Nouns 1 Gender and Plurals

Lunaapeew nouns are either animate or inanimate in gender. Animate and inanimate nouns use different grammatical rules.

Animate nouns

(noun animate abbreviated as ‘na’) : Most living things are animate in gender but there are exceptions such nouns describing different kinds of fruit. Also, some animate nouns are not at all alive such as the words for spirit, ball, fingernail and snow.

Examples of animate nouns:

Animate Noun Examples Meaning
kóon snow
níhkash fingernail
néenaxkw ball
pámbiil book
lúnuw man (lin-oh)
óxkweew woman
oxkwéesus girl
moonáhkeew groundhog
atóh deer
kóoshkoosh pig
póoshiish cat
míhtukw tree /MEE tohk w /
nóohum my grandmother ; pronounced as /know whom/
pehpáxkwuleesh flower
aláangweew star

Inanimate nouns

(noun inanimate abbreviated as ‘ni’) : Most non-living things are inanimate: however some berries, nuts, vegetables are inanimate even though one might think of them as living, these include the words for strawberry, corn and pumpkin.

Examples of inanimate nouns:

Inanimate Noun Examples Meaning
wtéehiim strawberry
xwáskwiim corn
máhkahkw pumpkin
wíisakiim grape
níhkaat leg
mbúy water
paxkshíikan knife
áhpapoon chair
naxk hand
aakongwéepuy hat
mahksun shoe

Noun Plurals

Nouns in plural form indicate that the noun is more than one in number and
plurals are formed differently for each gender:

Inanimate Nouns Animate Nouns
(noun) + (al) (noun) + (ak)

(pámbiil) + (ak)      => pambíilak =  books

(áhpapoon) + (al)     => ahpapóonal = chairs

Adding the plural ending often shifts the accents on the word, so weak vowels may drop

moonáhkeew  (sg) ; moonahkéewak (pl)  :             accent shift

oxkwéesus  (sg); oxkwées'sak (pl)  :                       weak vowel (u) drops

wíisakiim (sg) ; wiiskíimal (or wiisăkíimal) (pl) :       weak vowel (a) drops

Other parts of speech like verbs and pronouns exist in sets specific for one gender or the other, and one must take care to use the matching gender word for the gender of the noun involved. An animate noun will thus use the animate version of the pronoun and the verb will need to match the noun in gender as well.

An animate noun may be thought of in terms of ‘he’ and and an inanimate noun may be thought of in terms of ‘it’. Plural animate nouns represented by ‘they’ could be thought of as ‘more than one he’ the plural inanimate ‘they’ is like ‘more than one it

There is no way to say ‘‘she’’ distinctly from ‘‘he’’ in Delaware. Historically, when Native speakers began to learn English they would refer to both male and female subjects as ‘‘he’’ (Reference Jonathan Edwards; Observations on the Mahican Language)

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are words that represent nouns. They can be used alone to replace a noun or may be used with a noun in which case they reinforce the noun with extra emphasis. The pronoun must match the noun’s gender and plurality.

Animate Demonstrative Pronouns
ya ; wa ; wan this
yook these
na ; nan that
niik those
Inanimate Demonstrative Pronouns
yu ; yoon this
yool these
nu ; nun that
niil those

Animate examples:

Na moonáhkeew.           
That groundhog.

Niik moonahkéewak.     
Those groundhogs.

Wan moonáhkeew.        
This groundhog.

Yook moonahkéewak.   
These groundhogs.

Inanimate Examples

Nu paxkshíikan.             
That knife. 
Niil paxkshíikanal.         
Those knives. 
Yoon paxkshíikan.         
This knife. 
Yool paxkshíikanal.       
These knives.

Examples in phrases:

Nun eet ha.        
That must be it. 
(eet) is a particle (a stand alone word independent of gender, number and inflection.  
(eet) = 'perhaps' and is used to express uncertainty, not knowing for sure.

Na ha!              
Thats it!

Wan ha meexalapóotiis.         
This is a spider.

When learning new nouns, pairing them with a demonstrative pronoun can help memorizing the gender. Learning nouns in plural form may also be helpful.

Demonstrative pronouns may be used to point out objects:

Wan ha …. This is a …. + (animate noun)
Yook ha …. These are …. + (animate plural noun)
Yoon ha …. This is a … + (inanimate noun)
Yool ha …. These are …. + (inanimate plural noun)
Na ha … That is a … + (animate noun)
Niik ha … Those are …. + (animate plural noun)
Nu ha … That is a …. + (inanimate noun)
Niil ha … Those are …. + (inanimate plural noun)

Memorization aid for the demonstrative pronouns:

The animate singular pronouns:  (ya), (wa), (wan) and (na), (nan) all contain an 'a' 
The inanimate singular pronouns: (yu), (nu) and (nun) contain an 'u' 
The animate plurals (yook) and (niik) end in (k) like the animate noun plural (ak)
The inanimate plurals (yool) and (niil) end in (l)  like the inanimate noun plural (al)

Variant plural:

Some speakers insert (h) before the plural suffix, only on some nouns which end in (o) or (oow).

Ngútko nad                               
My knee 
Ngutkóohak  vs ngutkúwak   
My knees    

Most nouns ending in (uw) add the plural suffix directly.

ni plate

Go to the Noun Practicum 1

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