Nouns are words that refer to persons, places, or things. They are the elements that do the action described by the verb or have the action done to them. Many Mi'gmaq sentences have nouns in them, but they aren't necessary. A few examples of English nouns include Listuguj, Mary, woman, and table. These same words are also nouns in Mi'gmaq: Listuguj, Mali, e'pit, and ptauti.
There are several characteristics that are found in both nouns and verbs, including Animacy, Obviation and Person and number marking, which are discussed in their respective articles. Independently of verbs, nouns can also be Singular or Plural, Absentative, and Vocative. Nouns can be modified by a variety of things, including Possession, Adjectives, Determiners, Numerals, Diminuitives and Relative Clauses. Pronouns can also be used to substitute for nouns.
Characteristics of Nouns
For more detail, see Plural Nouns
"Number" refers to how many of something there are. In both English and Mi'gmaq, there are two numbers for nouns: singular (only one of something) and plural (two or more of something). In English, a plural noun often looks like the singular plus an -s at the end, for example, girl becomes girls. In Mi'gmaq, there are two things you can add to a noun in order to make it plural, depending on whether the noun is animate or inanimate. For inanimate nouns, like ptauti 'table' as shown in (1), you generally add -l to the end of the word (or sometimes you make the last sound of the word longer). For animate nouns, like ji'nm 'man' as shown in (2), you add -ug or -ig or -oq depending on the particular noun.
ptauti, ptauti-l table, table-PL
ji'nm, ji'nm-ug man, man-PL
If you've looked at number in Mi'gmaq verbs, you may have noticed that Mi'gmaq verbs make a distinction between singular, dual (two participants), and plural (three or more participants). However, for nouns, the only distinction is between one and more than one.
When one addresses a person directly, the term used to address that person is known as a vocative.
As seen in the example below, English vocatives do not look different from non-vocative English nouns.
- To take an English example, in the sentence "Chris baked a cake," Chris is not a vocative noun. But in the command, "Hey Chris, please bake a cake!" the name Chris is a vocative.
However, one category of Mi'gmaq nouns seems to differ based on whether they are vocative or not. In Mi'gmaq, the words for family members look different as vocatives than they do when used in a sentence. While it is not grammatical to say "I have a daughter" using the bare root for 'daughter,' (more detail on this is given in Possession) it is completely grammatical to use that bare root to address one's daughter directly. Examples of both uses of the root for 'daughter' are seen below.
*geggung tus have.1>3 daughter
'(intended) I have a daughter.'
tus, pasi daughter, sit.IMP
This second example should be double-checked.--Elise 12:18, 15 May 2012 (CDT)
- The -sgw suffix, which functions like -ess in lioness
more detail to follow
Diminutive and Augmentative
For more detail, see Diminutive and Augmentative.
In Mi'gmaq, the diminutive is a suffix, that means "little [noun]". It cannot attach to every noun, though it is possible that your meaning may be understood even if you put it on a slightly non-standard noun. It may also be used to connote youth or affection towards the noun in question.
Some examples of words where it might appear include...
- lpa'tuj 'boy' becomes lpa'tu'ji'j 'little boy'
- gjigan 'city' becomes gjiganji'j 'village'
- jijgluewj 'sheep' becomes jijgluewji'j 'lamb'
Note that you can't always assume that the ending -ji'j is going to be a diminutive. The word jipji'j 'bird' ends in -ji'j, but there is no word meaning 'larger bird' that is pronounced jip.
The opposite of a diminutive is an augmentative, an affix which denotes largeness. When augmenting a noun, Mi'gmaq speakers seem to prefer using the adjective mesg'ig rather than a particular augmentative affix. However, there is evidence that at some point the prefix gji- was used as an augmentative, as it occurs as a prefix in several words that are bigger or greater than their un-prefixed counterparts.
Examples of this type of prefixation are limited, however, and the process does not seem to be productive any longer. The most relevant pair of examples are...
- ga'gaquj 'crow' compared to gjiga'qaquj 'raven'
- nisgam 'god' compared to gjinisgam 'Great Spirit'
This is another feature of Mi'gmaq that English doesn't share. It is a suffix on both verbs and nouns indicating that the person about whom you are speaking is no longer around, either because they are absent, lost, or dead.
For example, in speaking about a living relative, you would say:
Nujj teluisit Piel n-ujj telui-sit Piel
1-father name-3 Piel
'My father is named Piel/Pierre.'
However, speaking about a deceased relative, you would say:
Nujaq teluisipnaq Piel n-ujj-aq telui-sipn-aq Piel
1-father-ABSN name-3.PST-ABSN Piel
'My (deceased) father was named Piel/Pierre.'
Additionally, the absentative suffix -oq can be attached to names; in this example, you might refer to your father not as Piel, but Pieloq. It cannot attach to inanimate objects to indicate that they are absent. Take the ungrammaticality of the next example:
'ghost town (intended)'
Modifiers of Nouns
A modifier is basically a word that changes how a noun is interpreted, giving it a different or more precise meaning. They tend to be optional, so if you're not sure if a given word in a sentence is a modifier, try saying the sentence again without that word: if it still makes sense, the word was probably a modifier.
For more detail, see Numerals
There are some categories of nouns in Mi'gmaq that require special ways of counting. This could be compared to how in English, we say "a pair of pants" rather than "one pants" or "two pants"--though admittedly, the Mi'gmaq system is more compex than that. In Mi'gmaq, nouns are split into categories that are grouped together with specific counting words for that specific category. These are the most common groups, using examples from Hewson & Francis (1990):
- long and round objects, such as bottles, candles, and even people
- round objects, such as potatoes, balls, and apples
- units of time
- years, months
- ages of people
- classes, groups, types of things
- dimensions, weights and measures
For more detail, see Possession
Possession covers a whole range of relationships between nouns, not necessarily relationships where there is a possession and an owner. In English, possession covers expressions such as:
- my umbrellas
- Tom's sister
- Jamie's leg
- a friend of Alice's
- the music of Beethoven
The verbs used in these sentences can also be thought of as "possessive":
- I have a cake.
- This dog belongs to me.
As mentioned before, these relationships aren't always strictly of ownership, but can be interpreted as a type of closeness or relatedness--so while the umbrella may be my possession in the strictest sense of the word, we also shouldn't think of Tom's sister being his possession. Instead, we use possession to show that a relationship exists between the two nouns in question.
Mi'gmaq possession has one very important feature that English speakers will have to get used to. This is related to the idea of alienability. So when something is alienable, the relationship between the two nouns is changeable; my umbrella shows an alienable relationship, because I can give away the umbrella, and then it is no longer mine and the relationship dissolves. Tom's sister, however, shows an inalienable relationship because no matter what, Tom and his sister will always be related.
Mi'gmaq inalienable nouns include...
- body parts (i.e. 'gpitn 'your hand', and nunji 'my head')
- family members (i.e. nuj 'my father', and ugmisl 'his/her big sister')
- a couple exceptions (i.e. nitap 'my friend' is inalienable, even though it describes a relationship that might change.)
Mi'gmaq alienable nouns include...
- everything else (i.e. 'gtsipuminu 'our river', and 'ntptautim 'my table', and ugtwigatign 'his/her book', and so on and so forth)
For more detail, see Demonstratives
A demonstrative is a word that can be paired with a noun, and generally helps people differentiate between two different nouns in conversation. In English, "this," "that," "these," and "those" are all demonstratives--you can pair them with nouns ("this cat," "those hats") but not verbs or lone adjectives.
In Mi'gmaq, we also see at least two demonstratives:
- ula, for things that are close to the speaker, which seems to correspond to English "this"
- ala, for things that are further from the speaker, which seems to correspond to English "that"
However, in Mi'gmaq they seem to be used a little differently from English. We have seen grammatical Mi'gmaq phrases such as ula nemis, which would translate in English to "this my big sister," a badly-formed phrase.
Another grammatical Mi'gmaq phrase where a demonstrative looks different from its English counterpart is seen below:
Piel eig ula tet. Piel be.3 this here
'Piel is right here. // Piel is at this place'
Piel eig ala tet. Piel be.3 that here
'Piel is over there. // Piel is at that place.'
more detail to follow
For more detail, see Pronouns
A pronoun is a word that can substitute for a noun that is already known from the context of the conversation.
- Q: What did Mary do with the book?
- A: Mary gave the book to Peter. (all nouns - sounds too long)
- A: She gave it to him. (all pronouns - we don't know who "him" is)
- A: She gave it to Peter. (pronouns for known information, nouns for new information - sounds more natural)
- A: She gave it to me. (ok as long as we know who is talking so we know who "me" is)
Some examples of pronouns in English are I, me, you, he, she, her, him, it, we, us, they, and them. Pronouns can be classified in several ways, see Person and number and Obviation for details. The table below shows the pronouns in Mi'gmaq.
Mi'gmaq uses pronouns in somewhat different contexts compared to how English does. In English, you can't tell from a verb by itself who is doing the action or who has the action being done to them. For example, "see" doesn't tell us anything about who is seeing or being seen, so the only way to know this is by having nouns or pronouns. Mi'gmaq verbs do give you this information. For example, nemi'g can only mean that "I see an animate thing," and if we want to change who/what is seeing or being seen we have change parts of the verb (much more information about this in the Verbs section).
These facts mean that it isn't necessary to use pronouns to express this information again, since we already know it. Saying ni'n nemitu negm is therefore not quite like saying "I see him/her". Since we didn't have to use ni'n or negm, the fact that we're choosing to say them means that we want to emphasize these particular people. For example, if someone asked you "Did she see you?" you might want to emphasize the opposite by saying "No, it was me that saw her", but in a normal sentence you probably wouldn't bother to do this.
For more detail, see Indefinite Pronouns
Indefinite pronouns are words that refer to non-specific entities. The following is a partial list of indefinite pronouns in Mi'gmaq:
The speaker notes that it is possible to say 'moqoi' as a contraction of 'mugoqwei'. Alternatively, the Mi'gmaq dictionary lists the following form: 'mo'qagoqwei'. In addition, for the form 'moqwa' wen' the speaker notes that it is possible to say 'mowen' as a contraction. As can be seen from this table, many of the indefinite pronouns in Mi'gmaq could be broken down into two parts--a quantifier or an affix, and a wh-word. For example:
- ↑ Hewson & Francis. 1990. Father Pacifique's Migmaq Grammar.