We all learn better when we can physically interact with the world. For learning some animal names we purchased these small but detailed cupcake toppers that included woodland animals from the northern hemisphere for kids to interact and play with. (Of course the pig and hedgehog are of European origin, but still fun to learn.)
One of the language lessons found in this set of words is the way a speaker can indicate whether the animal is a large adult or a smaller, younger version of the same species. In the case of the animals on this page, they are both. The most common way to do this is to add -ens to a noun (for example: esiban becomes esibanens). In addition to “-ens” some animals take “-oons” or “-iins” or “-aans.” The rules for which ending a word takes are based on the sound of the word and can be complicated so the best approach when learning these words is to practice these endings and simply memorize them.
Another lesson found in these words is that every word has its own history, or etymology. In some cases they indicate that speakers focused on the sounds the animal makes. For example, the word “gookookoo’oo” (owl) is based on the actual call of the owl. When words are constructed this way it is called onomatopoeia. Another example is the word “ma’iingan” (wolf) which incorporates the actual verb “mawi” (cry) which is the sound a wolf makes. Other animal names include the color of the animal or patterns found on the animal as in the case of the “gidagaakoons” which means “little spotted one.”
Look at the words below and think about if you know what they mean. Then flip the card to see if you are correct and to hear how to pronounce the word.