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Munsee Possession

On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Munsee words begin with N. N- is a Munsee prefix that means "my." Possessive prefixes can be used with almost any noun in Munsee. The possessive prefixes are n-, k-, or w- before most nouns that start with consonants, and nd-, kt-, or wt- before most nouns that start with vowels.

paxkshiikan (a knife) mbaxkshiikan (my knife) kpaxkshiikan (your knife) wupaxkshiikan (his or her knife)
asun (a rock) ndasun (my rock) ktasun (your rock) wtasun (his or her rock)


However, certain nouns (including most body parts and kinship terms, and some words for personal objects like clothing) have inalienable possession in Algonkian languages like Munsee. That means you must use a possessive prefix with one of those words. You cannot say *mis, "an older sister," or *il, "a head." It isn't grammatically correct.

For these words, the possessive pronouns are slightly different. The prefixes are usually simply n-, k-, and w- before an inalienable noun, but the w- is dropped before some sounds (like oo and m below.)

*oox (root noun, not used alone) noox (my father) koox (your father) ooxwal (his or her father)
*il (root noun, not used alone) niil (my head) kiil (your head) wiil (his or her head)
*miis (root noun, not used alone) numiis (my sister) kumiis (your sister) miisal (his or her sister)
*naxk (root noun, not used alone) naxk (my hand) kunaxk (your hand) wunaxk (his or her hand)

Two things to take note of:

1) When animate words use the third person form ("his or her"), there is not only a prefix (w-) but also a suffix (-al) at the end of the word. This is not true for inanimate words.

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


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