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Shawnee Possession

On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Shawnee words begin with N. N- is a Shawnee prefix that means "my." Possessive prefixes can be used with almost any noun in Shawnee. The possessive prefixes are ni-, ki-, or ho- before most nouns that start with consonants, and nit-, kit-, or hot- before most nouns that start with vowels.

kiiša (an arrowhead) nikiiša (my arrowhead) kikiiša (your arrowhead) hokiiša (his or her arrowhead)
haθaya (a pelt) nitaθaya (my pelt) kitaθaya (your pelt) hotaθaya (his or her pelt)


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 Shawnee. That means you must use a possessive prefix with one of those words. You cannot say *kya, "a mother," or *tooni, "a mouth." It isn't grammatically correct.

For these words, the possessive pronouns are slightly different. The prefixes are usually ni-, ki-, and ho- before nouns beginning with a consonant, and n-, k-, and w- before nouns beginning with a vowel. Before nouns beginning with h, the third person possessive prefix is usually not pronounced at all.

*kya (root noun, not used alone) nikya (my mother) kikya (your mother) hokyali (his or her mother)
*tooni (root noun, not used alone) nitooni (my mouth) kitooni (your mouth) hotooni (his or her mouth)
*hokomθa (root noun, not used alone) nokomθa (my grandmother) kokomθa (your grandmother) hokomθali (his or her grandmother)
*iipiči (root noun, not used alone) niipiči (my tooth) kiipiči (your tooth) wiipiči (his or her tooth)

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 (-li) at the end of the word. This is not true for inanimate words.

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


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