Some facts about the Potawatomi language

Let’s use it before we lose it!

Bodéwadmi Zheshmowen

Basic lesson on verb forms, conjugation, and tenses.

The Neshnabé language is easy to use and learn. Beginning students must learn that parts of speech define the following:

    What is happening?          Defined by verbs.

    Who is doing the action?    Defined by emphatic pronouns.

    When is/did it occur?       Defined by tense indicators.

There are four primary types of verbs used in Bodéwadmimwen. Beginners are encouraged to gain a good understanding of VAI verb types.

    VAI – verb animate intransitive.

The verb action stays with the one(s) doing it, (subject) it does not transfer (to an object).

Example 1:    I see            Nwabjegé  (VAI)

In the example, the verb is “see” and it is intransitive. This type of verb differs from the two transitive forms shown below.

Example 2:    I see the man.   Nwabma nene  (VTA)

In this example, the verb is “see” and action is transferring to an animate object – man. The subject is “I” the verb is “see” and the object is “man”.

Example 3:    I see the light. Nwabdan waskonénjegen   (VTI)

In this example, the verb is “see” and the action is transferring to an inanimate object – light. The subject is “I” the verb is “see” and the object is “light”.

Conjugation Patterns  

This is a system of attaching either prefixes, prefixes and suffixes, or suffix to describe “who” is doing the verb action. Learn the following affirmative statements.

Nbé – he/she is sleeping/sleeps

Nde nba/nneba    gde nba/gneba    nbé/nbéwag    nde nebamen    gde nebamen       

Nin              gin              win           ninan          ginan

I, me            you              he/she        us (we – u)    us (we + u)

gde nebam/gnebam    nebég/nbéwag

ginwa               winwa

ya all              them 

(Present Tense) – he/she is walking/walks

I am walking                 nde bmosé/nbémsé

You are walking              gde bmose/gbémsé 

He/she is walking            bmosé/bmoséwag

We (excl.) are walking       nde bmosémen/nbémsémen

we (incl.) are walking       gde bmosémen/gbémsémen

Ya all are walking           gde bmosém/gbémsém

They are walking             bmoség

Tense markers: gi – past (did), wi – future indefinte (will), ga/da – future definite (shall). We use tense markers to define when something is/did/or is going to occur. Simply drop the tense marker into the statement between the personal pronoun and the verb. These are some of the tense markers.

Examples using tense markers.

Ngi bmosé            I did walk.

Ggi bmosé            You did walk.

Wibmosé              He/she will walk.

Nwi bmosémen         We (excl.) will walk.

Gwi bmosémen         We (incl.) shall walk.

Gwi bmosém           Ya all shall walk.

Da bmoséwag          They can/could/should walk 

Gi – did – past tense

I worked                      Ngi mikjéwi/ngimikjéwi

You worked                    Ggi mikjéwi/ggimikjéwi

He/she worked                 Mikjéwid/mikjéwiwad

We (excl.) worked             Ngi mikjéwimen/ngimikjéwimen

We (incl.) worked             Ggi mikjéwimen/ggimikjéwimen

Ya all worked                 Ggi mikjéwim/ggimikjéwim

They worked                   Mikjéwiwat

Wi – will/want to – future tense

I will leave                  Nwi maji/nwimaji

You will leave                Gwi maji/gwimaji

He/she will leave             Maji/majiwag

We (excl.) will leave         Nwi majimen/nwimajimen

We (incl.) will leave         Gwi majimen/gwikmajimen

Ya all will leave             Gwi majim/gwimajim

They will leave               Majiwig

Ga/Da – shall – future definite tense

I shall hunt                  Nda giwsé/ndagiwsé

You shall hunt                Gda giwsé/gdagiwsé

He/she shall hunt             Giwsé/giwséwag

We (excl.) shall hunt         Nda giwsémen/ndagiwsémen

We (incl.) shall hunt         Gda giwsémen/gdagiwsémen

Ya all shall hunt             Gda giwsém/gdagiwsém

They shall hunt               Giwséwig

Commonly Used VAI Verbs

He/she leaves                Maji

He/she drinks                Mnekwé

He/she eats                  Wisne

He/she runs                  Bémbeto

He/she hunts                 Giwsé

He/she works                 Mikjéwi

He/she dances                Nimedi

He/she sings                 Négmo

He/she visits                Mbwachewé

He/she buys                  Dawé

He/she gambles               Tadi

He/she drives                Wénkwéngé

Ahau, Shketon ode zheshmowen bwamshe éngetoyak

Ok, Use this language before we lose it!

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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