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Maliseet-Passamaquoddy Possession

On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy words begin with N. N- or Nt- is an Maliseet-Passamaquoddy prefix that means "my." Possessive prefixes can be used with almost any noun in Maliseet-Passamaquoddy. For most nouns, the possessive prefixes are n-, k-, and '- before a noun that begins with a consonant, and nt-, kt-, and 't- before a noun that begins with a vowel. (The ' used to be pronounced as a "w" in the past, but no longer is pronounced that way today.)

pahq (an arrow) npahqem (my arrow) kpahqem (your arrow) 'pahqem (his or her arrow)
ahsuhun (a blanket) ntahsuhunom (my blanket) ktahsuhunom (your blanket) 'tahsuhunom (his or her blanket)


However, certain nouns (including most body parts and kinship terms, and some words for personal objects like clothing) have inalienable possession in Algonkian languages like Maliseet-Passamaquoddy. That means you must use a possessive prefix with one of those words. You cannot say *ikuwoss, "a mother," or *oniyakon, "a head." It isn't grammatically correct.

For these words, the possessive pronouns are slightly different. The pronouns are still n-, k-, and '- before a root noun that begins with a consonant, but they are n-, k-, and w- before a root noun that begins with a vowel.

*ikuwoss (root noun, not used alone) nikuwoss (my mother) kikuwoss (your mother) wikuwossol (his or her mother)
*oniyakon (root noun, not used alone) noniyakon (my head) koniyakon (your head) woniyakon (his or her head)
*qoss (root noun, not used alone) nqoss (my son) kqoss (your son) 'qossol (his or her son)
*pihtin (root noun, not used alone) npihtin (my hand) kpihtin (your hand) 'pihtin (his or her hand)

Three things to take note of:

1) When animate nouns use the third person form ("his or her"), there is not only a prefix (w- or '-) but also a suffix (-ol) at the end of the word. This is not true for inanimate words.

2) Alienable nouns use another another suffix, -m.

3) These are general grammatical rules and are not true for every word in the language. Every language, including Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, has irregular words. If you make a mistake, a Maliseet or Passamaquoddy speaker will probably still understand you, just like an English speaker understands a person who says "fighted" instead of "fought."


Click here for a pronunciation guide.
Click here for more Maliseet-Passamaquoddy language resources.
Learn more about the Maliseet and the Passamaquoddy.


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