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 RomanNotationEnglish gloss
Click here to hear this word chii 2 you
ᒌᔮᓅ Click here to hear this word chiiyaanuu 21p you and me (we, including you)
ᒌᐧᐋᐤ Click here to hear this word chiiwaau 2p you-all (but not me)
Click here to hear this word nii 1 I
ᓃᔮᓐ Click here to hear this word niiyaan 1p we (but not you)
ᐧᐄ Click here to hear this word wii 3 she, he, it (proximate animate singular)
ᐧᐄᐧᐋᐤ Click here to hear this word wiiwaau 3p they (proximate animate plural)
ᐊᐧᐁᔫᐦ Click here to hear this word aweyuuh 3′(p) or 4(p) the other person (obviative animate singular or plural)
ᒉᐧᑳᓐ Click here to hear this word chekwaan 0 it (proximate inanimate singular)
ᒉᐧᑳᓐ Click here to hear this word chekwaan 0p they (proximate inanimate plural)
ᒉᐧᑳᔫ Click here to hear this word chekwaayuu 0′ the other thing (obviative inanimate singular)
ᒉᐧᑳᔫᐦ Click here to hear this word chekwaayuuh 0’p the other things (obviative ianimate plural)

Cree makes several distinctions that do not exist in English. The plural ‘you’ distinguishes between ᒌᔮᓅ chiiyaanuu ‘you and me’ and ᒌᐧᐋᐤ chiiwaau ‘you all, but not me’. The distinction is about whether ‘me’ the speaker, is included or not. This distinction is often refered to in the linguistic literature by contrasting ᒌᔮᓅ chiiyaanuu and ᓃᔮᓐ niiyaan and saying that ᒌᔮᓅ chiiyaanuu 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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