Indian languages * Indian tribes * What's new on our site today!

Animate and Inanimate Nouns In Meskwaki-Sauk

On our Meskwaki-Sauk colors worksheet, you can see that some adjectives have two or three different forms in Meskwaki-Sauk--for example, "white" is translated as wâpeshki in Meskwaki-Sauk, but the white rock is wâpeshkyâwi, and the white bird is wâpeshkethiwa (or wâpeshkesiwa, in the Fox dialect.) That's because there is a distinction in Meskwaki-Sauk between animate and inanimate nouns.

Sponsored Links

If you're familiar with a European language like Spanish or French, nouns in those languages are divided by gender. In those European languages, adjectives describing masculine and feminine nouns have different endings. So if you want to use the word "old" to describe a man in Spanish, you say viejo, but if you want to describe a woman, you say vieja. For men and women, this is easy to remember, but for other nouns, you just have to remember their grammatical gender. In Algonkian languages like Meskwaki-Sauk, you use the same adjective and verb forms regardless of whether the subject is male or female. Instead, there are different word forms depending on whether the subject is animate or inanimate. All people and animals are considered animate in Meskwaki-Sauk, but for other nouns, you just have to remember whether they are animate or not--you probably wouldn't be able to guess that "feather" is animate and "river" is inanimate in Meskwaki-Sauk any more than you would be able to guess that "feather" is feminine and "river" is masculine in Spanish.

atheni wâpeshkyâwi
(the rock is white)
wîshkenôha wâpeshkethiwa
(the bird is white)
athenani wâpeshkyâni
(the rocks are white)
wîshkenôhaki wâpeshhkethiwaki
(the birds are white)
atheni athâwâwi
(the rock is yellow)
wîshkenôha athâwethiwa
(the bird is yellow)
athenani athâwâni
(the rocks are yellow)
wîshkenôhaki athâwethiwaki
(the birds are yellow)

The third form that is written above the pictures--which doesn't exist for all the colors--is a prefix form. So instead of saying wîshkenôha athâwethiwa you could also say athâwi-wîshkenôha, yellow bird. That prefix is the same for both animate and inanimate nouns.

Back to the Meskwaki-Sauk homepage
Back to the Native American Words homepage
Learn more about the Meskwaki-Sauk tribe

Indian nations * Indian art * Mashpee Wampanoag tribe * Lora's games * Indian names

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?

Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2020 * Contacts and FAQ page