When I set out to look for learning materials on the web, I was initially excited to find so many search results for the language. This excitement quickly faded with the number of 404 - Not Found messages I kept getting on each click of a link. So I've created this space as a repository of resources for learning Anishinaabemowin, or more specifically, Ojibwemowin. With time, I hope it can be of use not just to me, but to others.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ojibwe - forming basic questions, Part 1

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to write separately about questions and how they are formed in Ojibwe.

So far, we've hit upon two different types of questions: the first type being simple yes/no questions, such as
  • "Giwii-wiisin na?" (Do you want to eat?)
  • "Gegoo na giwii-minikwen?" (Do you want to drink something?)

These examples all use "na" as a question marker, either at the end of the sentence or to emphasize either the subject or object, such as "that man" or "something".

Noticing the new vocabulary notes at the end of each lesson, we see that in these cases the verb used is marked with a (vai):
  • wiisini (vai) == eat
  • minikwe (vai) == drink

This means the verb is an animate intransitive verb. What that in turn means is that the verb has an animate subject.. So the verb can be conjugated simply by adding the subject, "gi" (you) in front of the verb in simple form. The "wii" that follows the subject in both these examples tells us that it is "want to" or "would like to" (it's actually a future tense marker, but we'll get into that in a later lesson).

The second type of question we've encountered so far is one that uses a question word, or interrogative, such as:
  • "aaniish" (how)
  • "aaniish apii" (when)
  • "aaniindi" (where)

When using these question words, the verb is conjugated differently.

Let's look at the word "onjibaa" (to come from somewhere). It's also an animate intransitive verb, but we change "onjibaa" to "wenjibaa" and add the second person singular (you) ending of "yan". So the sentence would be "Aaiindi wenjibaayan". So far, all our interrogative word sentences are formed this way. Back in lesson 4 in the notes, there are examples of off the different persons (1st, 2nd, 3rd persons, both single and plural).

So, another example with a verb we've already learned with the 3rd person plural "waad" (they): "Aaniindi niimi'idiwaad?" (Where are they dancing?) The verb base is "niimi'idi" , also (vai), and we simply add "waad" to it with the question word "aaniindi" to start the sentence.

In the next Pimsleur lesson, we'll learn another question word: "Wegonen" (What), but it's used the same way as the other question words listed here, so there's no harm in trying out examples with it.

There are other ways to form a question, some with confusing grammatical terminology. We'll cover them in detail as they come up in the lessons, but armed with a good dictionary, we can already form loads of questions. I recommend The Ojibwe People's Dictionary because it also gives great examples and has audio samples too!

1 comment:

  1. I've been through a lot of confusion about the initial vowel changes. Simply put, there are 3 major verb "orders," or forms in Ojibwe -

    independent - niminikwe - I drink

    "plain conjunct" - minikweyaan - if I drink, when I drink, etc

    "changed conjunct" - same verb endings as plain conjunct but also with the initial vowel change, here i -> e
    so menikweyaan

    Wegonen menikweyan = What are you drinking? (changed conjunct)

    Nibi niminikwe = I'm drinking water.

    Some questions use plain conjunct, some use changed. It's impossible for me to describe which one happens when in this small space (still learning myself), but if you're aware that these two different conjunct forms exist, it will save you much confusion in the Pimsleur course. For some prefixes, the vowel change goes on the prefix instead of the root, so we have
    Wegonen waa-minikweyan? What will you drink, the wii becomes waa, but then the main verb root minikwe is unchanged, but this is still a "changed conjunct" form.


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