Article in:Studies in Language: Online-First Articles
Plains Cree animacy–inanimacy hierarchy
Old facts and new insights
Like all Algonquian languages, Cree distributes its stock of nouns over two classes: animate and inanimate. While this distinction is firmly based on different agreement rules, and is to a large extent (but not completely) backed up by semantic differences, Cree nouns can also be put on a 4-level hierarchy scale, depending on their morphological valence with regard to whether or not they allow markers for the plural, obviative, vocative/honorific, absentative or which one of the two types of locatives. In addition, in a few recorded cases an inanimate noun may be reclassified, or “promoted”, as an animate noun, but rarely vice versa. Although this paper concentrates on Plains Cree, and examples are from that dialect unless otherwise noted, some observations are also made on (in)animacy in East Cree and in a wider Algonquian context.
Keywords: Plains Cree, gender, animacy, hierarchy, power, locomotion
Published online: 17 November 2020
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