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Animate and Inanimate Nouns In Miami-Illinois

On our Miami-Illinois colors worksheet, you can see that some adjectives have two or three different forms in Miami-Illinois--for example, "yellow" is translated as oonsaawi in Miami-Illinois, but the yellow rock is oonsaaweeki, and the yellow bird is oonsaayosita. That's because there is a distinction in Miami-Illinois 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 Algonkian languages like Miami-Illinois, 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 Miami-Illinois, 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 Miami-Illinois any more than you would be able to guess that "feather" is feminine and "river" is masculine in Spanish.

ahseni oonsaaweeki
(the rock is yellow)
weehseenswa oonsaayosita
(the bird is yellow)
ahsena oonsaaweekia
(the rocks are yellow)
weehseenswaki oonsaayositaki
(the birds are yellow)
ahseni waapiki
(the rock is white)
weehseenswa waapisita
(the bird is white)
ahsena waapikia
(the rocks are white)
weehseenswaki waapisitaki
(the birds are white)

The third form that is written above the pictures--which doesn't exist for all the colors--is a prefix form. So instead of saying weehseenswa waapisita you could also say waapiweehseenswa, white bird. That prefix is the same for both animate and inanimate nouns.


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