Learning to Speak Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe) Miscellaneous Phrases

Boozhoo niijii-bimaadizidog! Here are a few useful, if somewhat loosely categorized, phrases. Most of them are of the “checking in” variety, for those times when you have to ask a kid if they need something.

That second one, Gaawiin mashi, is pretty portable. You may remember it appearing in the Boozhoo speech with regard to clan identity. Here, it could be used in answer to all of the following questions. Let me know how long it takes your little speaker to figure that tidbit out.

You have probably noticed by now that this phrase list is mostly questions. We’ve moved on from being bossy to interrogation tactics. All of these questions are in the A-form, so there is no initial vowel change after tense markers, and no change to the verb form or word order. There is an initial consonant change, though, in that if a verb begins with a consonant, then that consonant will become a “harder” consonant (like we saw in the Anokiiwin! List). Below, you will notice a z becoming an s, and a b becoming a p.

When asking a question, the rule of thumb here is that the interrogative marker ina or na almost always appears second in the sentence.

The other rule of thumb is that Ojibwemowin usually alternates between consonant sounds and vowel sounds. If the first word ends with a vowel, the marker is na; if the first word ends with a consonant, then use ina.

This alternating sound rule also shapes which pronoun markers are used, such as choosing whether to use in-/ind- versus nin-/nind- to say that “I” am doing something. For example, “I am running” is nibimibatoo, while “I am working” is indanokii

In some cases, the pronoun will also change to follow the consonant-vowel order if a word appears before the noun phrase of nibimibatoo or indanokii. For example, if I wanted to say “I am always working,” I would say Apane nindanokii.

If you want to practice these with a partner, you can either take turn asking each question, and having the other person say Gaawiin mashi and then ask you a question, to which you can answer Gaawiin mashi and ask another question.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can try answering the questions according to all the rules we have covered already. This would entail switching from the interrogative form to a declarative form, changing the pronoun from second-person singular (“you”) to first-person singular (“I”). For example, Giminikwe na? would be answered with Eya, niminikwe (“Yes, I am hungry”). This reminds me that I have to teach you how to say no, later, as well.

Miigwech agindaasoyeg!

Here is the audio:

Anooj Gegoo – Miscellaneous
1. Omaa onabin weweni. Sit here carefully/properly.
2. Gaawiin mashi. Not yet.
3. Giwii-minikwen ina nibi? Do you want to drink water?
4. Giwii-saaga’am ina? Do you want to go out (to the bathroom)?
5. Giwii-izhaa na agwaajiing? Do you want to go outside?
6. Giwii-ozisinaagane na? Do you want to set the table?
7. Gibakade na? Are you hungry?
8. Gigiishkaabaagwe na? Are you thirsty?
9. Giwii-piinichige na? Do you want to clean up?
10. Giwii-wiisin ina? Do you want to eat?
11. Boozhoo. Hello.
12. Giga-waabamin. I will see you.

Shaawano Chad Uran (White Earth Anishinaabe)

Shaawano Chad Uran (White Earth Anishinaabe)

Shaawano 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.

2 thoughts on “Learning to Speak Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe) Miscellaneous Phrases

  1. Pingback: Learning to Speak Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe) Miscellaneous Phrases | LRInspire | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  2. Chi miigwetch for these words and audio. It helps encourage me to know some things I’m saying right, and some things I still need to practice! Also encouraged by your PhD major, I’m headed in that direction. Baa maapii.

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