The two verbs above are distinguished by their stem: the verb stem of kusseu is kusse- and ends in e, while that of kashu is kashu- and ends in u. Verb endings can vary according to the form of the stem. There are six stem types for animate intransitive verbs (VAI):
Stems ending in long a, i, e: unitau, akushiu, kusseu
Stems ending in short i: ishinakushu(ishinakushi+u), takuassu (takuassi+u)
Stems ending in n or ń: utapanu, kupańu
Stems ending in short u: kashu
Stems ending in long u: pashiku
Stems ending in au: nipau
To find the verb stem, it’s necessary to look at forms other than the dictionary form (third person Independent Indicative Present, for which the ending is u), since the u is sometimes part of the stem.
–> Is it an a- or an au-stem? We can tell in the first person form.
–> Is it an i- or a u-stem? We can tell in the first person form.
s/he is wet
–> Is it a short u- or long u-stem? We hear the stem vowel in the Imperative Present (-i ending for long u-stems).
SPELLING CHALLENGES WITH AI-STEMS
Identifying the verb stem allows us to determine the spelling of any verb form, which can be found in the Conjugation Guide by looking up model verbs of the same stem type. For speakers of western dialects (Uashat, Mani-utenam, Matimekush and Pessamit), note that the pronunciation does not allow for the recognition of the spelling of all conjgated forms. Stems ending in short u can be confused with short i-stems and stems ending in au can be confused with long u-stems. These difficulties are explained in the following sections. The Online Innu Dictionary is also very helpful in identifying verb stems.