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Algonquin Possession

On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Algonquin words begin with N or In. These are Algonquin prefixes that mean "my." Possessive prefixes can be used with almost any noun in Algonquin. For most nouns, the possessive prefixes are ni-, ki-, and o- before a noun that begins with a consonant, and nind-, kid-, and od- before a noun that begins with a vowel.

chìmàn (a boat) nichìmàn (my boat) kichìmàn (your boat) ochìmàn (his or her boat)
ajebwayànàk (an oar) nindajebwayànàk (my oar) kidajebwayànàk (your oar) odajebwayànàk (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 Algonquin. That means you must use a possessive prefix with one of those words. You cannot say *misenz, "an older sister," or *denan, "a tongue." It isn't grammatically correct.

For these words, the possessive pronouns are slightly different. The pronouns are still ni-, gi-, and o- before a root noun that begins with a consonant, but they are n-, k-, and w- before a root noun that begins with a vowel. The first-person prefix ("my") is usually nin- before the consonant d.

*misenz (root noun,
not used alone)
nimisenz (my older sister) kimisenz (your older sister) omisenzan (his or her older sister)
*denan (root noun,
not used alone)
nindenan (my tongue) kidenan (your tongue) odenan (his or her tongue)
*òkomis (root noun,
not used alone)
nòkomis (my grandmother) kòkomis (your grandmother) òkomisan (his or her grandmother)
*ìyaw (root noun,
not used alone)
nìyaw (my body) kìyaw (your body) wìyaw (his or her body)

Two things to take note of:

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

2) Notice that "his or her grandmother" is òkomisan in Algonquin, not wòkomisan. That's because w is never pronounced before an ò in Algonquin. There are other exceptions to the prefix pattern on this page as well. Every language, including Algonquin, has irregular words. If you make a mistake, a Algonquin speaker will probably still understand you, just like an English speaker understands a person who says "fighted" instead of "fought."

Click here for Algonquin pronunciation information.
Click here for more Algonquin language resources.
Learn more about the Algonquin Indian tribe.

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