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Animate and Inanimate Nouns In Gros Ventre

On our Gros Ventre colors worksheet, you can see that some adjectives have two different forms in Gros Ventre--for example, the red rock is bee'ee, and the red bird is bee'eety. That's because there is a distinction in Gros Ventre 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. For men and women, this is easy to remember, but for other nouns, you just have to remember their grammatical gender. In Algonquian languages like Gros Ventre, 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 Gros Ventre, but for other nouns, you just have to remember whether they are animate or not--you probably wouldn't be able to guess that "feather" is animate and "river" is inanimate in Gros Ventre any more than you would be able to guess that "feather" is feminine and "river" is masculine in Spanish.


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