Page images
PDF
EPUB

in twenty, nor one in fifty, of the Indians themselves, who are acknowledged by their countrymen to speak it well.* And we know, from personal observation, that the reputation of a good speaker confers as much distinction on an Indian chief or warrior, as eminence in courage, strength, or sagacity. Many chiefs are compelled to keep their speakers, and instances have occurred, in which they have been called, for this purpose, from distances which would be deemed remarkable, even in civilized communities. Of men thus distinguished for speaking talents, who enjoy little standing for anything else, we will mention the instance of Mongazid, or the Loon's Foot, of Fond du Lac. He is deemed one of the most fluent, if not decidedly the best speaker, now living in the Chippewa nation. We have often heard him. He excels in that rapid, continuous flow of utterance, in which it seems to be the object of the speaker to go on, without a pause, as long and as vehemently as possible. In listening to this kind of outpouring of words, it seems as if a thousand syllables and words were amalgamated into one, and as if to pause in the middle, or at any intermediate point, would be to break the harmony, or mar the sense. We should suppose the mere physical operation of speaking must be laborious. The Indian orator, when once his organs of utterance are set in motion, talks on, as if he intended to take his hearers by storm, to inflict blow upon blow, to leave no time for doubt or deliberation, but pressing his advantage, to produce immediate conviction, and triumph by the power of words. And such would seem to be the effect acknowledged in the sonorous response of the admiring warriors and chiefs, which marks every full pause.

In its structure, the Algic† or Chippewa presents the frame of a language, rich in grammatical forms, and requiring throughout a rigid concordance. Not only must its elements correspond in number and tense, mood and person, but it also requires a correspondence in gender, so to speak, for as such we must regard that accident of its nouns, and verbs, and other

*The same remark, our readers are aware, is made of the Chinese language. Generally speaking, it is a principle of some importance, in reference to the acquisition of language by intercourse with uneducated persons (and the whole mass of barbarous nations are to be so considered), that they communicate, by means of language, very perfectly, even with each other.

[blocks in formation]

im

parts of speech, which broadly separates them into animate and inanimate classes. Plural verbs and substantives require plural nominatives. We cannot say, as in English, a man walks, or men walk. We must say, Pä'zhik inin'e pim'mossay', a man walks, or Inin'ewug pim'mossay'wug', men walk, or rather, to translate the spirit of the sentence, men they walk; the syllable wug, being in its nature pronominal, as well as plural.

[ocr errors]

Animate nouns require animate verbs. We cannot say, grammatically speaking, I love this gun and this dog, without repeating the verb to love, and altering its termination, because, gun being a noun inanimate, and dog, a noun animate, each requires a corresponding voice of the verb. But we can say, I love this gun and this knife; or, I love this woman and this boy, without altering the verb, the former being both inanimates, and the latter both animates.

[blocks in formation]

In these instances the syllable toan, marks the inanimate, and the syllable au, the animate form of the verb. It will also be perceived, that two different words are introduced to denote the pronoun this,' ohou being the corresponding inanimate, and wohow the animate pronoun.

Adjectives and prepositions, for the language possesses both adjectives and prepositions, are similarly circumstanced, and must constantly coïncide, in gender or class, with their nominatives. There are even some of the conjunctions thus limited in their application, as the terms gya, appee, and osshe, each being used as an equivalent for the word and,' under different modifications of the same principle.

Pronouns are inflected for tense, as well as verbs; and in fact, when thus inflected, they serve the purposes of our auxiliary verbs. Thus Neen, I, becomes Ningee, I have, Ningah, I shall or will, Ningahgee, I shall or will have. Keen, thou, becomes Keegee, thou hast; Keegah, thou shalt or wilt; Keegahgee, thou shalt or wilt have. O, the sign of the pronoun he or she (it is an epicene), becomes Ogee, he or she has ; Ogah, he or she will; Ogahgee, he or she will have. By

the help of these declensions, verbs are conjugated. The verb itself, by its own inflections, provides for the person, the tense, and the number. Saug is the infinitive of the verb to love. Hence, Saugeau, to love a person; Saugetoan, to love a thing. Nee saugeau, I love him; Nee saugeaug, I love them. Ningee saugeaubun, I have loved him; Ningee saugeaubuneeg, I have loved them, &c. Ningee saugetoan, I love it; ningee saugetoanun, I love them; Ningee saugetoanaubun, I have loved it; Ningee saugetoanaubuneen, I have loved them, &c.

The substantive is scarcely less flexible than the verb. It admits of transpositions, not only to indicate the accidents of English nouns, but is further inflected to express the additional powers of adjectives and adverbs, to coalesce with prepositions, to indicate one or two additional cases, and finally to assume the powers of a verb. In all these changes of its powers and its forms, the distinction of nature into two great classes, characterized by the possession or absence of vitality, is constantly preserved. We quote from a manuscript memoir before us.

'This rule separating, as it does, all substantives into animates and inanimates, and conveying its distinctions into every other part of speech, is not, however, rigidly limited by the distinctions which nature herself has impressed upon the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. Custom has endowed certain inert masses with animate properties, the reasons for which are not always obvious, but would probably be disclosed by an investigation of the peculiar opinions, or by the history and institutions of this nation. A particular respect paid to certain inanimate bodies, either from their real or fancied properties or attributes, the uses to which they are applied, or the ceremonies to which they are dedicated, is often manifestly the cause of these exceptions from the operation of a general rule. A stone, which is the altar upon which they leave the offerings of their manitos; a bow, formerly so necessary in the chase; a feather, the honored sign of martial prowess; a kettle, so valuable in the household; a pipe, by which friendships are sealed and treaties ratified; a drum, used in their sacred and festive dances; a medal, the mark of authority; vermilion, the appropriate paint for the warrior; wampum, by which formal messages are conveyed, and leagues and agreements remembered; these are among the objects, in themselves inanimate, which require the application of animate verbs, pronouns, and adjectives, and are thereby transferred to the animate class.

'Some nouns, on the contrary, which are in their nature animate, custom transfers to the opposite class. These are not, like the preceding exceptions, wholly conventional in their number and

[ocr errors]

character, but owe their change to a principle which limits and restricts the application of verbs animate to the objects to which they can be applied, so long as those objects are referred to as whole masses or species. Man, woman, boy, girl, are respectively and unchangeably animates; but foot, hand, arm, leg, are constantly referred to as inanimates. Buck is an animate noun, so long as his entire carcass is referred to, whether living or dead; but haunch, neck, heart, windpipe, take the inanimate form. In like manner, eagle, swan, dove, are distinguished as animates, while these names imply individuals of their species; but beak, wing, tail, are arranged with inanimates. So oak, pine, ash, are ani

mates; branch, leaf, root, inanimates.'*

The number of words which possess gender, strictly speaking, is limited, and, of course, both masculine and feminine nouns fall under the animate class. Number itself is of a twofold character; and the manner of forming the plural furnishes an unerring indication of the class of the substantive,―animates ending in wug, ug, oag, aag, eeg, ig; and inanimates in wun, un, oan, aan, een, in,—the only real difference being in the change of the final consonant.

Cases are provided for; but, as will have been expected, they are strongly marked by the above principle of vitality, or want of vitality. Animates admit of seven declensions, to denote the possessive and objective, ending, respectively, in the first and second persons, in aum, eem, oom, aam, im, iss; and in the third, in aumun, eemun, oomun, aamun, imun, issun. As the eye is a powerful auxiliary to the understanding, in questions of this nature, we shall present a sketch of the declensions, sufficiently comprehensive for present purpose.

[blocks in formation]

The objective is, in fact, formed by the simple addition of un to the possessive. The substitution of consonants for vowels, observed in these examples, as d for o and a, and the exchange of one consonant for another, as g for k, are changes dictated solely by a regard to euphony. The accent, it will be observed, is thrown forward to the final syllable.

Inanimate substances have but one case, properly so called. It is formed most commonly in ing, eeng, or oong. Thus, wauky'egun, a house; mukuk', a box; tshemaun', a canoe; become, respectively, waukyeguning, mukukoong', tshemauning', signifying, in the house, in the box, in the canoe.

Akkee',

earth, and see bee, river, are transformed to Akkeeng', in the earth, and seebeeng', in the river, or on the river. But as the property here unfolded, has great analogy to those changes of the substantive, by which it expresses the additional powers of adjectives and adverbs, as before hinted, it may admit of doubt, whether this be truly a case of the noun, or whether the forms referred to are not as truly so. It is however the only inflection of the substantive, so far as we recollect, in which the office of a preposition is assumed. In the numerous other compound words, bearing the character of half noun, half preposition, the latter is uniformly a prefix. Thus ogyd'jye'-ee' is the simple form of the preposition on or upon; akkee' is earth, wudjoo', hill. But should an Indian wish to say, on the hill, the term is ogydah'kee, a compound of the two first mentioned words, the specific term for hill, not being at all employed. It is the difficulty of seizing the principle upon which these compounds are formed, that opposes the most serious bar to the progress of adult learners.

In the following examples a literal translation is given, as nearly as the idiom of the language will permit. The retranslation will give the reader an opportunity of judging how far the spirit of the original has been attained. It is to be observed, however, that the language is better adapted to display the narrative and descriptive portions of the sacred volume, than those parts which are purely spiritual.

1. Wyaishkud Geezhamonedo ogee oazhetoan geezhig, gya

akkee.

2. Gya kauween ningood akkee izzhenaugwuhseenöbun peezhishegwaubun, gya mukkudday waubumin-naugwudöbun ogydeebeeg; Geezhamonedo dush öjeetshaugwun ogydeebeeg keepimmee eezhauwun.

« PreviousContinue »