Wake up my sisters!

Twin sisters Judy and Jody Bear – who need no waking! (Thanks, Judy for permission)

A fabulous little observation about precision in Cree from the FaceBook Nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Word/Phrase of the Day group, thanks to Arok Wolvengrey. It helps to illustrate the importance of context to translate into Cree appropriately.

When somebody asked how to say “Wake up my sisters!” – Arok took a stroll down some of the many possible paths that simple phrase might suggest in Cree. Arok’s short answer: Depends.

First, you have to differentiate between “my older sisters” (nimisak) and “my younger siblings” (nisîmisak) or simply “my siblings” (nîcisânak). [Since Cree doesn’t really have a word for younger sister.] Or perhaps you are using the word “sisters” in terms of solidarity and you really mean “my fellow women” (nîci-iskwêwak).

Second you need to specify if you are telling someone else to “Wake up my sisters!” (koskonik …) or if you are yourself speaking to your sisters/fellow women and saying “Wake up, my sisters!” (pêkohik, …!) (commas are important).

Finally, if someone else is to awaken them, you would also have to be explicit as to how you want them to be awakened. Are they being shaken awake? (koskonik, pêkohik) Are they to be awakened verbally (pêkomik). Perhaps you even want them to awaken themselves (pêkohisok! koskonisok! waniskâhisok, or even âpahkawihisok “bring yourselves to consciousness, awareness”)

But perhaps you are simply telling your older and or younger sisters to wake up/get out of bed in the morning? waniskâk, _______! (inserting the appropriate term from the ones above.

As Arok observes: Cree is a very precise and explicit language. English, sometimes, less so.

About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, launched in 2010 with the goal of creating Cree language literacy materials suitable for use by learners of all ages.
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