Meskwaki Transitive Inanimate Present Indicative Inflection: A Teaching Methodology

Pablo Eduardo Lopez Alonso


Like other indigenous communities across the globe, Native Americans in the United States are seeing their languages vanish, thus losing connections to both their present and past. With about 200 speakers left, the Meskwaki Nation in Tama, Iowa has undertaken the challenge of language revitalization. During Summer 2017, we received a research grant to aid the Meskwaki in their language revitalization efforts. One of the most urgent needs they have is to create grammar explanations that are accessible to both learners and native speakers of the language. Explanations of the language currently exist; however, they were written about 100 years ago and are geared mainly toward linguists. Using data collected for language documentation during the summer of 2017, I focus on analyzing verb inflection in Meskwaki. Considering aspects of the language such as gender, transitivity and intransitivity, and subject-verb agreement, I focus on Meskwaki present indicative inflection. By comparing a wide variety of forms for a basic set of verbs, I explain how to inflect a verb for each grammatical person and number combination. Moreover, I show why some verbs have more than one form, and when to use each of them. The purpose of this analysis is to explain which aspects of verb inflection are important to the language and require special attention from English-speaking learners of Meskwaki. This work also contributes to an overview of the current state of the language, and helps identify the challenges that learning Meskwaki presents. Ultimately, this work will serve as a building block of a comprehensive grammar explanation of Meskwaki for English speakers.


language revitalization; Meskwaki; Algonquian

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