Nouns name people, animals, things & places.
In Mapuzugun, generally, nouns do not have neither gender nor number. It is the context that adds to the meaning of the word.
Let's see an example with kawej:
(Iñce) nien kawej = (I) have (a) horse, (I) have horses
Note: as I already explained in my previous entry, the word "kawej" /ka'weʎ/refers to the generic word "equine", without identifying whether is a horse, a mare, one or many.
If the speaker wants to stress a certain characteristic about the horse/s needs to be explicit:
There are certain particles and markers to help be specific:
Independent plural particle: "pu"
...pu kawej = horses, the horses.
Then nien pu kawej means "(I) have horses".
Gender markers in Mapuzugun:
They are used to identify the gender in animated being:
...wenxu: marks male gender.
E.g. wenxu kawej (horse)
...zomo: markes the female gender
E.g. zomo kawej (mare)
Note: to mark male gender to birds and certain small quadrupeds, the word "alka" is used instead ("zomo" remains the female marker)
...zomo mañke (female condor)
...alka mañke (male condor)
To identify both gender and number, the markers /particles are placed after the following example:
...nien pu zomo kawej: (I) have mares
...nien kiñe zomo kawej (I have one mare)
The use of these markers and particles in not mandatory and it is the speaker who decides how precise he wants to be.
Certain nouns have the gender implied in the meaning.
...caw = father
...ñuke = mother
Mapuzugun lacks the definitive article singular (the)
...mapu means both "land / space" and "the land / the space"
...wehu means both "sky" and "the sky"
The particle “pu” could be considered an article although it is not
....pu zomo = the women
...pu wenxu = the men
The indefinite article is marked with the numeral “kiñe” = one.
...kiñe wenxu = a man
...kiñe ruka = a house (one house)
...kiñe alka ñarki = a (male) cat (that is different from: kiñe zomo ñarki = a (female) cat)
Nouns describing inanimate objects do not have gender
...kura = Stone
Nouns in Mapuzugun do not present case (i.e. they do not change the form according the the grammatical function) nor present as other Native American Languages, "possessive forms", i.e., nouns do not change according to the possessor. Certain languages always assign a possessor to certain nouns (like body parts, family members, etc)
In another entry I will introduce composed nouns.
1. The first letter in every sentence and after a stop. Example:
Nien kiñe zomo kawej
2. Proper nouns in general.
Kuan = Juan (many names that contain letters that do not exist in Mapuzugun are adjusted too match the nearest sound)
Maria = María (notice the use of the "r" in Mapuzugun differs from the Spanish "r")
Wenosayres = Buenos Aires (also: "Wenosay")
Temuko = Temuco (City in Gulumapu)
From: Gramática del idioma Mapuche del profesor Raguileo Lincopil, Agrupación Mapuche “Wixaleyiñ”, Marta Berretta, Dario Cañumil, Tulio Cañumil.