The grammar of animacy

Read: true (non-fiction) essay by Robin Wall Kimmerer, titled "The Grammar of Animacy." If you find this difficult reading material, just be sure to read paragraphs 22 - 25 more closely.

1. What kind of languages does Kimmerer talk about in this essay?

2. How many fluent speakers are there of Potawatomi? And what does the great-grandmother say will be lost when the language is lost?

3. This question will take outside research: how old is your own first language?

4. Why is there no word for "please" in the Potawatomi language?

5. What are the differences between Potawatomi and English?

6. After becoming very frustrated with learning Potawatomi, Kimmerer suddenly has a moment of epiphany. She writes that suddenly she "heard the zap of synapses firing." What does she come to realize about the Potawatomi language in that moment?

7. One of Kimmerer's ecology students asks the question, "doesn’t this mean that speaking English, thinking in English, somehow gives us permission to disrespect nature? By denying everyone else the right to be persons? Wouldn’t things be different if nothing was an it?“ What do you think?

8. How does Kimmerer's idea of the "grammar of animacy" teach us to think about the world and our relationship with the natural world?

9. If you speak Arabic or Chinese, how does your language talk about what is living and what is not living? Does it have a grammar of animacy? Or, reflect on any other differences between your language and English.

Skills: English (US), Ghostwriting

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