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).
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 Unpublished Dissertation, University of South Carolina, Columbia.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.