Piikishkweetaak Lesson 3 audio: listen to this first to learn the words and grammar!

Piikishkweetaak Lesson 3 practice audio: after you finish the lesson, listen to this to practice what you’ve learned.


awa – this (animate)
piikishkwee- – to speak
atoshkee- – to work
pimohtee- – to walk
peeitohtee- – to come
pimbahtaa- – to run
metawee- – to play (a game)
kitochikee- – to play (an instrument)
oota – here
aashtam – come here
kipaapaa – your father
baapaa – my father
kimaamaa – your mother
nimaamaa – my mother
moñ/toñ noñk – my/your uncle
ma/ta seur – my/your sister
aeñ/li viyaloñ – a/the violin
aañ Michif – in Michif
aañ Fransee – in French
aañ Nanglee – in English
aañ Sooteu – in Saulteaux
aañ Galisyeñ – in Ukrainian
aeñ/li picture show – a/the movie

We began by reviewing the previous lessons. Then we learned a new group of verb that ends in -ee- which change their ending when conjugated for I or you.

ni-metaw-aan: I play
ki-metaw-aan: you play
metaw-eew: s/he plays
metawee! play! (command)

Remember the different prefixes for verbs that start with vowels!

d-atoshk-aan: I work
kit-atoshk-aan: you work
atoshk-eew: s/he works
atoshkee! work! (command)

We also learned that in front of certain consonants, the prefix ni- disappears and makes the sound change slightly. The sound becomes g, the sound becomes b, and the sound becomes d. Before these letters, the ki of the “you” prefix often disappears as well, but the sound stays the same. Look at these examples:

kitochikeew: s/he is playing an instrument
gitochikaan: I am playing an instrument
kitochikaan or kikitochikaan: you are playing an instrument
piikishkweew: s/he is speaking
biikishkwaan: I am speaking
piikishkwaan or kipiikishkwaan: you are speaking

Practice Dialogue
A: Miyo-tipishkaa!
B: Ah, marsii! Taandee kipaapaa ekwa kimaamaa?
A: Baapaa atoshkeew anosch maaka nimaamaa peeitohtew.
B: Li viyalon chiin kitochikaan?
A: Wii, ninagamon miina.
B: Ekwa awa chiin ton pchi beybii?
A: Wii, mon pchi beybii awa.
B: Taanshi ee-ishinikaashot?
A: Alex ishinihkaashow. Alex nipaaw ekwa metaweew ekwa apishiish pimohteew.
B: Aw, pimohteew chiin? Kipimbahtaan chiin, Alex?
C: Waaah!

A: Happy birthday!
B: Ah, thanks! Where are your mom and dad?
A: My dad is working today but my mom is coming.
B: Are you playing the violin?
A: Yes, and I’m singing too.
B: And is this your little baby?
A: Yes, this is my little baby.
B: What is his name?
A: His name is Alex. Alex sleeps and plays and walks a little.
B: Aw, he’s walking? Do you run, Alex?
C: Waah!

Piikishkweetaak Lesson 2 audio: listen to this first to learn the words and grammar!

Piikishkweetaak Lesson 2 practice audio: after you finish the lesson, listen to this to practice what you’ve learned.

api- – to sit
niipawi- – to stand
ishinihkaasho- – to be called
nagamo- – to sing
miyoayaa- – to be well
nipaa- – to sleep
taanshi ee-ishi-ayaayen? – how are you doing?
taanshi ee-ishinihkashot? – what is his/her name?
wii – yes
mooya – no
noo – no
chiiñ – yes/no question
toñ – your (masculine)
ta – your (feminine)
moñ – my (masculine)
ma – my (feminine)
aeñ, li freyr – a, the brother
aeñ namii, lamii – a friend, the friend
enn, la seur – a, the sister
aeñ noñk, loñk – an uncle, the uncle 

In this lesson we reviewed the introductory phrases we learned in Lesson 1. Then we learned to conjugate some basic verbs by adding prefixes and endings. (For reference: these verbs are called Animate Intransitive Verbs, or VAI.)

ni-niipawi-n: I stand, I am standing
ki-niipawi-n: you stand, you are standing
niipawi-w: s/he stands, s/he is standing

We also learned that verbs that start with a vowel have slightly different prefixes:

d-api-n: I sit, I am sitting
kit-api-n: you sit, you are sitting
api-w: s/he sits, s/he is sitting

It is not necessary to add the pronouns niiya, kiiya, wiiya to these verbs (e.g. niiya niniipawin). “Niniipawin” is a full sentence all on its own.

We learned that verb endings are slightly different when you ask a question. We saw this in examples like “taanshi ee-ishinihkaashoyen?” “taanshi ee-ishi-ayaayen? “taanshi ee-ishinihkaashot?” We will learn more about these endings in future lessons.

Finally, we learned about asking yes or no questions. To make a yes or no question, you add the word chiiñ after a verb. For example, “kinagamon chiiñ?” meaning “are you singing?” You can answer either wii, yes, or mooya/noo, no.

In the practice audio, we also practiced using the possessive pronouns moñ, my, and toñ, your. In front of masculine nouns like “brother,” you use moñ/toñ. In front of the feminine noun “sister,” the words change to ma/ta.

moñ freyr: my brother
toñ freyr: your brother
ma seur: my sister
ta seur: your sister

Practice Dialogue
A: Taanshi! Aashtam, api!
B: Marsii. Kimiyoayaan chiiñ?
A: Wii, nimiyoayaan. Taanshi ee-ishi-ayaayen?
B: Ma nandaaw. Taanshi ee-ishinihkashot toñ namii?
A: Janice ishinihkaashow.
B: Taandee wiya? Oota chiiñ ayaaw?
A: Mooya oota, daañ li gardaeñ niipawiw.
B: Oh. Taandee maaka toñ freyr?
A: Moñ freyr? Nipaaw.

A: Hello! Come, sit!
B: Thanks. Are you doing well?
A: Yes, I’m well. How are you doing?
B: I’m fine. What is your friend’s name?
A: Her name is Janice.
B: Where is she? Is she here?
A: Not here, she’s standing in the garden.
B: Oh. And where is your brother?
A: My brother? He’s sleeping.

Piikishkweetaak Lesson 1 audio: listen to this first to learn the words and grammar!

Piikishkweetaak Lesson 1 practice audio: after you finish the lesson, listen to this to practice what you’ve learned.

taanshi – how, hello
taanshi kiya? – how are you?
ma nandaaw – everything’s okay, nothing the matter
maaka – but
kiya maaka? – and you? how about you?
miina – also, too
niishta miina – me too
kiishta – you too
wiishta – him/her too
niiya – I
kiiya – you
wiiya – he or she
anohch – today
taandee – where
oschi – from
taanshi ee-ishinihkaashoyen? – what is your name? how are you called?
X ndishihkaashon – my name is X.

aeñ/li Michif – a/the Metis
aeñ/li Krii – a/the Cree
aeñ/li Kanayaeñ – a/the French-Canadian
aeñ/li Nañglee – a/the Anglo
enn/la faam – a/the woman
aeñ nom, lom – a man, the man
enn/la fii – a/the girl
aeñ/li garsoñ – a/the boy

In this lesson, we learned some basic phrases and pronouns. We learned some pronouns: niiya, kiiya, wiiya (I, you, s/he), and niishta, kiishta, wiishta (me too, you too, him/her too). We learned to ask someone’s name – taanshi ee-ishinihkaashoyen? – and to answer “[Name] dishinihkaashon.”

In the practice audio, we also learned to say where you are from. To ask, “where are you from?” you literally say, “where from you” – taandee oschi kiiya? To answer, you say “[Place] from I” – [Place] oschi niiya.

You may notice that the words for “a” and “the” are different for some of the nouns than others. This is because Michif, like French, divides nouns into masculine and feminine. Words like “man” and “boy” are masculine so they use aeñ for “a” and li for “the,” while feminine nouns like “woman” and “girl” use enn for “a” and la for “the.”

Practice dialogue
A: Taanshi ee-ishinihkaashoyen?
B: George dishinihkaashon.
A: George! Sarah dishinihkaashon. taanshi kiiya anohch?
B: Ma nandaaw. kiiya maaka?
A: Niishta miina. taandee oschi kiiya?
B: Edmonton oschi niya, aeñ Krii niya. kiya maaka?
A: Aeñ Michif niya, Camperville oschi niiya. Josh miina, Camperville oschi wiiya.
B: Taanshi Josh?
A: Wiishta miina, ma nandaaw.
B: Abaeñ, miina ka-waapamitin!

A: What’s your name?
B: My name is George.
A: George! My name is Sarah. How are you today?
B: I’m fine. How about you?
A: I’m the same. Where are you from?
B: I’m from Edmonton. I’m a Cree. How about you?
A: I’m a Metis. I’m from Camperville. Josh is also from Camperville.
B: How is Josh?
A: He’s the same, he’s fine.
B: Well, I’ll see you later!

Michif audio lessons

Michif audio lessons

Taanshi mii zamii, nimihtaaten kaaya ee-kii-tootamaan ooma li blog. I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a while, I am hoping to do more Michif stuff soon. 

I just wanted to point your attention to these Michif podcasts by Muskwatch. They’re probably the best resources for learning the grammar of Michif out there right now, and they’re fantastic because you get to actually hear the language spoken. 

More on Michif Verbs

It’s finals week here at the University of Chicago and I am supposed to be studying for my linguistics exam, which of course means that it is time for me to procrastinate by blogging about Michif! In this post I’d like to go over a few more details about verbs, beyond their conjugations. A lot of these things have no explicit explanations that I’ve found, outside of a few linguistics papers, and I had to figure them out mostly on my own, so hopefully this will be helpful to people who don’t want to scour technical jargon.

First, there are some varieties in the VAI (animate & intransitive verbs) that aren’t visible in the post I made earlier about them. Freda Ahenakew describes the following categories for Cree verbs which are largely the same in Michif: -aaw verbs, -ew verbs, -iiw verbs, -oow verbs, -iw verbs, -ow verbs, and -n verbs.

Verbs that end in -aaw, -iiw, -oow, -iw, and -ow are inflected the same way as nipaw is in the above post. Verbs that end in -ew have a slight variation: in the independent order, the non-third forms change the -e to an -aa. For example:

pimohtew – he walks
bimohtaan – I walk
pimohtaan – you walk
bimohtaanaan – we (excluding you) walk
pimohtaanaan – we (including you) walk

The other forms all use the -e ending (pimohtewak “they walk,” e-pimohteyaan “as I walk” etc). (The reason why the “p” at the beginning changes to a “b” will be explained in just a minute.)

Verbs that end in -n also act differently. The paradigm for the verb pimishin “he lies down” is:

bimishinin – I lie down
pimishinin – you lie down
bimishinaan – we (excluding you) lie down
pimishinaan – we (including you) lie down
pimishinaawaaw – you all lie down
pimishin – s/he lies down
pimishinwak – they lie down
pimishiniyiwa – s/he (obviative) lies down

e-pimishiniyaan – as I lie down
e-pimishiniyan – as you lie down
e-pimishiniyaahk – as we lie down
e-pimishiniyeek – as you all lie down
e-pimishihk – as s/he lies down
e-pimishihkik – as they lie down
e-pimishiniyit – as s/he (obviative) lies down

pimishi – lie down (to 1 person)
pimishinik – lie down (to multiple people)
pimishinitaak – let’s lie down

I’ve bolded the forms that use “pimishi-” as their root. Notice that only 3rd person forms use it, all others use “pimishini-” as the root.

What’s with the “b”?

So, back to that mysterious “b” that popped up in some of the forms up there. This is a feature of verbs that is unique to Michif; Cree doesn’t do this (I’ve heard some speakers do, but I have no confirmation on that).

Basically, in Michif, whenever the prefix ni- is used in front of a verb that starts with p, t, k, or sh, it “softens” the consonant and the “ni” disappears. So p becomes b, t becomes d, k becomes g, and sh becomes zh. Thus, instead of nipimohtaan for I walk, you get bimohtaan. This happens even in front of prefixes, such as kii or ka for past/future tense. So to say “We slept,” you say “gii-nipaanaan.”

There’s also an interesting thing that happens in front of vowels. In both Cree and Michif, when you put the prefixes “ni” or “ki” in front of a word that starts with a vowel, you stick a “t” in between to make it easier to say. For “you sit,” for instance, you get ni-t-apin (apiw – s/he sits). Ni does the same thing, so in Cree you get nitapin, but in Michif, the softening happens. The end result is dapin, I sit.

The deeper reason why this happens is that “n” is a voiced consonant. So when it gets shoved into close contact with an unvoiced consonant like p, t, k, or sh, those second consonants tend to become voiced like n. This suggests there’s an intermediate form, before the n got dropped entirely, where you’d get things like “ndapin” for “I sit.”

And in fact, speakers from the Camperville area do use this form. For instance, the website Ota Nda Yanaan, which was started by Rita Flamand who is from that area, means “We are here.” Nda yanaan comes from the verb ayaaw, s/he is there. So this becomes ni-t-ayaanaan, then ndayaanaan, and in some areas, dayaanaan. I suspect that the retention of the n in Camperville may have to do with the fact that Ojibwe is also spoken there, and Ojibwe quite frequently retains the n in front of verbs this way.

A Michif Video Blog

This is a video I made a few weeks ago for the Tumblr campaign to retake the Native American hashtag. It’s basically four minutes of me talking about learning Michif and my other ancestral languages, in Michif.

#2: What is that?

In this lesson:

  • Gender and articles
  • Animacy and demonstratives
  • Yes-No Questions

In Michif, nouns have two qualities: gender and animacy. The first comes from French and is shown in the article. There are definite articles (THE shirt) and indefinite articles (A shirt), and a masculine and feminine gender. The Michif articles are as follows:

la shmiizh – the shirt (feminine singular definite)
enn shmiizh – a shirt (feminine singular indefinite)
li liiv – the book  (masculine singular definite)
aen liiv – a book (masculine singular indefinite)
lii shmiizh, lii liiv – the shirts, the books (masculine and feminine plural definite)

Animacy refers to whether an object is animate or inanimate. Humans, animals, and methods of transportation are animate, as well as some trees, plants, and other miscellaneous objects. We see animacy in the demonstratives, which come from Cree. Unlike in modern English, which only distinguishes between “this” and “that,” Michif also has a third demonstrative, meaning “over there,” like the old English “yon.” The demonstratives are split into animate/inanimate:

           This     That      That over there
(an)    awa      ana       naha
           okik     anikik  nekik
(inan)  oma    anima  nema
           onhin  anihi    nehi

To use these with nouns, you must pair them with a definite article. You cannot simply say anima liiv for “that book.” You say, anima li liiv. You can also place the demonstrative after the noun, such as li liiv anima. This is stronger, like saying “THAT book,” or “that book there.”

When you put the demonstrative after the noun, it can also mean “That is the book.” You can make sentences like so:

enn shmiizh oma. – this is a shirt.
li shyaen naha. – that over there is a dog.

To make this into a question, you can add “chi” which functions as a sort of verbal question mark to turn a statement into a yes or no question:

aen minosh chi naha? – Is that over there a cat?

You can also ask “What is that?” or “Who is that?” with the question words kekway “what (inanimate)” and awena “who (animate)”:

kekway oma? – what is this?
awena anikik? – who are they (those ones there)?

Note that when using question words, you do NOT use the yes-no word chi.

To say what something inanimate is called, you can use the verb ishinihkatew, meaning “it is called.”

oma ‘aen liiv’ ishinihkatew – this is called ‘a book.’
‘Enn maezon’ ishinihkatew chi? – Is this called ‘a house’?

The form that is used with question words is “e-ishinihkatek”:

kekway oma e-ishinihkatek? – what is this called?

The plural of the normal form is ishinihkatewa, and the plural of the question form is e-ishinihkateki.

kekway anihi lii liiv e-ishinihkateki? – what are those books called?
‘dictionaries’ ishinihkatewa – they are called ‘dictionaries.’

If you add aan Michif to mean “in Michif” you can ask the word for something in Michif:

kekway ‘a shirt’ e-ishinihkatek aan Michif? – what is ‘a shirt’ called in Michif?
‘enn shmiizh’ ishinihkatew aan Michif – it is called ‘aen shmiizh’ in Michif.

Likewise, aan nanglee means “in English.”

The verb “ishinihkatew,” along with the weather verbs from last lesson, are called “Inanimate Intransitive Verbs” or VII – which means that they have inanimate subjects and do not have any objects. They tend to end in either “n” or “w.” Those that end in “w” add “a” to make the plural, while those that end in “n” add “wa.” These are the forms:

mishaaw – it is big
mishaawa – they are big
miyoshin – it is good, nice
miyoshinwa – they are good, nice

Although Michif does have adjectives like in English (as we will see next lesson), in sentences like “the book is big,” Michif uses a VII to express “it is big” rather than a separate verb for “is” and an adjective for “big:”

li liiv mishaaw – the book is big
onhin lii shmiizh wiipawa – these shirts are dirty.


Maria: Taanshi, nohkom.
Grandma: Taanshi, Marii. Awena ana li lom?
Maria: Mon frenn Gabriel ana. Nohkom, wiipaw chi li–oh, kekway e-ishinihkatek “a dress” aan Michif?
Grandma: ‘Enn rob’ ishinihkatew.
Maria: Marsi. Ma rob wiipaw chi?
Grandma: No, pekan.
Maria: Ah, miyoshin!

Maria: Hello, grandma.
Grandma: Hello, Maria. Who was that man?
Maria: That was my friend Gabriel. Grandma, is it dirty, the–oh, what is “a dress” called in Michif?
Grandma: It is called “enn rob.”
Maria: Thank you. Is my dress dirty?
Grandma: No, it is clean.
Maria: Oh, that’s good!


li liiv – the book
la shmiizh – the shirt
li shyaen – the dog
li minosh – the cat
kekway – what
awena – who
chi – “question mark”
ishinihkatew – it is called
e-ishinihkatek – it is called (with question words)
e-ishinihkateki – they are called (with question words)
mishaaw – it is big
miyoshin – it is good, nice
wiipaw – it is dirty
nohkom – my grandmother
li lom – the man, person (also sometimes nom, zom)
mon frenn – my friend
la rob – the dress
ma rob – my dress
pekan – it is clean
wii – yes
no – no


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.