Shawnee Grammar

 On this page you will find three articles:

        - A Profile of Shawnee Grammar contributed by Kenneth Andrews (left column)
        - A  thumbnail sketch the Study of Shawnee Grammar (right column)
        - A layman's guide to Shawnee Grammar with examples (scroll down)

Linguistic Profile of Shawnee

 by Kenneth Andrews

     Shawnee has twenty phonemes: 7 vowels and 13 consonants.  Vowel length is phonemic, although these contrasts are difficult to find.  Short /i/ and /e/ are [?] and [?].  Word stress is fixed on the final syllable.

      Shawnee is an agglutinating language with a fair degree of allomorphic variation.  Nouns are divided into animate and inanimate genders.  Nouns derive new stems for the diminutive and for possession, and they inflect for number and vocative.  A discourse marker distinguishes one third?person actor not in focus (= "obviative") when two third?persons are under discussion. 

     Tense, aspect, and motion particles are verbal affixes.  There is no tense distinction between present and past, but there are several sorts of future.  Duration of action is indicated by partial reduplication of the verb root.  Adverbials indicating motion ('towards') incorporate into the verb stem.  Other adverbials ('today', 'now') are usually independent words. 

     Pronominal affixes on the verb cross reference the referential subject and object nouns.  In transitive verbs, different derivational affixes signal whether the stem takes an animate or inanimate object.  While many overt inflectional markers that cross reference the object have been lost, some have been retained in certain paradigms.  Freestanding personal pronouns can be used (mostly for emphasis).

     Because there is a person hierarchy in speaker?addressee interactions (2 > 1 > 3) (and the location of these pronominal prefixes relative to each other is invariable), verbal suffixes are used to indicate the direction of the action.  For example, an inverse marker indicates that a third?person is acting on a first?person, but the first?person marker remains fixed on the left edge of the verb stem (the normal "subject" position) and the third?person marker continues to occupy what would otherwise be the "object" slot.  While inverse suffixes in the Algonquian languages are often analyzed as passive markers, others disagree (Dahlstrom 1991).  A true passive construction has been identified in Shawnee.  An indefinite actor affix is also found that is not present in all Algonquian languages.  Determiners and demonstratives usually precede the noun they modify.  They must agree in animacy and number with their head noun (Norcross 1993:68).  Locatives are postpositions.  Word order is relatively free, although a VS order is predominant. 

Andrews, Kenneth. 1994. "Shawnee Grammar." Unpublished Dissertation, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

-----. 2002. "Shawnee Noun Inflection." European Review of Native American Studies 16:1:17-26.

History of the Study of Shawnee Grammar


Though some work on Shawnee grammar was done by Albert Gatschet in the second half of the 19th century, the earliest extensive work on Shawnee grammar was done on Shawnee grammar by Charles F. Voegelin who began his fieldwork in the early 1930s.  As a result, material was published on Shawnee phonology, grammar, and ethnography (see the "Sources" page).  However, much of Voegelin's fieldwork materials remained unpublished, including a manuscript entitled "Basic Shawnee."
  More recently, work has been done by Kenneth Andrews in his unpublished MA thesis and he has agreed to offer a sketch of Shawnee grammar for this site....etc., etc.