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Cherokee Possession

On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Cherokee words begin with tsi- or ag-. Those are the two major Cherokee prefixes meaning "my." In Cherokee, certain nouns (including most body parts and kinship terms) have inalienable possession. That means it is necessary to use a possessive pronoun--the root of the word cannot be used on its own. A mother can't exist unless she is someone's mother, and a hand can't exist unless it is someone's hand. For most nouns, the basic possessive prefixes are either agi-, tsa-, and u- or else tsi-, hi-, and ga-. In the following chart, we've also included the vocative form of kinship nouns (the form used for addressing someone) and the detached form of body parts (the form used for a body part that has been severed from the body of its original owner--such as a chicken leg on your plate, for example.)

*doda (root noun, not used alone) agidoda (my father) tsadoda (your father) udoda (his or her father) edoda (Father!)
*lisi (root noun, not used alone) agilisi (my grandmother) tsalisi (your grandmother) ulisi (his or her grandmother) elisi (Grandmother!)
*woyeni (root noun, not used alone) awoyeni (my hand) tsawoyeni (your hand) uwoyeni (his or her hand) uwoya (severed hand)
*nvsgeni (root noun, not used alone) tsinvsgeni (my leg) hinvsgeni (your leg) ganvsgeni (his or her leg) ganvsge (severed leg)

Cherokee grammar is very complicated, especially to English speakers who are not used to declining nouns. This chart is actually a slight oversimplification of possessive prefixes. In particular, kinship nouns use different prefixes if they're not in the third person. "He is your father" is tsadoda in Cherokee, but "I am your father" is gvdoda. For more information about that, see this article: Gvdoda.

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