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Lenape Possession

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

mënutès (a bag) nëmënutès (my bag) këmënutès (your bag) wëmënutès (his or her bag)
ahsën (a rock) ndahsën (my rock) këtahsën (your rock) wëtahsën (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 Algonquian languages like Lenape. 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. Since w combines strangely with other consonants in Lenape, the 3rd person prefix sometimes ends up being dropped or manifested only as roundedness in the following syllable (m to mw in *mis, below; a to o in *naxk.)

*ux (root noun, not used alone) nux (my father) kux (your father) uxa (his or her father)
*il (root noun, not used alone) nil (my head) kil (your head) wil (his or her head)
*mis (root noun, not used alone) nëmis (my sister) këmis (your sister) mwisa (his or her sister)
*naxk (root noun, not used alone) naxk (my hand) knaxk (your hand) noxk (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 (-a) at the end of the word. This is not true for inanimate words.

2) Not every Lenape noun will exactly fit this pattern. Every language, including Lenape, has irregular words. If you make a mistake, a Lenape 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 Lenape language resources.
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