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Animate and Inanimate Nouns In Mi'kmaq

On our Mi'kmaq colors worksheet, you can see that some color verbs have two different forms in Mi'kmaq--for example, the green rock is stoqonamúk, but the green bird is stoqonamuksit. That's because there is a distinction in Mi'kmaq 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 Mi'kmaq, 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 Mi'kmaq, 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 Mi'kmaq any more than you would be able to guess that "feather" is feminine and "river" is masculine in Spanish.

kunntew stoqonamúk
(the rock is green)
sisip stoqonamuksit
(the bird is green)
kunntal stoqonamúkl
(the rocks are green)
sisipk stoqonamuksitik
(the birds are green)
kunntew meskík
(the rock is big)
sips meskilk
(the bird is big)
kunntal meskíkl
(the rocks are big)
sisipk meskilkik
(the birds are big)


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