Learning to Speak Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe) Anokiiwin by Shaawano Chad Uran

Boozhoo niijii-bimaadizidog!

Here are some phrases for sharing during activities with your kids! In keeping with the theme from last month, being bossy, I have included some phrases that are frequently used in between activities.

Since the grammar here is slightly more complex than the list of commands I gave out last time, it may be helpful to review the previous entry.

First thing you may notice is the multiple verbs in the first entry. The first verb, atoon, is only slightly modified, with that prefix attached to the basic command form that you may remember from last time.

The second verb, giizhitaayan, is in subordinate form. Subordinate form is sometimes called B form in other language learning materials.

For now, notice that the second person singular, or “you,” is indicated at the end of the verb, with that –yan. You may have already learned second person singular verbs in A form, which mark the “you” at the front of the verb, such as in gidizhaa (“you are going”). In B form, the same phrase would be izhaayan (“you are going,” and note the same suffix, –yan, as in giizhitaayan).

The second entry is in A form, so the “you” is marked at the start of the verb with Gi-. That second part, wii-, is a tense marker. Technically, it indicates a future intensive, or what a person wants to or will make happen in the future. You may see it translated as “will” or “want” depending on context.

If you were to look up the word shishoobii’ige in the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary, you might not find it. That is because when you add a tense marker to a verb, the first consonant sound changes. In this case, the sound changes from a zh– to an sh– sound. Some teachers call this change moving from a softer sound to a harder one. Technically, the change is that the sound goes from a voiced sound to an unvoiced sound.

Voicing means that the vocal chords vibrate when you make the sound. In English, the sounds for D and T are made in the same places in your mouth, the only difference is that D is voiced and T is voiceless. Go ahead and try making D and T sounds right now; if you put your hand on your throat you will feel your vocal chords vibrating when you make the D sound, but not the T.

Plus, you look silly, which is a feeling you should get comfortable with because as a new language learner, you are going to make some silly mistakes and that’s OK.

You might also be wondering what is going on in 6 and 7. For 6, the pouring has no object, you are just telling someone to pour. In other words, the verb in 6 is intransitive, but carried out by a person, which we call the VAI form. VAI stands for “verb animate intransitive.” In 7, you are telling them to pour water, which is an inanimate noun. So 7 uses the transitive form and marks an inanimate object, or VTI form (verb transitive inanimate).

There is quite a lot here that could be explained, but I’d rather dispense with the grammatical lessons and just get to the phrases. Most of us speak English pretty well without being able to consciously spout off all the underlying grammatical rules because we learned them through listening and practice. Learning Ojibwemowin as a second (or third, etc.) language might require studying the rules. If you want to delve further into the grammatical rules of Ojibwemowin, there are some notes at the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary site, or in the Nichols and Nyholm dictionary, or most of the other textbooks you might find.

Miigwech agindaasoyeg!

Here’s the audio:

Anokiiwin / Work/Project
1. Azhe-atoon gidanokiiwin giizhitaayan.  Put your work away when you finish.
2. Giwii-shishoobii’ige na?  Do you want to paint?
3. Akawe, biizikan inapizowinens.  First, put on (wear) the little apron.
4. Naadin bezhig mazina’iganiigan.  Get/fetch one piece of paper.
5. Naadin bezhig zhizhoobii’iganaatig.  Get one paintbrush.
6. Weweni ziiginigen.  Carefully pour.
7. Weweni ziiginan i’iw nibi.  Carefully pour the (that) water.
8. Gaasii’an adoopowin.  Wipe the table.
9. Namadabin imaa apabiwining.  Sit down there on the chair.
10. Weweni akwaandawen.  Carefully climb up the stairs.
11. Weweni niisaandawen.  Carefully climb down the stairs.
12. Weweni bimosen omaa biindig.  Carefully walk here inside.
13. Agwajiing eta go gibimibatoomin  We (inc) only run outside.
14. Nanaa’inan iniw odaaminwaaganan  Put those toys back.
15. Wiidookaw a’aw ____da-biinichiged  Help that one ___ to clean up.
16. Biinichigen ishkwaa-anokiiyan.  Clean up after you finish working.
17. Weweni jiishada’igen michisagong  Carefully sweep ion the floor.
18. Weweni zaswebiiga’anjigen.  Carefully spray.
19. Naadin gimazina’igan, giga-ozhibii’igemin.  Get your book, we(inc) are going to write.


chadShaawano Chad Uran (White Earth Anishinaabe) received his PhD in Anthropology in 2012 from the University of Iowa. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota. He has taught at Bowdoin College in Maine, the University of Victoria in British Columbia, The Evergreen State College in Washington, and the University of Washington. His research areas are: Indigenous language revitalization, language and identity, American cultural studies, language ideologies, American Indian sovereignty, critical theory, Native American studies, and coloniality.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s