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Animate and Inanimate Nouns In Cherokee

On our Cherokee colors worksheet, you can see that some adjectives have two different forms in Cherokee--for example, the yellow rock is dalonige'i, but the yellow bird is adalonige'i. That's because there is a distinction in Cherokee between animate and inanimate nouns.

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If you're familiar with a European language like Spanish or French, nouns in those languages are divided by gender. In those European languages, adjectives describing masculine and feminine nouns have different endings. So if you want to use the word "old" to describe a man in Spanish, you say viejo, but if you want to describe a woman, you say vieja. In Cherokee, you use the same adjective and verb forms regardless of whether the subject is male or female. Instead, there are different word forms depending on whether the subject is animate or inanimate. All people and animals are considered animate in Cherokee, and with only a few exceptions, plants and objects are considered inanimate in Cherokee.

dalonige nvya (yellow rock) adalonige tsisgwa (yellow bird) didalonige nvya (yellow rocks) anidalonige tsisgwa (yellow birds)
osda nvya (good rock) osda tsisgwa (good bird) tsosda nvya (good rocks) anosda tsisgwa (good birds)
sgwahlesdi gayvhte'a (I kick a ball) gihli tsiyayvhte'a (I kick a dog) disgwahlesdi degayvhte'a (I kick balls) gihli gatsiyayvhte'a (I kick dogs)
sgwahlesdi tsigowtiha (I see a ball) gihli tsigowtiha (I see a dog) disgwahlesdi detsigowtiha (I see balls) gihli gatsigowtiha (I see dogs)


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