Person Inflection

Verbs in Cree vary according to person. The person is expressed by prefixes and suffixes. The person inflection may be for actor only, or for both actor and goal. This inflection occurs in the three orders: Imperative, Independent, and Conjunct.

The Cree persons are:
Syllabics   Roman Notation English gloss
ᒌᔨ Click here to hear this word chiiyi 2 you
ᒌᔮᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word chiiyaaniu 21p you and me (we, including you)
ᒌᔨᐧᐋᐤ Click here to hear this word chiiyiwaau 2p you-all (but not me)
ᓃᔨ Click here to hear this word niiyi 1 I
ᓃᔮᓐ Click here to hear this word niiyaan 1p we (but not you)
ᐧᐄᔨ Click here to hear this word wiiyi 3 she, he, it (proximate animate singular)
ᐧᐄᔨᐧᐋᐤ Click here to hear this word wiiyiwaau 3p they (proximate animate plural)
ᐊᐧᐋᔨᐤᐦ Click here to hear this word awaayiuh 3′(p) or 4(p) the other person (obviative animate singular or plural)
ᐊᐧᐋᔨᐤᐦ Click here to hear this word awaayiuh 5(p) another other person – for example someone else’s son (further obviative animate singular or plural)
ᒑᐧᑳᓐ Click here to hear this word chaakwaan 0 it (proximate inanimate singular)
ᒑᐧᑳᓂᐦᐄ Click here to hear this word chaakwaanihii 0p they (proximate inanimate plural)
ᒑᐧᑳᔨᐤ Click here to hear this word chaakwaayiu 0′ the other thing (obviative inanimate singular)
ᒑᐧᑳᓂᐦᐄ Click here to hear this word chaakwaanihii 0’p the other things (obviative ianimate plural)

Cree makes several distinctions that do not exist in English. The plural ‘you’ distinguishes between ᒌᔮᓂᐤ chiiyaanui ‘you and me’ and ᒌᔨᐧᐋᐤ chiiyiwaau ‘you all, but not me’. The distinction is about whether ‘I’ the speaker, is included or not. This distinction is often refered to in the linguistic literature by contrasting ᒌᔮᓂᐤ chiiyaaniu and ᓃᔮᓐ and saying that ᒌᔮᓂᐤ chiiyaaniu is a ‘we-inclusive’ and that ᓃᔮᓐ niiyaan is a ‘we-exclusive’. But the forms of the Cree pronouns and prefixes, both starting with chi- suggests that we are rather dealing with a ‘you-inclusive of me’ and a ‘you-exclusive of me’ perspective.

Another important distinction that does not exist in English is Obviation. The third persons animate and inanimate are different because only one of them can be chosen as being talked about. The one that is being talked about is called proximate, all the other ones must be obviative and must be marked as such.  Third persons are thus either proximate or obviative.

Other distinctions such as singular-plural and first-second (I-you), and third person are distinctions that are common across languages.

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