A Manual to Accompany the English-Anishinaabemowin Translator

Martha R. O'Kennon

The English-Anishinaabemowin Translator is a program which is currently under development. It is being undertaken by Martha O'Kennon, Professor of Math at Albion College, in consultation with Kenny Pheasant, an Odawa language educator, with the support of the Faculty Development Committee of Albion College. Recently the program has been extended to translate from English to Ojibwe, and from now on both programs will be updated simultaneously.  We need your feedback so that we can continue to improve it. It is not a phrase book, but is a sentence-based translation system which can translate a large variety of English sentences into Odawa/Eastern Ojibwe. In order to maximize the Anishinaabe constructions that can be produced we have had to select some standard formats for English sentences that will be recognized and translated.

Here are some of the things the program can do:  (Note: italicized elements are only on the stack of things to do in the near future.)    Note: the vocabulary is rather small now, and reflects the words I myself use often. :-) Please include in your feedback words you use often and would like me to include!

email with feedback to: Martha O'Kennon

I. Basic sentence types:    

Type I.1: nounphrase followed by verbphrase  

(but see below for the kinds of nounphrases and verbphrases that have been implemented.)

Type I.2: set phrase  (ex. how are you)  The vocabulary has a small list of such phrases which the translator considers idiomatic and does not really translate but just pulls up.

Type I.3: imperative sentences or commands.
Examples: come here
                don't hit the dog
               let's go
               boys, help me

Note I.3.1:  Here is a table of VTA verbs in the imperative mode.  Imperatives

Note I.3.2:  in order to elicit the plural imperatives, start your sentence off with "yall," (including the comma) or with some plural noun, so for example,

"children, eat this food" would give you "Niijaanisag, Miijig Maanda Miijim"

Type I..4: there ---> copula ---> nounphrase ----> locative         (Note: copula = is, am, are)
         (Example: there is a cat in the kitchen)

                      locative phrase :  [in, on] nounphrase
                                                some set phrases, like "upstairs" 

Type I.5: Questions:  Questions.

        I.5.1:  Yes-No questions.

         copula ---> nounphrase ---> progressive ---> nounphrase
             Example. is your dog eating my corn
       [(do, does, will, did] ---> nounphrase --> verb --> nounphrase
            Example. did your naughty dog eat my little red cat?
        [do, does] your mother intend to go home

Note I.5.1:  If you want to elicit "gwa" or "go" in the response to a question, type the answer with a "yes," at the beginning.   So for example, "yes, i am eating"

        I.5.2:  Questions requiring B-forms.

            Where do you come from?
           What are you eating
            When did you arrive
            who ate the cat
           who is this person
           what is your name

II.  Nounphrases:

pronoun: (i, you, he, she, we, wex (exclusive we), yall (you plural), they)

object pronoun: (me, myself, you, yourself, him, her, us, usx, ourselves, ourxselves, yall,    yourselves, yallselves, them, themselves, each other, one another)

Note II.1:  Sometimes the program can figure out which "we" or "you" is meant from context.  So for example, "you love yourselves" will give you the same output as "yall love yallselves".  If you say, "we love you", you will get the same as if you had said "wex love you".

(possessive or determiner (a, an, the) ) --> possibly adjective list ---> noun2

demonstrative + noun (example: this cat)

noun2 may in fact be followed by "'" (or "'s" ) and then more adjectives and another noun2.

        noun (ex. cat)
        noun + s (ex. cats)
        noun + es (ex. bushes)
        noun - y + ies (ex. babies)
        noun - f + ves (ex. wives)
        irregular plural (ex. children)

possessive:  (ex. my, your, his, her, our, ourx, yalls, their)

adjectives so far: 
       suffixes (ish, enhs) (naughty, little)
       pre-noun adjectives: (ex. big, colors)

update: November 17.  I've started to get the program to recognize relative clauses, that is, clauses starting with "who","that","whom", or "which", which follow a noun to modify it.

Sentences that work (up to word order) include:

where is the boy that broke my table?
the dog that ate my little red cat is dead
the dog that my cat ate is happy

"the dog that my cat ate" is right now "under construction" as it needs the obviative o-prefix. you can also try "the dog that was eaten by my cat", in other words turn the clause into one using the passive.

The same applies to nouns created out of verbs by adding "er" in English. For example, "writer" turns into "e-Zhibiihged".  I haven't found any Odawa sources in which the initial vowel change takes place (except with gii- and wii-).

New January 15th. I'm fleshing out the adjectives. Formerly you couldn't say "running dog" or "hungry bear" because those adjectives are really verb forms. Now we translate running dog as "the dog that runs" and hungry bear as "the bear that is hungry".

III.  Verbphrases:

III.1. Present tense

       copula (not) stative verb   (ex. am not hungry)            Note: copula = is, am, are
       copula (not) progressive verb (nounphrase)
Examples:  am not eating, am not eating corn

       (do not) verb (nounphrase)
                    verb (nounphrase)
Examples: do not like red cars, like blue cars

III.2.  Future tense (two kinds)

          [intend to, will, want to] verb (nounphrase)
          will definitely verb (nounphrase)
Examples: want to eat
                am going to eat
                will definitely see you

III.3.  Past tense: 

             did not verb --> nounphrase

Examples: did not steal the book
                ate my bread
                have eaten

III.4.  Passive voice.  Implemented in present, past, and future indicative.   

Examples: the boys are given a big car by the priest
             were you chased by the dog
             will the teacher be paid

III.5.  Miscellaneous:

       copula "good at" progressive
       modal (not) verb nounphrase
Examples:  am good at eating corn,
                like to see you,
                must go home,
                must not hit the dog
                should not have eaten

IV.  The programs are now being expanded so that dependent clauses in the B-form are generated. For instance,

i laugh when i see you
i laughed because you were laughing (but i think it should be gii-onji- baapiyan instead of onji- gii- baapiyan
i think therefore i am

Please let me know if there is anything you would have said differently!

 All feedback happily accepted and incorporated!  (and credited).

Appendix A:  Tables of Anishinaabe "vta" Verb endings

The upper entry in each cell is the A-form, the lower is the B-form.  The C form appears directly under the relevant box. The entries in teal letters are the vai verb (the reflexive) formed by adding "idizod" to the original verb form, while those in magenta are from the vaip verb (the reciprocal) formed by adding "idwaad" to the original. Chartreuse letters mark the forms that seem to be passive forms, or what Bloomfield calls the inverse (p. 46 ff). There is a nice note on this phenomenon in Baraga, p. 214.

Where a word is changed to negative by inserting something, I've indicated that portion in parentheses. If the word takes something other than a simple insert, I've indicated the negative ending below that of the affirmative following a double period.

I hope the format of these tables will be helpful to Anishinaabemowin learners.  It is what I wished I had when I started this work!

Zaaghaad (Odawa version)

Zaagi'aad (Ojibwe version)



Noondawaad(Odawa version)

Noondawaad(Ojibwe version)

Appendix B. Vti verbs.   

Odawa vti tables

Ojibwe vti tables

Appendix C. vai verbs.   Same comments as above.

Odawa vai tables

Ojibwe vai tables

vta Imperatives

Acknowledgements and References.

Much of the Odawa vocabulary and grammar in this program comes from notes on Aanishinaabemowin by Kenny Pheasant, with the spellings and usages checked against Rhodes' Eastern Ojibwa - Chippewa - Ottawa Dictionary. When a word given by Mr. Pheasant is different from a word in the dictionary, the program will use the former as the default word. Baraga (A Theoretical and Practical Grammar of the Otchipwe Language, Beauchemin & Valois, 1878 edition) was invaluable in supplying the verb paradigms of Ojibwe - I've tried to reconcile the spellings in Baraga with the double-vowel orthography in common usage today, and particularly with Nichols and Nyholm's Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe.  Thanks to many people, especially Don King and Todd Lurker for answering lots of my questions. Jim Starkey has been an especially invaluable source of Ojibwe vocabulary and usage as well as enthusiasm.  Thanks again to Kenny for inspiring this whole project with his passion to keep the language alive!

Other references:

Leonard Bloomfield (Eastern Ojibwa, U. of Michigan Press, 1957?)
Anton Treuer, articles on grammar in Oshkaabewis Native Journal, vol 4, numbers 1 and 2.
Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College Resources VTI List         (http://www.fdl.cc.mn.us/web/language/vtilist.html)

copyright, 1999 Martha R. O'Kennon