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Ojebway Language:

A Manual for missionaries
and others employed among the Ojebway Indians
by Edward F. Wilson, 1874


The Noun.

The three Third Persons
Diminutive Endings
Derogative Endings
Table of Animate Nouns
Table of Inanimate Nouns
Simple Nouns
Nouns ending in -win
Nouns ending in -gun
Participial Nouns
Nouns inseparable from the Possessive Pronoun
Nouns that possess Composition Particles
The Transformation of a Noun into a Verb


The Noun.

Nouns in Ojebway are devided into two great classes, animate and inanimate. Of these, animate nouns include not only creatures that have life, but also certain other objects, as stone, clay, the sun, the stars, a drum, a pipe, a watch. So also, in the inanimate class, besides strictly inanimate things, are found many of the principal trees, parts of the body, &c. This distinction between animate and inanimate objects is very important, for by it are affected pronoun, adjective, and verb, as well as the number and case of the noun. An animate noun must be used with animate verb, and inanimate noun with inanimate verb, thus: I see a man, newáhbumah enene; I see a box, newáhbundaun muhkak.


The above distinction between animate and inanimate objects takes the place of gender in Ojebway. The sexes are dictinguished simply by the use of nahbá or enéne, joined with the noun for male, and noozhá or equa for female. Usually, however, speaking of animals, the male is understood, so it is only the female that requires to be specified.

A few examples are given: -

A male animal, nahbá-uhyahFemale, noozhá-uhyah
A man, enéneA woman, equa
Ram, nahbá-mahnishtáhnishEwe, noozhá-mahnishtáhnish
Bull, nahbá-pezhekeCow, equa-pezheke
Boar, nahbá-kookooshSow, noozhá-kookoosh
Male beaver, nahbámikFemale beaver, noozhámik
Indian, uhnishenáhbaIndian woman, uhnishenáhbequa
Englishman, shaugoonáushEnglish woman, shaugoonáushequa
Interpreter, ahnekuhnootahgáweneneInterpretress, ahnekuhnootahgáwequa
Salesman, uhdahwáweneneSaleswoman, uhdahwáwequa
Man cook, chebahquáweneneWoman cook, chebahquáwequa


The plural endings animate are g, ug, ig (or eeg), oog, wug, yag, jig.
The plural endings inanimate are n, un, in (or een), oon, wun.

Thus: - Anim., Enene, a man, pl. enenewug. Ahbinóoje, a child, pl. ahbinoojeyug. Sheeshéeb, a duck, pl. sheeshéebug. Uhmík, a beaver, pl. uhmíkwug. Ahsín, a stone, pl. ahsinéeg. Kéezis, the sun (or moon), pl. kéezisoog. Anuhmeäúd, Christian, pl. anahmeähjig. Mayúggizid, a stranger, pl. mayúggezejig. Inanim., Muhkuk, a box, pl. muhkukoon. Cheémaun, a canoe, pl. cheemaúnan. Sánuhguk, something difficult, pl. sánuhgukin. (For forther examples see Table).


There are no cases properly so called in Ojebway. Of, with a noun, is expressed by the use of the possessive pronoun, thus: The man's hat (or, the hat of the man), enene o-wéwuhquaun; lit., the man, his hat; o-, or od, taking the same place in Ojebway as 's apostrophe in English. But here again the distinction must be noted between animate and inanimate nouns. If the second noun be animate, it must have n, in, un, oon, or nejin, affixed, as well as o before it, thus, the man's pig owh enene o-kookóoshun. See Pronoun. Of, again, in some cases, is expressed by duhzhe, a particle signifying "the place where," thus: A man of Cana, Cana duhzhe enene.

To, from, in, with inanimate nouns, may be expressed by the affix -ng, thus: Muhkuk, a box, muhkukoong, in the box; the alteration of the end syllable being ruled by the plural of the word, for which see Table.

To, from, in, with animate nouns (or pronouns) can only be expressed by the verb, thus: omenaun, he gives it to him, od-desaun, he comes to him. Ningeméenik owh John, Jonh gave it to me.

The vocative case singular, affects only proper names and terms of relationship. Thus a woman named Nahwegéezhegóokwa, would be called to as Nahwegeezhegóok. Noos, my father, ningwis, my son, and a few other such terms take an a in the vocative singular, thus, Noosá! Ningwissá! In the plural, -wedoog is the termination which may be more liberally employed, thus, Uhnishenahbawedoog, O Indians! Ogemáhwedoog, O chiefs! Ahbenoojéewedoog, children! Pezhekéwedoog, O cattle!

The three Third Persons

The noun has no porper objective case in Ojebway, but a curious distinction observed between the third persons that occur in a sentence. Thus, in the sentence, I see a man, man undergoes no change; but in He sees a man, it does, and in the sentence, He sees the man's wife, wife being the third third person in the sentence undergoes a still further change. Thus: a man, enéne. I see a man. newáhbumah enéne. He sees a man, o-wáhbumaun enénewun. He sees a man's wife, o-wáhbumaun enénewun o-wedegamáhgunene.

Take another sentence: "Joseph took a young child and his mother, &c. Joseph ooge-odáhpenaun enewh ahbenoojéyun kuhya enewh ogéene. Here there are three third persons, (1) Joseph, (2) the child (-yun), (3) the child's mother (-ene).

For the second third person in a sentence the ending, whether singular or plural, n, in, un, oon, nejin, according to the plural ending of the word.

For the third third person it is -ne or -ene. See Tables.

Diminutive Ending

A noun, whether animate or inanimate, is made diminutive by affixing -ns, (pronounced nearly as nce in prince), thus: sheesheeb, a duck, sheesheebáns, a duckling. Muhkuk, a box, muhkukóons, a little box. These endings are either -ns, -ans, -eens (or -ins), or -oons, according to the plural, and their plural is alwaus -ug animate, and -un inanimate. See Tables.

Derogative Ending.

A noun, whether animate or inanimate, may have a derogative, contemptible (sense) given to it by affixing -sh, thus: uhnemóosh, a dog, uhnemooshísh, a bad dog; wáhgahkwud, an axe, wahgahkwudóosh, and old worn-out axe.

These endings are either -sh, -ish, -oosh, or -wish, according to the plural, and their plural is always -ug animate, -un inanimate. See Table.

Table of Animate Nouns.

IndianEnglishPlural2nd Third

Table of Inanimate Nouns

uhyeea thinguhyeenuhyeenguhyeens-unuhyeewish-un
nezidmy foot-ziddun-ziddzaung-ziddauns-un-ziddish-un
nenínjmy hand-ninjeen-ninjeeng-ninjesns-un-ninjeesh-un
swáungungsomth. strong-gungin     

Note. - The rule for the change of the second and third persons does not apply to inanimate nouns.

We will now classify the different sorts of Nouns.

Simple Nouns

Are such as enene, man; kookoosh, pig; cheemaun, canoe.

Nouns ending in -win.

Usually express a state, condition, or action, and are formed from neuter verbs, by adding -win to those endings in -ah, -a, -e, -o; and -oowin to those ending in -um and -in, thus: nebahwin, sleep, from nebah, he sleeps; ekédoowin, a saying, from ekedo, he says; enándumoowin, thought, from enedum, he thinks; tuhgwíshenoowin, arrival, from tuhgwishin, he arrives. Among this class are nouns ending in -awin, -oowin, and -dewin; these endings express respectively giving, recieving, and mutual action, thus: meegewáwin, means a gift given; méenegoowin, a gift recieved; méenedewin a mutual gift. Kekenoühmahgáwin, instruction given; kekenoühmáhgoowin, instruction recieved; kekenoühmáhdewin, mutual or general instruction. Of these nouns, those ending in -awin are formed from neuter verbs of the second paradigm by adding -win; those ending in -oowin, from the first person singular of the passive voice of transitive verbs by adding -win and dropping the pronominal prefix. Those ending in -dewin from the reciprocal modification of the transitive verb (mod. B) by changing -demin into -dewin, and dropping the pronominal prefix, thus: (1) shawanjega, he is merciful, shahwanjegáwin, mercy recieved; (2) ninshahwánemegoo, I am treated with mercy, shahwánemegoowin, mercy recieved; (3) keshahwanindemin, we treat each other kindly, shahwánindewin, mutual kindness.

Nouns ending in -gun,

Are readily formed from neuter verbs of the second paradigm ending in -ga. Thus: pemepóojegun, a plough, from pemepóojega, he ploughs; paushkésegun, a gun, from pauhkésega, he shoots; poonuhkáhjegun, an anchor, from poonuhkáhjega, he casts anchor.

Participial Nouns

These are properly the participles of the verb. They are either positive or negative, thus: anuhmeäúd, a Christian, (lit., he who helps); anóokeed, a worker, (lit., he who works); wahdookáhgad, a helper, (lit., he who helps); mashkúhwezid, a strong man, (lit., he who is strong); machaug, a big thing, (lit., that which is big). So also negative nouns, anuhmeáhsig, a pagan, (lit., he who prays not); anookéesig, an idler, (lit., he who works not).

Nouns inseparable from the Possessive Pronoun.

These are terms of relationship and parts of the body. Thus, my, thy, his father, noos, koos, osun. My, thy, his son, ningwis, kegwis, ogwissun. My, thy, his hand, neninj, keninj, oninj. My, thy, his foot, nezid, kezid, ozid. My, thy, his body, neyow, keyow, weyow. Saparate from the pronoun, these objects have only a generic name, as weeyowemah, the body.

Nouns that possess Composition Particles.

This is a pecularity of the language. Thus: Earth as a separate noun is uhke, but in composition is kummig, e.g., beneath the earth, uhnaumuhkummig; on the surface of the earth, ogedekummig. A few examples given: -

Nebee,watercompos.p.gummée,thusbig water,kéchegummee.
Wegewaum,housecompos.p.wegúmmig,thusin the house,pindegummig.
Cheemaun,canoe or boatcompos.p.nug,thusunder the canoe,uhnáumoonug

The Transformation of a Noun into a Verb.

Every noun in Ojebway can be transformed into a verb. Thus, take the word earth; by a slight change we can express, he is earth, he has earth, he makes earth, there is earth, &c. We will take these transformations in order: -

(1) He is -. The noun is formed into a neuter verb of the 3rd par. by adding -we. Thus: uhke, earth, uhkéewe, he is earth.

(2) He has -. The noun is formed into a neuter verb of the 3rd or 4th par. by prefixing o- or od- and adding -e, -me, or -o. Thus: ashkun, a horn, odáshkune, he is horned; wahgahkwud, an axe, owahgahkwudo, he has an axe; pezheke, a cow, opezhekeme, he has a cow.

(3) He makes -. The noun is formed into a neuter verb of the 2nd par. by adding -ka, -eka, or -ooka, thus, uhkik, a kettle, uhkikooká, he makes kettles.
Note. - This ending may also signify gather, thus: mushkeegemeneka, he gathers cranberries.

(4) There is -. The noun is formed into an impersonal verb of the 6th par. by adding -wun. Thus, uhke, earth, uhkéewun, there is earth.

(5) There is plenty -. The noun is formed into an impersonal verb of the 1st par. by adding, -kah, -ekah, or -okah. Thus: nebe, water, nebéekah, it is swampy.

(6) There is plenty -. The noun is formed into an impersonal verb of the 2nd par. by adding -kahda. Thus: ishquáundam, a doorm ishquáundamekáhda, there is a door made.

(7) He hunts -. The names of wild animals undergo a transformation by prefixing nunduh-, and adding -wa. Thus: pená, a partridge, nunduhpenáwa, he hunts partridges.

(8) The condition of any part of the body may be expresses by a combination of the nominal and verbal part, each in a contraceted form. Thus: onínjemah, the hand, páugeshin, he is swollen, páugenínje, his hand is swollen. So again, páugesedá, his foot is swollen, túhkesedá, his foot is cold, and so forth.
Note. - The above are general rules for putting a noun into a verbal form, but the student must not expect that every noun can be put into every form, and he adviced to consult the Dictionary for further information on the subject.

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