Cherokee Grammar & Syntax


Pronoun Prefixes in Cherokee

Pronouns come in three persons. For instance, in English we have first-person, I & we; second-person, you; and third-person, s/he, it, they. The same in Cherokee, except that these three groups of pronouns go furthur to clarify numbers, referring to "one", "two" and "three or more" persons. Whereas, in English, we would either "understand" the number being referred to, or else we would use extra words to clarify it.

These are all first-person pronounial sentences:

I am going to town. (I - one person)
John and I are going to town. (we - two persons)
We are going to town. (we - understood from context)
The two of us are going to town. (we - two persons)
We are all going to town. (we - three or more or contextual)
Our family is going to town. (we - three or more or contextual)
Our class is going to town. (we - three or more or contextual)

Yes, these are all first-person, but the numbers are obviously not the same. In Cherokee, we don't need to be so verbose, all we need to do is select the pronoun with the proper number and use it in the sentence.

(A Class)
ᎨᎦ g-ega - I am going.
ᎢᏁᎦ in-ega - You and I are going.
ᎣᏍᏕᎦ osd-ega - The two of us (s/he and I not you) are going.
ᎢᏕᎦ id-ega - We are all going. (including you)
ᎣᏤᎦ ots-ega - We are all going. (not including you)

ᏥᎩᎠ tsi-gia - I am eating it.
ᎢᏂᎩᎠ ini-gia - You and I are eating it.
ᎣᏍᏗᎩᎠ osdi-gia - The two of us (s/he and I not you) are eating it.
ᎢᏗᎩᎠ idi-gia - We are all eating it. (including you)
ᎣᏥᎩᎠ otsi-gia - We are all eating it. (not including you)

(B Class)
ᎠᎩᎭ agi-ha - I have it.
ᎩᏂᎭ gini-ha - You and I have it.
ᎣᎩᏂᎭ ogini-ha - The two of us (s/he and I not you) have it.
ᎢᎩᎭ igi-ha - We all have it. (including you)
ᎣᎩᎭ ogi-ha - We all have it. (not including you)

ᎠᏆᏚᎵᎭ agw-aduliha - I want it.
ᎩᎾᏚᎵᎭ gin-aduliha - You and I want it.
ᎣᎩᎾᏚᎵᎭ ogin-aduliha - The two of us (s/he and I not you) want it.
ᎢᎦᏚᎵᎭ ig-aduliha - We all want it. (including you)
ᎣᎦᏚᎵᎭ og-aduliha - We all want it. (not including you)

So in Cherokee, you are seeing five distinct first-person forms, when we only have two distinct forms in English; I and we. This is basically because Cherokee has a double form and inclusive versus exclusive pronoun (beginning with an "Ꭳ" (o) ) forms.

The same kinds of pronouns also exist in second (you) and third-person (s/he, it, they) forms.
Second-person forms are like first-person; singular, double, and three or more.
Third-person forms are in singular and plural (two or more) only.

The B Class form ogini- used in "ogini-ha" (S/he and I have it.) is the B Class pronoun form of osd(i)-, an A Class pronoun that we saw above. "The two of us not including you..." Anytime you see an "Ꭳ" (o) in-front of a pronoun it means clearly "you are not included", but someone else is. So in this verb ᎣᏍᏗᎪᏩᏘᎭ "osdi-gowatiha" (The two of us see it.) the idea is that I am talking to you but telling you that "we (me and another) see it" not you, note the "o". This pronoun form literally means, S/he and I, not you and I.

So if we are saying "you and I see it" we would say ᏍᏗᎪᏩᏘᎭ "sdigowatiha", note there is no "Ꭳ" (o) when the person being spoken to is included in the meaning.

Those are all basic pronouns, more or less plain and straight forward.

This is only a basic explanation of basic Cherokee pronoun usage. The pronouns are one of the most important and complexed parts of mastering the Cherokee verb.

For more complexed pronoun forms please see Cherokee Pronouns Part II.