Gender (animate-inanimate)

Observation
ᐧᐋᐸᐦᑕᒻ᙮ Click here to hear this word waapahtam. She sees it.
ᐧᐋᐸᒣᐤ᙮ Click here to hear this word waapameu. She sees him.

The verb ᐧᐋᐸᐦᑕᒻ waapahtam talks about something being seen, while the verb ᐧᐋᐸᒣᐤ waapameu talks about someone being seen. A verb like ᐧᐋᐸᐦᑕᒻ waapahtam can only be used with an inanimate noun for its goal (the role of the one being looked at). For example, one could say ᐧᐋᐸᐦᑕᒻ ᒨᐦᑯᒪᓂᔫ waapahtam muuhkumaniyuu (inanimate noun, ‘knife’) “She sees a knife” but never *ᐧᐋᐸᐦᑕᒻ ᓈᐯᐤᐦ* waapahtam naapeuh (animate noun, ‘man’). A verb like ᐧᐋᐸᒣᐤ waapameu on the other hand, can only be used with an animate noun like ᓈᐯᐤᐦ naapeu ‘man’:

ᐧᐋᐸᒣᐤ ᓈᐯᐤᐦ᙮ waapameu naapeuh. She sees a man/men.

Consider these other examples:

ᒦᒎ ᐧᐃᔮᓯᔫ᙮ Click here to hear this word miichuu wiyaasiyuu. S/he eats meat.
ᒧᐧᐁᐤ ᐋᐃᐦᑯᓈᐤᐦ᙮ Click here to hear this word muweu aaihkunaauh. S/he eats bannock.

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.

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

ᐋᐸᑎᓐ᙮ Click here to hear this word aapatin. It is in use.
ᐋᐸᑎᓰᐤ᙮ Click here to hear this word aapatisiiu. She is working.

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

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