5.  Irregular or S~T (NI5) Stems

Of all attested Plains Inanimate Noun Stems, only two stems do not fit perfectly into one of the four main subclasses already described as NI1, NI2, NI3, and NI4 stems.  Nor do they exactly match each other’s patterns, though they are both based on yet another (and archaic) sound alternation.  As such, no basic paradigm frames need be devised, but each of these stems will simply be provided in their own paradigms.  These two stems are the independent noun ōsi “canoe; boat” (and compounds containing it), and the bound nominal ending -waT (-was ~ -wat) “bag, container” (which only occurs in compounds).


ōsi “canoe; boat”

The noun ōsi “canoe; boat” does not even occur in all subdialects of Plains Cree.  Where it occurs, it can be the basic word for “canoe” or refer instead to a “wooden boat”, but in other areas, this word is not even used and cīmān (as given as an example of a regular (NI1) stem) is the preferred word for “canoe”.  The following paradigm illustrates the forms of the noun ōsi where it is used.


Table I.5.1

ōsi “canoe; boat”

form person stem ending Cree word English translation
singular     ōT– -i ōsi canoe
1s nit- nitōt my canoe
2s kit- kitōt your (sg) canoe
1p nit- -inān nitōtinān our (excl) canoe
21 kit- -inaw kitōtinaw our (incl) canoe
2p kit- -iwāw kitōtiwāw your (pl) canoe
3s ot- otōt his/her canoe
3p ot- -iwāw otōtiwāw their canoe
4 ot- -iýiw otōtiýiw (an)other’s canoe
plural   ōT– -a ōsa canoes
1s nit- -a nitōta my canoes
2s kit- -a kitōta your (sg) canoes
1p nit- -ināna nitōtināna our (excl) canoes
21 kit- -inawa kitōtinawa our (incl) canoes
2p kit- -iwāwa kitōtiwāwa your (pl) canoes
3s ot- -a otōta his/her canoes
3p ot- -iwāwa otōtiwāwa their canoes
4 ot- -iýiwa otōtiýiwa (an)other’s canoes
locative   ōT– -ihk ōsihk in the canoe(s)
1s nit- -ihk nitōtihk in my canoe(s)
2s kit- -ihk kitōtihk in your (sg) canoe(s)
1p nit- -ināhk nitōtināhk in our (excl) canoe(s)
21 kit- -ināhk kitōtināhk in our (incl) canoe(s)
2p kit- -iwāhk kitōtiwāhk in your (pl) canoe(s)
3s ot- -ihk otōtihk his/her canoe(s)
3p ot- -iwāhk otōtiwāhk their canoe(s)
4 ot- -iýihk otōtiýihk (an)other’s canoe(s)
dim ōT– -is ōcis little canoe


As this paradigm shows, there is an odd /s/~/t/ alternation at work here, plus the stem is itself a single-syllable stem which thus requires the inanimate singular suffix –i.  In most forms, the stem acts as if it ends in a /t/, and suffixes are added as if this is a regular stem.  Even the diminutive shows the /t/ becoming [c] as expected.  However, in the unpossessed singular, plural and locative forms, the stem acts as if it ends in an /s/, and so the singular is ōsi, the plural is ōsa, and the locative is ōsihk.  This is the remnant of an old /s/ ~ /t/ alternation that resulted from the Cree reflex of the Proto-Algonquian *θ (and which can still be seen in VTA4 stem alternations).  However, it has been altered somewhat to result in this very irregular pattern and is thus simply an irregular noun in Plains Cree.  Additionally, this noun ōsi (or the root ōt-) occurs in a number of compounds where the exact effects of this alternation have not been fully explored.  Thus, nouns such as those in (36) may follow the pattern in Table I.5.1, or they may have generalized the /s/ of the singular and become regular /s/-final stems.  The exact pattern may differ from community to community.


(36)     āhpin-ōsi                 “rawhide boat”

    iskotēw-ōsi              “steamship”

    mistahi-ōsi              “large boat”

    mistik-ōsi                “wooden boat”

    oski-ōsi                   “new boat”

    waskway-ōsi           “birchbark canoe”


The exact pattern may differ from community to community, and further investigation is necessary.


-was ~ -wat “bag; container”

Another element that exhibits a remnant of this /s/ ~ /t/ alternation is the nominal ending which alternates as either -was or -wat.  There are a number of Plains Cree nouns that end in this element loosely meaning “bag; container” with some examples given in (37):


(37)     āhpinēkinowas  ~ āhpinēkinowat           “parchment bag”

     misatimwas ~ misatimwat                       “saddle bag”

     mistikowas ~ mistikowat                         “box”

     pimīhkāniwas ~ pimīhkāniwat               “pemmican bag”

     pōsiwas ~ pōsiwat                                      “suitcase”

     watapīwiwas ~ watapīwiwat                    “woven basket”


In many areas of Plains Cree speech, words such as these have been regularized and simply act as regular noun (NI1) stems ending in a final /t/ in all forms.  In some areas, though, the older /s/~/t/ alternation persists, such that all forms of these nouns usually end in /t/, except the singular forms which end in /s/.  An example paradigm of this is given as Table I.5.2.

Table I.5.2

mistikowas “box, wooden container”

form person stem ending Cree word English translation
singular     mistikowaT- mistikowas box
1s nit- nimistikowat my box
2s kit- kimistikowat your (sg) box
1p nit- -inān nimistikowatinān our (excl) box
21 kit- -inaw kimistikowatinaw our (incl) box
2p kit- -iwāw kimistikowatiwāw your (pl) box
3s ot- omistikowat his/her box
3p ot- -iwāw omistikowatiwāw their box
4 ot- -iýiw omistikowatiýiw (an)other’s box
plural   mistikowaT- -a mistikowata boxes
1s nit- -a nimistikowata my boxes
2s kit- -a kimistikowata your (sg) boxes
1p nit- -ināna nimistikowatināna our (excl) boxes
21 kit- -inawa kimistikowatinawa our (incl) boxes
2p kit- -iwāwa kimistikowatiwāwa your (pl) boxes
3s ot- -a omistikowata his/her boxes
3p ot- -iwāwa omistikowatiwāwa their boxes
4 ot- -iýiwa omistikowatiýiwa (an)other’s boxes
locative   mistikowaT- -ihk mistikowatihk in the box(es)
1s nit- -ihk nimistikowatihk in my box(es)
2s kit- -ihk kimistikowatihk in your (sg) box(es)
1p nit- -ināhk nimistikowatināhk in our (excl) box(es)
21 kit- -ināhk kimistikowatināhk in our (incl) box(es)
2p kit- -iwāhk kimistikowatiwāhk in your (pl) box(es)
3s ot- -ihk omistikowatihk in his/her box(es)
3p ot- -iwāhk omistikowatiwāhk in their box(es)
4 ot- -iýihk omistikowatiýihk in (an)other’s box(es)
dim mistikowaT- -is mistikowacis little box


Thus, even the diminutive derivation acts as if the stem ends in /t/ (changing to [c]), but the singular form alone retains a final /s/.  Again, this is not necessarily the case in all or even many of modern Plains Cree speech communities.  Where the singular occurs as mistikowat, with the final /t/, this and other compound stems ending in -waT have been regularized to NI1 stems, and this exception is no longer an exception at all.