Introduction to Ojibwe Noun and Pronoun Grammar

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Much has been written and debated about the origin of Native Americans. Scientific anthropology insists that they must have come over a land bridge or the ice during the last ice age and that they are descendants of Asiatic forbears.

Mormons claim that they are descendants of the Lost Tribe of Joseph through one of his sons, Manasseh.

There is evidence that there was traffic and trade across the Atlantic between West Africa and South America with migrations into what is now Mexico and the southeast region of the United States. Even genetic ancestors from Europe are not yet ruled out. Other esoteric claims of alien spacecraft push credulity to the limit.

Some people, especially the Hopi, believe that they arrived through a "hole" in time. "Most Native Americans reject these saying that their ancient stories say that they originated on the American continent. 


Ojibwe Language

Introduction to Ojibwe Language

Introduction to Ojibwe Noun and Pronoun Grammar

Introduction to Ojibwe Numbers
and Money

Introduction to Ojibwe Verbs
and Preverbs

Introduction to Ojibwe
Verb Grammar

Introduction to Ojibwe Command and Question Grammar

FREELANG OJIBWE DICTIONARY - free downloadable Ojibwe-English & English-Ojibwe dictionary form

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On the Borderland of Spirits - 2

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Algonquin language family is the most populous and widespread Native language family in North America. Before the arrival of Europeans Algonquin languages were widespread in eastern and some western regions of the USA and in Southern Canada. Many Native American nations belong to Algonquin language family, speaking relative languages and dialects.
One of the most widespread Algonquin languages is Anishinaabe language � Anishinaabemowin. It belongs to the Central Algonquin group and includes three dialects: Ojibwe, Ottawa (Odawa) and Potawatomi (Bodewadmi). Anishinaabe is a name, which these three nations call themselves. The most populous Anishinaabe nation is Ojibwe. Ojibwe is also one of the most populous Native nations in North America. But nowadays only 25% of Ojibwe people speak their own language as native one.

Writing System (Fiero system)

1. All words are read as they�re written.
2. Double vowels stand for long vowels and should be read as long single sound (eg.: /aa/ is [a:], but not [aa]. There are seven vowel sounds (short and long) in Fiero system:
2.1. short /a/ sounds like u in mud;
2.2. long /aa/ sounds like a in father;
2.3. short /i/ sounds like i in sit or Jim;
2.4. long /ii/ sounds like ee in seen or ea in sea;
2.5. /e/ sounds like ay in pray;
2.6. short /o/ sounds like �oh� or oe in doe;
2.7. long /oo/ sounds like oo in loon or o in do;
3. There is also /zh/ which sounds like su in measure.
4. An apostrophe /�/stands for glottal stop.
5. /nh/ stand after nasal vowels to indicate them (/nh/ are not pronounced).
6. There are no sounds l, r, v, f or letters f, l, q, r, u, v and x.

Noun Gender and Plural

There are two genders in Ojibwe language: animate and inanimate.

To animate gender belong nouns for people, animals, some plants and some objects which can house spirit (the sun, the moon, stars, some nature objects, and religious and cultural items). All other nouns belong to inanimate gender.
Usually, but not always, it is rather easy to predict gender logically. Though sometimes it is out of some logical reason.

Animate Nouns

Inanimate Nouns

 inini  man  waakaa'igan  house
 ikwe  woman  adopowin  table
 makwa  bear  waasechigan  window
 mitig  tree  zhoomin  grape
 giizis  sun, month  mitig  stick
 animikii  thunder  aanakwad  cloud
 miigwan  feather  zaaga'igan  lake
 odaabaan  car  miikana  road
 akik  kettle  onaagaans  cup

Animate nouns in plural take an ending /-ag/, but inanimate nouns - /-an/. A vowel in the ending can be different, but consonants /-g/ and /-n/ always indicate the gender.

Animate Nouns

Inanimate Nouns

 English  Singular  Plural  English  Singular  Plural
 bear  makwa  makwa-g  fire  ishkode  ishkode-n
 wolf  ma'iingan  ma'iingan-ag  dish  onaagan  onaagan-an
 beaver  amik  amik-wag  plant  mashkiki  mashkiki-wan
 fish  giigoonh  giigoon-yag  river  ziibi  ziibi-wan
 rabbit  waabooz  waaboz-oog  box  makak  makak-oon
 ice  mikwam  mikwam-iig  paddle  abwi  abwi-in

Noun gender is very important. Depending on this category different verbs and demonstrative pronouns are used � animate or inaniamte. You can see from the example that with an animate noun bakwezhigan (bread) an animate verb �bring� and a pronoun �that� are used, but with an inanimate noun mazina�igan (book) � an inanimate verb and a pronoun:

Biish a'aw bakwezhigan. - Bring me that bread. (animate)
Biidoon i'iw mazina'igan. - Bring me that book. (inanimate)

Demonstrative Pronouns

Different demonstrative pronouns are used with animate and inanimate nouns:



















 That over there





Personal Pronouns

There are seven personal pronouns in Ojibwe:

 niin   I, me
 giin  you
 wiin  he, she
 niinawind  we (exc.); we exclusive, we without you � me and them
 giinawind  we (inc.); we inclusive, we with you � me and you (singl. or pl.)
 giinawaa  you pl., you all
 wiinawaa  they

Noun Forms

In Ojibwe language nouns can appear not only in their usual form but in five other forms: possessive, locative, diminutive, pejorative and vocative.

Noun Possessive

Possessive form indicates that a noun is possessed by someone. It forms by adding to a noun possessive suffixes and prefixes, meaning: my, your, his, her, etc:

 nin-jiimaan  my boat (inanimate noun)
 gi-jiimaan  your (s) boat
 o-jiimaan  his/her boat
 nin-jiimaan-i-naan  our (exc) boat (-i- before suffix, connecting vowel)
 gi-jiimaan-i-naan  our (inc) boat
 gi-jiimaan-i-waa  your (pl) boat
 o-jiimaan-i-waa  their boat

Some nouns in Possessive take additional suffix /-iim/ (in example: -m). There is no rule indicating which nouns take it and which don't. You should remember such words. (In some regions this suffix in not used at all.)

 ni-zhooniya-m  my money (animate noun)
 gi-zhooniya-m  your s. money
 o-zhooniya-m-[an]  his/her money
 ni-zhooniya-m-i-naan  our (exc) money (-i- between suffixes, connecting vowel)
 gi-zhooniya-m-i-naan  our (inc) money
 gi-zhooniya-m-i-waa  your pl. money
 o-zhooniya-m-i-waa-[n]  their money

Note. In square brackets there is a suffix of another grammatical category � obviative.

Dependent Nouns

In Ojibwe there are dependent nouns which are never used without a possessive form. These are kin terms and body parts. They are considered out of sense without possessive. There are some examples:

 nim-baabaa  my father  nim-baabaa  my father
 ni-maamaa  my mother  gi-baabaa  your s. father
 nin-gosis  my son  o-baabaa-[yan]  his/her father
 nin-daanis  my daughter  nim-baabaa-naan  our (exc) father
 ni-mishoomis  my grandfather  gi-baabaa-naan  our (inc) father
 n-ookomis  my grandmother  gi-baabaa-waa  your pl. father
 ni-saye  my elder brother  o-baabaa-waa[n]  their father

Note. In square brackets there is a suffix of another grammatical category � obviative.

Noun Locative

In this noun form a noun answers the questions: where? where to? where from?, etc.
Locative forms with suffixes: /-ang, -ing, -ong/ (a vowel in a suffix depends on a stem of a noun).


Noun Locative

 oodena  town  oodena-ang  to town/in town
 onaagan  dish  onaagan-ing  on dish
 makak  box  makak-ong  in box/on box
 mitig  tree  mitig-ong  on tree
 zaaga�igan  lake  zaaga�igan-ing  in lake/on lake

atoon o�ow onaagaaning � put that (inanim.) on a dish
namadabin apabiwing � sit on a chair
adaawewigamigong nind-izhaa � I�m going to the store

Noun Diminutive

This form indicates a small size of an object.
It is made by adding a suffix /-ens/ to a noun, or depending on a stem: /-ins, -oons, -ns, -s/.  


Noun Diminutive

 ziibi  river  ziibi-ins  little river, creek
 miigwan  feather  miigwan-s  little feather
 aamoo  bee  aamoo-ns  little bee
 wajiw  mount  wajiw-ens  little mount
 gekek  hawk  gekek-oons  little hawk

Noun Pejorative

This form describes a noun in a pejorative way, as �damn�.
It forms with a suffix /-iish/.

i-iw jiimaaniish - that damn boat

Noun Vocative

This is a vocative form of kin terms which is used to address people.

Ninga /mother/                    -        Ning! /mom!/
Mishomis /grandfather/        -       Misho! /grandfather!/
Nokomis /grandmother/       -       Noko! /grandmother!/, etc.

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