Word Components: Initials and Finals, /-biisaa/

One of the ways to describe rain is by attaching a variety of descriptive elements to the ending /-biisaa/ (in some northern dialects, /-biisaan/, such as /dak/ 'cold,' and /biij/, 'coming towards (speaker).' These descriptive elements are called initials, especially if they themselves are made up of component parts or represent independent words, or roots, if they are indivisible and never occur as a word alone. The endings they attach to such as /-biisaa/ are called finals. Finals usually determine the part of speech of a word, and it is common for there to be word pairs, one pertaining to animates and the other to inanimates, differing in their finals. The following table illustrates the way that initials (roots) combine with finals such as /-biisaa/ to make Anishinaabemowin words. Some roots show minor alternations in their forms, such a varying in their last consonant, often between /d/ and /j/, as in /biid/ versus /biij/, 'towards speaker; to here.' Usually the /j/ shows up before /i/ and /ii/, and /d/ elsewhere (but especially /a/ and /aa/).

The illustrative vocabulary used in the table comes from several different dialects, but is for the most part quite general.


there is cold rain

     dak        biisaa

     cold        rain

     dakishin       vai     cool off

     dakisin         vii      cool off

     dakizi           vai     be cool

     dakaa          vii      be cool

     dakaanimad vii      be cold wind

     dakininjii      vai     have a cold hand


the rain is coming this way

     biij              biisaa

     toward.here  rain

     biidaashi      vai     be blown here

     biidaasin      vii      be blown here

     biidaashkaa vii      waves come to shore

     biijibatoo     vai     run here

     biijidaabii     vai     drag here

     biijikawe      vai     come leaving tracks


the rain moves along

     bim             biisaa

     along          rain

     bimaanakwad   vii      clouds go along

     bimose            vai     walk along

     bimikawe          vai     go along making tracks

     bimise             vai/ii  fly along

     bimipon           vii      snow goes along

     bimibizo           vai     speed along


the rain moves away

     anim           biisaa

     away           rain

     animibatoo       vai     run away

     animaashi        vai     blow away

     animibizo         vai     speed away

     animidaabii      vai     drag away

     animaapi          vai     go away laughing

     animaanakwad vii      clouds go away


rain is heard

     madwe        biisaa

     sound          rain

     madwekwadin   vii      be heard cracking (ice)

     madwetaa        vai     be heard in an activity

     madwegamide  vii      make noise boiling       


rain is on the way

     bagam        biisaa

     arrive          rain

     bagamibatoo    vai     arrive running

     bagamise         vai     arrive flying

     bagamoode      vai     arrive crawling

     bagamose        vai     arrive walking

     bagamaapi       vai     arrive laughing


there is sprinkling rain, mist

     awan           biisaa

     misty           rain

     awan           vii      be foggy        


it begins to rain

     maaj           biisaa

     start            rain

     maajiibatoo       vai     start to run, run off

     maadaanimad  vii      wind picks up

     maadoode        vai     crawls off

     maadaajimo      vai     start to tell

     maadanokii       vai     start to work


it stops raining

     ishkwaa       biisaa

     after            rain

     ishkwaataa            vai     stop an activity

     ishkwejaagan         na      last-born child

     ishkwaayaanimad  vii       wind dies down

     ishkwaagamizige   vai      stop boiling sap

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