The Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Language


The Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Language

A Revitalization Reference Grammar

Andrew Cowell with Terry Brockie

520 pages
52 tables, 7 appendixes, index


October 2024


$95.00 Pre-order

About the Book

The Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Language is a tribally centered reference grammar of Aaniiih. A member of the Algonquian language family, Aaniiih is most closely related to the Arapaho language. Previously spoken in areas of central and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan and northern Montana, the language is now spoken on the Fort Belknap Reservation in north central Montana. Andrew Cowell and Terry Brockie worked with tribal members to retranscribe historical and archival documentation of the language in order to revitalize it.

This grammar provides a comprehensive description of the language throughout all its stages, focusing on the phonology and morphology of new word formation; on levels of politeness in the language and strategies for indirectness; and on salient cultural topics such as place-names, personal names, prayer, and traditional narrative, as well as greetings, departures, and a rich variety of exclamations and interjections. The grammar describes both classical (pre-reservation) and modern Aaniiih, allowing contemporary revivers of the language to fully understand both and to choose which to focus on for teaching and learning.

The Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Language is an essential guide to assisting with the Gros Ventre nation’s efforts to teach and revitalize its language in the twenty-first century.

Author Bio

Andrew Cowell is a professor of linguistics and director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Colorado. He is the author of Naming the World: Language and Power among the Northern Arapaho, coeditor of Aaniiih/Gros Ventre Stories, and coauthor of The Arapaho Language, among other books. Terry Brockie is a member of the Gros Ventre tribe and has served as teacher, school superintendent, and ceremonial leader. He is a coeditor of Aaniiih/Gros Ventre Stories.


“Andrew Cowell’s comprehensive grammar is an essential roadmap to Aaniiih. It dissects the complexities of the language and lays out discernible patterns in a simple and understandable way. In many ways the grammar acts like a Rosetta Stone, decoding a worldview that those who have gone on left embedded within the language. Terry Brockie and many of his contemporaries were among the last to recognize the need to dig in and spend time with the few remaining elders who spoke Aaniiih. Their work, coupled with that of Andrew Cowell, has created a solid foundation for these young folks to springboard from and make Aaniiih theirs.”—Randall Collin Werk Sr., Aaniiih Mountain District representative, Fort Belknap Indian Community Council

“Invaluable both for the Aaniiih community seeking to revitalize the language and for Algonquianist linguists eager to understand the role of Aaniiih in comparative and historical linguistic work. This book is an inspiring example of a ‘revitalization grammar.’ Cowell’s volume demonstrates how much can be discovered in the corpus of earlier documentation and presents the material in such a way that current community members can make use of the detailed descriptions.”—Amy Dahlstrom, author of Plains Cree Morphosyntax

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations and Symbols Used in This Grammar
List of Tables
Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 Situating the Aaniiih Language in Time and Space
1.2 The Aaniiih-Arapaho Languages
1.3 Classical and Twentieth-Century Aaniiih
1.4 Contemporary Aaniiih and Revitalization
1.5 Summary: What is a Revitalization Grammar?
Chapter Two: The Way Aaniiih Works
2.1 Agglutination (prefixes and suffixes) and Polysynthesis (multi-concept words)
2.2 Animacy of Nouns: NI vs NA
2.3. Different Verbs (Verb Stem Types) in Relation to the NI/NA Distinction
2.4 Different Verb “Orders” for Different Types of Information
2.5 Word Order and Other Means of Information Focusing
2.6 Person Hierarchy: Who’s Most Important?
2.7 Male and Female Speech
Chapter Three: Phonology: The Sound System
3. 1 Phonemic Inventory and Features
            3.1.1 Consonants
            3.1.2 Vowels (Including Vowel Length, Vowel Harmony, Vowel Tone)
   Vowel Length
   Vowel Harmony
   Vowel Tone
            3.1.3 Phonotactics (Allowable Sound Combinations)
            3.1.4 The Issue of Final /-n/ and /-w/.
3.2 Combining Morphemes (Meaning Units)
            3.2.1 Underlying Stems
            3.2.2 Glide Vowel
   /V + V/ Sequences
            3.2.3 Consonant Mutation
            3.2.4 Vowel Quality Changes
            3.2.5 Timing of Application of Vowel Harmony
            3.2.6 Summary of Sound Changes Occurring Due to Morpheme Combinations
3.3 Stress, Syllable Structure, and Effects of Stress on Vowels
            3.3.1 Syllable Structure
            3.3.2 Stress
   Lexical Stress on Stems
   Grammatical Stress
            3.3.3 Stress and Vowel Devoicing; Loss of Final -Vh/Ɂ
            3.3.4 Stress and Vowel Quality
   Stress and Vowel Quality (Long Vowels)
   Stress and Phoneme Sequence /CyV/
   Summary of Stress and Vowel Quality Changes
            3.3.5 Stress and Vowel Syncope
            3.3.6 More on Derivation, Inflection and Grammatical Stress
            3.3.7 Deletion of Final Stress
            3.3.8 Spreading of Stress and Syllable Merger
            3.3.9 Prosodic Stress Beyond the Stem
3.4 Summary
Chapter Four: Noun Inflection and Derivation
4.1 Noun Classes: Animate and Inanimate
4.2 Noun Inflection
            4.2.1 Plural
            4.2.2 Noun Stress
            4.2.3 Obviative
            4.2.4 Locative
            4.2.5 Possession
4.3 Verbal Nouns
4.4 Noun Derivation
            4.4.1 Diminutives
            4.4.2 ‘Young of…’ Suffix
            4.4.3 Vocatives
            4.4.4 Deverbal Forms
            4.4.5 Compounding and Noun Stem Formation
   Noun Stem Derivation (Creation)
4.5 Pronouns
            4.5.1 Personal Pronouns
            4.5.2 Indefinite Pronouns
            4.5.3 Pseudo-verbal and other “Presentational” Forms
            4.5.4 Interrogative Pronouns
            4.5.5 Possessive Pronouns
 4.6 Noun Phrases
            4.6.1 Prenouns vs. Full Verbal Modifiers
            4.6.2 Proclitics Occurring with Nouns
            4.6.3 Adjectival and Number Verbs
            4.6.4 Determiners
   Definiteness and Identifiability
   Emphatic Determiners
            4.6.5 Noun Phrase Syntax
Chapter Five: Verbal Inflection
5.1 Proximate and Obviative System
5.2 Affirmative Order Verb Inflections
            5.2.1 II Verb Inflections, Affirmative
            5.2.2 AI Verb Inflections, Affirmative
            5.2.3 TI Verb Inflections, Affirmative
            5.2.4 TA Verbs Inflections, Affirmative
   Direction-of-action Theme Markers
   Person Hierarchy
               TA Inflections
5.3 Non-Affirmative Order Verb Inflections
            5.3.1 II Verb Inflections, Non-Affirmative
            5.3.2 AI Verb Inflections, Non-Affirmative
            5.3.3 TI Verb Inflections, Non-Affirmative
            5.3.4 TA Verb Inflections, Non-Affirmative
            5.3.5 Non-Affirmative Order Particles, Prefixes and Proclitics
5.4 Imperative Order Verb Inflections
            5.4.1 Direct Imperative, AI
            5.4.2 Direct Imperative, TI
            5.4.3 Direct Imperative, TA
            5.4.4 Indirect Imperative
            5.4.5 Delayed/Future Imperative
            5.4.6 Suggestive/Potential Imperative
            5.4.7 Lexical Imperatives
            5.4.8 Affirmative Order Imperative Forms
5.5 Conjunct Order Verb Inflections 
            5.5.1 Simple Conjunct Mode
            5.5.2 Iterative Mode
   ‘Whatever, However…’
   ‘On…’ ‘In…’ ‘At…’
            5.5.3 Subjunctive Mode
   ‘If…’ Hypothetical and Contrary-to-fact Contrary-to-expectations Epistemic marking ‘Until…’
 5.5.4 Dependent Participle
5.6 ‘To be…’ in Aaniiih
            5.6.1 Predicate Nominals
            5.6.2 Predicate Adjectives
            5.6.3 Predicate Locative
            5.6.4 Predicate Possessives
            5.6.5 ‘To be’ Infinitives
Chapter Six: Verb Derivation
6.1 Primary Verb Derivation: Verb Finals
            6.1.1 II and AI Primary Abstract Derivational Finals
            6.1.2 TI and TA Primary Abstract Derivational Finals
            6.1.3 Concrete Finals
               Dependent Concrete Finals
               Concrete Finals Derived from Independent Verb Stems
            6.1.4 Verb Medials and Noun Incorporation
            6.1.5 Medials as Verbal Classifiers
            6.1.6 Open-Set Noun Incorporation ‘Have a....’ ‘Be a... ’ ‘Become a... ’ ‘Have as a relation.... ’ ‘Create or procure a...., ’ ‘Do work on or fix a.... ’
6.2 Secondary Derivation
            6.2.1 Valence Reducing
            6.2.2 Valence Increasing
            6.2.3 Valence Increasing, Two Arguments ⟶ Three Arguments
            6.2.4 Stem Class Shifting
            6.2.5 Multiple Derivational Suffixes
6.3 Examples of New Verb Formation
Chapter Seven: Verbal Prefixes and Initials
7.1 Epistemic Prefixes Regarding Certainty of Information, and Evidentiality
7.2 Prefixes Indicating Relative Temporal Relationships
7.3 Prefixes Indicating Aspect and/or Temporal Frequency
7.4 Auxiliary-type (Deontic Modal) Prefixes
7.5 Prefixes Serving as Quantifiers and Intensifiers
7.6 Prefix Detachment
7.7 Manner, Direction and Location Prefixes/Verb Initials
7.8 Deictic Directional Prefixes
7.9 Reduplication
7.10 Complex Verb Initials and Prefixes
7.11 Noun and Verb Compounds vs. Initials: Restrictions on TI and TA Stems
Chapter Eight: Tense, Aspect and Modality
8.1 Affirmative Order Tense and Aspect
            8.1.1 Initial Change
8.2 Non-Affirmative Order Tense and Aspect
8.3 Imperative Order Tense and Aspect
8.4 Conjunct Order Tense and Aspect
8.5 Sequential Action
8.6 Modality
            8.6.1 Evidential Modality
            8.6.2 Epistemic Modality
            8.6.3 Deontic Modality
               Commitments, Purposive Statements
               Ability statements
Chapter Nine: Deverbalization  Processes and Noun Formation
9.1 Agent Nominalizations
9.2 Deverbal Participles
            9.2.1 AI Participles: Action and State Nominalizations
            9.2.2 TI Participles: Instrument and Product Nominalizations
            9.2.3 TA Participles: Action Nominalizations
9.3 Impersonal Verbs: Place and Time Nominalizations
            9.3.1 Additional Place Nominalization Processes
Chapter Ten: Main Clause Syntax
10.1 Pragmatic Focus and the Sentence-Initial Position
            10.1.1 Non-Actors in the Marked Position
            10.1.2 Summary of Main Clause Syntax
10.2 Smaller-scale Syntactic Order in Aaniiih
10.3 Discontinuous Constituency
10.4 Di-Transitive Verbs and Secondary Objects
10.5 Comparatives and Superlatives
            10.5.1 Comparison of Equality
            10.5.2 Comparison of Inequality
            10.5.3 Comparison Questions
            10.5.4 Superlatives
Chapter Eleven: Subordinate and Complement Clauses
11.1 Relative Root Preverbs
            11.1.1 Relative Roots as Initial Elements of Verbs Stems
            11.1.2 Use of Relative Roots to Form ‘to be’ Expressions
11.2 More on Adverbial Clauses: “Prepositional” Phrases, Direction and Location
11.3 More on Complement Clauses: Complementizer
            11.3.1 Complement Clauses: Translation of English ‘to…’ Infinitive Clauses
11.4 Pseudo-Cleft Expressions with Relative Roots
11.5 More on Relative Clauses
            11.5.1 Relative Clauses and Adjectival Verbs
            11.5.2 Relativization of Different Semantic Roles
Chapter Twelve: Particles and Discourse
12.1 Simple Particles
12.2 Complex Particles
            12.2.1 Locative Particles
            12.2.2 Adverbial Particles
               Detached Forms
               Independent Forms
               Instrumental Adverbial Particle Non-animate Causation and the Instrumental Pseudo-Pronominal Preverbs
12.3 Exclamations
            12.3.1 Admonitive Exclamations
12.4 Conversational Particles
12.5 Discourse-level Particles
12.6 The Grammar of Politeness
            12.6.1 Questions
            12.6.2 Commands
            12.6.3 Requests and Recommendations
            12.6.4 Statements
            12.6.5 What Aaniiih Doesn’t Do
Chapter Thirteen: Numbers, Times and Dates
13.1 Introduction: General Principles of Numbers in Aaniiih
13.2 Cardinal Numbers
13.3 Ordinal Numbers
13.4 Distributive and Collective Meanings
13.5 Types, Kinds
13.6 Money and Value Expressions; Weights, Lengths, Degrees, etc.
13.7 Time: Number of Days
13.8 Time: Specific Days, Months, Seasons
13.9 Time: Hours and Minutes
13.10 Time: Age
13.11 Time Duration (Lengths/Quantities of Time)
Chapter Fourteen: Special Language Practices
14.1 Placenames
14.2 Personal Names
14.3 Traditional Narratives
            14.3.1 Opening and Closing Formulas
            14.3.2 Main Clauses and Narrative Past Tense
            14.3.3 Sequential (‘and then…’ ‘and next…’) Clauses
            14.3.4 Subordinate Clauses
            14.3.5 Reported Speech in Narration
            14.3.6 Large-scale Discourse Structure
14.4 Songs
14.5 Prayer
14.6 Announcing and Honor Calling
14.7 Animal and Bird Calls, Sounds and Speech
14.8 Baby Talk
Chapter Fifteen: Modern/Twentieth-Century Aaniiih
15.1 Phonology
15.2 Nouns, Pronouns and Noun Phrases
            15.2.1 Plurals
            15.2.2 Locatives
            15.2.3 Possession
            15.2.4 Pronouns
            15.2.5 Noun Phrases
15.3 Verbal Inflections
            15.3.1 Affirmative Order Details on TI (and AI.T) Affirmative Details on TA Affirmative
15.3.2 Non-Affirmative Order
   Details on AI Non-Affirmative
   Details on TI Non-Affirmative
   Details on TA Non-Affirmative
 15.3.3 Imperative Order
 15.3.4 Conjunct Order
   Simple Conjunct
   Dependent Participle Iterative and Subjunctive
  15.3.5 The General Process of Shift from 1S to 1P Inflections
15.4 Tense, Aspect and Modality
15.4.1 Tense and Aspect
15.4.2 Modality
15.5 Twentieth-Century Aaniiih from a Broader Aaniiih-Arapaho Perspective
15.6 Twentieth-Century Aaniiih from a Contact Perspective
15.7 Twentieth-Century Aaniiih and Internal Language Change
15.8 Conclusion
Chapter Sixteen: Contemporary Aaniiih and Revitalization
16.1 Phonology
            16.1.1 Male and Female Consonants
            16.1.2 The Role of Underlying Forms in Learning and Pedagogy
            16.1.3 Orthography
16.2 Nouns, Pronouns and Noun Phrases
            16.2.1 Noun Plurals
            16.2.2 Possession
            16.2.3 Noun Phrase
16.3 Verb Inflections
            16.3.1 AI and TI Inflections
            16.3.2 TA Inflections
            16.3.3 Imperatives
            16.3.4 Iterative and Subjunctive Inflections
16.3.5 Dependent Participles
16.4 Tense, Aspect and Modality
16.5 Other Components of the Grammar
16.6 Special Speech Forms
16.7 New Word Formation
16.8 Summary of Key Issues and Current Plans in Revitalization Aaniiih
Chapter Seventeen: A Classical Aaniiih Text
Appendix One: Aaniiih Historical Phonology, from PA to Aaniiih
Appendix Two: From PA to Classical Aaniiih: Basic Inflections
Appendix Three: Umfreville’s 1786 Documentation of Aaniiih
Appendix Four: Prince Maximillian von Wied’s 1833-34 documentation of Aaniiih
Appendix Five: Hayden’s 1855 Documentation of Aaniiih
Appendix Six: Unexpected NA Nouns
Appendix Seven: Revitalization Aaniiih Verb Paradigms
Bibliography and Sources

Also of Interest