On possessives

Inalienable Possession

Understanding possession requires knowledge of the personal pronouns and their corresponding prefixes and suffixes.  In Bodewadmimwen, body parts and relatives fall into a special class of nouns that are considered “inalienably” possessed.  This means that to be grammatically correct, you cannot just have a Foot or a Mother; you have to specify whose foot or whose mother it is.  Body parts and relatives are considered “Dependent” nouns.

Nkat                My leg                                     Ngyé                My mother

Gkat                Your leg                                   Ggyé                Your mother

Wkaten           His/her leg                              Wgyéyen        His/her mother

Nkatmenan     Our leg (not yours)                  Ngyénan         Our mother (not yours)

Gkatmenan    Our leg (+you)                         Ggyénan         Our mother (+you)

Gkatmewa      Your leg (pl.)                           Ggyéwa           Your mother (pl.)

Wkatmewa     Their leg                                  Wgyéwan       Their mother

The pattern looks slightly different when the noun is plural.  Remember, body parts are inanimate, while relatives are animate:

Ntogen                        My ears                       Nmeshomsek              My grandfather

Gtogen                        Your ears                     Gmeshomsek              Your grandfather

Wtognen                     His/her ears                Wmeshomsen His/her grandfather

Ntogmenanen             Our ears (-you)            Nmeshomsenanek     Our grandfather (-)

Gtogmenanen             Our ears (+you)           Gmeshomsenanek      Our grandfather (+)

Gtogmewan                Your ears (pl.)             Gmeshomsewak         Your grandfather (pl)

Wtogmewan               Their ears                    Wmeshomsewan        Their grandfather

Here are some commonly used terms for relatives and friends.  Note that some terms are only used by men, while some terms are only used by women.

My maternal aunt       Noshé                          My nephew                 Negwenes

My paternal aunt        Nshegwes                    My niece                     Nzhemes

My cousin                    Nitawes                       My parents                  Ngetsimek

My daughter               Ndanes                        My younger sibling     Nshimé

My son                        Ngwes                         My brother (men)       Nnikan[1]

My grandmother        N’okmes                      My daughter in law     Ne’agnekwé

My child                      Nijanes                        My sister (women)      Nidgeko

My grandchild             Nosés                           My sister (men)           Ndekwem

My uncle                     Nzheshé                       My son in law              Ne’angesh

My elder brother of male                   Nsezé

My elder brother of female                Ndewéma

My brother in law of female              Nita

My brother in law of male                  Niji

My elder sister of male                       Nmesé

My sister in law of male                     Ninem

Family ties were of utmost importance to the old time Bodéwadmik, and relationships were very specific.  Many relationships had special places of honor in society.  For example, it was customary for a son-in-law to avoid speaking directly to his mother-in-law out of absolute respect for her. 

Here are some commonly used body parts.

My ear                        Ntog                            My ears                       Ntogen

My nose                      Njash

My eye                        Nshkishek                    My eyes                       Nshkishgwen

My throat                    Ngotaken                    

My mouth                   Ndon

My chin                       Ndamken

My arm                       Nnek                            My arms                      Nnekén

My hand                      Nej/Nenji                     My hands                    Nenjin

My leg                         Nkat                             My legs                       Nkatén

My foot                       Nzet                             My feet                       Nzetén

My finger                    Nenjis                          My fingers                   Nenjisen

My toe                         Nzetés                         My toes                       Nzetésen

My shoulder                Ndenmagen                My shoulders              Ndenmagnen

My head                      Nshtegwan                 

Top of my head           Ndep

My hair                       Nwinsesén

My forehead               Ngeték

My back                      Npegwen

My tooth                     Nibet                           My teeth                     Nibden

Alienable Possession

Objects that can be removed from a possessor are considered “Alienable.”  This means that the noun in question can be given away.  Nouns that fall into this category are considered “Independent” nouns.  Possession of this sort is shown as follows:

Inanimate Objects:

Nkomanem                 My knife                                  Nkomanen                   My knives

Gkomanem                 Your knife                                Gkomanen                   Your knives

Wkomanem                His/her knife                           Wkomanen                  His/her knives

Nkomanmenan           Our knife (not yours)              Nkomanmenanen       Our knives

Gkomanmenan           Our knife (yours too)               Gkomanmenanen       Our knives

Gkomanmewa Your knife (pl.)                                    Gkomanmewan           Your knives

Wkomanmewa           Their knife                               Wkomanmewan          Their knives

Animate Objects:

Ngazhoyem                 My cat                                     Ngazhomek                 My cats

Ggazhoyem                 Your cat                                   Ggazhomek                 Your cats

Wgazhomen                His/her cat                              Wgazhomen                His/her cats

Ngazhomenan Our cat (not yours)                              Ngazhomenanek         Our cats

Ggazhomenan Our cat (yours too)                              Ggazhomenanek         Our cats

Ggazhomewa              Your cat (pl.)                           Ggazhomewak Your cats

Wgazhomewan           Their cat                                  Wgazhomewan           Their cats

There are other ways to show possession of this type:

            Ndo komanem                                    My knife

            Nin ma ode koman                              This is my knife (emphatic)

            Nin ndebendan ode koman                I own this knife

            Nin ma o nemosh                                That is my dog (emphatic)

            Nin ndebenma o nemosh                   I own that dog

Gdo koman                                         Your knife

            Gin ma ode koman                              This is your knife (emphatic)

            Gin gdebendan ode koman                You own this knife

            Ndo komanmenan                              Our knife

            Ndo komanmenanen                          Our knives

            Ninan ndebendamen ode koman       We own this knife

            Gdo komanmenan                              Our knife

            Gdo komanmenanen                          Our knives

            Ginan ndebendamen node komanen We own these knives 

Some special Possessive words:

Nda’i                            My pet dog

            Ndokyan                      My pet cat (can be used for other small animals)

            Ndéygwam                  My pet horse


[1] Nikan is also used for “My friend.”

Author: neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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