Wake up my sisters!

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.


One Response

  1. thanks for this I totally agree that Cree is so precise which I am learning more and more daily as I expand my Cree vocabulary. Metaphors are easy to create in English as English has many words words with multiple meanings and we use metaphors so often in English, we hardly notice it. But we cannot do that so easily in Cree. So in Cree, you have to say exactly what you mean and you may need to search for an appropriate word in Cree. That’s just a good way to learn more Cree words. I find I am now much more conscious of when I am using English metaphorically and when I mean an literal meaning. I always double check with numerous other fluent speakers with unfamiliar words to ensure that i know the exact meaning of a word. If I don’t do this, I may use a Cree word, not knowing what it really means and it may convey the wrong message entirely. So for new Cree speakers, we need to get into that habit of asking, “is the meaning of this word a literal meaning or not? What am I really trying to express?”

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