Nouns 3 Possessives

Nouns may be modified with a system of prefixes and suffixes to denote the idea of kinship (my mother) or ownership (my chair). A special possessive suffix (-um) exists which may also be added. Only certain nouns take the suffix (-um) with no obvious pattern to it, except that noun stems ending in (-an) usually don’t use it. It is not considered to be a mistake to omit (-um) even if the dictionary lists it that way. Words that are technically not supposed to take (-um) may use it anyway for extra clarity or emphasis on possession.

A noun in its possessive form is linked to another person (the possessor). The possessive prefixes and endings identify the possessor, so use of personal pronouns such as his, her, my etc. are not necessary in most cases. Personal pronouns may optionally be used however, in which case they reinforce the possessor and provide extra emphasis.

Personal Pronouns

Pronoun Uses
nii me,my,I
kii you, your
neeka him,her;his,her;he,she
niilóona us,our,we
kiilóona us,our,we
kiilóowa your,ye
neekáawa 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.

Ta ha kii?           
How are you?

Mbée nii.           
Me too.

Ámbee nii.       
Me too.

Na ha nii.          
That’s me.


Paradigms for making a noun possessive:

(Corrected by Ives Goddard,PhD; personal communication)

Animate Possessed Nouns:

Singular Possessor of “one of something animate”

Possessor Paradigm
my: nu-(stem)-um
your: ku-(stem)-um
his or her: wu-(stem)-um-al (obviative)

Include (um) only used on those nouns which usually use it.

Singular possessor of ‘more than one of something animate’

Possessor Paradigm
my: nu-(stem)-um-ak
your: ku-(stem)-um-ak
his or her: wu-(stem)-um-al (obviative)

Include (um) only used on those nouns which usually use it.

When-(um) is present, it comes BEFORE the plural or obviative ending.

Examples of possessed animate nouns with a singular possessor:

Nii mbambíilum.                 
My book.
Nii mbambíilŭmak.             
My books.
Kii kpambíilum.                  
Your book.
Kii kpambíilŭmak.              
Your books.

Néeka pàmbíilŭmal.           
His book(s).
(obviative form is used for both sg and pl)

Adding prefixes to a stem often triggers changes to the word (beginning patterns). Appendix B lists those that I am aware of. Prefixes also add a syllable so accents will shift. Even when a prefix is dropped due to traditional pronunciation rules, it still shifts stress to the next vowel.

Beginning pattern for (pa-) :
(nu)-(pa) =   (mbà-)   
(ku)-(pa) =   (kpà)    
(wu)-(pa) =    (pà)

More examples:

My tree.

My trees.

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

Your tree.
Your trees.
His tree(s).

My grandmother.
My grandmothers.
Your grandmother.

Your grandmothers.
His grandmother(s)

Beginning pattern for (mi-)    
(nu)-(mi) = (numì)
(ku)-(mi) = (kumì)
(wu)-(mi) =  (mì)

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. Nóohum is an example of a dependent noun. Dependent nouns do not ordinarily take the (um) possessive suffix. The dictionary mostly lists dependent nouns with the first letter of the prefix removed. Noohum can be found in the double O’s for example (oohum).

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

Na ha kii kpooshíishum?           
Is that your cat?

Nan eet ha mbooshíishum.       
That must be my cat.

beginning pattern (poo-)
(nu)-(poo) =   (mboo) 
(ku)-(poo) =   (kpoo)
(wu)-(poo) =   (poo)

Grammar Note Animate nouns add (-al) (obviative) for all 3rd person possessives. This is because two people or animate nouns are referenced, the possessor and the possessed, therefore the possessed noun must take the obviative suffix. (Kwúkal) or ‘his mother’ implies there is a ‘him’ and ‘mother’ is the second person.

Plural possessor of ‘one or more of something animate’

Possessor Paradigm
our (excl) nu-(stem)-um-una
our (incl) ku-(stem)-um-una
your: ku-(stem)-um-uwa
their: wu-(stem)-um-uwaawal

Include (um) only used on those nouns which usually use it.


Examples of animate noun possessives, plural possessors:

Mbàmbiilŭmúna.            Our book(s).

Nŭmìhtkwumúna          Our tree(s)

Noohumúna                   Our grandmother(s)

Grammar Note Plural endings for possession of ‘more than one of something’ by a plural possessor can be found in the Munsee Prayer Book but are no longer in use by modern speakers.

Noohumúna                     Our grandmother

Noohumunáanak            Our grandmothers

Koohumuwáawa              Your (plural) grandmother

Koohumuwaawáawak      Your (plural) grandmothers

Oohumuwaawáawal        Their grandmothers

The possessive suffix comes before the obviative suffix when present. (um-al).


Go to Practicum III Noun Possessives


Inanimate Possessed Nouns:

Singular Possessor of “one of something inanimate”

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

Include (um) only used on those nouns which usually use it.

Singular Possessor of “more than one of something inanimate”

Possessor Paradigm
my: nu-(stem)-um-al
your: ku-(stem)-um-al
his or her: ku-(stem)-um-al

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


Inanimate noun possessive examples:

Nii ndahpapóon.             My chair.
Nii ndahpapóonal.          My chairs.
Kii ktahpapóon.
Kii ktahpapóonal.
Néeka wtahpapoon.
Néeka wtahpapoonal.


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

Nii numahkáhkwum.             My pumpkin.
Kii kumahkáhkwumal.          Your pumpkins.
Néeka mahkáhkwum.

Nii mbaxkshíikan.                    My knife.
Kii kpaxkshíikanal                   Your knives.
Néeka pàxkshíikan.                 His knife.

Nii nooteehíimum.                 My strawberry.
Kii kooteehíimum  
Néeka ooteehíimumal

Nii ndahéembut                     My shirt
Kii ktahéembut                      Your shirt
Kii ktahéembtal                     Your shirts
Néeka wtahéembtal              His shirts

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

Néeka wŭlehlxawalooyéekumal.    His forks.
Nii lehlxawalooyéekum                   My fork
Kii kulehlxawalooyéekumal            Your forks

Beginning pattern (leh-)
(nu-leh-) =>  (leh-)
(ku-leh-) =>  (kuleh-)
(wu-leh-) => (wuleh-) 
(L Stems based on the root (ul) use another pattern)

Nun ha kii kshakiinóotayum?          Is that your bag?  
Niil ha nii nzhakiinootáyumal.         These are my bags.
Neeka wshakiinóotayum.                 His bag.
(O'Meara;Delaware Resource)

Beginning pattern (sh-)
(nu)-(sh-) =>  (nzh-)
(ku)-(sh-) =>  (ksh-)
(wu)-(sh-) => (wsh-) 
([shíinzuw] uses another pattern)

Plural possessor of ‘one or more of something inanimate’

Possessor Paradigm
our (excl) nu-(stem)-um-una
our (incl) ku-(stem)-um-una
your: ku-(stem)-um-uwa
their: wu-(stem)-um-uwa

Include the possessive suffix (um) only used on those nouns which are known to use it.

The suffix (-uwaaw-) may be inserted in plural forms (group possession) (O’Meara;Delaware Resource)

Our chair(s)  

Your (pl) chairs
Their chairs

Nŭmahkahkwumúna               Our pumpkin(s)

Niilóona mbaxkshiikanúna        Our knife(s)
Kiilóowa kpaxkshiikanúwa
Neekáawa pàxkshiikanúwa

Kooteehiimumúwa                   Your strawberrie(s)
Ooteehiimumúwa                    Their strawberrie(s)
(wu- beginning pattern)

Irregular possessed nouns:

The following nouns ending in (uw) and (oow) add the possessive suffix (um) irregularly:

plate (inanimate)
My plate
(all other nouns ending in (iinjuw) follow this pattern)

ni sweet drink, pop
My sweet drink
(all other nouns ending in (oow) follow this pattern)

na gum, pitch, 
poss mbukóohum.

Other nouns ending in (uw) either do not have a possessed form attested or are obligatorily possessed nouns which do not use (um)

my cheek

A small number of nouns end in (eew) and these also add the possessive suffix irregularly

kwsháhteew ni tobacco

kshíiteew ni soup

tundéew ni fire

óxkweew na woman


Go to Practicum IV Noun Possessives

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

Awéen ha niil mahksúnal?             
Whose shoes are those?

Awéen is a pronoun.  It means 'who, whose, someone, or somebody' 
see Nouns Chapter 5 for more details.

Niil ha Bobúsh-mahksúnal.          
Those are Bobby's shoes.

Awéen ha niil wteehíimal?
Whose strawberries are those? 

Niil ha Mary-wteehíimal.

Máhta ha kii kooteehíimal.         
They're not your strawberries. 

(O'Meara;Delaware Resource)

Animate noun possession by proximity

Na ha Jesse-eemhwáanus.
That is Jesse's spoon.
(reference Chohkalihle)

Yook ha Bobush-eemhwáansak.
These are Bobby's spoons.

Both Jesse and eemhwáanus 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 eemhwáanus. My view is that 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. This is why I have used a dash mark to join them together.

Possessives with Adjoined Possessor:

Any animate noun may be placed in proximity to a possessed noun to indicate its relationship to that possessed noun as the possessor. The presence of possessive prefixes and suffixes makes it quite clear that the second noun is possessed by the first.

Méeliis-xwánzal kúndkeew.     
Mary's older brother is dancing.

xwánzal his older brother ; 
nxánz my older brother ; 
kxánz your older brother

Lúnuw-óoxwal wunéewkool.        
The man's father saw him.

The man's woman.

The cat's mother.

(wu + k =kw  beginning pattern)

(nguk my mother; 
kuk your mother; 
kwukal his or her mother)

Our mother earth.
His wife's money. (his wife her money)
(O'Meara, J. (1996). Delaware-English/English-Delaware Dictionary. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.)

My brother's money

Tha yu kxíismus wtaakongwéepuy?    
Where is your younger brother's hat? 

(O'Meara;Delaware Resource)

Double possessives:

Animate obviative nouns can be possessed by an animate noun and at the same time possess yet another noun, animate or inanimate. If a dependent noun is involved, in all cases it will use possessive prefixes and suffixes. Since there cannot be two proximates in a sentence or phrase, in those cases involving three animate nouns, two of them will have to marked with the obviative suffix. Some Algonquian languages have a ‘further obviative’ marking for this purpose. Such phrases with more than one obviative participant are best avoided if possible.

Njan kwúkal pambíilumal.                
John's mother's book. (John, his mother, her book)

Lúnuwal wtalohkáakanal.        
His male worker. His man, his worker. i.e. his servant. (example found in the Munsee Prayer Book)

Óxkweewal wtalohkáakanal.   
His female worker (maid)  (prayer book)
alohkaakan na worker

Nguk wjóosal.                             
My mother's friend. (my mother, her friend)

Wuneewaawal ngukal wjoosal. 
He (prox) saw my mother (obv) her friend (further obviative). He saw my mother's friend. 

Mary's older brother's chair.

Mary's older brother's friend.

My mother's older brother's chair.

My mother's older brother's friend.

Inanimate Possessor

Is there a way to say ‘it’s skin’ perhaps in reference to a grape?

xay na skin
wiisakiim ni grape

According to Dr Goddard of the Smithsonian, the Algonquian language literature has rare if any examples of this type of construct.

Aissen in her article ‘On the Syntax of Obviation’ (Language, Vol.73, No. 4;Dec 1997, p716 discusses this matter and proposes that the animate possessed noun of an inanimate possessor would use the (wu) prefix but without an obviative ending on the possessed animate noun.

i.e. wiisakiim xayum
the grape, its skin

Since I have encountered no such forms in my study of Munsee, I would recommend avoiding them.


Go to Practicum V Noun Possessives

Summary Possessive Nouns

Animate Possessive Nouns

Possessor Possessed Quantity = One Possessed Quantity = More than One
my: nu-(stem)-um nu-(stem)-um-ak
your: ku-(stem)-um ku-(stem)-um-ak
his or her: wu-(stem)-um-al (obviative) wu-(stem)-um-al (obviative)
our (excl) nu-(stem)-um-una nu-(stem)-um-una
our (incl) ku-(stem)-um-una ku-(stem)-um-una
your: ku-(stem)-um-uwa ku-(stem)-um-uwa
their: wu-(stem)-um-uwaawal wu-(stem)-um-uwaawal

Inanimate Possessive Nouns

Possessor Possessed Quantity = One Possessed Quantity = More than One
my: nu-(stem)-um nu-(stem)-um-al
your: ku-(stem)-um ku-(stem)-um-al
his or her: wu-(stem)-um wu-(stem)-um-al
our (excl) nu-(stem)-um-una nu-(stem)-um-una
our (incl) ku-(stem)-um-una ku-(stem)-um-una
your: ku-(stem)-um-uwa ku-(stem)-um-uwa
their: wu-(stem)-um-uwa wu-(stem)-um-uwa

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