Lesson 13: What's your name?

ta'n(i)si e's(i)n~ihka'soyan
'What's your name?', literally 'How are you named?'
William n(i)tis(i)n~ihka'son
'My name is William.', literally 'I am named William.'
mo'n~a James n(i)tis(i)n~ihka'son
'My name is not James.'
mo'n~a e'kosi n(i)tis(i)n~ihka'son
'That's not my name.', literally 'I am not named that way.'
Mary na kitis(i)n~ihka'son
'Is your name Mary?'
ta'n(i)si e's(i)n~ihka'soya'n
'What's my name?'
James kitis(i)n~ihka'son
'Your name is James.'
ta'n(i)si e's(i)n~ihka'sot
'What's his name?', 'What's her name?'
Thomas is(i)n~ihka'sow
'His name is Thomas.'
Alice na is(i)n~ihka'sow
'Is her name Alice?'
ta'n(i)si e's(i)n~ihka'sot kika'wiy
'What is your mother's name?'
ta'n(i)si e's(i)n~ihka'sot ko'hta'wiy
'What is your father's name?'
ta'n(i)si e's(i)n~ihka'sot awa
'What is this one's name?'
Mary is(i)n~ihka'sow nima'ma'
'My mother's name is Mary.'
McKay is(i)n~ihka'sowak o'kok
'These ones are named McKay.'

New Words


'your mother'
'your father'

Again, some speakers consider these more correct than kima'ma' and kipa'pa', but other speakers rarely or never use them.


'be named...'


A verb in a supplementary question in Cree requires personal affixes that are very different from the indicative personal affixes. They are called the subjunctive personal affixes, and a verb with a subjunctive personal affix is called a subjunctive verb.

The subjunctive personal affixes are all suffixes. The following are illustrated in the sentences:

'I' (sentence 6)
'you (singular)' (sentence 1) (Northern dialects -yin for -yan)
'he, she' (sentences 8, 11-13)

In supplementary questions, verbs that begin with is or it change the i to e' in the present tense.

Note that the demonstrative pronouns can be used without a noun; then they are often to be translated by 'this one', 'that one', etc. in English.

'What is my name?' (sentence 6) is, of course, not a very useful question in most situations, but it may be handy for language-class practice.


This lesson offers a good opportunity for classmates to get acquainted.

  1. Someone should ask the person next to him 'What's your name?', and get an answer. Then the person who was asked should ask the next person, and so on until everyone has both asked and answered.

  2. Now, beginning again, the first speaker should ask the second speaker for some third classmate's name, saying 'What's that man's name?' or 'What's that woman's name?', and get the answer 'His or her name is...', and so on around the room until everyone has both asked and answered.

    Note that in Cree, as in every other language, there is a tendency to answer supplementary questions with just a word or two: 'What's your name? Bill.' This is the most natural conversational style, but it provides poor language practice, so supplementary questions in language class should be answered with "full sentences": 'What's your name? My name is Bill.'

    In a class of only one student, student and teacher can ask each other their names, and then ask the name of someone in a picture.

  3. In classes large or small, students and teacher can ask for the names of one another's mother and father.

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