2. Vowel-Glide (VW) Animate Noun Stems – NA2

The second subclass of animate nouns (NA2) are known as “vowel-glide” stems because they end in a sequence of a vowel plus either a /w/ or a /y/.  These two latter sounds are often referred to as semi-vowels or glides as they tend to occur next to vowels and either glide towards or away from the loudest part of a syllable, the vowel.  Although not all 14 possible combinations of the seven Cree vowels and two glides are found in the stem-final position of animate nouns, more possible combinations are attested than for inanimate stems as surveyed in the NI2 section.  The  following vowel-glide combinations are found in stem-final position on animate nouns, though some are quite uncommon:


(16)     vowel-glide sequence             example stem              translation

aw                               nēhiyaw–                    “Cree, Cree person”

āw                               cistēmāw–                   “tobacco”

ēw                               iskwēw–                      “woman”

iw                                pisiw                         “lynx”

īw                                omācīw                     “hunter”

ow                               āmow                        “bee”

ōw                               okāsōw[1]                “one who hides”

ay                                cīpay–                         “ghost”

iy                                 okiniy–                        “rose-hip”

oy                                apoy–                          “paddle”

[1]Due to a spelling rule that yields a short <o> before a final /w/ in all noun stems, we do not expect any sequences of ōw.  In this case, and exceptionally few others, however, the noun is regularly derived from a verb which ends in /ō/.  Thus, the /ōw/ sequence is justified and spelled as such.


This still leaves no animate nouns ending in the sequences /āy, īy, ōy, ēy/. [Note: In northern Plains Cree and in Woods Cree, the vowel-glide sequence ēw will surface as īw, so there will be considerably more examples of īw and none of ēw in these dialects].  In the case of /īy/ this is partially due to spelling convention.  Before /y/, it is not possible to tell the difference between long /ī/ and short /i/, so by spelling convention the <i> is always spelled short before <y> in noun stems.  Normally, the same situation pertains to the avoidance of <ōw> in noun stems.  Before /w/, it is not possible to tell the difference between long /ō/ and short /o/, so the spelling convention is to always use short <o> before <w> in noun stems.  For this reason, no nouns will ever end in an <īy> spelling, and <ōw> is almost as impossible (in fact, it is only possible if an animate noun is derived from one of the extremely rare /ō/-final verb stems, see footnote [1] above).

Of course, it also simplifies matters of spelling to know that no long vowel ever occurs before /y/ at the end of noun stems.  Furthermore, the use of the <iy> and <ow> spellings, instead of simply using the long vowels (<ī> and <ō> respectively) at the end of these nouns, has the added benefit of including the glide (/y/ or /w/) that is otherwise needed in the spelling of the plural forms.  As with regular stems, then, the spelling of vowel-glide stems are all identical to their singular forms.  Thus, we can write a singular vowel-glide stem as a word by itself (as in (17)), or add the hyphen to indicate that we are referring to the stem form (as in (18)):


(17)                 nēhiyaw                       “Cree, Cree person”

 iskwēw                         “woman”


(18)                 nēhiyaw–                     “Cree, Cree person”

 iskwēw–                       “woman”


2.1  Vowel-Glide Plural and Obviative

As already mentioned above, vowel-glide stems, as aided by the conventions of <iy> and <ow> spelling, take the regular plural and obviative suffixes without any complications whatsoever.  Thus, the same chart introduced for Regular Stem plurals and obviatives can be used for Vowel-Glide stems as well, as given here in Table II.2.1.


Table II.2.1

Singular, Plural and Obviative Forms of Vowel-Glide NA2 Stems

NA2 Stem Num/Obv Word
plural –ak
obviative –a


Following this pattern, there is no change required to the stem to form the singular, and the regular suffixes (–ak and –a) are added to form the plural (19) and obviative (20) respectively:


(19)     stem                            plural              inflected noun

nēhiyaw–      +         –ak      →      nēhiyawak       “Cree people”

iskwēw–        +         –ak      →      iskwēwak         “women”

āmow–          +         –ak      →      āmowak           “bees”

okiniy–           +         –ak      →      okiniyak          “rose-hips”


(20)     stem                            obviative         inflected noun

nēhiyaw–      +          –a        →      nēhiyawa         “Cree person/people”

iskwēw–        +          –a        →      iskwēwa          “woman/women”

āmow–           +         –a        →      āmowa             “bee(s)”

okiniy–           +         –a        →      okiniya             “rose-hip(s)”


In contrast, if nouns like okiniy and āmow were to be spelled with a final <ī> and <ō> respectively, all <ī>-final nouns would require a plural suffix of the form <–ya>, while all <ō>‑final nouns would require a plural suffix of the form <–wa>.  This would needlessly complicate the number of pluralization and obviative patterns.  With the spellings given above, however, the plural suffix –ak and obviative suffix –a remain consistent and NA2 stems act exactly as do NA1 stems with regard to pluralization and obviation.  Thus, a completed frame for Number-marking of a vowel-glide stem will appear as follows:


Table II.2.2

Singular and Plural Forms of the Vowel-Glide NA2 Stem nēhiyaw–

NA2 Stem Number Word Translation
singular nēhiyaw– nēhiyaw “Cree person”
plural nēhiyaw– –ak nēhiyawak “Cree people”
obviative nēhiyaw– –a nēhiyawa “Cree person/people”


To this point, vowel-glide stems appear to be identical to regular stems.  However, an important difference will be discussed in each of the following sections on the possessive, locative and diminutive which will justify treating vowel-glide stems as a separate subclass of Cree noun.  The change involved happens whenever a suffix which regularly begins with /i/ (represented as “–i…”) is added to a vowel-glide stem.  When this occurs, the vowel and glide of the stem and the suffix-initial /i/ merge or contract to a single long vowel.  The quality of the resulting long vowel depends on the vowel preceding the glide in the original stem form.  Thus, given the vowel-glide combinations present in NA stems, the following contractions are possible:


(21)     vowel-glide     +             –i…        →        long vowel

/      aw            +          –i…/      →          [  ā  ]

/      āw            +          –i…/      →          [  ā  ]

/      ēw            +          –i…/      →          [  ē  ]

/      iw             +          –i…/      →          [  ī   ]

/      īw             +          –i…/      →          [  ī   ]

/      ow            +          –i…/      →          [  ō  ]

/      ōw            +          –i…/      →          [  ō  ]

/      ay             +          –i…/      →          [  ā  ]

/      iy              +          –i…/      →          [   ī  ]

/      oy             +          –i…/      →          [  ō  ]


These contractions are most noticeable when the vowel is originally short, since it does become audibly longer through this process.  However, the process remains the same even when the stem vowel is already long to begin with – it simply remains long, so that it appears as if the glide and suffix-initial /i/ have been dropped.  This vowel contraction rule, which characterizes vowel-glide noun (and verb) stems, can be summarized by the following formula, where capital V stands for any vowel, capital W stands for either glide ([w] or [y]), and V followed by a colon (V:) stands for a specifically long vowel.


(22)     VW     +          –i…     →        V:


Specific examples of this contraction will be given in the discussion of each /i/-initial suffix type below, and dotted lines between columns in the paradigms will indicate where the contraction rule takes effect.


2.2  Vowel-Glide Possessive

In theory, the paradigms for possessive marking of vowel-glide stems (with or without the additional suffix –im) are identical to those for regular stems except for the incorporation of the contraction rule given in (22) above as appropriate.  This important modification must be made to reach the actual spoken form of vowel-glide possessives wherever a suffix beginning with /i/ occurs in the paradigm.  In practice however, most NA2 stems are rarely if ever marked for possession, and those which are almost always take the –im suffix.  Examples of NA2 stems that do not take the –im suffix when marked for possession appear to be extremely rare.  Therefore, the example in Table II.2.3 includes –im, as does the basic paradigm in Table II.2.4.


Table II.2.3

Possessive Forms of Vowel-Glide NA2 Stem kinosēw–

Prefix NA2 Stem Change Poss Person Pl/Obv Word Translation
1s ni– kinosēw­–  







–im (–a(k)) nikinosēm(a(k)) “my fish”
2s ki– kinosēw– –im (–a(k)) kikinosēm(a(k)) “your fish”
1p ni– kinosēw– –im –inān (–a(k)) nikinosēminān(a(k)) “our fish”
21 ki– kinosēw– –im –inaw (–a(k)) kikinosēminaw(a(k)) “our fish”
2p ki– kinosēw– –im –iwāw (–a(k)) kikinosēmiwāw(a(k)) “your fish”
3s o– kinosēw– –im –a okinosēma “his/her fish”
3p o– kinosēw– –im –iwāw –a okinosēmiwāwa “their fish”
4 o– kinosēw– –im –iyiw –a okinosēmiyiwa “another’s fish”


Table II.2.4

Possessive Paradigm for Vowel-Glide NA2 Stems with –im

Prefix NA2 Stem Change Poss Person NPl/Obv Word
1s ni(t)–  







–im (–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


The blank paradigm includes the now-familiar optional [t] connector in case the stem begins with a vowel.  Note also that for stems of the type which fit into this paradigm, the vowel contraction rule always includes the initial /i/ of the –im suffix.  In the event that an animate vowel-glide stem were to be marked for possession without the –im suffix being included, the contraction rule would only apply in those forms with a plural or obviative possessor suffix.  The singular forms would then need no modification and so act just as all regular (NA1) stems.

As noted for inanimate vowel-glide (NI2) stems, the addition of the –im suffix can be viewed as the derivation of a dependent stem in which case it functions much like the diminutive derivation discussed in section 2.4 below.


2.2.3  Vowel-Glide Locative

Compared to the complexities of the possessive paradigms, the locative forms of vowel-glide stems are quite straightforward.  When the locative suffix –ihk is added to a vowel-glide noun stem, the vowel contraction rule takes place, as demonstrated in Tables II.2.5 and II.2.6.


Table II.2.5

Locative Formation of Vowel-Glide NA2 Stem miskwamiy–

  NA2 Stem Change Locative Word Translation
singular miskwamiy– miskwamiy “ice”
locative miskwamiy– VW+i→V: –ihk miskwamīhk “on the ice”


Table II.2.6

Locative Formation of Vowel-Glide NA2 Stems

  NA2 Stem Change Locative Word
locative VW+i→V: –ihk


As with regular animate (NA1) stems, though, it must be remembered that most speakers of Plains Cree will not permit the use of the locative attached to most animate nouns (i.e. those referring to people and animals).  Thus, care should be taken not to overgenerate locative forms with every possible NA2 stem.  In place of the regular locative –ihk, however, the “distributive” locative –ināhk can be used with nouns referring to people and animals to indicate a territory.

When the distributive locative suffix –ināhk is added to a vowel-glide stem, the same vowel contraction rule applies as with the regular locative –ihk.


(23)       nēhiyaw–      +     –ināhk   →     nēhiyānāhk          “among the Cree; in Cree country”


ayisiyiniw–  +     –ināhk   →     ayisiyinīnāhk       “among people; in mortal lands”


What this means is that certain animate nouns will simply not have locative forms with –ihk, but these same nouns might instead allow for distributive locatives with –ināhk.  In either case, –ihk or –ināhk are the regular forms of these locative suffixes and the initial /i/ of these suffixes contracts with the vowel-glide sequence of an NA2 stem to yield the same result.  As such, we could simply modify Tables II.2.5 and II.2.6 to include –ināhk rather than –ihk for those nouns which permit the distributive locative rather than the regular locative suffix.

For those stems which do permit the regular locative, this suffix can be combined with the possessive, as shown for NA1 stems and discussed in detail for vowel-glide inanimate stems (NI2) in the appropriate sections of these Grammar pages.  As with NI2 stems, when possessive-locative suffixes are added to NA2 stems, the vowel contraction rule will always take place.  This will occur when the locative –ihk is added directly to the singular stem, when the complex person/locative suffix is added for plural or obviative possessors, or when the possessive –im suffix is added.  Again, because possessive NA2 stems rarely occur without –im, only paradigms including –im are given here, with an example in Table II.2.7, and a bare paradigm in Table II.2.8.  As previously shown, the dotted line between columns shows where the vowel contraction rule is in effect.  In Table II.2.7, for instance, dotted lines are used to show that the change incorporates the VW sequence of the stem with the initial /i/ of the –im suffix.


Table II.2.7

Locative-Possessive Forms of Vowel-Glide NA2 Stem pikiw–

Prefix NA2 Stem Change Poss Person Locative Word Translation
1s ni– pikiw–  







–im –ihk nipikīmihk “in my gum”
2s ki– pikiw– –im –ihk kipikīmihk “in your gum”
1p ni– pikiw– –im –ināhk nipikīmināhk “in our gum”
21 ki– pikiw– –im –ināhk kipikīmināhk “in our gum”
2p ki– pikiw– –im –iwāhk kipikīmiwāhk “in your gum”
3s o– pikiw– –im –ihk opikīmihk “in his/her gum”
3p o– pikiw– –im –iwāhk opikīmiwāhk “in their gum”
4 o– pikiw– –im –iyīhk opikīmiyīhk “in another’s gum”


Table II.2.8

Locative-Possessive Forms of Vowel-Glide NA2 Stems with –im

Prefix NA2 Stem Change Poss Person Locative Word
1s ni(t)–  







–im –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)– –iyīhk


Please note again that the forms of the complex possessor-locative suffixes often result from the operation of the same vowel-contraction rule that is so important to vowel-glide stems in general.  The formation of these complex suffixes was initially illustrated for NI2 stems, but the relevant contractions are illustrated again here in (24).


(24)     Application of VW + i → V: Rule

Person                     +             Locative                  Contracted Form

1p       –inān            +             –ihk            →        (*)–inānihk    >>    –ināhk[2]

21       –inaw           +             –ihk           →        –ināhk

2p       –iwāw          +             –ihk           →        –iwāhk

3p       –iwāw          +             –ihk           →        –iwāhk

4         –iyiw            +             –ihk           →        –iyīhk

[2]While most dialects appear to have analogically replaced the expected 1p form *–inānihk with the contracted 21 ending –ināhk, it is possible that the straightforward combination of –inān + –ihk resulting in –inānihk is used in some dialects.


2.2.4  Vowel-Glide Diminutive

The derivation of the diminutive of vowel-glide stems follows the regular pattern, as described earlier, with the exception of our familiar vowel contraction rule.  Thus, the initial /i/ of the diminutive suffix –is(is) will contract with the vowel-glide sequence of the stem to again yield a long vowel.  Table II.2.9 charts one example of this derivation, but others are given in (25) to show the consistency of the rule with all vowel-glide sequences possible in animate noun stems, as well as the occurrence of the t→c alternation (cf. cistēmāw and ciscēmās).  Finally, Table II.2.10 gives the general chart for NA2 diminutive formation.


Table II.2.9

Diminutive Formation from Vowel-Glide NA2 Stem iskwēw–

NA2 Stem Change Diminutive Word Translation
base iskwēw–  iskwēw “woman”
diminutive iskwēw– VW + i→V: –isis  iskwēsis “girl”


(25)     vowel-glide example        +   –is(is)     diminutive      translation

nēhiyaw–                       +   –isis        nēhiyāsis         “Cree child, Cree boy”

cistēmāw–                     +   –is           ciscēmās         “small amount of tobacco”

iskwēw–                         +   –isis        iskwēsis           “girl”

pisiw                             +   –isis        pisīsis              “young lynx”

omācīw                        +   –is           omācīs             “young hunter” [nickname]

manitow  “spirit”           +   –is           manicōs           “insect”

okāsōw                         +   –is           okāsōs             “young one who hides” [nickname]

cīpay–                             +   –isis        cīpāsis             “small ghost”

asiniy–  “stone, rock”       +   –isis        asinīsis            “small stone”

apoy–                              +   –is           apōs                 “small paddle”


Table II.2.10

Diminutive Formation from Vowel Glide NA2 Stems

NA2 Stem Change Diminutive Word
diminutive VW + i→V: –is(is)


As indicated previously, the diminutive derivation creates new, regular stems which can then be further inflected by the regular NA1 patterns.


2.5  Summary of Vowel-Glide (NA2) Stems

At this point, we can now summarize the above discussion by combining all of these forms into a single comprehensive paradigm for vowel-glide animate noun stems.  Table II.2.11 gives a full example paradigm for aýapiy–, while Table II.2.12 repeats this as a blank table into which any NA2 can be inserted.


Table II.2.11

    NA2 example paradigm: aýapiy– “net”

form Cree word English translation


1s nitaýapīm my net
2s kitaýapīm your (sg) net
1p nitaýapīminān our (excl) net
21 kitaýapīminaw our (incl) net
2p kitaýapīmiwāw your (pl) net


1s nitaýapīmak my nets
2s kitaýapīmak your (sg) nets
1p nitaýapīminānak our (excl) nets
21 kitaýapīminawak our (incl) nets
2p kitaýapīmiwāwak your (pl) nets


1s nitaýapīma my net(s)
2s kitaýapīma your (sg) net(s)
1p nitaýapīmināna our (excl) net(s)
21 kitaýapīminawa our (incl) net(s)
2p kitaýapīmiwāwa your (pl) net(s)
3s otaýapīma his/her net(s)
3p otaýapīmiwāwa their net(s)
4 otaýapīmiýiwa (an)other’s net(s)


in the net(s)
1s nitaýapīmihk in my net(s)
2s kitaýapīmihk in your (sg) net(s)
1p nitaýapīmināhk in our (excl) net(s)
21 kitaýapīmināhk in our (incl) net(s)
2p kitaýapīmiwāhk in your (pl) net(s)
3s otaýapīmihk in his/her net(s)
3p otaýapīmiwāhk in their net(s)
4 otaýapīmiýihk in (an)other’s net(s)
dim aýapīs small net

[Note: –im is very commonly added to animate nouns in the possessive, as illustrated here.  If –im is not added, the vowel-contraction rule will take place only wherever an /i/-initial suffix is attached directly to the vowel-glide sequence.]


Table II.2.12

    NA2 blank paradigm frame

form prefix NA2 Stem change ending
 1s    ni(t)– VW




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


1s   ni(t)– VW




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


1s   ni(t)– VW




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








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


     VW + i→V:  



You can now continue exploring NA patterns with Consonant-/w/ stems (NA3) and Single-Syllable Stems (NA4).