Animacy in the Ojibwe Language

In this special report I will attempt to present a new model of understanding grammatical gender found in Minnesota Ojibwe. Gender in Ojibwe is based on an animate / inanimate dichotomy. That is to say, gender is applied on the basis of an object or entity possessing a spirit, or lacking one.

This model was generated after an exhaustive review of available knowledge on the subject citing contemporary sources as well as those that have fallen out-of-favor by contemporary linguists and those generated during periods of first contact of Algonquian speaking peoples. The process of presenting academic research and the propensity to define Algonquian grammar in absolutist terms has obscured the true systemic nature of nominal gender and created an environment non-conducive to language learners of all levels.

There are a number of conventions used in this paper, most particularly in the presentation of the tables exhibiting the different classes. The orthography used is known as the double-vowel orthography or alternately, the Fiero orthography. While not the only orthography used in presenting the Ojibwe language in written form, it is the one in which I have been trained as well as being widely accepted as the standard orthography for writing Ojibwe in the United States. The vocabulary for the tables was taken from three different sources; the primary source is “A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe” by Nichols and Nyholm, this is strengthened by vocabulary from the work of Keewaydinoquay Peschel and a very informative article written in the 19th c. by one W.W. Cooke entitled “Bird Nomenclature of the Chippewa Indians”. The source of the vocabulary is designated respectively as ‘N’ for Nichols and Nyholm, ‘K’ for Keewaydinoquay Peschel, and ‘C’ for W.W. Cooke. The four classifications, which will be defined in detail through the course of this paper are designated in the tables in the following manner; ‘T’ for the Traditional class, ‘Sm’ for the Semantic class, ‘St’ for the Strategic class, and finally ‘C’ for the Compositional class.

The Ojibwe language, like most other American Indian languages exhibits an affinity for the verb form, as opposed to the noun in English. As learners of an indigenous American language we must shift our perspective of understanding from things to events (Whorf 63). In creating this shift in perspective we can see that most nominal forms in Ojibwe are created from some relationship to an action occurring in the real world. This relationship can exhibit many forms. For the purposes of this paper I have chosen four classes of nouns in an attempt to explain to the language learner the origins of one of the most difficult aspects of Algonquian grammar, noun gender. Benjamin Whorf defined this type of linguistic class as a cryptotype. A cryptotype, in Whorf’s definition is a grammatical class that is somehow hidden or submerged in the language and not readily comparable to overt classes of grammar seen in non-indigenous American languages. (Whorf 70).

One of the foremost Algonquianists in American, Rand Valentine of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, states that “a predicate nominal [serves as a] verb’s complacent [and] the predicate nominal… agrees in gender… with the subject, and hence with the verb…” (Valentine 433). One question is, why does the noun agree with the verb form? Is it an instance of standard grammatical agreement or, as shown by the Cree informants cited by Joseph, is it an instance of grammatical gender assimilating to the semantic environment of the speaker? Additionally “There are textual examples where the… nominal does not agree with the other components…” (Valentine 433) in the sentence’s structure. Clearly, for natural speakers of Ojibwe there are significant autonomic systems overlapping to produce intelligible speech, particularly in the instance of “obviation, [which] seems the most readily violable agreement feature, as opposed to gender…” (Valentine 434) as well as other grammatical systems not as readily apparent as obviation. 

These systems have caused real issues with both linguists and language learners in the past. The available knowledge on the subject of nominal animacy in Algonquian languages is extensive but the individual sources tend to argue against one another’s stance, conflating the issues. Animate nouns in Ojibwe have therefore maintained their 300 year status of being unpredictable when viewed in strictly overt grammatical terms (Goddard 197). Defining and tracking these systems is further complicated in Ojibwe where the singular marker for animacy has been removed through the natural evolutionary process of the language. “Fox, which retains Proto-Algonquain final vowels in all nouns, has singular /-i/ in all inanimates and singular /-a/ in all animates.” (Goddard 199). This ancient system might still offer some clues in the noun which can indicate animacy in the singular, particulary the deleted glide /-w/ or /-y/. Needs more research.

One of the first, and still best, resources on Ojibwe grammar is Rev. Fredric Baraga who discusses animacy at some length in his Practical and Theoretical Grammar. Baraga observes that many nouns are formed from existing verb forms. There are several methods in which this is achieved, primarily through inflection. For instance but adding the suffixes /-win/, /-wag/, /-g/ to various types of verb forms a noun can be formed. Important for this discussion is when verbs ending in /-ike/ or /-jike/ are supplanted with the suffix /-an/ to form names of tools or other types of implements. (Baraga 25-27). We will see later how this process is used to formed some animate nouns from animate verb forms.

I will define four classes of nouns. These four classes will be used to separate a table of approximately 650 animate verb forms and define the origins of their animacy. The four classes are the Traditional, Semantic, Strategic, and the Compositional. Through this method I have been able to satisfactorily explain the origins of the animacy attached to 99% of the words in the aforementioned set. I will begin by defining the Traditional class.

A noun in the Traditional class is one in which the animacy of said noun is inherent in the language and has occurred through a natural process of evolution and can not be classified under the three other types of noun classes. One would be tempted to dump a great many of the nouns in the set into this but as will become evident from the argument in this paper and the tables provided, the class is necessarily strict and many nouns will not fit within its classification.

One example of a traditional noun is that of ‘phlegm’, agig in Ojibwe. When one views this noun it is evident that it is a very old world. Ojibwe is a polysynthetic language, which means that words are built by combining other words or compositional elements on an existing word stem. Words with as few syllables as agig mark their age through their simplicity. When the origin of phlegm is discussed with natural speakers, its animate status can be met with amusement but no further explanation can be offered (Goddard 225).  This would be a mark of a noun in the Traditional class. Baraga discussed his initial observations on noun animacy. He, as many others following him, defined animate nouns as those which the Ojibwe view to be living or having a spirit. Inanimate nouns, conversely, are those which are not viewed to have life. He also states, as do other contemporary linguists, that there is no way in which a language learner can know the gender of a given noun (Baraga 14 - 15). The phrasing should indicate that Baraga could find no discernable rule. All languages are rule-governed and a language whose lineage extends throughout time-depth to an indiscernible point of origin would certainly have had enough experience to develop clear rules for natural speakers to intuit. What Baraga is saying is that the Western conceptual tools of himself and his readers possessed no experience in recognizing the elements in Ojibwe that make up the totality of the nominal gender system. His though process was primarily centered in his theological/ academic training, hints of which can be seen when he offers a list of items ‘that have no life’. Said items include: mitig (tree), opin (potato), mandaamin (corn), nisaakosi (corn ear), masaam (nettle) zibwaagan (corn stalk); all items which a secularly trained Western mind typically would consider living. William Jones also perceives of plants as non-living. We will see through this investigation that this definition causes some trouble for language learners as well as instructors trying to explain the gender system to their students. The first part of Baraga’s definition is lended to the first part of the definition of Traditional class of nouns, those in which are viewed to have a spirit. These include animals, fish, and birds, and ceremonial items but not all plants as we will see when investigating the other three classes. The second part of the Traditional class are those few words which can be argued to be archaic, perhaps indigenous to Proto-Algonquian, and agreed upon by natural speakers to have the qualities of animacy but with no further explanation being available. Below is a table of nouns which could be classified as Traditional animates in Minnesota Ojibwe:

The second class, one which has caused a great deal of controversy and generated many responses and rebuttals in the literature is that of the Semantic. Many eminent linguists have argued against the existence of this class and just as many have argued for it. Those that argue for it, however, tend to use it to explain all unusual animate nouns in Algonquian languages. This is the wrong approach but I do not feel that the Semantic class has no merit, whatsoever. It in fact, can be used to explain the origin of a great many nouns considered to be animate in Ojibwe.
Edward Sapir, even though included as one of the originators of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, stated that “The tendency to see linguistic categories as directly expressive of overt cultural outlines, which seems to have come into fashion among certain sociologists and anthropologists, should be resisted as in no way warranted by the actual facts.” (Sapir 26). He goes on to state that the presence or absence of gender has no relevance to the social or religious aspect of culture groups utilizing animate and inanimate gender. I might be true if noun animacy where an overt or rather, a conventional grammatical system. It is, as has been stated, a covert system whose origin lies much closer to the subconscious then even innate grammatical systems of a more conventional type do. This embeddedness leads me to theorize that a Semantic class is indeed an accurate way to describe many animate nouns in Ojibwe.
Sapir’s student, Benjamin Whorf, was a champion of the Semantic class of grammatical gender echoes my sentiments sighting abstract concepts in Ojibwe, which if recognized at all by language learners based in a English model, would be recognized as being psychological or mystical in character at best and animistic or vitalistic at worse. These concepts are, however, innate to the very structure of the language and can be used erroneously to classify the Ojibwe, or other Algonquian speaking cultures as animistic and somehow primitive (Whorf 58 – 59).” Whorf used Carl Jung, as many in his day did, as a theorist who most clearly characterized four basic types of psychological functions; sensation, feeling, thinking, and intuition. He believed that it should be evident to linguists that thinking, as defined by Jung, contained a large, strictly patterned, linguistic element (Whorf 66), which I believe lends itself to the Semantic class. Unlike the Traditional class where noun animacy is explained through an acceptance of the language learner of innate cultural traits passed down through many centuries of language evolution, the Semantic class includes nouns that are consciously thought to be animate through cultural associations. Whorf’s work includes a great deal of investigation into the Hopi language. Hopi also includes animate and inanimate nouns showing that this type of nominal gender is widespread throughout indigenous languages of the Americas. In discussing Hopi, Whorf states that it distinguishes a cryptotype, or covert grammatical class, of gendered nouns and that said gender can be associated in a semantic manner. For instance “When members of the Flute Society… are spoken of as Flutes, this (covertly) inanimate noun is pluralized in the animate way. But the word ‘oo’maw ‘cloud’, is always pluralized in the animate way; it has no other plural; it definitely belongs to the cryptotype of animateness. And so the question whether the animation of lcouds is a figure or formality of speech or whether it stems from some more deep and subtly pervasive undercurrent of thought is answered…” (Whorf 79). So a cryptotypical grammatically gendered non can take 2 forms. A primary form where the animateness is directly relational to the properties of the object and a secondary form where the gender of the noun is relational to its usage, composition, or syntactic environment. In a polysynthetic language such as Ojibwe that possesses no true grammatical gender but expresses grammatical gender via cryptotypical words, composition of said words could effect gendered inflection.

A people way of life must have an effect on their linguistic community, including the size and structure of their vocabulary, which can reflect the activities and customs of the heritage speakers (Swadesh 21). The animate and inanimate
“distinction [in Cree] overlaps in part with the distinction drawn in… English… between nouns representing living objects versus those representing nonliving ones…” (Joseph 351) as is seen in Ojibwe and other Algonquian languages. The effect of this nominal gender “is necessary for correct generalizations regarding the distribution of… nominal suffixes…” (Joseph 351) but this distribution will be shown to vary across Algonquain languages and across dialects of the same language, for instance there is the suffix /-iban/, “which means former or absent and ‘indicates that the denotatum of the noun no longer exists’ [and] for many speakers [of Cree, /-iban/] cannot be used with grammatically inanimate nouns…” (Joseph 351)

The importance of nominal gender is paramount to the student of an Algonquian language like Ojibwe. “Nouns in Ojibwe are classified for gender [and] where semantically plausible, a given verbal concept is usually expressed with a pair of gender-sensitive verbs (my italics)” (Valentine 432) so that an understanding of appropriately assigned gender is required in order to conjugate verb forms and compose intelligible sentences. 

Mary Black, in her reformatting and treatment of Hallowell, belies her leanings to a semantic purview of Ojibwe. This ethnosemantic frame seeks to illuminate “an ‘insider’s view’ of a people’s phenomenal world, their ‘blueprint’ for a meaningful interpretation of objects and events…” (Black 92) and builds the frame for a primary “ontology (an inventory of the things people perceive to exist in the world)… a starting point, [which avoids] the imposition of categories of thought, classifications of phenomena, and terminology…” (Black 92-93) of the ethnographer, The ethnosemantic approach therefore begins with a culture’s objects and subsequently how these objects are viewed – making it a well-tooled model for exploring nominal gender. 

The subject of Black’s study, A.I. Hallowell, provided the groundwork for an ethnosemantic chart for objects in the Ojibwe worldview. Black makes an important distinction regarding Hallowell’s class; Persons. She states that this would be termed a covert class since “the belief system structure [infers]… the individual” (Black 95) and this is shown in their grammatical constructs. I would caution against this view. There are distinctly independent pronomical structures in Ojibwe and there are often used in sentence construction to give a more pronounced existential character to any referent actors. This is, however, somewhat outside the focus of this paper as there are no affixes associated with independent pronominal forms. A purely ethnosemantic framing of Ojibwe is a helpful model but in no way a conclusive system for explaining nominal gender as “there is overlapping membership in classes that should contrast, and also a sort of movement in and out. On this fact all informants agree, though they do not share the exact inventory of entities who are visitors versus those who are hosts. (my italics)” (Black 98),which I feel is an important point. There appears to be a physics attached to nominal gender in Ojibwe, one in which natural speakers subjectively control the gender of certain referent objects. This grammatical physics is confounding since an object can become animate “only for some individual Indians (and likely only he would know it, as these spirits… choose to appear privately to individuals…” (Black 98) and said encounters are not typically discussed openly in the community and certainly not discussed with ethnographers, anthropologists, or linguists. So there are objects that are agreed to be grammatically animate across Ojibwe communities and others whose animacy are indicative of microcultural and individual purviews.

Additionally any given object can possess an interior life force or spirit that might or might not agree with the grammatical gender of the object visible to us and
“the [Ojibwe] ‘take for granted that multiform appearance is an inherent potential of all animate beings.” (Black 100).

This true spiritual nature within a given object can and will control the gender to which its visible form is referred.  A heritage speaker of Ojibwe will classify objects “on the basis of such attributes as the ability to change form, the power to appear to someone in a dream or vision, the ability to cause things to happen from a distance, or to control weather events or illness event or life and death.” (Black 101); what does this mean for those imminent linguists and lexicographers relying on informants with an unspoken worldview whose only referrant is a monosyllabic suffix that only surfaces in the plural form of a noun? “there is no central feature that motivates inclusion in the animate gender, and that there is thus no single cultural category, such as power, that corresponds to the grammatical category.” (Goddard 198)    

Therefore is can be assumed that nominal animacy can occur through a semantic process or other processes, or a combination of more than one. As a theoretical model I will offer 4 categories; traditional, semantic, compositional, and strategic; categories which overlap and create an environment in which an Ojibwe noun can exist and be satisfactorily explained as to the origin of its animate status.
“a popular… Neo-Whorfian view of Algonquian grammatical gender as giving a direct insight into the Algonquian mental world persists…” (Goddard 198) contributing greatly to issues in language learning among natives and non-natives alike. Why is a high-bush cranberry animate while the low-bush cranberry is inanimate? Why does an Ojibwe view one as alive and not the other? or similar questions in this same vein only frustrates an individual attempting to understand vocabulary at first and completely confound individuals attempting to correctly from sentence constructions. Another environment in which the semantic category can classify nominal gender would be the amount of time-depth an object possesses when referred to by a heritage speaker. Obviation is known to be used for objects lost or forgotten, those whose existence includes a known or perceived provenance back to a time or place in which its describer had never occupied but had nevertheless hear of through oral history may be referred to in the obviative, which could have effects on the accepted inflection of the word.

As has been illustrated, the Semantic class of nouns extends far past that of lexicalized lists of vocabulary as offered in this paper. There is much argument for and against this class but the available knowledge largely does not take into account the distinct difference between a noun that exists and is agreed upon as animate when lexicalized and one that shifts between animacy and inanimacy during the course of natural speech. We are concerned with those nouns that can be classified as Semantic within a lexicalized environment and fully recognized that the Semantic class, when applied to natural speech, expands greatly to many different conversational environments. I am in agreement that “decontextualized collections of animate nouns [do not] directly reveal the mental culture of the Algonquian Other on its own terms seem to have been describing instead a projection of their own culture.” (Goddard 225) just as decontextualization does not give a clear picture to the extent that the Semantic class of noun effects natural speech. Lexicalized nouns in the Semantic class represent those nouns that have been lended an animate status due to cognitive relationships to other different types of animate nouns in the Traditional class. Offered below is a table of animate nouns lended to the Semantic class while in their lexicalized form:

The third classification is by far the most interesting to this researcher and one in which I did not have any idea of until I began my research into the origins of animacy in Ojibwe nouns, it is the Strategic class of nouns. A covert grammatical system such as nominal animacy can also have to do with conscious strategies of taxonomic classification in the language (Swadesh 21-22). We return to Joseph’s investigation as he discusses the locative suffix /-ihk/ [in Cree, /-ing/ in Minnesota Ojibwe], which expresses at, in [or] on. [In Cree] it can be added… to grammatically inanimate nouns [but] with many animate nouns, the suffix cannot be used…” (Joseph 352). This is a matter of general semantics, however, and cannot be strictly reconciled with grammatical gender. Associations of these types, id est associations of the suffixes /-iban/ and /-ing/ with Algonquain grammatical gender will be shown to exacerbate the issue of Ojibwe language learning. In Brian Joseph’s account on Cree it is stated in regards to the locative suffix /-ing/ that “speakers rejected locatives formed from animate nouns like… dog [but] apparently accept such locatives from animate nouns… like horse as acceptable locatives.” (Joseph 352). It seems entirely plausible that the informant discussing the subject would not see a person located on a dog as rational but could easily envision a person on a horse in his or her worldview.  The conscious worldview of the natural Algonquian speaker does surface in the grammar if one knows where to look. “Some speakers [of Cree suggested] an inanimatizing force for the suffix /-ihk/… makes a noun grammatically inanimate…” (Joseph 353) so that both nominal and grammatical forms are reconciled on the semantic field. “Another area of interest is the occasional shift of inanimates to animates in traditional stories, a phenomenon which has played a leading role in attempts to explain unexpected animates…” (Goddard 202).

This system is a portion of my strategic category but can only be fully understood when accompanied with an explanation of the obviative and a willingness to accept that nominal gender is subject to hybridizaiton across the four established categories. The malleability of gender in natural speech can sometimes be seen “in Cree [where] there is [sometimes] not an abrupt shift but rather fluctuation between the genders, and even violation of the usual patterns of grammatical agreement.” (Goddard 203). Goddard, in his observations of natural dialogue and storytelling states that “the narrator [can sometimes] seem to [be making] a joke out of gender shifting, violating the expectations of the listener for comic effect.” (Goddard 205), which further weakens the argument for an overt grammatical origin for contemporary nominal gender as the natural speaker is not merely ‘talking funny’ but is using the manipulation of meaning to enhance the wit portrayed to the listener. Goddard’s discussions are centered on Fox, an Algonquian language related to Ojibwe but also, as mentioned at the beginning of this paper, one which exhibits traits that have been lost in Ojibwe through a natural process of evolution. Goddard states that “in Fox, inanimates seem to be freely assigned the powers of speech, comprehension, and thought without shifting gender.” (Goddard 208) Fox, still in possession of singular markers for nominal gender, could be used as a prototype for contemporary Ojibwe grammar. The ability to associate semantic qualities of animate entities without the expected grammatical inflection could shed light on anomalies in Ojibwe. Goddard goes on to state that “sacred packs are always inanimate in Fox,” lending them the aforementioned qualities of a Traditional class of nouns, “despite being ascribed all manner of conscious thought and action… this… evidence [shows] that gender shifts could have played a large role in the constitution of the animate gender class in Proto-Algonquian, where all nouns would have had the same overt gender-marking endings as Fox.” (Goddard 210). 

Another aspect of the Strategic class is shown by the words “ishkodekaan [NA] ‘fire-steel’  ishkodekaan [NI] ‘lighter’… The animate noun… names the older fire making device… while the inanimate noun names the [contemporary] one.” (Goddard 211) showing a strategy where inflection (even if said inflection is invisible in the singular form) is used to indicate difference in objects with the same use, similar qualities according to the Ojibwe world view, etc. “there are a number of cases… in which an inanimate noun in used with a general or collective reference to things that are referred to individually as animate, typically with the same noun stem.” (Goddard 212) General or collective reference can include referring to objects in the abstract while individual pieces are empirical evidence of an abstract whole. Conversely, this strategy could be used by an heritage speaker to indicate a specific piece of a group of objects, inflecting the specified object as if it were animate when in absence of the abstract whole said object is typically inflected as an inanimate. This indication of the empirical among the abstract could easily be construed as another use of obviation outside those currently accepted, or a strategic use of grammatical gender to differentiate like items. In this case, silver or money is initially referred to as an inanimate noun but the individual coin is animate, bark on trees is a general reference but that same bark when used for a purpose becomes animate, or as Goddard phrases it “inanimate when used for the generic and the ordinary, and animate when used for the special or the unusual… the animate is consistently the special or particular counterpart of the more ordinary, general, or inclusive inanimate, or the animate is a part and the inanimate the whole. Animate [is] fancy, special, or otherwise non-ordinary [objects] in contrast to their plain or generic counterparts… This is not the sort of distinction that leads directly to an unambiguous assignment of gender.” (Goddard 214 - 216).”

It is through Goddard’s insight into the Strategic class of nouns that he presents the best argument in conventional literature against a purely semantic view of nominal grammar in Algonquian languages. He states that “In addition to the inflection of inanimate nouns and the agreement of other words with them, Fox also uses the inanimate as the unmarked gender in grammatical functions unassociated with any noun either expressed or implied. In such cases the gender cannot be taken as in any way referring to or indexing a category of world view or of cognitive or cultural processing.” (Goddard 221). When encountering nouns in the Strategic class we find that the noun’s animacy (or inanimacy) is relational to a system of contrasts, or a method of classifying said noun as different or special from the other objects that clearly share semantic associations. This can most clearly be seen in the use of animate gender to mark certain plants. It is clear that the Ojibwe and other American Indian cultures view plants as having spirits, which if we are to not look past the Traditional class would cause a great deal of confusion to the language learner. Those plants that are inflected with animate gender can therefore be satisfactorily described as members of the Strategic class and are in possession of qualities that are consciously viewed (or were at one time consciously viewed) as special when the word was coined. Below is a list of nouns that enjoy an animate status due to a conscious effort of classifying them as different from other objects of similar qualities, as specific pieces to a conceptual whole, or as distinct from a noun of the same name due to some semantic qualities:

The final class of nouns is largely a response to the natural process of collapsing and expanding vocabularies as diverse cultures come into intimate contact. Algonquian languages have a system to accommodate this phenomena that utilizes the polysynthetic nature of the language, one of morphological composition. Returning to the golden age of American Indian linguistics we find it recognized that “in Algonkian the lexemic classes include large groups of stems having different combinatory powers and different positions in the verbal complex” (Whorf 95), which lend themselves to the compositional processes. There are a multitude of word forms that are affected by the compositional process in Ojibwe, some of which may not readily give up their origins to the language learner. Brian Jones, a contemporary of some of the first linguists to explore Algonquian grammar, states that the composition of morphemes is instrumental not merely in the formation of nouns but in giving to the nouns they form the quality of distinctive designation. 

Thus maandamin (corn) denotes fruit, grain, berry; and [-gan] in baashkizigan – (gun), literally exploder, is expressive of tool, implement, instrument.” (Jones 385)
and that “every [discernable] stem is stamped with the quality of abstract meaning; the notion of some stems is so vague… as to seem almost void of tanglible sense. Some stems can be analyzed into elements that have at most the feeblest kind of sense; it is only as they stand in compound form that they take on a special meaning.” (Jones 402) Only through compositional process do stems generate meaning, when removed from the other elements in the word, their substance wanes. Only through composition do some nouns take on the qualities of their inherent gender through the integration of particular stems with other elements in the word, “in the noun there is much the same general character of vague implication in the component parts when they stand along. They offer no definite meaning by themselves, it is only as they enter into combination that they convey specific sense to the mind. The moment they fall into composition they acquire the force of precise statement…” (Jones 411), which indicates why some nouns of the Compositional class are not readily apparent upon first investigation but often come to light once the language learner has progressed past the formative period of learning the overt grammatical systems and a substantial amount of vocabulary from their instructor. Once an investigation of morphemes begins than many nouns reveal themselves as being animate strictly due to the method through which they were formed. I have offered below a table of nouns that can be accurately defined as belonging to the Compositional class:

I would be remiss if I did not also offer the short list of nouns in the data set that I was unable to classify using the four classes introduced in this model. I am confident, however, that the origins of these nouns elude myself due to limitations in my knowledge of the language and will be evident to more proficient language learners or heritage speakers of Ojibwe using the same model presented here:

The model here is not innovative or particularly original, all of the information was present in the available knowledge pertaining to Algonquian grammatical gender but decades of infighting among academics and a general tendency to look for an absolutist principle that covers all instances of noun animacy has generated an environment non-conducive to the goals of serious students of Ojibwe. Language is a biological system and exhibits many of the characteristics of an ecosystem. Small details tend to have unexpected results when the system is viewed as a whole entity and not a body of atomic elements, which it is.  By applying the above systemic view of Algonquian nominal grammar a clearer picture is presented of the physic behind the events that appear so inexplicable when viewed only from above. I believe that an application of the above model to language learning programs will go a long way in diffusing this environment and open in-roads to new knowledge of the Ojibwe language in particular, and Algonquian grammar in general.


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