Lesson 8: What is this or that?, Who is this or that?

ke'kwa'n o'ma
'What is this?'
ke'kwa'n anima
'What is that?'
ke'kwa'n ne'ma
'What is that in the distance?'
awe'na awa
'Who is this?'
awe'na ana
'Who is that?'
awe'na na'ha
'Who is that in the distance?'
wa'skahikan anima
'That is a house.'
wa'skahikan o'ma
'this is a house.'
iskwa'hte'm anima
'That is a door.'
masinahikan o'ma
'This is a book.'
na'pe'w ana
'That is a man.'
na'pe'w awa
'This is a man.'
iskwe'w ana
'That is a woman.'
atim na'ha
'That is a dog in the distance.'
pi'sim ana
'That is the sun or the moon.'

The Cree language acknowledges the similarity between the sun and the moon, namely, that they are the only heavenly bodies that appear to the unaided eye as discs rather than as pinpoints of light, by givinlg them one name. The distinction can be expressed if desired by using ki'sika'wi-pi'sim 'the sun', literally 'the daytime-pi'sim' and tipiska'wi-pi'sim 'the moon', literally 'the nighttime-pi'sim'.

wacahkos ana
'That is a star.'
(Dialects: acahkos or aca'hk for wacahkos.)
n(i)pa'pa' awa
'This is my father.'
nima'ma' ana
'That is my mother.'
Instead of n(i)pa'pa, some people use no'hta'wiy, and instead of nima'ma', some people use n(i)ka'wiy. Those who use them often consider no'hta'wiy and n(i)ka'wiy to be more correct, and consider n(i)pa'pa' and nima'ma' to be slang, but other speakers use only the latter two words.
n(i)kosis awa
'This is my son.'
n(i)ta'nis na'ha
'That's my daughter in the distance.'
Mary ana
'That's Mary.'
ci'ma'n na o'ma
'Is this a boat?'
o'ma na ci'ma'n
'Is this a boat?'

New Words


'a star' (in some dialects)
'a star' (in some dialects)
'a dog'
'a boat'
'a door'
'a woman'
ki'sika'wi - pi'sim
the sun
'a book'
'a man'
'my mother'
'my son'
'my mother'
'my father'
'my daughter'
'my father'
'the sun or moon'
tipiska'wi - pi'sim
'the moon'
'a star' (in some dialects)
'a house'

Demonstrative pronouns:

awa, o'ma
ana, anima
na'ha, ne'ma
'that in the distance'

Interrogative pronouns:



Nouns are words like 'a star', 'a dog', 'a boat', 'a door', 'Mary', etc. Demonstrative pronouns are the words 'this' and 'that', and interrogative pronouns are 'who?' and 'what?'

A Cree demonstrative pronoun can be placed after a noun to form a statement meaning 'This is...', 'That is...' (sentences 7-21)

A Cree demonstrative pronoun can be placed after or before a noun, with na between the two, to make a yes-or-no question meaning 'Is this...?', 'Is that...?' (sentences 22,23)

A Cree demonstrative pronoun can be placed after an interrogative pronoun to make a supplementary question, 'What is this?', etc. (sentences 1-6).

Note that Cree has two words each for 'this', 'that', and 'that in the distance'. They are used as follows:

  1. awa, ana, and na'ha are used with all nouns that denote living things (sentences 11-14, 17-21)
  2. o'ma, anima, and ne'ma are used with most, but not quite all,nouns that denote non-living things (sentences 7-10, 22, 23)
  3. awa, ana, and na'ha are used with the remaining nouns even though those nouns name non-living things. Such nouns include waca'hkos and pi'sim in this wection (sentences 15-16)

Nouns that are used with awa, ana, and na'ha, whether they refer to living or non-living things, are called animate nouns. Nouns that are used with o'ma, anima, and ne'ma are called inanimate nouns.

(Few students at this point can resist the temptation to speculate that the Cree people use pi'sim and waca'hkos and the names of a few other non-living things with awa, ana, and na'ha, because, in fact, the Crees believe these items are in some sense alive. And many a Cree speaker will collaborate to some extent in this speculation. So it should be pointed out here that the origin of this use of awa, ana, and na'ha lies in the remote and hidden past; to modern Cree people it is merely a habit of speech, and they know perfectly well what is alive and what i'nt. Similarly, in French, la maison 'the house' is called Feminine because it takes la like lafille 'the girl', and lemagasin 'the store' is called masculine because it takes le like le garcon 'the boy, but the French don't think houses are girls and stores are boys.)

The student can use the questions in sentences 1-6 to get the name of anything he can point at, and thereby increase his vocabylary of nouns, but he should be warned of on variation in usage. Many people use awe'na for persons and ke'kwa'n for everthing else, just as 'sho?' and 'what?' are used in English. Other people feel that awe'na should be used to ask about anything that is named with an animate noun, whether it is living or not. Of course, if the student doew not yet know the mane of a non-living thing, he cannot know if it is designated by an animate noun, so he must use ke'kwa'n. He may then have hsi question corrected before he gets his answer, if he happens to seek an animate noun from one of the latter group of speakers.

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