Mahican Nouns 3 Possessives

The idea of kinship (my mother) or ownership (my chair) is done by a system of modifications using prefixes and suffixes. Possession or kinship conveys information about more than one person or item, and clarifies how they are related to each other. This happens in English also. The words “my car” bring together a person (me) and an item (a car) and relate the two to each other.

Ngúk. My mother.

Possession in its simplest form in Mahican is done by adding a prefix to the beginning of the noun.
For example, adding the prefix (nu-) to the word for mother, (kuk), will change the meaning of the word to “my mother”.

(nu) + (kuk) become one word => (nukuk) which is pronounced as nguk.

A small set of sound laws changes the way some sound clusters are pronounced. The softening of k to g after n is an example. 

Kúk. Your mother.
This is formed by adding (ku-) to the noun (kuk)
(ku) + (kuk) become one word => (kukuk) which is pronounced as kuk.

Wkúkan. Her mother.
This is formed by adding (wu-) to the noun (kuk)
In this case an ending is required. The singular obviative ending (-an) is added because the two people (or two animate nouns) involved are both in the third person, i.e. third person 1 and third person 2 who is the mother of third person 1. Mahican adds a marker called obviative to the 2nd mentioned third person participant of a word or phrase. This system ensures that there is no way to confuse the two participants.

In English, “John his father” could mean that somebody in the conversation has a father named John or could refer to the father of John (John’s father). Of course John’s father could also be named John. When there is potential for confusion a number of strategies in English can be used to make sure things are clear. Mahican does this using obviative markers on nouns, verbs and pronouns. The obviative marker on a possessed noun tells us that there are two third person participants involved and that the possessed noun is being described as a secondary reference to a third person participant considered to be proximate.

Said more simply, possession in Mahican refers to a person and links a noun to the person. The person or possessor is primary.

In our example, “her mother” talks first about “her” and then mentions “mother” such that “mother” is “secondary” or “obviative” whereas “her” represents a person who is “primary” or “proximate”.

(wu) + (kuk) + (an) become one word => (wukukan) which is written as wkukan.

Additionally, a special possessive suffix (-um) may be added but only certain nouns use this suffix (-um) with no obvious pattern to it, except that noun stems ending in (-an) usually don’t use it.

Mahican possessive nouns use a system of prefixes and endings to link a noun to a person, such that additional personal pronouns such as his, her, my etc. are not necessary. These may however optionally be used for extra emphasis.

Personal Pronouns

Pronoun Uses
nuyáh me, my, I
kuyáh you, your
nāākŭmah him, her; his, her; he, she
nŭyāānah us, our, we
kŭyāānah us, our, we
kŭyāāwah your, you (pl)
nāākmāāwah their, them, they

These pronouns may be used in a variety of other ways other than use before a possessed noun. They may be used to reinforce a verb subject and may be used alone.

Wąąk nŭyah. Me too.

Ustah nuyah. Not me.

Nahah nŭyah. That’s me. I am here.

Nuyah kiip. I am. 

Kuyah kiip ktah! You did go!

Note: 'kiip' functions as a focus marker for the pronoun. (Goddard2008)

 

Paradigms for making a noun possessive:

Inanimate Possessed Nouns:

Singular Possessor of “one of something inanimate”

In this case one person (me, you, him, her) has an ownership relationship to a singular (non-plural) item that is inanimate. Only a prefix is required to describe the relationship.

Possessor Paradigm
my: nu(····)um
your: ku(····)um
his or her: wu(····)um

Reminder: Only some nouns use (um).

Singular Possessor of “more than one of something inanimate”

In this case one person (me, you, him, her) has an ownership relationship to a item that is inanimate and plural (more than one). A prefix and an inanimate plural ending -an are required to describe the relationship.

Possessor Paradigm
my: nu(····)um-an
your: ku(····)um-an
his or her: ku(····)um-an

Nouns which use (um) insert it BEFORE the plural ending.

Inanimate noun possessive examples:

Nuyah ndahpapóon. My chair.
Nuyah ndahpapóonan. My chairs.
Kuyah ktahpapóonan. 
Naakmah wtahpapoonan.

 

Beginning pattern (ah----)
    (nu)-(ah----) =>  (ndah----)
    (ku)-(ah----) =>  (ktah----)
    (wu)-(ah----) => (wtah----) 
    This pattern applies to many vowel initial stems 

Nuyah ndaxíikan. My knife.
Kuyah ktaxíikanan. Your knives.
Nāākmah wtaxíikan. His knife.


Skāāsiimiin. Strawberry 
Nuyah nsukāāsiimiinum. My strawberry.
Kuyah ksukāāsiimiinum. Your strawberry. 
Nāākmah wsukāāsiimiinuman.

Nuyah ndahāāmut. My shirt.
Kuyah ktahāāmut. Your shirt.
ktahāāmtan. Your shirts.
Wtahāāmtan. His shirts.

Beginning pattern (h----)
(nu)-(h----) =>  (ndah----)
(ku)-(h----) =>  (ktah----)
(wu)-(h----) => (wtah----) 

Chaxkwiinootay. A bag.
Noh nah kuyah kchaxkwiinóotayum? Is that your bag?  
Niin nah nuyah njaxkwiinootáyuman. These are my bags.
Nāākmah wchaxkwiinóotayum. His bag.


Beginning pattern (ch----)
(nu)-(ch----) =>  (nj----)
(ku)-(ch----) =>  (kch----)
(wu)-(ch----) => (wch----)

Plural possessor of ‘one of something inanimate’

In this case a group of people (we, you plural, they) have an ownership relationship to a singular (non-plural) item that is inanimate. A prefix and an ending that tells us a group is involved are required to describe the relationship.

Possessor Paradigm
our (excl) nu(····)um-unah
our (incl) ku(····)um-unah
your: ku(····)um-uwah
their: wu(····)um-uwah

Plural possessor of ‘more than one of something inanimate’

In this case a group of people (we, you plural, they) have an ownership relationship to an item that is inanimate and plural. An inanimate plural ending -an is needed in addition to the prefix and the ending that tells us a group is involved. The two endings (central ending marking the primary participants as plural and the peripheral ending that marks the inanimate noun as plural) coalesce together, i.e. contracted, due to sound laws.

Possessor Paradigm
our (excl) nu(····)um-unąąn
our (incl) ku(····)um-unąąn
your: ku(····)um-uwąąn
their: wu(····)um-uwąąn
-unah + -an = -unąąn
-uwah + -an = -uwąąn
Ndahpapóonunah. Our chair.
Ndahpapóonunąąn. Our chairs.
Ktahpapóonuwah. Your (pl) chair.
Ktahpapóonuwąąn. Your (pl) chair.
Wtahpapóonuwah. Their chair.
Wtahpapóonuwąąn. Their chairs

Ndaxiikanúnah. Our knife
Ndxiikanúnąąn. Our knives
Ktaxiikanúwah. Your knife
Ktaxiikanúwąąn. Your knives
Wtaxiikanuwah. Their knife
Wtaxiikanuwąąn. Their knives


Pumąąwsuwąąkan. One's life. 
Wpumąąwsuwąąkanuwąąn. Their lives (HA68)

Now let’s see how to possess an animate noun, slightly more complex due to possibilities of obviative markings and ending contractions.

Animate Possessed Nouns:

Singular Possessor of “one of something animate”

This case describes a person (me, you, him, her) having an ownership or kinship relationship with another animate noun that is singular (non-plural). Only a prefix is required except for forms that are obviative (when a phrase has two or more animate nouns).
The third person possessed forms always add the singular obviative ending -an.

Possessor Proximate Paradigm Obviative Paradigm
my: nu(····)um nu(····)um-an
your: ku(····)um ku(····)um-an
his or her: —– wu(····)um-an (obviative)

Reminder: Only some nouns use the possessive suffix -um.

Singular possessor of ‘more than one of something animate’

This case describes a person (me, you, him, her) having an ownership or kinship relationship with another animate noun that is plural (more than one). A prefix is required to identify the primary person involved, and an animate plural ending -ak except if use requires an obviative ending in which case -ak is replaced by the plural obviative ending -ah. The third person forms always add the plural obviative ending -ah.

Possessor Proximate Paradigm Obviative Paradigm
my: nu(····)um-ak nu(····)um-ah
your: ku(····)um-ak nu(····)um-ah
his or her: —– wu(····)um-ah (pl obviative)

Note that only some nouns use -(um) and where present, it comes BEFORE the plural or obviative ending. Examples of possessed animate nouns with a singular possessor:

Nŭyah niichąąn. My daughter.
Wunāāwąąn niichąąnan. He saw her (obv) my daughter (obv). 
Nŭyah niichąąnak. My daughters.
Wunāāwąą niichąąnah. He saw them (pl obv) my daughters (pl obv). 
Kŭyah kuniichąąn. Your daughter.
Kŭyah kuniichąąnak. Your daughters.
Nāākmah wuniichąąnan. His daughter.
Nāākmah wuniichąąnah. His daughters.
(Note the different obviative forms for sg and pl; the Moravian or Western Mahican dialect uses the same form (-ah) for both sg and plural.)

Prefixes are added to a stem in a variety of patterns which I call beginning patterns. Prefixes also add a syllable to the word and that can changes the way the syllables of the word are stressed, and these changes persist even if the prefix is dropped due to traditional pronunciation rules.

Beginning pattern for nouns beginning in pa---- :
(nu)-(pa----) =   (mba----)   
(ku)-(pa----) =   (kpa----)    
(wu)-(pa----) =    (wpa----)

More examples:

Mihtuwkw. A tree.
Numíhtkwum. My tree.
Numíhtkwumak. My trees.

[mihtukw] loses the weak (u) after (-um) is added.
See chapter on pronunciation for more information.

Kumíhtkwum. Your tree.
Kumíhtkwumak. Your trees.
Wumíhtkwuman. His tree.
Wumíhtkwumah. His trees. 

Nóhum. My grandmother.
Nóhmak. My grandmothers.
Kóhum. Your grandmother.
Kóhmak. Your grandmothers.
Óhman. His grandmother.
Óhmah. His grandmothers.

Some nouns are called Dependent Nouns or Obligatory Possessed Nouns because they cannot be used in a non-possessive form. Most body parts and family kinship words are dependent nouns. Nóhum is an example of a dependent noun. Dependent nouns do not ordinarily take the (um) possessive suffix.

Beginning pattern for nouns starting with wu----

(nu)-(wu----) =   (noo----)        
(ku)-(wu----) =   (koo----)
(wu)-(wu----) =   (oo----) 

Note that Schmick's transcription writes word initial 
/w-/ as /o/ 
but words written by fluent speakers such as Hendrick Aupaumut 
record initial /w-/  as /w-/ 


Nih nah kŭyah kpoosíisum? Is that your cat? 

Nih means 'there' and is often added to phrases implying a location. 

Nih nan=aat=hah mboosíisum.       
That must be my cat.

beginning pattern (poo----)

(nu)-(poo----) =   (mboo----) 
(ku)-(poo----) =   (kpoo----)
(wu)-(poo----) =   (wpoo----)

Grammar Note Animate nouns always add an obviative suffix for all 3rd person possessives because two people (or animate nouns) are referenced, i.e. the possessor and the possessed. Therefore the possessed noun must take the obviative suffix. (Wkúkan) or ‘his mother’ implies that the ‘mother’ is the mother of the other 3rd person in the sentence, a him or a her.

Plural possession is used when more than one person owns or is related to a person or an animate noun, such as ‘our father’ or ‘their tree’.

Plural possessor of ‘one of something animate’

This case describes a group (us, you plural, they) having an ownership or kinship relationship with another animate noun that is singular (non-plural). A prefix is required to identify the primary person involved, and an animate plural ending -ak except for those forms which are obviative due to the presence of an afore mentioned animate noun or person. The third person plural possessed forms always add the plural obviative ending -ah.

Possessor Proximate Paradigm Obviative Paradigm
our (excl) nu(····)um-unah nu(····)um-unąąn
our (incl) ku(····)um-unah ku(····)um-unąąn
your: ku(····)um-uwah ku(····)um-uwąąn
their: —– wu(····)um-uwan

Examples of animate noun possessives, plural possessors:

Numìhtkwumúnah. Our tree.
Kumìhtkwumúwah. Your (pl) tree.
Wumihtkwumuwan.  Their tree (obv).

Nohumúnah. Our grandmother.
Kohumúwah. Your (pl) grandmother.
Ohumúwan. Their gradmother.

Plural possessor of ‘more than one of something animate’

This case describes a group (us, you plural, they) having an ownership or kinship relationship with another animate noun that is plural. A prefix is required to identify the primary person involved, and an animate plural ending -ak except for those forms which are obviative due to the presence of an afore mentioned animate noun or person. The third person plural possessed forms always add the plural obviative ending -ah.

Possessor Proximate Paradigm Obviative Paradigm
our (excl.): nu(····)um-unąąk nu(····)um-unąą
our (incl.): ku(····)um-unąąk ku(····)um-unąą
your (pl.): ku(····)um-uwąąk ku(····)um-uwąą
his or her: —– wu(····)um-uwąą (obviative)

*Early Mohican retained the final (h) on the contracted plural obviative forms (-ąąh )but in later years it dropped leaving a long final vowel that does not undergo shortening.

Note:
The 1st person pl ending originally was -unąąn when followed by a peripheral ending but is shortened to -unah by Stockbridge dialect speakers and contracted with the peripheral ending:

plural: nu(····)unąąnak contracts to nu(····)unąąk
obv: nu(····)unąąnan contracts to nu(····)unąąn
obv pl: nu(····)unąąnah contracts to nu(····)unąą
loc: nu(····)unąąnuk contracts to nu(····)unąąk

The 2st person pl ending originally was -uwąąw when followed by a peripheral ending but is shortened to -uwah by Stockbridge dialect speakers and contracted with the peripheral ending:

plural: ku(····)uwąąwak contracts to ku(····)uwąąk
obv: ku(····)uwąąwan contracts to ku(····)uwąąn
obv pl: ku(····)uwąąwah contracts to ku(····)uwąą
loc: ku(····)uwąąwuk contracts to ku(····)uwąąk

Numìhtkwumúnąąk. Our trees.
Kumìhtkwumúwąąk. Your (pl) trees.
Wumihtkwumuwąą. Their trees (obv)
Wumihtkwumuwąąn. Their tree (obv).


Noohumúnąąk. Our grandmothers.
Koohumúwąąk. Your (pl) grandmothers.
Oohumúwąą. Their grandmothers.

Some nouns use the possessive suffix (-um) differently.

Takwáxw. Bread. 

Ndákxoom.  My bread.
Ktáxoom.  Your bread .
Wtakxóoman. His bread. (s26 94)
Ndakxoomnah. Our bread. (HA102)
Ktakxoomwah.  Your (pl) bread.
Wtakxoomwąąn. Their bread.

Possession by Proximity

Possession can be also expressed in another way, by joining two nouns together, as adjacent words, without use of possessive prefixes or suffixes. One could call it “possession by proximity.” Inanimate noun possession by proximity

Awaan niin mahksúnan?     Whose shoes are those?

Awāān is a pronoun.  It means 'who, whose, someone, or somebody' 

Niin Bobúsh-mahksúnan. Those are Bobby's shoes.

Awāān niin wsukāāsiimiinan? Whose strawberries are those? 

Niin Mary-skāāsiimiinum. Those are Mary's strawberries. 

Ustah kuyah ksukāāsiimiinum. They're not your strawberries.

Animate noun possession by proximity

Nah Jesse-āāmhąąnum. That is Jesse's spoon.

Nook Bobush-āāmhąąnumak. Those are Bobby's spoons.

Both Jesse and āāmhąąn are animate. Animate possession by proximity seemingly violates a cardinal rule of Algonquian languages in the sense that one could argue that there are two proximate 3rd person nouns here: Jesse and āāmhąąn. However the two nouns function as a unit, as if together they form a single combined compound noun, or a double animate noun complex of sorts.

Double Possessives:

Animate dependent nouns can be joined too in this manner, but the dependent noun will use usual 3rd person possessive prefixes and suffixes. Any noun, animate or inanimate, may be in proximity to another noun using 3rd person possessive prefixes and suffixes also. This use redundantly makes it clear that the second noun is possessed by the first.

Mary-wkukan kawiiw. Mary's mother is sleeping.
John-óoxan wunāāwkoon. John's father saw him.

Niimanāāw-wpaxāānman. The man's woman.

Póosiis-wkúkan. The cat's mother.

Kúknah-áhkuy. Our mother earth.
Wusoowhiikan. A book. 
Noox-oosoowhiikan. My father's book.

Koohum-wpoosiisman. Your grandmother's cat. 

Wpoosiisum-wumiitθuwąąkan. Her cat's food. 

Double obviative possessives:

Since there cannot be two proximates in a sentence or phrase, the two nouns would have to both be obviatives.

Wkukan wpoosiisuman. His mother's cat. (His mother, her cat)

Ooxan wjóoθan. His father's friend.

Triple possessives

Mary-wumiiθan-wtáhpapoon. Mary's older sister's chair.
Mary-ooxan-wjooθan. Mary's father's friend.
Nguk-wjooθan-ooxan. My mother's friend's father.
Kukuna-wjóoθan-wpoosiisumah. My mother's friend's cats.

Summary Possessive Nouns

Animate Possessive Nouns

Possessor Possessed Quantity = One Possessed Quantity = More than One
my: nu(····)um nu(····)um-ak
your: ku(····)um ku(····)um-ak
his or her: wu(····)um-an (obviative) wu(····)um-ah (obviative)
our (excl) nu(····)um-unah nu(····)um-unąąk
our (incl) ku(····)um-unah ku(····)um-unąąk
your: ku(····)um-uwah ku(····)um-uwąąk
their: wu(····)um-uwąąn wu(····)um-uwąą*

*Early Mohican retained the final (h) in later years it dropped leaving a long final vowel that does not undergo shortening.

Inanimate Possessive Nouns

Possessor Possessed Quantity = One Possessed Quantity = More than One
my: nu(····)um nu(····)um-an
your: ku(····)um ku(····)um-an
his or her: wu(····)um wu(····)um-an
our (excl) nu(····)um-unah nu(····)um-unąąn
our (incl) ku(····)um-unah ku(····)um-unąąn
your: ku(····)um-uwah ku(····)um-uwąąn
their: wu(····)um-uwah wu(····)um-uwąąn

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