Animate & Inanimate Nouns
Video Lecture

Language Lesson - Animate and Inanimate Nouns

Singular or Plural

Nouns come in many shapes and sizes. They also come in many quantities. You may have 1 pencil. This is a singular version of the Noun 'pencil'. You may have 19 pencils. This is the plural (more than one) form.

1 pencil
19 pencils

Notice that the noun "pencil" changed from "pencil" to "pencils". The 's' is the English way of making things plural. Potawatomi is similar but you have to pay attention to Animacy.

Most of the time if a noun is animate you will add a 'k', 'ek', or 'yek' to the end of the noun to make it plural. If the noun is inanimate you will add an 'n', 'en' or 'yen' to make it plural.

animate nouns - add "k" "ek" or "yek"

nenek (also: nenwuk)





inanimate nouns - add "n" "en" or "yen"






The sections below go into more detail and discuss exceptions to this rule.

Animate - Singular and Plural
Some Nouns that represent living things, are kekyat (elder), nene (man), and gigyago (girl). Remember, in English you add the suffix 's' to words to make them plural: dogs, cats, rats. There are exceptions to this rule such as the words: men, women, deer, and people. These words do not take an 's'. In Potawatomi, it is similar. There are general rules and there are exceptions.

Many Animate Nouns take an 'ek', 'k' or a 'yek' to make them plural. Follow the rules below to change animate nouns to their plural form.

ends in a Consonant, add ek
Add an 'ek' to animate nouns that end in a consonant. Example: nemosh becomes nemoshek.

ends in Vowel, add k, yek
When an animate Noun ends in a vowel, such as shkene 'w, you either add a 'k' or a 'yek'. In most case, you will add the 'k', but the 'y' can be added to act as a transition sound.

Example: shkenew (young man) becomes shkenewk (young men), gigyago (girl) becomes gigyagok (girls), and seksi (deer) becomes seksiyek (deer pl.).

As with many language rules, there are exceptions. In some cases, Animate Nouns do not follow the above rules. Example: kekyat (elder) becomes kekyajek, and nene (man) becomes nenwuk (men). Notice, though, they still end in a 'k'.

Do not become discouraged with exceptions. Just try to memorize them as best you can.

Inanimate - Singular and Plural
In order to change inanimate nouns to a plural form, you need to add an 'n', 'en' or 'yen' to the end of the word. For example, wigwam changes to wigwamen when you are talking about more than 1. Below are some general rules for expressing inanimate nouns in the plural form.

ends in a Consonant, add en
Add an 'en' to the end of your word if it ends in a consonant. Example: wigwam (house) becomes wigwamen (houses). In some cases, if the word already ends in 'en', you need to drop the e from the original word, and add 'en'. Example: pkweshmowen (pillow) becomes pkweshmownen (pillows).

ends in Vowel, add n, yen
If a word ends in a vowel, you either add an 'n' or a 'yen', depending on the word. Example: bgoyane (rag) becomes bgoyanen (rags), bewate (lantern) becomes bewateyen (lanterns).

Some words do not follow the patterns listed above. Example: shkemot (bag) becomes shkumden (bags). There are many examples of irregular situations where words do not adopt the regular endings to make them plural. Notice how shkumden does not have a regular plural ending, but it still ends in 'n'. You just need to have patience and try to memorize the irregular forms as best you can.