When the words ᐊᐧᐁᓐawen and ᒉᒡᐧᑳᓐchekwaan are used for asking questions, they are called “interrogative pronouns”. They can also be used as indefinite pronouns or quantifiers. ᐊᐧᐁᓐawen is used for animate beings or things, and ᒉᐧᑳᓐchekwaan for inanimate ones. They can be used alone:
Or they can be found in a full sentence:
What do you see?
Who is arriving?
They always take inflectional endings, for example plural inflection:
What (things) do you see?
Who do you see?
Who (plural) do you see?
What does he see?
What (things) does he see?
Who does he see?
Who is this? (When you see the person)
Who is that? (When you do not see the person)
What is this? (When you see the thing)
What is that? (When you do not see the thing)
The interrogative pronouns ᐊᐧᐁᓐawen and ᒉᐧᑳᓐchekwaan can also be used with the demonstrative pronounsᐆuu and ᐊᓐan. They both take inflection:
What (obviative) is it (that he is holding)?
Who (obviative) is it (that he wants to meet)?
ᐊᐧᐁᓐawen and ᒉᐧᑳᓐchekwaan can take the dubitative inflection (see Dubitative pronouns). ᒉᒄchekw is a shorter, uninflected form of ᒉᐧᑳᓐchekwan, ‘what kind?’. It cannot be used alone. (see Interrogative particles)
Why not?’, ‘How come?’, ‘What for?
ᒉᐧᑳᓐchekwaan is also found in questions about reasons or causes. It usually appears with the particle ᐧᐁᐦᒋwehchi. ᒉᐧᑳᓐ ᐧᐁᐦᒋchekwaan wehchi means ‘Why?’ [see the particle wehchi]: