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Mi'kmaq Possession

On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Mi'kmaq words begin with N. N- is a Mi'kmaq prefix that means "my." Possessive prefixes can be used with almost any noun in Mi'kmaq. For most nouns, the possessive prefixes are nu-, ku-, and wu- before a noun that begins with a consonant, and nt-, kt-, and wt- before a noun that begins with a vowel.

tmíkn (an axe) nutmíkn (my axe) kutmíkn (your axe) wutmíkn (his or her axe)
útáqan (a oar) ntútáqan (my oar) ktútáqan (your oar) wtútáqan (his or her oar)

However, certain nouns (including most body parts and kinship terms, and some words for personal objects like clothing) have inalienable possession in Algonquian languages like Mi'kmaq. That means you must use a possessive prefix with one of those words. You cannot say *lis, "a maternal aunt," or *ipit, "a tooth." It isn't grammatically correct.

For these words, the possessive pronouns are slightly different. The pronouns are n-, k-, and w- before most inalienable root nouns.

*ókumaw (root noun, not used alone) nókumaw (my relative) kókumaw (your relative) wókumaw (his or her relative)
*ipit (root noun, not used alone) nipit (my tooth) kipit (your tooth) wipit (his or her tooth)
*lis (root noun, not used alone) nilis (my aunt) kilis (your aunt) wilis (his or her aunt)
*qosi (root noun, not used alone) nqosi (my fingernail) kqosi (your fingernail) wqosi (his or her fingernail)

Two things to take note of:

1) Not all Mi'kmaq dialects are the same. Some communities say "u-" instead of "w-" before a consonant, so that they say "ulis" instead of "wilis." Other communities say "n-" instead of "nt-" before a vowel, so that they say "nútáqan" instead of "ntútáqan." These dialect differences are similar to the different pronunciations used by English speakers in New York and Georgia. Mi'kmaq speakers can all understand each other's accents without any difficulty--but they may be able to guess where another speaker comes from by his or her accent.

2) Not every Mi'kmaq noun will exactly fit this pattern. Every language, including Mi'kmaq, has irregular words. If you make a mistake, a Mi'kmaq 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 Mi'kmaq language resources.
Learn more about the Mi'kmaq tribe.

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