Definitions

postdental

Menominee language

The Menominee language (also spelled Menomini) is an Algonquian language originally spoken by the Menominee people of northern Wisconsin and Michigan. It is still spoken on the Menominee Nation lands in Northern Wisconsin in the United States.

Menominee is a highly endangered language, with only a handful of elderly speakers left. According to a 1997 report by the Menominee Historic Preservation Office, 39 people speak Menominee as their first language, all of whom are elderly; 26 speak it as their second language; and 65 others have learned some of it for the purpose of understanding the language and/or teaching it to others. The Menominee Language & Culture Commission has been established by the Menominee Nation to promote the continued use of the language.

The name of the tribe, and the language, Omāēqnomenew, comes from the word for wild rice, which was a staple of this tribe's diet for millennia. This designation for them (as Omanoominii) is also used by the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa), their Algonquian neighbors to the north.

The main characteristics of Menominee, as compared to other Algonquian languages, are its heavy use of the low front vowel /æ/, its rich negation morphology, and its lexicon. Some scholars (notably Bloomfield and Sapir) have classified it as a Central Algonquian language based on its phonology.

For good sources of information on both the Menominee and their language, some valuable resources include Leonard Bloomfield's 1928 bilingual text collection, his 1962 grammar (a landmark in its own right), and Skinner's earlier anthropological work.

Phonology

Below are the basic phonemes of Menominee represented in IPA. Characters to the left are the standard way in which the sound is written; characters to the right are IPA (if it differs).

Labial Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p t k q [ʔ]
Affricate c [ʧ]
Fricative s [s~ʃ] h
Approximant y [j] w

Front Central Back
short long short short long
Close i iː u uː
Close-Mid e eː o oː
Near-open ɛ [æ] ɛː [æː] aː
Open a
Diphthongs
ia ua

Vowels

  • Long /æː/ or /ɛː/ is labialized if the preceding syllable contains a back vowel or when it is followed by a palatalized consonant. The same is true for /eː/
  • Short /æ/ /ɛ/ is particularly open when found before h and q.
  • /o/ is consistently lengthened before /w/.
  • /ia/ and /ua/ are treated like long vowels in the assignment of stress. They contrastive /ja/ and /wa/. For example, uah ('he uses it') is distinct from wa:h ('fish egg'). Final /w/ after /i/ becomes primarily bilabial. The syllable /wa/ can alternate with /o/ for some speakers.

Vowels are slightly nasalized before or after /m/ or /n/.

Consonants

  • /t/ is postdental
  • The unvoiced sibilant /s/ can range between [s] and [ʃ]
  • /h/ and /ʔ/ do not appear initially, except sometimes as the on-glide of a vowel, in which case they should probably not be considered phonemic. Final /h after /i/ is sometimes dropped and sometimes replaced with /j/, as in pih, ('paddle').

Consonants, including nasals, are palatalized before front vowels and labialized before back vowels.

Menominee does not make contrasts between voiced and voiceless stops and voicing from a following vowel may set in before the opening is complete.

Syllable Structure & Stress

Syllable structure in Menominee is typically VC(C) or C(C)VC(C); syllables do not end in vowels. Any consonant can begin or end a syllable except h and q. The only clusters which can occur at the end of a syllable are qc and qs. The only cluster which can begin a syllable is kw.

Primary stress occurs on every long vowel or diphthong that is in the next-to-last syllable of a word. Most compounds and inflected forms are treated as single words in assigning stress. Rhetorical stress comes on the last syllable.

Pitch

In an interrogative sentence which uses a question word, there is a rising and then falling of pitch near the beginning and a drop at the end. In yes-no questions, there is a sharp rise in pitch at the end of the sentence. The modulations of pitch for expressing exclamations, quotations, etc. is generally much more pronounced in Menominee than in English.

Morphology

Nouns belong to two genders, animate and inanimate, which are marked in the plural inflection.

  • Animate nouns take the plural ending -ak (enɛ:niwak men)
  • Inanimate nouns take the plural ending -an (we:kewaman houses)

Gender is also marked in referential inflection, such as in verb inflection which marks the gender of the actor. (The animate/inanimate distinction usually, but not necessarily, coincides with whether an object is animate or inanimate in the world)

There are four personal prefixes used to modify nouns and in personal pronouns:

  • 1st person: nɛ-
  • 2nd person: kɛ- (also used for inclusive 1st person plural)
  • 3rd person: o-
  • indefinite: mɛ-

Certain nouns occur only in possessed forms, typically referring to body parts or relatives, such as okiːqsemaw, "son"; kese:t, "your (s.) foot"; mese:t, "someone's foot". These affixes are used to indicate possession (e.g. neme:h "my older sister"; neta:qsɛnem, "my stone"). They are also used in the inflection of verbs to indicate the actor.

The personal pronouns formed by these prefixes are as follows:

1st person singular ("I"): nenah

1st person exclusive ("we"): nenaq

1st person inclusive ("we"): kenaq

2nd person singular ("you"): kenah

2nd person plural ("you"): kenuaq

3rd person singular ("he/she/it"): wenah

3rd person plural ("they"): wenuaq

Nouns and nearly all pronouns are inflected for singular and plural. Some nouns occur only as singulars, typically denoting liquids or other uncountable substances (e.g. kahpeːh, coffee). The singular is often used for a representative meaning, e.g. ɛːsespemaːteset omɛːqnomeneːw, "the way the Menomini lives".

Nouns can also be inflected for locality:

weːkewam, "house"

weːkewameh, "in a house"

yoːm, "this"

yoːs, "right here"

Diminutives can be formed from any noun by suffixing -æshs

Agent nouns (ie, nouns that mean one who does the action of the verb, such as "worker" from "work", "talker" from "talk", in English) are homonymous with the third person inflected verb. So,

anohkiːw, "he works" or "worker"

moːhkotaːqsow, "he whittles" or "carpenter"

Syntax

Menominee displays inflectional reference. Nouns, verbs, and objects are inflected to agree in gender, person, and number of their possessor, actor, or transitive verb, respectively.

Intransitive verbs typically occur in two forms: one for animate actors, the other for inanimate actors: paːpɛhcen, "he falls" paːpɛhnɛn, "it falls"

Transitive verbs can be used with either animate or inanimate actors. Transitive verbs contain inflectional reference both to their subject and to the object. One form of the verb exists for animate objects and another for inanimate objects: koqnɛw, "he fears him" koqtam, "he fears it"

Impersonal verbs occur with no identifiable actor and in the singular inflection: kɛqsiw, "it is cold" kemeːwan, "it is raining"

The negator kan typically precedes the verb: kan kemeːwanon, "it is not raining". The negator also inflects for certain elements of modal inflection: kasaq kemeːwanon, "why, it isn't raining anymore!" It can be used alone to answer a yes-no question. The particle poːn is used to negate imperatives: poːn kasɛːhkehseh, "don't be too late".

Bloomfield distinguishes five modes of the verb in Menominee, which are reflected in the verb, negator, personal and demonstrative pronouns, and auxiliary verbs:

  • Indicative: piːw, "he comes"

The indicative makes statements. In the first-person plural, it is used as a hortatory (first person plural imperative: kenawmaːciaq, "let's set out"

  • Quotative: piːwen, "it is said that he comes"
    • The quotative typically ends in -en, is used when the speaker is stating something learned from another person or from a dream or vision. It is the mode used in traditional narrative.
  • Interrogative: piːq, "is he coming?"
    • The interrogative is used for yes-no questions.
  • Present: ''piasah', "so he is coming"
    • The present mode, typically ending in -esa or -sa, puts an emphasis on the fact that the event is taking place in the present, as opposed to the past or in contrast with expectation.
  • Preterit: piapah, "he did formerly come"
    • The preterit, typically ending in -epa or -pa, puts an emphasis on the fact that the event took place in the past, as opposed to in the present or in contrast with expectation.

Language Family

Menominee is an Algonquian language, part of the larger family of Algic languages. Goddard (1996) and Mithun (1999) classify it with the Central and Plains Algonquian languages, along with languages like Blackfoot, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Cree-Montagnais, and Eastern Great Lakes languages like Ojibwe.

In his more controversial classification of American Indian languages, Joseph Greenberg places the Algic family within a family which he calls Almosan. The classification was first proposed by Edward Sapir in 1929. It groups Algic with other language families including Kutenai, otherwise thought to be an isolate, and Mosan, which includes Wakashan, Chimakuan, and Salishan. The Mosan family proposal is currently considered to be unfounded.

Notes

External links

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