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.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Expressing want or willingness in the past

Recently on a language forum I frequent, a question came up about North American native languages and how they express a want or willingness to do something in the past.

In Ojibwe, expressing a want or willingness to do something is actually done by using the future tense. The example sentence "Niwii-anokii" means both "I want to work" and "I will work" / "I am going to work". If I wanted to say "I was going to work", I would simply replace "wii-" with "gii-", as well as add a consonant buffer between "ni" and "gii-", making the sentence "Ningii-anokii". Since expressing a desire to do something and stating you will do something in the future uses the same preverb, how would you go about expressing a past desire to do something? I was having trouble wrapping my head around exactly how to go about doing this. 

There's actually a very simple answer to this, and it seemed really awkward, until I got confirmation from a couple different sources. The amazingly simple answer is that you can simply chain the preverbs "gii-" (past) and "wii-" (future)! So if I wanted to say "I wanted to work" I would simply say "Ningiiwii-anokii". Why can I do this? Well, there are four types of preverbs. Both "gii-" and "wii-" fall into the first group or preverbs, meaning they represent tense, mode and aspect. Preverbs of the same family can be stacked, to put it succinctly. The negative of that sentence would simply follow the same rules that would be used in any other negative statement: Use "gaawiin", clause, and end the verb stem ("anokii" in this case) with the usual "sii". So if I want to say "I didn't want to work", it would be "Gaawiin ningiiwii-anokiisii". From there, you can take it further by using an adverb, such as "anymore" (zhigwa) or "never" (gaawiin/gaa wiikaa). I mention this because in the forum discussion, the question actually asked for examples of "I stopped wanting to work". The deeper I get into Ojibwe, the more I discover that you just can't translate literally (Ojibwe is far from alone in this). 

Again, there's a really simple way to express the same sentiment. In short, you just don't use "stop", which, by the way, is another preverb, but does not express tense ("booni-"). It's much easier to use an adverb, such as "anymore" or "never" together with the regular negative statement.

So to say "I didn't want to work anymore" would be "Gaawiin ningiiwii-anokiisii zhigwa", while "I didn't ever want to work" would be "Gaawiin wiikaa ningiiwii-anokiisii". Notice that instead of using "gaa wiikaa" at the end of the sentence, it's incorporated into the initial "gaawiin".

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