straightforward, as the vowel adjustment rule creates an apparent diminutive of the form “–os(is)”, as in the examples in (27) which also include instances of the familiar t→c diminutive alternation.
(27) mistikw– (“stick”) + –is → miscikos “twig”
āhkosiwikamikw– (“hospital”) + –is → āhkosiwikamikos “clinic”
ministikw– (“island”) + –is → miniscikos “islet”
napakihtakw– (“board”) + –is → napakihcakos “small board”
pahkēkinw– (“hide”) + –is → pahkēkinos “small hide”
Tables I.3.7 and I.3.8 illustrate and further exemplify the diminutive derivation.
Diminutive Formation from Consonant-/w/ NI3 Stem mahkahkw–
|base||mahkahkw–||w → Ø||mahkahk||“barrel”|
Diminutive Formation from Consonant-/w/ NI3 Stems
|base||w → Ø|
3.5 Summary of Consonant-/w/ (NI3) Stems
We can now combine all of these observations of Cw stems in full NI3 paradigms, with an example noun in Table I.3.9 and the bare frame for NI3 stems in Table I.3.10. Once again, these paradigms give all singular forms (independent and possessed) first, then the plurals, then the locatives, and include the diminutive form for which the whole paradigm could then be repeated.
NI3 example paradigm: nipēwikamikw- “bedroom”
|form||Cree word||English translation|
|2s||kinipēwikamik||your (sg) bedroom|
|1p||ninipēwikamikonān||our (excl) bedroom|
|21||kinipēwikamikonaw||our (incl) bedroom|
|2p||kinipēwikamikowāw||your (pl) bedroom|
|2s||kinipēwikamikwa||your (sg) bedrooms|
|1p||ninipēwikamikonāna||our (excl) bedrooms|
|21||kinipēwikamikonawa||our (incl) bedrooms|
|2p||kinipēwikamikowāwa||your (pl) 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)|
NI3 blank paradigm frame
|diminutive||Cw + i → o||–is|
In summation, Cw stems are characterized by two important rules, restated here as (28) and (29). The first (28) manifests itself in the singular when the stem-final /w/ is dropped.
(28) w → Ø / C___#
Following a consonant (C___), at the end of a word (___#), a /w/ is unpronounceable, so it is dropped, and thus singular forms end in the simple consonant. However, when something is added to the noun stem, the /w/ surfaces. If the plural suffix –a is added, the /w/ appears as normal. If, on the other hand, an /i/-initial suffix is added, the vowel adjustment rule in (29) takes place, merging stem-final /w/ and suffix-initial /i/ to [o].
(29) w + –i… → o / C___
The environment in which these changes take place (i.e. after a consonant) is very important, since the /w/ will neither drop at the end of a word, nor merge with /i/ to form [o] if the /w/ in question follows a vowel (i.e. Vw). This is what sets NI3 or consonant-/w/ (Cw) stems apart from NI2 or vowel-glide (VW) stems. These are the two main ways in which noun stems differ from the regular pattern. The next noun subclass, single-syllable stems (NI4), exhibit yet another irregularity, but the entire subclass consists of very few examples.