The Structure of Cree Words

Initial, Medial, and Final

ᔖᐳᓂᑭᓐ shaapunikin a needle for sewing
ᔖᐳᒋᐤ shaapuchiu s/he is cold because the cold is coming through
ᔖᐳᐱᔨᐤ shaapupiyiu it goes through it
ᔖᐧᐹᔥᑖᐤ shaapwaashtaau it shines through
ᔖᐧᐹᐱᐦᑎᒻ shaapwaapihtim s/he sees through it, s/he takes an x-ray of it

The stems of these words have a meaning that includes the idea of through and they have a common element ᔖᐳ shaapu. Most stems are made of smaller building blocks that can be recognized. An element like ᔖᐳ shaapu that is typically found at the beginning of the word, is called an initial. Other elements can be found in other positions, like in the middle of the word stem, or at the end of it.

An element found in the middle position like -aapaach string-like, is called a medial.

ᐎᔨᐹᐹᒋᓯᐤ wiipaapaachisiu it (anim, string-like) is black
ᓃᐦᑖᐹᒋᓂᒻ niihtaapaachinim s/he lowers it using a rope
ᒋᔅᐱᑳᐹᒋᓯᐤ chispakaapaachisiu it (anim, string-like) is thick

An element found in the final position of the stem, before the inflection, like -n by hand, is called a final.

ᐋᔥᑎᐙᓈᐤ aashtiwaanaau s/he extinguishes, puts it (animate) out, by hand
ᒋᒥᓈᐤ chiminaau s/he breaks off a piece of something (anim) by hand
ᐹᐦᑳᓈᐤ paahkaanaau s/he bursts it (anim) with her/his hand
ᔑᔓᓈᐤ shishunaau s/he rubs it on her/him
ᔒᐹᓈᐤ shiipaanaau s/he pushes him/her under by hand

Stem, Derivation, and Composition

The process of assembling word stems can be done in three ways by: primary derivation, secondary derivation, and through composition.

A stem formed by primary derivation, called a primary stem, is made up of one or more elements that are not word stems themselves. For example, the verb ᐱᓱᐸᔨᐤ pisupiyiu, s/he/it goes slow is made up of an initial pisu- and a final piyi- that are not words themselves.

pisu piyi u
INITIAL FINAL personal suffix

A stem formed by secondary derivation, called a secondary stem, is made up of an underlying word stem and at least another stem-building element. For example, the verb ᐱᓱᐱᔨᐦᑖᐤ pisupiyihtaau s/he makes it go slow is made up of the stem of the existing verb ᐱᓱᐱᔨᐤ pisupiyiu and the causative final -htaa.

pisu piyi htaa u
INITIAL FINAL personal suffix

A stem formed through composition contains independent elements, like two existing word stems, or a preform and another word stem. For example, the noun ᒥᔥᑎᑯᓈᐹᐤ mishtikunaapaau carpenter is made by conjoining two other noun stems: ᒥᔥᑎᒄ mishtikw wood and ᓈᐹᐤ napaau man.

ᒥᔥᑎᒄ + ᓈᐹᐤ
mishtikw napaau
wood man

The verb ᒥᔪᒌᔑᑳᐤ miyuchiishikaau it is a nice day is made by conjoining the preverb ᒥᔪ miyu and the verb ᒌᔑᑳᐤ chiishikaau.

ᒥᔪ + ᒌᔑᑳᐤ
miyu chiishikaau
good it is day
it is a nice day