II.  Animate Nouns (NA)

The class of Animate Nouns (NA) in Cree is the marked class, consisting of a wide variety of living and non-living entities.  They are “marked” in the sense that they are treated as special in some way, if only grammatically, in contrast to inanimate nouns.  Although most nouns referring to living things (e.g., people, animals, birds, fish, insects, many trees, some plants, etc.) are classed as animate nouns, there are still many other animate nouns that are not living and language learners must simply learn the animacy of Cree nouns.  In this section, we will discuss the inflectional morphology of animate nouns, following very closely the discussion of inanimate nouns (NI), and adding in those points that mark animate nouns as different and/or more elaborate than inanimate nouns.  This discussion will not differ greatly from the introduction to inanimate nouns, since the exact same four patterns – regular (NA1), vowel-glide (NA2), consonant-/w/ (NA3), and single-syllable (NA4) stems – occur as subclasses of animate nouns.

As discussed in the general introductions to both Nouns and Inanimate Nouns, Animate Nouns will have singular and plural forms, can be marked for person (as possessives) and (sometimes) for case (as locatives, distributives and/or vocatives), and can be converted to diminutives.  Most Animate 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 –a (animate singular) suffix.  The animate plural suffix –ak is regular throughout all stem types, but this means that the stem-final /w/ of NA3 stems shows up before the –ak suffix, and the –ak suffix replaces the –a suffix in NA4 stems (or simply seems to add a –k to the singular –a).  Similarly, the addition of all /i/-initial possessive suffixes, the locative (–ihk/-ināhk) 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 II.0.1

  Stem Types
Word Form

Regular

NA1

Vowel-Glide

NA2

Consonant-/w/

NA3

Single-Syllable

NA4

Singular

Ø

asikan

“sock”

Ø

ayapiy

“net”

delete /w/

ahcahk

“soul”

–a

niska

“goose”

Plural

–ak

asikanak

“socks”

–ak

ayapiyak

“nets”

/w/ –ak

ahcahkwak

“souls”

–ak (replaces –a)

niskak

“geese”

Possessive

–i…

nitasikaninānak

“our socks”

VW+–i…→V:…

nitayapīm

“my net”

/w/+–i…–o…

nitahcahkonānak

“our souls”

–i…

niniskim

“my goose”

Locative

–ihk

asikanihk

“in the sock(s)”

VW+–ihk→V:hk

ayapīhk

“in the net(s)”

/w/+–ihk/–ināhk 

→ –ohk/–onāhk

ahcahkonāhk

“in the spirit realm”

–ihk/–ināhk

niskināhk

“among the geese”

Diminutive

–is

asikanis

“small sock”

VW+–is→V:s

ayapīs

“small net”

/w/+–is–os

ahcahkos

“little soul”

–is(is)

niskisis

“gosling”

 

A further division important for Animate Nouns is the distinction between Independent and Dependent stems.  The majority of Animate 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 NA1NA2, 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. Animate Dependent stems are primarily kinship terms (plus a few body parts and 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.  Kinship terms, for instance, describe relationships between two individuals (i.e. a brother is a brother to someone, not simply unrelated), and so must be marked for that relationship through person-marking.  Thus, such stems usually occur with the person prefixes n–/ni–, k–/ki– or w–/o–.  For exact details, please consult the detailed information on dependent animate nouns (NDA).  Just as with independent stems, we can find examples of dependent stems across all stem types, as shown here:

 

Table II.0.2

 

Bound Stem Types

Word Form

Regular

NDA1

Vowel-Glide

NDA2

Consonant-/w/

NDA3

Single-Syllable

NDA4

Singular

Ø

mitās

“(pair of) pants”

Ø

maskasiy

“fingernail”

delete /w/

miyihk

“gland”

–i

nīwa

“my wife”

Plural

–ak

mitāsak

“pairs of pants”

–ak

maskasiyak

“fingernails”

/w/ –ak

miyihkwak

“glands”

–ak (replaces –a)

Possessive

–i…

nitāsinānak

“our pairs of pants”

VW+–i…V:…

naskasīnānak

“our fingernails”

/w/+–i…–o…

niyihkonānak

“our glands”

–i…

nīwinānak

“our wives”

Locative

–ihk

mitāsihk

“in/on the pants”

VW+–ihkV:hk

maskasīhk

“on the fingernail(s)”

/w/+–ihk–ohk

miyihkohk

“in the gland(s)”

–ihk

Diminutive

–is

micāsis

“shorts”

VW+–isV:s

maskasīs

“small fingernail”

/w/+–is–os

miyihkos

“small gland”

–is

nīwis

“my dear wife”

 

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

Independent Animate Nouns: Regular Stems (NA1), Vowel-Glide Stems (NA2), Consonant-/w/ Stems (NA3) and Single-Syllable Stems (NA4).

Dependent Animate Nouns: Regular Stems (NDA1), Vowel-Glide Stems (NDA2), Consonant-/w/ Stems (NDA3) and Single-Syllable Stems (NDA4).

 

 

Once we complete our look at all the subtypes of NA stems, we will be able to summarize the different subtypes in terms of Table II.0.3 below. Just as with NI stems, NA stems can be divided into four basic subclasses: the regular (NA1) stems require no modifications to the basic patterns; vowel-glide (VW or NA2) stems require a vowel adjustment or contraction rule of the shape VW+i→V: when /i/-initial suffixes are added; consonant-/w/ (Cw or NA3) stems require a different vowel adjustment rule of the shape Cw+i→Co when /i/-initial suffixes are added; and single-syllable (1σ or NA4) stems are a minor subclass with several “regular irregularities”.  The NA4 subclass can be further subdivided into a regular NA4 type which mainly differs from regular stems only in requiring a singular suffix –a to allow it to act as a complete word.  If the single-syllable stem also happens to end in a Cw sequence, then the vowel adjustment rule of NA3 stems also applies and we refer to these as single-syllable Cw (NA4w) stems.

Finally, these different stem types and the patterns and/or changes required for each are given in the concluding Table II.0.3.  The order in which the suffixes are listed in this table is not meant to convey the order in which they are attached to the stem, but rather follows the order in which the suffixes are discussed in these Grammar pages.

 

Table II.0.3

  Animate Noun Subclasses

NA Suffixes and Changes Necessary
Stem Type Singular Num/Obv[1] Possessive[2] Locative Diminutive[3]
1.  Regular Ø –ak/–a –im –ihk –is(is)
2.  VW Ø –ak/–a

VW+–im

→V:m

VW+–ihk

→V:hk

VW +–is(is) →V:s(is)
3.  Cw delete [w] –ak/–a

Cw+–im

→–om

Cw+–ihk

→–ohk

Cw+–is

→–os(is)

4.  1σ   –a –ak/–a –im –ihk –is(is)
Cw –a –ak/–a

Cw+–im

→–om

Cw+–ihk

→–ohk

Cw+–is

→–os(is)

[1] This column provides both the plural and obviative suffixes which are mutually exclusive with one another.  Not all nouns have plural forms, since mass nouns (e.g. kōn–) are not pluralized.  However, mass nouns can always be placed in the obviative.   Plural- and obviative-marking can also co-occur with the diminutive and possessive suffixes, but they are mutually exclusive with the locative suffix.

[2] Possessive can be marked by the suffix –im, but also any of the possessive plural markers (i.e. –inān, –inaw, –iwāw) in which case the initial /i/ similarly merges with /w/ to give [o].

[3] After derivation by diminutive, all diminutive nouns are regular stems.