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 ni-computer-imish my laptop (lit. my little computer)
ᓂᑭ ᔓᐳᐧᐃᓐ᙮ niki shop-uwin. I am going shopping.

Although we do have a word for going out of town to go shopping ᓂᑭ ᒧᐧᐋᐱᓐ᙮ niki muwaapin. I am going for supplies.

Words borrowed from English
ᔔᑳᐤ Click here to hear this word shuukaau sugar
Click here to hear this word tii tea
ᑏᐧᐹᑦ tiipwaat teapot
ᒫᒌᔅ Click here to hear this word maachiis matches
ᐧᑳᐦᐲ kwaahpii coffee
ᐹᐹᐤ Click here to hear this word paapaau pepper
ᐸᑦ/ᐱᑦ Click here to hear this word pat/pit butter
ᑲᐸᑦ/ᑭᐱᑦ Click here to hear this word kapat/kipit cupboard
ᐱᑖᑎᔅ paataatis potato
ᐧᐹᑭᑦ pwaakit pocket
ᐹᑎᑯᑦ Click here to hear this word paatikut petticoat
ᒑᑭᑦ Click here to hear this word chaakit jacket
ᒥᓂᑯᔑᔥ minikushish minute
ᒫᐦᑮ Click here to hear this word maahkii marquee
ᐱᐧᓛᒡ pilwaach badge
ᐊᓕᐱᓐ alipin ribbon
ᑭᒋᓐ kichin kitchen
ᐲᓂᓯᒡ piinisich beans
ᐴᑎᓐ Click here to hear this word puutin pudding
ᐧᐋᒡ waach watch
ᐹᐃ paai pie
ᐹᓂᑮᒃ Click here to hear this word paanikiik pancake
ᐧᔖᓐ shwaan shawl
ᐋᐦᐋᔅ aahaas horse
ᐱᔮᔅᒑᔮᐲᐦ Click here to hear this word piyaaschaayaapiih braces (for pants)
ᐱᓛᐅᔅ Click here to hear this word pilaaus blouse
ᒑᒻ chaam jam
ᐧᒑᑭᓕᑦ/ᐧᒑᑭᓂᑦ chwaakilit/chwaakinit chocolate
ᓰᐅᑏᔅ siiutiis candy/sweets
ᐁᐃᓐᒋᓪ einchil angel
ᐃᔅᑮᑑ iskiituu skidoo

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: butterfly translated by ᐱᑐᒑᐤ pituchaau (butter+fly) or chairman translated as ᑖᐦᑎᐱᐧᐃᓂᒋᒫᐤ taahtipiwinichimaau (chair+boss) instead of using ᑳᓃᑳᓂᐱᔥᑎᐦᒃ kaaniikaanipishtihk. These exist because of language contact and bilingualism. This is not considered a good way to make a 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.

Cree Word Original Meaning New Meaning
ᐊᔅᒋᐦᒄ Click here to hear this word aschihkw kettle, pail engine
ᐊᐳᐃ Click here to hear this word apui paddle propeller
ᐃᔥᑯᑖᐤ Click here to hear this word ishkutaau fire (ni) battery, sparkplugs
ᒫᑎᔅ maatis flint pellets for shells(GW)
ᐅᔥᑭᔒ ushkishii nail, claw skidoo track
ᐅᑎᒋᔒᐅᐋᔮᐲ utichishiiuaayaapii guts, intestine hose, extension cord
ᓯᔅᑳᐦᐋᐧᐋᒋᑭᓐ siskaahaawaachikin support pole in a tipi/tent car insurance(Wemindji)

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.

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: ᐄᑖᐹᑭᒨ᙮ iitaapaakimuu. It (string-like) stretches from here to there.

iit aapaak imu -u
so string-like stretch 3rd person (s/he)