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Animate and Inanimate Nouns In Mohegan

On our Mohegan colors worksheet, you can see that some adjectives have two different forms in Mohegan--for example, the black rock is sukyuw, but the black bird is sukisuw. That's because there is a distinction in Mohegan 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 Mohegan, 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 Mohegan, 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 Mohegan any more than you would be able to guess that "feather" is feminine and "river" is masculine in Spanish.

sun wpyuw
(the rock is white)
cits wpisuw
(the bird is white)
sunsh wpyush
(the rocks are white)
citsak wpisuwak
(the birds are white)
sun sukyuw
(the rock is black)
cits sukisuw
(the bird is black)
sunsh sukyush
(the rocks are black)
citsak sukisuwak
(the birds are black)


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