1.  Regular Animate Noun Stems – NA1

The stem of a regular animate noun is the same as its singular form.  This means that the singular form can be cited on its own:


(1)       mahihkan                    “wolf”

    sihkos                          “weasel”

    asikan                         “sock”


When representing these nouns as stem forms, they can simply be cited as in the examples above, or they can be marked as stems by adding a hyphen or dash at the end:


(2)      mahihkan–                  “wolf”

    sihkos–                        “weasel”

    asikan–                       “sock”


The hyphen indicates that this is a noun stem which can have suffixes added.  Since these are independent nouns, though, the hyphen is not strictly necessary, and the words can be cited in the singular.  The stem form of regular nouns does not undergo any change when suffixes are added; the singular form can always be found in the exact same shape as part of longer, inflected words.  For instance, when the animate plural-marking suffix –ak is added to a regular stem, it is a straightforward combination of stem and suffix:


(3)       stem                            plural              inflected noun

    mahihkan–      +        –ak      →      mahihkanak    “wolves”


Both the regular singular form and the regular animate plural suffix are present without any complications.  The occurrence of this straightforward process is what marks regular stems as regular.  Because this is the most basic form of NA stem, regular NA stems will be identified by the abbreviation NA1.  Examples of NA1s will be used to illustrate the basic patterns of plural-marking, possessive-marking, the locative and the diminutive.  After these have been demonstrated, the minor differences exhibited by the other stem types will be discussed in their respective sections.


1.1  Regular Plural and Obviative

As introduced under Nouns, the majority of all nouns are count nouns.  This means that the entity that the noun represents can be counted, and that we can refer to just one of the entity, or to two, or three, or eighty-seven, etc.  However, in most if not all languages, there is also a small class of nouns which cannot be counted.  These are generally referred to as non-count or mass nouns.  Such nouns will typically only occur in the singular without plural forms.  In Cree, nouns like yēkaw “sand” and kōna “snow” are mass nouns which cannot be marked as plural, and kōna is also an example of an animate mass noun.  Mass nouns will follow the appropriate class forms as discussed below, though they will simply be missing plural forms.

When a noun is a count noun, we can specify the number of the entity, but most languages also mark the inflectional category of Number by having distinct forms for singular and plural.  Singular forms are used when there is only one of the noun, while plural forms are used to indicate that there are more than one.  Both English and Cree mark the category of Number, and specifically the plural.  In English, the most common plural marker is the suffix –s. However, other, more irregular patterns, such as vowel-changes, also occur in English (as illustrated in the introduction).  In contrast to the irregularities of English, plural-marking in Cree is always accomplished by the addition of a suffix.  The regular form of this suffix for animate nouns has already been introduced above.  It is the suffix –ak.  This is, with only relatively minor complications by stem subclass, the same for all NA count nouns.  Thus, the singular forms of all (count) NA1s can be put into the following frame in order to create the plural form:


Table II.1.1

Singular and Plural Forms of the Regular NA1 Stem mahihkan–

NA1 Stem Number Word Translation
singular mahihkan– mahihkan “wolf”
plural mahihkan– –ak mahihkanak “wolves”


In this chart, the singular and stem forms are shown to be identical.  Nothing at all is added to the stem for the singular, and so the slot for Number-marking is left blank.  In order to form the plural, however, the suffix –ak must be added.  A general blank form of this chart can be used as a frame for all Regular Stem Animate Count Nouns as follows:


Table II.1.2

Singular and Plural Forms of Regular NA1 Stems

NA1 Stem Number Word
plural –ak


In this chart, the stem form of any NA1 Stem can be inserted to create the singular and plural forms.  It will be seen subsequently that this same chart can be used without modification for at least one more sub-class, the vowel-glide stems (NA2).  However, regular and vowel-glide stems must still be differentiated on the basis of criteria other than plural formation.

Unlike inanimate Plains Cree nouns, however, singular and plural are not the only forms that animate nouns can take and thus the preceding tables are not complete.  Cross-cutting the number distinction on animate nouns is the important discourse category of obviation.  Obviation is a category that allows for differentiation between two or more third person participants in a conversation, story or other discourse.  The most prominent or topical third person will be the “proximate” one, while any other third persons are marked as obviative (or of less immediate discourse saliency). The number distinction between singular and plural, as described immediately above, applies only to proximate third persons.  In contrast, obviative nouns all receive the same suffix –a, which replaces number-marking and renders the noun ambiguous between singular and plural.  Thus, animate nouns can occur in three “number” forms, singular, plural and obviative.  As such, we can augment Tables II.1.1 and II.1.2 as II.1.3 and II.1.4 respectively, by adding in the important category of the obviative.


Table II.1.3

Singular, Plural and Obviative Forms of the Regular NI1 Stem mahihkan–

NI1 Stem Num/Obv Word Translation
singular mahihkan– mahihkan “wolf”
plural mahihkan– –ak mahihkanak “wolves”
obviative mahihkan– –a mahihkana “wolf/wolves”


Table II.1.4

Singular, Plural and Obviative Forms of Regular NI1 Stems

NA1 Stem Num/Obv Word
plural –ak
obviative –a


Much has been made of the fact that the animate obviative suffix –a is identical to the inanimate plural –a.  Despite this surface similarity, however, animate nouns do not cease to be animate when marked as obviative.  They are simply marked as less salient in comparison to the animate proximate noun, allowing for two distinct third person animate referents to be distinguished in discourse.

Again, these same patterns will hold for vowel-glide stems, but require some modifications for consonant-/w/ and single-syllable stems.  In addition to these forms, the obviative will be an exceptionally important category in the following discussion of possessive marking on animate nouns.


1.2  Regular Possessive

Possessive-marking involves the marking of nouns as belonging to or being related to someone and is equivalent to the English use of possessive determiners (or pronouns) such as my, your, their, etc.  In Cree, however, the possessive is marked by the addition of prefixes (added at the beginning of the nouns), as well as some suffixes (added to the end of the noun).  In order to demonstrate the possessive paradigm (or pattern of prefixes and suffixes), we must again review the category of Person, which involves dividing reference into three distinct categories:


1          First Person                – the person speaking; the Speaker

2          Second Person           – the person being spoken to; the Addressee

3          Third Person               – the person spoken about; neither Speaker nor Addressee


Any speech act, any conversation, involves speakers and addressees.  The person speaking at any given time is the speaker or first person.  In English, first persons are represented by such pronouns as I, me, my, etc.  In Cree, first persons are commonly represented by the pronoun niya or the prefix ni– or nit–.  The second person or addressee, on the other hand, is the person being spoken to or addressed in the conversation.  In English, the pronouns you and your represent second persons while Cree has the pronoun kiya or the prefix ki– or kit–.  Finally, those not involved in the conversation, but mentioned by the speaker, are considered third persons.  English has such pronouns as he, she, it, him, her, his, its, etc. to refer to third persons, while Cree third person possessives are marked by the prefix o– or ot–.  The following chart thus illustrates the English and Cree equivalents for person marking in possessive constructions:


Table II.1.5

English and Cree Possessive Person Categories

Person English Cree
1  First person my ni(t)–
2  Second person your ki(t)–
3  Third person his/her/its o(t)–


Whether or not the person prefix contains the optional [t] sound is determined by the initial sound of the noun.  For instance, the basic forms of the prefixes, ni–, ki–, and o–, are used when the noun begins with a consonant, as in (4a).  The [t]-forms are used if the independent noun begins with a vowel, as in (4b).


(4)       a)    ni       +          kotawān          →        nikotawān       “my campfire, my fireplace”

     b)    nit     +          asikan              →        nitasikan         “my sock”


Thus, we can say that there are two different sets of possessive prefixes for Independent stems: ni–, ki–, and o– are used with consonant-initial stems, while nit–, kit–, and ot– are used with vowel-initial stems.  Marking the [t] connector as optional, we can represent these three suffixes as: ni(t)–, ki(t)–, and o(t)–.

As will be seen subsequently, the bare pattern exemplified in (4) is actually quite rare in Cree.  Most animate nouns in Cree cannot simply be marked for possession with no more than the person prefix.  For one thing, the class of kinship terms which express family relationships are all dependent animate noun (NDA) stems and follow a slightly different pattern as discussed in their own section of these grammar pages.  Even animate nouns that are not dependent stems frequently require additional marking by the suffix –im when marked for possession, as in (5).


(5)       ni       +    pīsimohkān–    +    –im     →        nipīsimohkānim          “my clock”

     nit     +    ospwākan–       +    –im    →        nitōspwākanim           “my pipe”


This will also be discussed in more detail below.

In addition to the category of Person, Number is also important to possessive marking, since Person categories can be either singular or plural in both Cree and English.  When we divide the three person categories (1, 2, 3) into singular (s) and plural (p) forms, the result is a six-way division as in Table II.1.6.


Table II.1.6

Interaction of Person and Number Categories

Person Singular Plural
First 1s 1p
Second 2s 2p
Third 3s 3p


Some languages use just these six categories, but often additional categories are introduced for more and finer distinctions, while occasionally even fewer distinctions are made.  Cree makes more distinctions than the basic six illustrated in Table II.1.6, and does not mark the exact same categories found in English.

First of all, Cree does not have the “gender” distinction of masculine, feminine and neuter found in English grammar.  Thus, one form can stand alone for third person singular (3s), translatable as either “his” or “her”.  However, Cree does add a further distinction among third persons which has a similar effect of helping to distinguish different third person referents.  This distinction, discussed in the preceding section, is known as obviation, with the marked category known as the obviative or the fourth person (4) in contrast to the unmarked proximate.  The proximate third person can be divided into singular (3s) and plural (3p), but the obviative has no number distinctions.  With the exception of the obviative, Cree does have number distinctions for all persons, so unlike English, there are distinct forms for second person singular and plural.  Finally, Cree has another person distinction not found in English which divides first person plural forms into the categories of exclusive and inclusive, as illustrated in Table II.1.7.  The first person plural exclusive (1p) indicates that the speaker and at least one other person are included but not the addressee.  In other words, Cree 1p includes the first person and at least one third person, but it excludes the second person(s).  In contrast, the first person plural inclusive (21) includes both the first person and second person(s).  Both of these can be translated as “our” in English, where exclusive and inclusive forms are not distinguished.


Table II.1.7

Cree Possessive Person and Number Categories

Singular Plural
1s ni(t)– 1p ni(t)–   –inān
21 ki(t)–   –inaw
2s ki(t)–
2p ki(t)–   –iwāw
3s o(t)– 3p o(t)–   –iwāw
4 o(t)–  –iyiw 4 o(t)–   –iyiw


A unique aspect of Cree possessive person-marking, demonstrated in the table above, is that prefixes and suffixes combine to mark the plural forms.  The prefixes given in Table II.1.5 above are used for both singular and plural, but special suffixes are added to distinguish the four plural categories of Cree possessor marking as well as the obviative. [Note: the obviative as described here applies to the Plains Cree dialect.  The equivalent suffix to Plains Cree -iyiw has a somewhat different function in other dialects, but this will not be discussed here.]  An example paradigm of possessive-marking on a regular animate independent consonant-initial noun stem is given in Table II.1.8, where first and second persons are grouped together in contrast to third (and fourth) persons.


Table II.1.8

Possessive Forms of Regular consonant-initial NA1 Stem kotawān–

Prefix NA1 Stem Person Number Word Translation
1s ni– kotawān– (–a(k)) nikotawān(a(k)) “my campfire(s)”
2s ki– kotawān– (–a(k)) kikotawān(a(k)) “your campfire(s)”
1p ni– kotawān– –inān (–a(k)) nikotawāninān(a(k)) “our campfire(s)”
21 ki– kotawān– –inaw (–a(k)) kikotawāninaw(a(k)) “our campfire(s)”
2p ki– kotawān– –iwāw (–a(k)) kikotawāniwāw(a(k)) “your campfire(s)”
3s o– kotawān– –a okotawāna “his/her campfire(s)”
3p o– kotawān– –iwāw –a okotawāniwāwa “their campfire(s)”
4 o– kotawān– –iyiw –a okotawāniyiwa “another’s campfire(s)”


There are several complications evident even in this most basic of animate possessive paradigms which require explanation.  The most important involves a second use of obviative-marking.  While the combination of affixes, o– –iyiw, marks the third person possessor as obviative, the possessed noun itself can, and in some cases absolutely must, be marked as obviative.  Recall that obviative marking is by definition used when two or more third persons are present in the discourse and must be differentiated, and the possessed noun always represents a third person referent.  Therefore, when both the possessed noun and the possessor are third persons, at least one of them must be marked as obviative, and the possessor always outranks the possessed noun for proximate status.  This explains the obligatory obviative marking when the possessor is third person o–.  The examples in (6), both grammatical (6a) and ungrammatical (6b and c), illustrate this further.


(6)       a)         okotawāna      “his/her campfire(s)”

     b)       *okotawān        ≠ “his/her campfire”

             c)        *okotawānak    ≠ “his/her campfires”


When the possessor is a third person (e.g. “his”, “her”, “their”), the possessed noun must be marked as obviative with the suffix –a, as in (6a).  (6b) and (6c) show that a noun marked as possessed by a third person (o–) can never occur in the unmarked singular or the plural with –ak.  Both of these forms are ungrammatical (*).

In fact, even those nouns marked for first and/or second person possession can serve as obviative referents in discourse.  Thus, the Number marking for nouns is complicated by the fact that either plural (–ak) or obviative (–a) suffixes can occur (and this optionality is indicated by abbreviating the suffixes as (–a(k)) ).  For instance, each of the first or second person possessors can occur in three forms, depending whether the possessed noun is a) singular, b) plural or c) obviative.  This is exemplified in (7) for the first person plural exclusive (1p).


(7)       a)         nikotawāninān             “our (excl) campfire”

    b)         nikotawāninānak        “our (excl) campfires”

    c)          nikotawānināna          “our (excl) (obv) campfire(s)”


Thus, Table II.1.8 indicates in short form that each of the five speech act participants (i.e. first and second persons) can occur in three distinct forms, while the third (and fourth) person forms can only be obviative.  Table II.1.9 provides this exact same paradigm for a vowel-initial stem (asikan “sock”), showing the use of the alternate [t] forms of the prefixes: nit–, kit–, and ot–.


Table II.1.9

Possessive Forms of Regular vowel-initial NA1 Stem asikan–

Prefix NA1 Stem Person Number Word Translation
1s nit– asikan– (–a(k)) nitasikan(a(k)) “my sock(s)”
2s kit– asikan– (–a(k)) kitasikan(a(k)) “your sock(s)”
1p nit– asikan– –inān (–a(k)) nitasikaninan(a(k)) “our sock(s)”
21 kit– asikan– –inaw (–a(k)) kitasikaninaw(a(k)) “our sock(s)”
2p kit– asikan– –iwāw (–a(k)) kitasikaniwāw(a(k)) “your sock(s)”
3s ot– asikan– –a otasikana “his/her sock(s)”
3p ot– asikan– –iwāw –a otasikaniwāwa “their sock(s)”
4 ot– asikan– –iyiw –a otasikaniyiwa “another’s sock(s)”

Taken together, Tables II.1.8 and II.1.9 can be combined into a general possessive paradigm for regular independent animate nouns (NA1) as given in Table II.1.10, including the optional [t] connector used only with vowel-initial stems, and the possibility of plural or obviative marking.


Table II.1.10

Possessive Paradigm for Regular NA1 Stems

Prefix NA1 Stem Person Pl/Obv Word
1s ni(t)– (–a(k))
2s ki(t)– (–a(k))
1p ni(t)– –inān (–a(k))
21 ki(t)– –inaw (–a(k))
2p ki(t)– –iwāw (–a(k))
3s o(t)– –a
3p o(t)– –iwāw –a
4 o(t)– –iyiw –a


One final complication to this possessive paradigm must be introduced at this time.  As mentioned earlier, it can actually be fairly rare to hear an animate noun fit into this basic paradigm.  There is instead an additional possessive suffix, –im, which is often added directly to the noun stem in order to provide extra emphasis to the possessive construction.


(8)       ni–  +  pīsimohkān–  –im                                 →   nipīsimohkānim                  “my clock”

    ni–  +  pīsimohkān–  –im  +  –ak                    →   nipīsimohkānimak              “my clocks”

    ni–  +  pīsimohkān–  –im  +  –a                      →   nipīsimohkānima                 “my (obv) clock(s)”

    ni–  pīsimohkān–  +  –im  +  –inān                →   nipīsimohkāniminān           “our clock”

    ni–  pīsimohkān–  +  –im  +  –inān  +  –ak  →   nipīsimohkāniminānak      “our clocks”

    ni–  +  pīsimohkān–  +  –im  +  –inān  +  –a    →   nipīsimohkānimināna        “our (obv) clock(s)”


The examples in (8) illustrate the position of this suffix attached directly to the noun stem before any other suffixes; whether the plural marker –ak, obviative marker –a, or the possessive plural suffixes.  Thus, even more detailed paradigms could be given here including a position for –im immediately to the right of (i.e. following) the stem.  For the regular nouns represented here, this would have no effect on the word forms other than to add –im to the stem.

The actual use of the –im suffix is quite variable across Cree dialects and, as a result, an exact description of its use remains elusive.  Sometimes, the use of –im is optional, while some stems cannot be marked for possession without it, which is to say that it is obligatory.  The examples of the independent animate noun pīsimohkān “clock” belong to this second type, for it has not been recorded in possessive constructions without the –im suffix (i.e. it is ungrammatical to say *nipīsimohkān).  For now, however, all important aspects of possessive marking have been discussed for regular independent animate nouns (NA1) (save its interaction with the locative to be described immediately below).  In subsequent sections on the possessive, the same basic patterns will hold with only slight modifications for the different animate noun stem types.


1.3  Regular Locative

Compared to the possessive paradigm, the locative is considerably less complex.  Still, animate nouns provide additional complexities in comparison to the locative as added to inanimate nouns.  The basic locative, as represented by the suffix –ihk, is a category marking a noun as a location and is roughly the equivalent of the English prepositions “in”, “on” or “at”.  Context is needed to determine the exact English translation (i.e. which English preposition is most appropriate for the intended sense in Cree, e.g. “in” is most likely with containers, “on” with surfaces, “at” with larger locations; and whether the noun is singular or plural; see below). In other words, where English uses a prepositional phrase to express a location, Cree often only needs the locative suffix added to a noun:


(9)       kotawān–            +   –ihk           →     kotawānihk        “in the campfire(s)”

    asikan–                +   –ihk            →     asikanihk           “in, on the sock(s)”

    maskwayān–       +   –ihk           →     maskwayānihk   “on the bearskin(s)”


More detailed locations are indicated with additional particles, but these must be used in conjunction with locative nouns:


(10)     cīki asikanihk               “near the sock(s)”            (cf.  cīki  “near”)

     kotawānihk ohci         “from the campfire(s)”    (cf.  ohci  “from”)

     sīpā maskwayānihk    “under the bear pelt(s)”  (cf.  sīpā  “under, beneath”)


Most such particles come before the locative noun and have thus been called “prepositions” as in English.  However, a few particles (e.g. those typically indicating motion, movement or direction), such as ohci “from” and isi “towards”, follow the locative and could then be referred to as “postpositions”.  More commonly, they have simply been called particles or “indeclinable particles” (IPC) referring to the fact that they have only a single unmodifiable form, in contrast to nouns, for instance, which take all the different forms being discussed in this book.  Even more specifically, they could also be referred to as locative particles.  The term particle itself is preferable since many locative particles can occur alone and are not restricted to prepositional function.

Regardless of the considerations of particles, though, the –ihk suffix remains the most important and obligatory element of the Cree locative.  Furthermore, when the locative is added a noun can no longer be marked for the plural (or obviative), such that the marking of number and location are mutually exclusive on Cree nouns and context is required to determine whether the locative noun is singular or plural:


(11)     asikanihk            “in the sock” or “in the socks” or “on the sock” or “on the socks”


In actual use, of course, the exact intention is usually clear, but further detail can always be added by way of particle or verbal description.  Ultimately, the formation of the locative of regular nouns can be illustrated by the simple example in Table II.1.11 and the general Table II.1.12, which indicate only the presence or absence of the locative suffix.


Table II.1.11

Locative Formation of Regular NA1 Stem kotawān–

  NA1 Stem Locative Word Translation
singular kotawān– kotawān “campfire”
locative kotawān– –ihk kotawānihk “in the campfire”


Table II.1.12

Locative Formation of Regular NA1 Stems

  NA1 Stem Locative Word
locative –ihk


Unlike inanimate nouns, there is one major complication to the locative-marking of animate nouns which exists in many areas of Plains Cree.  Most speakers reject the addition of the locative suffix to nouns referring to people or animals, such that the examples in (12) are considered ungrammatical.


(12)     mahihkan–   +     –ihk       →     *mahihkanihk     ≠ “on the wolf/wolves”

     nāpēsis–       +     –ihk       →     *nāpēsisihk         ≠ “on the boy(s)”


Instead, nouns referring to people and animals may take a special “distributive” locative suffix of the form –ināhk which indicates that we are referring to a community or region known for the presence of the referent of the noun.


(13)     mahihkan–   +     –ināhk   →     mahihkanināhk    “among the wolves; in wolf country”


Conversely, this collective locative suffix is not used on other animate or inanimate nouns, such that the words in (14) are not permissable.


(14)     asikan–         +     –ināhk   →     *asikanināhk       ≠ “among the socks”

     cīmān–         +     –ināhk   →     *cīmānināhk        ≠ “among the canoes”


What this means is that certain animate nouns will simply not have locative forms with –ihk, but these same nouns may instead allow for distributive locatives with –ināhk.  In either case, –ihk or –ināhk are the regular forms of these locative suffixes and are added to regular animate stems without complications.

More detailed charts could be devised illustrating the mutually exclusive nature of the locative with number marking (i.e. either the locative or the plural can be marked, but not both) and the use of the basic or distributive locatives, and this will be done in the summary of all inflectional forms of the NA stems at the end of this discussion.  First, we must now introduce a larger set of locative possibilities which will expand the locative paradigm of Table I.1.12.

In the previous section, we discussed the possessive paradigm, and we can now combine the possessive with the locative.  As with inanimate nouns, some forms are straightforward, but there are some complications when the locative is added following the possessive plural and obviative suffixes.  Just as the locative and plural suffixes are mutually exclusive, appearing to occupy the same slot in nominal paradigms, the locative suffix replaces plural (or obviative) marking and follows all other suffixes when possessive nouns are also marked for location.  An example of the full locative-possessive paradigm for NA1s is given in Table II.1.13.


Table II.1.13

Locative-Possessive Forms of Regular NA1 Stem kotawān–

Prefix NA1 Stem Person Locative Word Translation
1s ni– kotawān– –ihk nikotawānihk “in my campfire(s)”
2s ki– kotawān– –ihk kikotawānihk “in your campfire(s)”
1p ni– kotawān– –ināhk[1] nikotawānināhk “in our campfire(s)”
21 ki– kotawān– –ināhk kikotawānināhk “in our campfire(s)”
2p ki– kotawān– –iwāhk kikotawāniwāhk “in your campfire(s)”
3s o– kotawān– –ihk okotawānihk “in his/her campfire(s)”
3p o– kotawān– –iwāhk okotawāniwāhk “in their campfire(s)”
4 o– kotawān– –iyihk okotawāniyihk “in another’s campfire (s)”

[1] [Note: the 1p locative-possessive form may not always be contracted to –ināhk.  In some dialect areas, the straightforward combination of –inān + –ihk may simply yield –inānihk.]

The first, second and third person singular forms have straightforward additions of the locative suffix –ihk to the noun stem.  The plural and obviative possessive forms are more complex, since these suffixes merge with the locative to form complex suffixes: 1p/21 –ināhk, 2p/3p –iwāhk, 4 –iyihk.  This is indicated in both Table II.1.13 and the general Table II.1.14 by merging the person and locative suffix slots.  Note that since 1p and 21 share the same suffix (–ināhk), while 2p and 3p also share a mutual suffix (–iwāhk), the only differentiator for these pairs becomes the person-marking prefix.


Table II.1.14

Locative-Possessive Forms of Regular NA1 Stems

Prefix NI1 Stem Person Locative Word
1s ni(t)– –ihk
2s ki(t)– –ihk
1p ni(t)– –ināhk
21 ki(t)– –ināhk
2p ki(t)– –iwāhk
3s o(t)– –ihk
3p o(t)– –iwāhk
3’ o(t)– –iyīhk


The general table includes the optional [t] connector to include the possibility of vowel-initial stems and, again, the additional possessive suffix –im could be inserted between the stem and person suffixes without any complications.  These eight forms can thus be added to the basic locative for the full locative paradigm.


Table II.1.15

Locative Forms of Regular NI1 Stems

Prefix NI1 Stem Person Locative Word
locative –ihk
possessive 1s ni(t)– –ihk
2s ki(t)– –ihk
1p ni(t)– –ināhk
21 ki(t)– –ināhk
2p ki(t)– –iwāhk
3s o(t)– –ihk
3p o(t)– –iwāhk
3’ o(t)– –iyīhk


1.4  Regular Diminutive

As with inanimate nouns, the final common noun modification that we will discuss here is the diminutive, which typically marks a noun as smaller than the norm, though it can also be used to express endearment or even disdain depending on the context in which it is used.  The diminutive suffix takes the form –is or –isis, with the latter often expressing an even greater degree of diminutive.  With regular animate nouns, this suffix is added without modification to the suffix:


(15)     mīkwan–             +   –is             →     mīkwanis           “small feather”

    sīsīp–                   +   –isis           →     sīsīpisis             “duckling”

    kotawān–            +   –is             →     kocawānis          “small campfire”


However, a very important modification can be made to the stem when the diminutive is added.  Whenever a /t/ occurs in the noun stem, it will change to a [c] in the diminutive. [Note: the t→c alternation in the dimunitive is very consistent but there are always exceptions.  A speaker may simply use [t] rather than [c] on one occasion and not another, while sometimes the t→c alternation is present even without the diminutive suffix]. This is illustrated in (15) by the stem kotawān–, where the diminutive is not *kotawānis but rather kocawānis.  Still, once this alternation is taken into account, the diminutive is just as regular as the other suffixes when added to regular stems.  As discussed for inanimate nouns, it does differ from the other suffixes, though, in that it creates new stems (i.e. derivation) rather than simply modifying existing ones (i.e. inflection).  Thus, derived diminutives can be considered new stems and marked with all of the inflectional endings that we have discussed thus far (i.e. plural, obviative, possessive and locative).  Despite their derivational status, however, most diminutives are very predictably generated, as in Tables II.1.16 and II.1.17.


Table II.1.16

Diminutive Formation from Regular NA1 Stem mīkwan–

NA1 Stem Diminutive Word Translation
base mīkwan–  mīkwan “feather”
diminutive mīkwan– –is  mīkwanis “small feather”


Table II.1.17

Diminutive Formation from Regular NA1 Stems

NA1 Stem Diminutive Word
diminutive –is(is)


Thus, diminutive forms can in turn be fit into the non-locative paradigm in Table II.1.18 and the locative paradigm in Table II.1.19.  As these charts show, diminutive nouns fit into all of the regular patterns illustrated throughout this section.  This indicates that all diminutive noun stems are also regular noun (NA1) stems, so that when a new diminutive noun is created, it is perfectly predictable exactly how it will fit into the various inflectional paradigms.


Table II.1.18

Non-locative Inflection of Diminutive (NA1) Stem mīkwanis–

Prefix NA1 Stem Person Pl/Obv Word Translation
singular mīkwanis– mīkwanis “small feather”
plural mīkwanis– –ak mīkwanisak “small feathers”
obviative mīkwanis– –a mīkwanisa “small feather(s)”
possessive 1s ni– mīkwanis– (–a(k)) nimīkwanis(a(k)) “my small feather(s)”
2s ki– mīkwanis– (–a(k)) kimīkwanis(a(k)) “your small feather(s)”
1p ni– mīkwanis– –inān (–a(k)) nimīkwanisinān(a(k)) “our small feather(s)”
21 ki– mīkwanis– –inaw (–a(k)) kimīkwanisinaw(a(k)) “our small feather(s)”
2p ki– mīkwanis– –iwāw (–a(k)) kimīkwanisiwāw(a(k)) “your small feather(s)”
3s o– mīkwanis– –a omīkwanisa “his/her small feather(s)”
3p o– mīkwanis– –iwāw –a omīkwanisiwāwa “their small feather(s)”
3’ o– mīkwanis– –iyiw –a omīkwanisiyiw(a) “another’s small feather(s)”


Table II.1.19

Locative Inflection of Diminutive (NA1) Stem mīkwanis-

Prefix NA1 Stem Person Locative Word Translation
singular mīkwanis– mīkwanis “small feather”
locative mīkwanis– –ihk mīkwanisihk “on the small feather(s)”
possessive 1s ni– mīkwanis– –ihk nimīkwanisihk “on my small feather(s)”
2s ki– mīkwanis– –ihk kimīkwanisihk “on your small feather(s)”
1p ni– mīkwanis– –ināhk nimīkwanisināhk “on our small feather(s)”
21 ki– mīkwanis– –ināhk kimīkwanisināhk “on our small feather(s)”
2p ki– mīkwanis– –iwāhk kimīkwanisiwāhk “on your small feather(s)”
3s o– mīkwanis– –ihk omīkwanisihk “on his/her small feather(s)”
3p o– mīkwanis– –iwāhk omīkwanisiwāhk “on their small feather(s)”
3’ o– mīkwanis– –iyīhk omīkwanisiyīhk “on another’s small feather(s)”


1.5  Summary of NA1 Stems

At this point, we can now summarize the above discussion by combining all of these forms into a single comprehensive paradigm for regular animate noun stems.  Table II.1.20 gives a full example paradigm for kwāpahikan–, while Table II.1.21 repeats this as a blank table into which any NA1 can be inserted.


Table II.1.20

    NA1 Regular Stem example: kwāpahikan– “ladle”

[Note-im could optionally be added to the base stem of all possessed NAs]

form Cree word English translation
singular kwāpahikan ladle
1s nikwāpahikan my ladle
2s kikwāpahikan your (sg) ladle
1p nikwāpahikaninān our (excl) ladle
21 kikwāpahikaninaw our (incl) ladle
2p kikwāpahikaniwāw your (pl) ladle
plural kwāpahikanak ladles
1s nikwāpahikanak my ladles
2s kikwāpahikanak your (sg) ladles
1p nikwāpahikaninānak our (excl) ladles
21 kikwāpahikaninawak our (incl) ladles
2p kikwāpahikaniwāwak your (pl) ladles
obviative kwāpahikana ladle(s)
1s nikwāpahikana my ladle(s)
2s kikwāpahikana your (sg) ladle(s)
1p nikwāpahikanināna our (excl) ladle(s)
21 kikwāpahikaninawa our (incl) ladle(s)
2p kikwāpahikaniwāwa your (pl) ladle(s)
3s okwāpahikana his/her ladle(s)
3p okwāpahikaniwāwa their ladle(s)
4 okwāpahikaniýiwa (an)other’s ladle(s)
locative kwāpahikanihk in the ladle(s)
1s nikwāpahikanihk in my ladle(s)
2s kikwāpahikanihk in your (sg) ladle(s)
1p nikwāpahikanināhk in our (excl) ladle(s)
21 kikwāpahikanināhk in our (incl) ladle(s)
2p kikwāpahikaniwāhk in your (pl) ladle(s)
3s okwāpahikanihk in his/her ladle(s)
3p okwāpahikaniwāhk in their ladle(s)
4 okwāpahikaniýihk in (an)other’s ladle(s)
dim kwāpahikanis small ladle


Table II.1.21

    NA1 blank paradigm frame

form prefix NA1 stem ending


 1s   ni(t)–
 2s   ki(t)–
 1p   ni(t)–   –inān
 21   ki(t)–   –inaw
 2p   ki(t)–   –iwāw


1s   ni(t)–   –ak
2s   ki(t)–   –ak
1p   ni(t)–   –inānak
21   ki(t)–   –inawak
2p   ki(t)–   –iwāwak


1s   ni(t)–     –a
2s   ki(t)–     –a
1p   ni(t)–     –ināna
21   ki(t)–     –inawa
2p   ki(t)–     –iwāwa
3s   o(t)–     –a
3p   o(t)–     –iwāwa
4   o(t)–     –iyiwa


1s   ni(t)– –ihk
2s   ki(t)– –ihk
1p   ni(t)– –ināhk
21   ki(t)– –ināhk
2p   ki(t)– –iwāhk
3s   o(t)– –ihk
3p   o(t)– –iwāhk
4   o(t)– –iyihk




This concludes our rather detailed survey of the form of Regular Independent Animate Nouns (NA1) in Plains Cree.  However, this section has served to introduce all of the basic patterns required for Independent Animate Nouns, and only minor modifications will be needed to deal with the other subtypes: NA2, NA3, and NA4.