Gender

Observation
ᐧᐋᐱᐦᑎᒻ᙮ ᒻ᙮ Click here to hear this word waapihtim. She sees it.
ᐧᐋᐱᒫᐤ᙮ Click here to hear this word waapimaau. She sees him.

The verb ᐧᐋᐱᐦᑎᒻ waapihtim talks about something being seen, while the verb ᐧᐋᐱᒫᐤ waapimaau talks about someone being seen. A verb like ᐧᐋᐱᐦᑎᒻ waapihtim can only be used with an inanimate noun for its goal (the role of the thing being looked at). For example, one could say ᐧᐋᐱᐦᑎᒻ ᒨᐦᑯᒫᓂᔨᐤ waapihtim muuhkumaaniyiu (inanimate noun ‘knife’) ‘She sees a knife’ but never *ᐧᐋᐱᐦᑎᒻ ᓈᐹᐤᐦ *waapihtim naapaauh (animate noun ‘man’). A verb like ᐧᐋᐱᒫᐤ waapimaau on the other hand, can only be used with an animate noun like ᓈᐹᐤ naapaau ‘man’: ᐧᐋᐱᒫᐤ ᓈᐹᐤᐦ. waapimaau naapaauh. ‘She sees a man’.

Consider these other examples:

ᐅᑎᓈᐤ ᐅᑎᐧᐋᔑᔒᒻᐦ᙮ Click here to hear this word utinaau utiwaashishiimh. S/he takes her child.
ᐅᑎᓂᒻ ᓂᑎᐦᑯᔨᓂᔨᐤ᙮ Click here to hear this word utinim nitihkuyiniyiu. S/he takes medicine.

In a transitive verb, it is the role of what or who is being acted upon (called “the goal”) that determines which verb is used. In the above examples, when the goal is animate (child), the verb ᐧᐅᑎᓈᐤ utinaau is used, and when the goal is inanimate (the medicine) the medicine (inanimate), the verb ᐅᑎᓂᒻ utinim is used.

This distinction between animate and inanimate roles also applies to intransitive verbs:

ᐋᐱᑎᓰᐤ᙮ Click here to hear this word aapitisiiu. S/he is working, used.
ᐋᐱᑎᓐ᙮ Click here to hear this word aapitin. It is used, useful.

In an intransitive verb, there is only a single role that determines which verb is used.

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