Strategies to Create New Words

All human languages use certain common strategies to create new words:

Strategy One: Borrowing

1. Borrowing a word from another language

Using or borrowing a word from another language is a common way of finding new words when a language needs them. The words are usually borrowed from the language and culture which introduces the new item or idea. In Cree, the words which have been borrowed are mainly nouns which are names for things, often items of food and clothing or new technology.

Older borrowed words are integrated into the language and have a very Cree pronunciation. New or recently borrowed words have a more English or French pronunciation and include verbs as well as nouns. All borrowed words take Cree inflection. For example:

ᓂᑲᒻᐱᔫᑎᕆᒥᔥ Click here to hear this word ni-computer-imish my laptop (lit. my little computer)
Words borrowed from English
ᔔᑳᐤ Click here to hear this word shuukaau sugar
Click here to hear this word tii tea
ᑏᐧᐹᑦ Click here to hear this word tiipwaat teapot
ᒫᒌᔅ Click here to hear this word maachiis matches
ᐧᑳᐲ Click here to hear this word kwaapii coffee
ᐯᐹᐤ Click here to hear this word pepaau pepper
ᐸᑦ Click here to hear this word pat butter
ᑲᐸᑦ Click here to hear this word kapat cupboard
ᐸᑌᑎᔅ Click here to hear this word patetis potatoes (patates)
ᐧᐹᑲᑦ Click here to hear this word pwaakat pocket
ᐯᑎᑯᑦ Click here to hear this word petikut petticoat
ᒉᑲᑦ Click here to hear this word chekat jacket
ᒪᓛᔅ Click here to hear this word malaasis molasses
ᒥᓂᑯᔥ Click here to hear this word minikush minute
ᒫᐦᑮ Click here to hear this word maahkii marquee
ᐸᐧᓛᒡ Click here to hear this word palwaach badge
ᓕᐱᓐ Click here to hear this word lipin ribbon
ᓓᔅ Click here to hear this word les lace
ᑭᒋᓐ Click here to hear this word kichin kitchen
ᐲᓐᑰ Click here to hear this word piinkuu bingo
ᐲᓂᓴᒡ Click here to hear this word piinisach beans
ᐴᑎᓐ Click here to hear this word puutin pudding
ᐧᐋᒡ Click here to hear this word waach watch
ᐧᑳᑦ Click here to hear this word kwaat coat
ᐧᐹᐦᒡ Click here to hear this word pwaahch porch
ᐹᓂᑮᒃ Click here to hear this word paanikiik pancake
ᐧᔖᓪ / ᐧᔖᓐ Click here to hear this word shwaan shawl
ᐋᐦᐋᔅ Click here to hear this word aahaas horse
ᒑᒻ Click here to hear this word chaam jam
ᐧᒑᑲᓚᑦ Click here to hear this word chwaakalat chocolate
ᓰᐅᑏᔅ Click here to hear this word siiutiis sweets
ᔅᐯᑦ Click here to hear this word spet spade
ᐁᓐᒋᓪ Click here to hear this word enchil angel
ᔅᑮᑑ Click here to hear this word skiituu skidoo
ᔅᑯᓪ Click here to hear this word skuul school
Words borrowed from French
ᓰᐹᐃ Click here to hear this word shiipaai cipaille dumpling
ᒦᓅᔥ Click here to hear this word miinuush minouche cat
ᑳᓘ Click here to hear this word kaaluu carreaux card
ᐴᑕᐃ Click here to hear this word puutai bouteille bottle
ᑑᐲᔅ Click here to hear this word tuupiis autobus bus
ᑌᑲᓓᑉ Click here to hear this word tekalep des crêpes pancake, crepe

The pronunciation of new borrowed words is closer to the original English or French pronunciation because people now are bilingual or trilingual. This is especially true of names for people which are borrowed from English and French with their English and French pronunciation, even if they are being written in syllabics.

Certain classes of words are commonly used with the English pronunciation while speaking Cree. These are the words for numbers, expressions of time (days, months) and colours.

2. Borrowing the Translation only

Another way of borrowing is to use the ideas in the dominant language but translate them literally into Cree, as for example when chairman is translated as *ᑌᐦᑕᐳᐧᐃᓈᐯᐤ *tehtapuwinaapeu chair+man or as ᑌᐦᑕᐳᐧᐃᓅᒋᒫᐤ tehtapuwinuuchimaau chair+boss, instead of using the Cree word, ᑳᓃᑳᓇᐱᔥᑕᐦᒃ kaaniikaanapishtahk. Literally translated words exist because of language contact and bilingualism. This is not considered a good way to make new Cree words.

Strategy Two: Giving a New Meaning to an Existing Word

This process is found in all languages of the world. There is usually an element of meaning that is common to the old usage and the new usage of the word. For example, apui the paddle and apui the propeller have in common a certain shape (the shape of a paddle) and a function (moving something forward). When a word has two meanings which have a common element we speak of polysemy.

Original Meaning New Meaning
ᐊᐳᐃ Click here to hear this word apui paddle propeller
ᐃᔥᑯᑌᐤ Click here to hear this word ishkuteu fire (ni) battery (na), sparkplugs
ᒫᑎᔅ Click here to hear this word maatis flint sparkplug (na, Waswanipi)
ᐅᔥᑲᔒ Click here to hear this word ushkashii nail, claw skidoo track
ᐊᐦᐄᐲ Click here to hear this word ahiipii net net for hockey, basketball and other games, lamp mantle (Waskaganish)
ᐅᑕᒋᔒ Click here to hear this word utachishii guts hose, extension cord

Strategy Three: Using the Rules of the Language

Neologism is the art of making new words using the rules of the language. Words live and die. Words to talk about bush life are dying today in Cree because less people live in this reality. On the other hand, words that reflect the modern life are created everyday by Cree speakers. Add examples or link to terminology forum

ᒀᔥᒀᔥᑫᐸᔨᐦᐆᐙᑲᓐ Click here to hear this word kwaashkwaashkwepayihuuwaakan (ni) jolly jumper
ᑳᐧᑳᔥᐧᑳᐧᑫᐸᐦᑖᑦ Click here to hear this word kaakwaashkwaashkwepahtaat (nap) kangaroo

In Cree, a word is made up of many small parts and it is important to understand what these parts are and how they combine to understand how new word creation can happen in Cree. See: Structure of Cree words.

The parts of a word: ᐄᑖᐯᑲᒨ iitaapekamuu it (string-like) stretches from here to there.

iit aapek amu -u
so string-like stretch 3rd persons/he
INITIAL MEDIAL FINAL Personal suffix
STEM INFLECTION
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