Verbs: Gender Prefix


The noun gender system occurs in all Dene or Athabascan languages and this unique system unites all speakers.

The use of a prefix in this position defines the noun it refers to (subject or object) as being in that category.

Some verb themes require a prefix in this position termed “Gender” in the theme.

In addition certain verbs called “classificatory verbs” usually translated as “is” or “are” in English classify the action of the noun into one of several categories.


    Gender Prefixes
  Classificatory Verb Ø d n dn q
1 single compact object:
ball, trap, hat, sun, beaver lodge egg, song, word berry, bread, roe, coiled rope, head rock, ring, mirror, box, whetstone house, plot of land, situation, weather
2 elongated objects:
needle, sled, boat, bow, gun pole, plate, cane, quill, pencil dentalium necklace mirror --
3 enclosed object:
knife, full sack, rolled sleeping bag pillow, mattress, lake sack of berries, flour or fish eggs box of rocks q+d ravine, valley
4 fabric-like object:
blanket, net, paper, open sleeping bag, empty sack, skin without hair Skin with hair, fur, caribou mat -- -- --
5 object in open vessel:
sugar, water in container eggs or wood chips in bucket berries or roe in container rocks or coal in bucket --
6 animate object:
person, dog, doll, crucifix -- -- -- --
7 food:
piece of meat, dry fish beaver’s food pile roe -- --
8 mushy object:
mud, rotted food, wet cloth, butter wet tea leaves fish eggs (not in container) -- pile of refuse, area of soft ground
9 plural objects:
traps, boots, dogs eggs, plates, cups words tobacco, songs, waves sg. uncoiled rope, pl. coiled ropes, beads, berries, roe, snare rocks, whetstones, boxes houses, objects over area, freight
10 multiple objects:
sand, glacier ice chips of wood berries rocks earth, clouds