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On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Montagnais words begin with
Ni. Ni- is a Montagnais prefix that means "my." Possessive prefixes can be used with almost any noun in Montagnais.
For most nouns, the possessive prefixes are ni-, tshi-, and u- before a noun that begins with a consonant,
and nit-, tshit-, and ut- before a noun that begins with a vowel.
|massin (a shoe)
||nimassin (my shoe)
||tshimassin (your shoe)
||umassin (his or her shoe)
|ush (a boat)
||nitush (my boat)
||tshitush (your boat)
||utush (his or her boat)
However, certain nouns (including most body parts and kinship terms)
have inalienable possession in
Algonquian languages like
Montagnais. That means you must use a possessive prefix
with one of those words. You cannot say *tun, "a mouth," or *ukum, "a grandmother." It isn't grammatically correct. There is an indefinite prefix,
M- or Mi-, which you can use to be abstract or if the possessor is unknown to you
(i.e. if a body part has been severed, or has hit you from behind.)
For these words, the possessive pronouns are slightly different. The pronouns are still ni-, tshi-, and u-
before a root noun that begins with a consonant, but they are
n-, tsh-, and u- before a root noun that begins with a vowel.
|*tun (root noun, not used alone)
||nitun (my mouth)
||tshitun (your mouth)
||utun (his or her mouth)
||mitun (someone's mouth)
|*ipit (root noun, not used alone)
||nipit (my tooth)
||tshipit (your tooth)
||uipit (his or her tooth)
||mipit (someone's tooth)
|*ukum (root noun, not used alone)
||nukum (my grandmother)
||tshukum (your grandmother)
||ukuma (his or her grandmother)
||mukum (someone's grandmother)
Two things to take note of:
1) When animate words use the third person form ("his or her"), there is not only a prefix (u-) but also a suffix (-a) at the end of the word.
This is not true for inanimate words.
2) Notice that "his or her grandmother" is ukuma in Montagnais, not uukuma. That's because
the consonant sound u (pronounced like an English "w") is never pronounced before the vowel sound u in Montagnais.
There are other exceptions to the prefix pattern on this page as well. Every language, including Montagnais, has irregular words.
If you make a mistake, a Montagnais 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 Innu language resources.
Learn more about the Montagnais Indian tribe.
Blackfeet Indian history
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