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Double Vowel System

Updated: 6-27-2011 11:17 AM

There is no standard grammar shared by all the local varieties of Anishinaabemowin. Some speakers write in a kind of English phonetics, some with the special characters of Northern Algonquian syllabics. The roman orthography used here is only one of the many possible writing systems for Anishinaabemowin.

Devised by Charles Fiero, the Double Vowel writing system has won wide acceptance among language teachers in the United States and Canada. The main principles underlying it are that the letters or combinations of letters, although drawn from the same alphabet used to write English, stand for Ojibwe sounds, not English sounds, and that only the basic sounds of the language are written.

There are few single-word equivalents in English for Ojibwe verbs of motion. Most types of motion are represented in Ojibwe not by a general verb but by a word part, which combines with another word part or parts having directional or descriptive meaning. For example, there is no general word equivalent to English “run” but rather a set of verb stems describing specific ways of running, all containing a common word part meaning “run” as in biijibatoo “run here”, gizhiikaabatoo “run fast”, and maajiibatoo “start off running”.  The closest equivalents to English general motion verbs are forms with the initial bim(i) “along, by” as in bimibatoo “run along, run by”. 

Verb stems ending in –bizo (vai) or –bide (vii) are often translated by phrases including English verbs such as “drive, fly, operate, run, speed”. The basic meaning of such verb stems is that the action is one of rapid motion or operation, and the selection of the appropriate English equivalents requires the subject and situation to be taken into account.  Similarly, verb stems ending in –(i)se, but no –ose, may be translated with a wide range of English words indicating smooth, rapid, and often, uncontrolled or self-initiated movement or action such as “fly, fall, happen, pass (as time)”.  The subject and situation must always be considered before the appropriate translation can be selected. 

As most speakers of Ojibwe familiar with this writing system are literate in English, they often adopt English capitalization and punctuation conventions. Writers of Ojibwe should feel free to follow English conventions of capitalization (and so capitalize names of nationalities, days of the week, months, spirits and deities, etc.) and punctuation if they find them helpful.

The major classes of words in Anishinaabemowin are verbs, nouns, pronouns, and particles. The verbs and nouns occur in a number of sub-classes, each coded differently and using a particular set of inflections. Several kinds of pronouns exist, some with inflected forms. Particles are uninflected words and can be divided into many sub-classes depending on their structure and the way they are used in sentences. Major word-building prefixes called preverbs are not a separate word by itself. 

Class codes found in A concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe are interpreted:

 

 

Code

Word Class

Description

na

animate noun

noun of the animate gender that is not obligatorily possessed

nad

dependent animate noun

noun of the animate gender that is obligatorily possessed

na-pt

animate particle

Participle form of a verb functioning as a noun of the animate gender

ni

Inanimate noun

Noun of the inanimate gender that is not obligatorily possessed

nid

Dependent inanimate noun

Noun of the inanimate gender that is obligatorily possessed

ni-pt

Inanimate participle

Participle form of a verb functioning as a noun of the inanimate gender

nm

Number

Uninflectable number particle

pc

Particle

Uninflectable particle (adverb, conjunction, exclamation, etc)

pf

Prefix

Personal prefix appearing on nouns and verbs

pn

Pronoun

Lexical prefix forming a particle form a noun stem

pr

Pronoun

Pronoun (demonstrative, dubitative, indefinite, interrogative, pausal, or personal)

pv1

Preverb of class 1

Tense, aspect, mood, or syntactic prefix appearing on verbs

pv2

Preverb of class 2

Directional prefix occurring on verbs

pv3

Preverb of class 3

Relative prefix occurring on verbs (and on some nouns and particles)

pv4

Preverb of class 4

Lexical prefix occurring on verbs, nouns, or particles

vai

Animate intransitive verb

Verb with an intransitive stem, an animate subject, and  no object

vai2

Class 2 animate intransitive verb

Verb with a transitive stem (as for an inanimate object), an animate subject, and no object; inflected as intransitive.

vai+o

Animate intransitive verb with object

Verb with an intransitive stem, an animate subject, and an object

vii

Inanimate intransitive verb

Verb with an intransitive stem, an inanimate subject, and no object

vta

Transitive animate verb

Verb with a transitive stem and an animate object

ti

Transitive inanimate verb

Verb with a transitive stem, and an inanimate object, and a characteristic set of inflections

vti2

Class 2 transitive inanimate verb

Verb with an inanimate object but with a different characteristic set of inflections

vti3

Class 3 transitive inanimate verb

Verb with an inanimate object but with a different characteristic set of inflections