Muńiańit apu Ipet. Yvette lives in Montréal.

The words Ipet and Muńiańit above are called proper nouns. Proper nouns are used to refer to a person, a city, a country, a geographic location, a company, etc. While common nouns refer to something in general, proper nouns refer to something specific. For example, the common nouns pakatakan or kapatakan designate portages in general, while the proper noun Ishuessinakap refers to a specific portage. As in English, proper nouns are always capitalized.

Many proper nouns are borrowed from French and English. Their pronunciation often adapts to that of Innu-aimun and is reflected in the spelling: Ipet for ‘Yvette’, Pieńet for ‘Pierrette’, Shushep for ‘Joseph’, Kapińień for ‘Gabrielle or Gabriel’ and Muńiań for ‘Montréal’.

Traditional Innu names are often related to fauna and flora or nature, for example Maikan ‘wolf’, Uapikun ‘flower’, Shipiss ‘stream, brook’, Paushtikuss ‘little waterfall’.

As in English, there are proper nouns that are generally used to refer to women (Uapikun, Pieńet), men (Maikan, Shushep) or both men and women (Paushtikuss, Kapińień).

Proper nouns that refer to people are animate, while others like toponyms are inanimate.

When referring to people, proper nouns (also called ‘proper names’) can be followed by the vocative e.

Shushep e! Joseph! Ńuish e! Louise!

Proper nouns referring to places (also called ‘place names’ or ‘toponyms’) often appear in the locative.

Aishkat minuat nika natshi-kussen nete Uashikutet.
Later I will go back to fish at Washicoutai River.

In this example, the proper noun referring to the river Uashikuteu has the locative ending -t. In the example with Muńiańit, Muńiań has the locative ending -it.

Proper nouns referring to people never take the locative. Instead, they take the obviative.

Papatshishiu mishtikuai ka aiauk nete Tenaita.
The leather I bought at Adelaide’s is thin.

The first name Tenait ‘Adelaide’ has the animate obviative ending -a. The locative form *Tenaitit would be incorrect.


To learn more about proper nouns (obviative, derivation, diminutive, past tense)