Yakkha is a member of the Kiranti branch of the wider Sino-Tibetan language family. This makes it a distant cousin to the more widely known languages of Dzongkha, Tibetan and Mandarin Chinese.
However, it is worth noting that the Sino-Tibetan language family is one of the most difficult and controversial when it comes to the issue of sub-categorisation.
Based on various estimates, there are between 14,000 and 20,000 speakers of the language. Yakkha is spoken in the far east of the country, almost but not quite crossing the country’s eastern border. The speakers of Yakkha live between the Likhu river in the west, and the border with the Indian state and former country of Sikkim in the east. This is a rather hilly area, and exists at altitudes varying from 1.5km to 2.7km above sea-level.
Culturally and linguistically, the Yakkha perceive the Limbus as their closest affiliates, though it is worth noting that Yakkha’s closest genetic relative is Belhare, with the two languages sharing innovations that are not present in the Limbu language.
The language’s own name for itself is Yakkha CeɁya, which means Yakkha matter, Yakkha talk or Yakkha language. It is currently considered endangered, since even in those areas where it is used as a daily language, many young people are not taking it up. Indeed, within the Yakkha homeland, there are villages whose entire populations now speak the Indo-European language.
However, the full situation of Yakkha language death requires a more in-depth study to fully understand what is happening.
The Yakkha language has ten pronoun forms, and to make this easier, we will split these into two tables. One will discuss the five 1st Person Pronouns, and the second will discuss the three 2nd Person Pronouns and the two 3rd Person Pronouns.
The first issue of note is the fact that the distinction between Exclusive and Inclusive only occur on Possessive Pronouns and Possessive Prefixes. (In addition, this distinction only occurs in the 1st Person.)
We briefly discussed the topic of grammatical clusivity in the chapter on Yindjibarndi, but I will quickly go over the concept again for those who have not yet had the opportunity to read it.
Basically, an Exclusive Pronoun is one that does not include the listener, while an Inclusive one is one that does. There shall be plenty of examples that will help to illustrate the distinction.
Normally, I divide the pronouns based on type, e.g. personal or possessive, and thus I will include a simpler form of the above table.
Now for our example sentences:
Pronoun 4-1: 1st Person Singular:
4.1 ka katha lendabyaŋ = Tell me a story
ka = me
katha = story
lendabyaŋ = tell me
In this sentence, the 1st Person Singular Pronoun ka operates as an Object Pronoun. As we will explore as we go forwards, these pronouns can act as either subject of object, depending on context.
The word katha is the singular form of katha, which means story. There exists in Yakkha the Non-Singular Suffix =ci, whose inclusion is largely optional.
The rather long word lendabyaŋ has four components, one of which appears twice. It begins with the verb lend, which means to exchange:
- Attach the Imperative Suffix –a, creating lenda.
- Attach the Benefactive verbal marker –by, creating lendaby. We will explain the grammar behind this shortly.
- Attach the Imperative Suffix –a, giving us lendabya.
- Last, but not least, we attach the 1st Person Singular Object (or Patient) Suffix –ŋ, which allows us to create the full word lendabyaŋ.
In Yakkha, there is a large class of secondary verbs which attach to the main verb, and create a more specific meaning. Usually, only one secondary verb is the norm, but it is possible to attach a maximum of three.
Essentially, there is a closed class of verbs which have undergone grammaticalisation, and add extra meaning to the primary verb. The exact meaning given by these secondary verbs can vary considerably, and not every verb-verb combination is transparent.
In this sentence, we have –by, which is a shortened form of the verb piɁma, which means to give. As a secondary verb, it has two main functions:
1: the Benefactive (the one who benefits from the action) or Malefactive (the opposite, i.e. the one who is left at a disadvantage). Basically, it indicates the affected participant, although it does not necessarily indicate the causer thereof.
2: to indicate a completive notion, which can translate into English as already, inevitably or definitely.
We will see more of these secondary verbs in action as we progress through this chapter.
Pronoun 4-2: 1st Person Dual (Exclusive and Inclusive):
4.2 kanciŋ mopparindaŋ kyaciha = The two of us came up from the lower floor
kanciŋ = the two of us
mopparindaŋ = from the lower floor
kyaciha = two came up
Here, the 1st Person Dual Pronoun kanciŋ acts in the manner of an Intransitive Subject. I mention this because the Yakkha language, like the Yidiñ language that we explored in Chapter 2, displays Ergative-Absolutive Alignment in its nouns but not its pronouns.
Where Yidiñ and Yakkha depart from one another is that the former has a distinct class of object pronouns, whereas Yakkha does not.
mopparindaŋ is the irregular Ablative form of the Geomorphic Postposition mopparik, which means right below.
The internal structure of mopparik appears to be the combination of moppa and rik, which mean downhill and side respectively. This structure is a calque from Nepali.
(A calque is where you insert a number of native words into a structure that itself comes from another language.)
The opposite of mopparik is topparik, which means right above. topparik is formed via the same structure as its companion, but where the first part toppa means uphill.
I mention this because both of these indicate a relation of parallel planes located above or below one another, e.g. a stack of books or, in the above example, the floors of a house.
kyaciha is built from for components. The first thereof is the verb stem ky, which means to come up.
1: Attach the Past Tense Suffix –a, which gives us kya.
2: In this sentence, –ci is denoted as the Dual Person Suffix, but on the whole it is more of a Non-Singular Suffix, which means that the verb was done by more than person. This creates the new form kyaci.
3: Attach the Non-Singular Nominaliser Clitic =ha, thereby giving us the full word kyaciha.
Anyone who has already studied the Sino-Tibetan languages will probably be already aware of the Standard Sino-Tibetan Nominalisation (SSTN) pattern. Personally, this is the first time I have come across this feature, and I will do my best to explain this as well as I can.
Yakkha has three sets of nominalisers, but for now we will focus on the Universal Nominalisers, which are Singular =na and the Non-Singular =ha / =ya. These have a wide range of functions, some of which, at first glance, seem to contradict one another.
These functions include, but are not limited to:
1: a nominal head
2: an adnominal modifier, e.g. an adjective, participle or relative clause, or
3: an independent, or finite, main clause.
In this sentence, the Nominaliser follows the third of these functions. At risk of over-simplification, it means something along the lines of it is the case [that], and is used to indicate or emphasise that a state-of-affairs exists as an independent fact.
This is especially the case where the information invoked is either controversial or contrasts something else.
As we will explore in greater depth later, Yakkha is a language with evidentiality.
Evidentiality is where the grammar of a language indicates whether the speaker is expressing first- or second-hand information, e.g. whether they have seen it happen, or heard about it themselves.
I mention this because, to me at least, it seems as though this functions as a 1st-hand information clitic. However, that may just be my own interpretation.
Pronoun 4-3: 1st Person Plural (Exclusive and Inclusive):
4.3 kaniŋ kheiŋa = We went without you
kaniŋ = we
kheiŋa = we went without you
kaniŋ is the 1st Person Plural Pronoun, and in contrast to the possessive pronouns, it does not indicate whether it is inclusive or exclusive. However, it is possible, and indeed quite easy, to demonstrate this distinction through the grammar of the language.
kheiŋa is built from four components, the first whereof is khe, the Verb Stem for went, or more specifically the Past Tense Verb Stem for the verb go.
1: Attach the 1st Person Plural Suffix –i, giving us khei, which means we went.
2: Augment this by adding –ŋ, which is a shortened form of –ŋa, which is the Exclusive Suffix. Thus, it specifies that the listener is not included in the described sentence.
3: Attach –a, which is a shortened form of –ha, the Non-Singular Nominalisation Clitic that we discussed in relation to the previous sentence.
Now, we will compare this sentence to this alternative:
4.4 kaniŋ kheiha = We all went
kaniŋ = we
kheiha = we all went
kheiha is built from only three components. These are, in order of appearance:
khe, the Past Tense Stem of the verb for to go.
-i, the 1st Person Plural Suffix.
-ha, the Non-Singular Nominaliser Clitic.
What is absent from this verb is an Inclusive Suffix. This is because there isn’t one. Instead, the inclusive is indicated via the lack of any specific Clusivity suffix. Basically, unless it is specified that is Exclusive, then by default it is Inclusive.
Now, we shall discuss the second and third person pronouns. Naturally, there is no distinction here between the Inclusive and Exclusive, since that can only exist in the 1st person.
As you can see, while the 2nd Person makes a distinction between the Dual and Plural numbers, whereas the 3rd Person does not. For this reason, uŋci is known as the 3rd Person Non-Singular Pronoun, and you may have noticed that it is the combination of the 3rd Person Singular Pronoun uŋ and –ci, the Non-Singular Suffix.
Pronoun 4-4: 2nd Person Dual:
4.5 njiŋda mmaisanciganha = The two of you had not been here (when they came)
njiŋda = the two of you
mmaisanciganha = you two had not been here
mmaisanciganha is built from no fewer than eight components. Our verb is mai, which means to exist.
1: Attach the Negative Prefix m-, which gives us mmai.
2: Attach the Past II Suffix –sa, which creates mmaisa. Currently, the Past II Tense has not been fully analysed, and requires greater research in order to facilitate further understanding. Typically, however, it refers to an event which occurs after another salient event in the past.
3: We now attach the Negative Prefix –n, creating mmaisan. It is worth noting that this is the base form of the Negative suffix, and in certain phonological situations it can mutate to –m or –ŋ.
4: Attach the Non-Singular (or Dual) Suffix –ci, leaving us with mmaisanci.
5: Attach the 2nd Person Suffix –ga, creating mmaisanciga. The 2nd Person Suffix can refer to Agent, Subject or Object, depending on context.
6: For the second time in the same word, we attach the Negative Suffix, which here takes the form –n.
7: Last, but not least, we attach the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix –ha.
Pronoun 4-5: 2nd Person Plural:
4.6 elabaciŋa nluksuci: nniŋda yakkhaba metisiganha = The Elabas told them: “You are not Yakkhas”
elabaciŋa = the Elabas
nluksuci = they told them
nniŋda = you
yakkhaba = Yakkha person
metisiganha = you are not
elabaciŋa is built from three components. The first of these is the proper noun elaba, which refers to a mythical Yakkha clan.
Clan (or choŋ) remains a very important aspect of Yakkha society, not only in terms of marriage restrictions but also pertaining to the ritual sphere. Schackow names no fewer than 24 clans, 3 of which only remain in the form of mythical narratives.
Contemporary Yakkha clans that appear often in the texts include the Linkha and the Limbukhim.
Following this is the Non-Singular Suffix –ci, clarifying that this sentiment comes from more than one Elaba.
-ŋa is the Ergative Suffix, which specifies that the Elabas are the ones making the statement, rather than the ones receiving it.
nluksuci is built from five components, the most important of which is the verb lu, which means to tell.
1: Attach the 3rd Person Plural Prefix n-, which creates nlu. The 3rd Person Plural Prefix undergoes nasal inflection, which means that it can transform into m- or ŋ-.
2: At this point, we attach the Perfect Tense Suffix –ks, creating nluks. In Yakkha, the Perfect Tense is used to indicate that an event occurred in the past, but that it continues to be relevant at the time of speaking.
The Perfect Tense Suffix has two forms: -ma and –uks. To oversimplify things, the former occurs after a vowel, while the latter occurs after a consonant or a /U/, where the two /U/s collapse into one another.
3: Attach the 3rd Person Patient (or Object) Suffix –u, which gives us nluksu.
By itself, nluksu means either they told him or they told her.
Thus, in order to create the meaning they told them, we must attach the Non-Singular Suffix –ci, thereby leaving us with the full word nluksuci.
yakkhaba is a stand-alone word which simply means Yakkha person. I imagine that since the Elaba are a mythical tribe, this word could be a remnant or holdover from an earlier stage of the language.
Another piece of evidence for this view is that elsewhere in the grammar we see the word yakkhaci, which is the combination of yakkha and –ci.
metisiganha is built from four components. The main one is sigan, which is the 2nd Person Plural Non-Past Copula. We will explore the nature of the Yakkha Copula shortly.
Immediately preceding our copular is the Copula Emphatic Prefix ti-, which thus far gives us tisigan. In Yakkha, the Emphatic is used to indicate to the hearer that they should already be aware of the content of the sentence, or to emphasise the truth thereof.
(According to Schackow, at least, the Emphatic is a direct equivalent to the English “of course” or the German “doch”.)
The prefix preceding the Emphatic is the Negative Suffix me-, which appears to be a specific form that only occurs with the Negative Past Emphatic Copula. This then gives us metisigan.
Last, but not least, is our old friend the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix –ha, which creates the full word metisiganha.
We will now discuss the Yakkha Copula. Technically that should be copulas, because Yakkha has two: the Identificational and the Existencial.
For now, we will only discuss the Identificational Copula, which does not have an infinitive form, so we will dive straight into our first table.
In our first table, the Affirmative simply refers to the opposite of the Negative.
The first thing that will strike you is that there is now a distinction between the Dual and Plural in the 3rd Person. The copula does not take any forms in the 3rd Person Non-Past, it is simply left absent. Here a few examples:
4.7 men paɁlo! = Of course not!
men = it is not
paɁlo = of course
The word paɁlo does not translate directly into English. The first is the Emphatic Prefix pa-, and the second is the Exclamative Marker =Ɂlo.
The Exclamative is used by the speaker to indicate a lack of patience or a sense of frustration. Schackow says that this is used frequently in colloquial speech.
Whether this is indicative of the overall Yakkha temperament is question for another day.
4.8 kaca chalumma ŋan = I am also a second born daughter
kaca = I also
chalumma = second born daughter
ŋan = am
kaca is built from two components. The first is the 1st Person Singular Pronoun ka, and the second is the Additive Focus Particle =ca.
The Additive, as the name suggests, is used to indicate that the information expressed in the statement is in addition to something already mentioned, or, from the other direction, that previously expressed information is relevant to the current statement.
In this sentence, the Additive informs us that the listener is also a second born daughter
In English, the Additive can be translated in most, if not all, circumstances as also or too.
On a tangent, I could not find any word that means second born son. However, I did find a number of other words that talk about birth order. These are, in birth order:
jeƫha = first born boy
yaŋchalumba = third born boy
phalumba = fourth born boy
phuaba = last born boy
phuama = last born girl
If we include chalumma in this list, then we can see a pattern emerge. With exceptions, it appears that words for boy end in –ba and words for girl end in –ma.
Based on this pattern, we could make these estimations:
*chalumba = second born boy
*yaŋchalumma = third born girl
*phalumma = fourth born girl
Those who read the previous chapter may see a parallel between these suffixes and the Yeri Suffixes –na and –ha. Indeed, the Yakkha word for person is yapmi, which is only one consonant removed from the Yeri word yalmi, which means grandparent or grandchild. It is highly unlikely that these parallels are anything other than a coincidence, at least based on our current understanding of historical world migration patterns.
As you might be able to notice, each of these copula conjugations contain at their end the appropriate Nominaliser Suffix, whether it be the Singular =na or the Plural =ha.
I point this out here because it will be relevant to the first example sentence.
4.9 nna dewan-ɖhuŋga baŋna luŋkhwak sahro cancan samana = That rock called Dewan stone was really high,
nna = that
dewan-ɖhuŋga = Dewan stone
baŋna = so-called
luŋkhwak = stone
sahro = very
cancan = high
samana = was
There are two aspects within this sentence to which I would like to draw your attention.
The first is in the phrase nna dewan-ɖhuŋga baŋna luŋkhwak.
The word-for-word translation of this is:
nna dewan-ɖhuŋga baŋna luŋkhwak = that Dewan stone so-called stone
In English, however, this word order is not possible, and this we must replace it with:
nna dewan-ɖhuŋga baŋna luŋkhwak = that stone called Dewan stone
Our second point of interest occurs in the word samana (which looks and presumably sounds like a fasle friend to the Spanish and Portuguese word semana, which means week).
However, what is samana, and how is it constructed?
samana is constructed of three parts, these being: sa-, the Past Tense Copula stem; -ma, the Perfect Tense suffix; and =na, the Singular Nominaliser Clitic.
With all three components bundled together, we get the 3rd Person Singular Past Perfect Copula.
However, if we remove the Perfect Tense Suffix –ma, we are simply left with sana, which is simple the 3rd Person Singular Past Tense Copula.
4.10 naɁyole saŋna, nnaɁyole khyaŋna? = But I was over here, did I go over there?
naɁyole = over here
saŋna = I was
nnaɁyole = over there
khyaŋna = I went
naɁyole and nnaɁyole are both built from two components, both of which require the introduction of a hitherto unmentioned concept.
Our first concept is the Geomorphic Orientation System, which relies on the features of the landscape to express direction. These are common across, but not unique to, the Kiranti language family.
The core idea that one should bear in mind is that the area wherein the Kiranti live is one dominated by steep hills and mountains.
The Geomorphic Orientation System is an absolute one, i.e. they do not depend on where the speaker or any other object.
It also divides into two levels, a macro and a micro, which we will discuss briefly.
The macro-system is defined by the global inclination of the Himalayas. Essentially, the Himalayas are defined as “uphill”, while any location outside the Himalayas is defined as “downhill” (including places as far away as Europe or the Americas).
Exemplary examples of the micro-system include rooms on the same floor of a house, which are also described as “downhill” or “uphill” based on whether they face the hill.
Within the Geomorphic Orientation system, there are two sets of roots, the /U/ forms and the /O/ forms.
The /U/ forms are used when the location of reference is the same place where the speaker is standing.
As a shorthand, tu means uphill, mu means downhill, and yu means across (at the same altitude) or more simply to the side or next to me.
Based solely on this diagram, you would be forgiven for believing that Yakkha does not have any form of Personal Orientation System. Although Yakkha does have words for left (pheksaŋ) and right (chuptaŋ), these are used very rarely. In fact, Schackow claims that she has no recorded instance where either of these occurred in natural speech, although her informants would give it when asked.
On a cultural tangent, Yakkha speakers tend to view the left side carries negative connotations, which is a widespread perception among South Asian societies.
Now that the speaker is outside the point of reference, we now have a distinction between khe and yo.
Later in the same section, khe is described as across and yo is described as across (beyond). With the /U/ forms, on the other hand, yu is simply defined as across.
(For the remainder of this chapter, I shall consider khe to be an honorary member of the /O/ Class, while Schackow often distinguishes it from the rest of the /O/ Class, a position that I can understand.)
Naturally, this is just a brief explanation of how this complex system works. For the sake of brevity, I shall swing us back round to the sentence which triggered this explanation.
In this sentence, we had two geomorphic adverbs: naɁyo and nnaɁyo. If you guessed that these belong to the /O/ Class, then you are absolutely correct.
In the /O/ Class, we have 44 adjectives which indicate location, compared to only 12 for the /U/ forms. (For the time being, we will only explore the /O/ Class Adjective table. We may tackle the /U/ Class later, should it arise naturally.)
There are several points of interest in this table.
First, the more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed topparindaŋ and mopparindaŋ, which we explored earlier.
Second, the adverbs which take distance into account are based on the Proximal nhe and the Distal nnhe, which translate loosely as the English words here and there respectively. The latter refers to distant locations or to locations in another deictic field (the academic term for Figures 1 and 2 above).
In the /U/ class, they take the form of unadulterated suffixes, whereas in the /O/ Class they appear as slightly modified prefixes.
Third, there appears to be some degree of interchangeability between the top 3 rows of adverbs, i.e. they can all indicate direction. I am not yet sure as to whether they can occur interchangeable, or if there are rules that govern where only one set can be used.
Finally, it may not have escaped your attention that there is a degree of combination between the various categories. For example, the Emphatic Quantifier is formed via the reduplication of the first syllable of the Quantifier, while the Proximal Quantifier Locative is built through the marriage of Proximal Locative Suffix naɁ- and the respective Quantifier.
(On a final last note, there does not appear to be a Distal Quantifier Locative, although I imagine that if you really want to, then you could figure out what they could be for yourselves.)
In case you have forgotten, what triggered this discussion of the Geomorphic Orientation System were the adverbs naɁyole and nnayoɁle.
As a quick refresher, here is the original sentence:
naɁyole saŋna, nnaɁyole khyaŋna? = But I was over here, did I go over there?
This brings us to the second part of each adverb, which is the Contrastive Focus Particle =le.
As the name suggests, it expresses the idea that the new information stands in stark contrast to expectations, or does not adhere to the presupposed knowledge. In particular, the speaker can use it to express a certain amount of surprise.
In English, it often translates to the English word but, for example in our sample sentence and in these further two examples:
4.11 nago aniŋgale kham! = But this is our ground!
nago = this
aniŋgale = But (is) our
kham = ground
4.12 kago asaple thaktwaŋna = But I like it (in contrast to the other people present)
kago = I
asaple = But… it
thaktwaŋna = I like it
With this discussion out of the way, let us return to our exploration of the Identificational Copula.
This is our penultimate table:
4.13 yapmi mi cenduna sayana = The person was rather witty
yapmi = person
mi = a little
cenduna = witty
sayana = was
Of interest here is the word cenduna, which in this sentence receives the translation witty.
It is built from the verb cend, which means to wake up, and thus it has a more literal meaning of woken up, although this is not exactly right
4.14 pyak encho ka miya sayaŋniŋa = Long ago, when I was a child…
pyak = much
encho = long ago
ka = I
miya = small
sayaŋniŋa = when I was
In this sentence, the copula takes the form sayaŋiŋa, which means when I was. This is built from four components, which I shall lay out now.
1: sa- is the Past Tense Stem of the Copula. By itself we can think of it as a base form of was or were.
2: -ya is the Past Tense Suffix, the addition of which gives us saya. The combination of the Past Tense Copula and the Past Tense Suffix give us the Past II Tense, which emphasises the continuing relevance of the past event to the present situation.
3: -ŋ is the 1st Person Singular marker, which creates the form sayaŋ, meaning I was.
4: Our final part is the Co-Temporal Clause Linking Suffix –niŋa. This gives us sayaŋniŋa, which means something along the lines of when I was.
This takes the place of the Singular Nominaliser Suffix –na, thereby giving us sayaŋna, which simply means I was.
The Co-Temporal Clause Linking Suffix is used to discuss events that occur at the same time. Therefore, it takes the place of English words such as when, while and as, among others.
It can also take the reduced form –niŋ; a distinction which, according to Schackow, is possibly a matter of personal preference.
Another example of this Suffix in action:
4.15 uthamalaŋ uimalaŋ lammaniŋa laŋci nsamahaci = While walking steeply uphill and downhill, the legs get stronger
uthamalaŋ = steeply uphill
uimalaŋ = steeply downhill
lammaniŋa = while walking
laŋci = legs
nsamahaci = become stronger
In this sentence, our word with the Co-Temporal Clause Linking Suffix is lammaniŋa.
This verb is built from three components, the foremost whereof is the stem lam, which means to walk.
1: Attach the Infinitive Suffix –ma, which gives us lamma. In English, this can mean either to walk, but it can also function in a manner equivalent to the English Gerund, more colloquially known as the –ing form. Thus in this sentence, lamma means walking.
2: Secondly and finally, we attach the star of this show –niŋa, which creates lammaniŋa, which in this context means while walking.
What I find quite bemusing in this sentence is the verb nsamahaci, which in this context means they get stronger or they become stronger (with they referring to the legs).
However, its literal meaning is simply they become.
Therefore, a valid translation for the phrase laŋci nsamahaci is the quite unusual the legs become. Here, I imagine that the idea of stronger comes from context.
Now before we return to the discussion of the Yakkha Pronouns, we have one more table to consider. In Schackow’s grammar, these are described as alternative forms of the copula.
In Schackow’s grammar, there is only one recorded instance of one of these copulas in action. Understandably, this is the sentence that began this several-page long discussion of the Identificational Copula.
4.6 elabaciŋa nluksuci: nniŋda yakkhaba metisiganha = The Elabas told them: “You are not Yakkhas”
It could be the case that the Non-Past and Past Tense I forms of the above copula are identical to one another. As with a significant number of aspects in Yakkha, a lot more formal research is required in order to fully get to the bottom of things.
Now, with this sizeable section out of the way, we shall now return to the study of the pronouns. This next sentence, I believe, has a nifty little quirk to it.
Pronoun 4-6: 2nd Person Singular:
4.16 nda aphai moŋcamekana = You beat yourself
nda = you
aphai = self
moŋcamekana = you beat yourself
In this sentence, the word aphai is optional. This is due to the fact that our verb has this reflexive meaning encoded within it.
The verb moŋcamekana is built from three components. The first of these is the Primary Verb moŋ, which means to beat.
This is immediately followed by the Secondary Verb –ca, which means to eat. When put together, we get moŋca, which means to beat oneself.
After this we have the Non-Past Suffix –me, which gives us moŋcame.
Following this is the 2nd Person Suffix –ka, creating moŋcameka.
Last, but in no ways least, is the Singular Nominaliser –na, with whose inclusion we have our full verb moŋcamekana, which we here gloss as you beat yourself.
Before we continue, however, we must discuss our Secondary Verb:
The Secondary Verb –ca has three defined functions: the Reflexive, the Middle Voice and the Autobenefactive. In English, the first two functions are fulfilled by the word self, and the lattermost by the phrase for oneself.
Moreover, each of these functions, despite their various nuances, trigger the same grammatical process. Essentially, they make it so that the Agent and Patient Arguments refer to the same reference, e.g. both the person who is doing the beating and the person who is being beaten.
There are, naturally, a number of instances where the combination of a Primary Verb and Secondary Verb –ca creates a new verb whose meaning can be hard to predict. For example:
4.17 haikohaci lemucaŋciŋha = I cheated the others
haikohaci = the others
lemucaŋciŋha = I cheated them
Our main verb is lem, which means to flatter. It is followed by five distinct suffixes, one of which is repeated once.
1: -u is the 3rd Person Patient Past Tense Suffix. Basically, what it means is that something happened to more than one person in the past.
To put it more simply, the Suffix –u can be translated as ___ did something to him/her/them.
This gives us lemu, which roughly means he/she was flattered or they were flattered.
2: Our second suffix is the Secondary Verb –ca, which gives us lemuca, whose approximate meaning is I cheated him/her/them.
3: This is followed by the 1st Person Agent Suffix –ŋ, giving us lemucaŋ, which means something along the lines of I cheated him/her/them.
4: Next, we attach the Non-Singular Patient Suffix –ca, thereby bringing into the world lemucaŋci, thence specifying that I cheated them.
5: Making its second appearance is the 1st Person Agent Suffix –ŋ, which gives us lemucaŋciŋ.
6: Capping of this mountain of a word is the Non-Singular Nominaliser Clitic =ha. This leaves us with the full word lemucaŋciŋha.
One could argue that the last two suffixes on this verb are surplus to requirements, at least in terms of the semantics of the verb. To counter this view, I would like to point out two things.
Firstly, it is worth bearing in mind that the Suffix –ŋ does not add additional syllables, and thus it does not increase the time taken to pronounce the word (assuming, of course, that you can pronounce this sound).
Secondly, this represents a form of Grammatical Redundancy, a feature that does not really exist in English.
To oversimplify, Grammatical Redundancy occurs when a language demands that the same information must occur more than once in a single sentence, e.g. the double appearance of the 1st Person Agent Suffix.
While it invariably results in longer words, one advantage of Grammatical Redundancy is that the listener can miss part of the sentence, or even a word, and still receive all the necessary information.
Arguably, each and every Yakkha sentence in this chapter has some degree of Grammatical Redundancy, though some more than others.
Pronoun 4-7: 3rd Person Singular:
4.18 uŋŋa hoŋmaŋa eko mina yoŋ yaŋkheɁmasimeɁna nisuksu = She saw a little cradle being carried off by the river
uŋŋa = she or he
hoŋmaŋa = by the river
eko = one
mina = small
yoŋ = cradle
yaŋkheɁmasimeɁna = being carried off
nisuksu = she saw or he saw
uŋŋa is built of two parts. These are the 3rd Person Singular Pronoun uŋ and the Ergative Case Marker =ŋa, which specifies that he or she is doing something to another object.
hoŋmaŋa is also built of two parts. The first is hoŋma, which means river.
The second part is the Instrumental Caser Marker =ŋa, which is identical to the Ergative Case Marker seen in the previous word.
Yakkha exhibits a feature known as Ergative-Instrumental syncretism, wherein the Ergative and Instrumental Cases are identical to one another. This is common not only amongst the languages of the Kiranti language branch, but also amongst Ergative languages in general.
Nevertheless, the functions of the Ergative and Instrumental cases are markedly distinct. Whereas the Ergative is used to indicate an animate agent, the Instrumental is used to mark an inanimate agent, for example instruments, effectors, forces and causes.
The verb in this sentence is composed of six parts. The main verb is yaŋ, which actually means to flush.
1: Attach the Secondary Verb -kheɁ, which means to go. What it emphasises is the orientation of a verb towards an end point, or the irreversibility of an event. In this sentence, it indicates that the small cradle shan’t be coming back upstream any time soon.
Together they give us yaŋkheɁ, which literally means something like to go flushing, although the phrase to carry off is more indicative of its meaning.
2: Attach the Infinitive Suffix –ma, which gives us yaŋkheɁma, which means something along the lines of carrying off or to carry off.
3: Attach the Progressive Suffix –si, which indicates that the event described is still in progress at the time of speaking. This gives us yaŋkheɁmasi, which means being carried off.
For all intents and purposes, you can think of the Yakka Progressive Suffix –si as a direct equivalent to the English progressive –ing form.
4: Our penultimate component is the Non-Past Suffix -meɁ, which specifies that this event is happening in either the Present or the Future. Therefore, the verb yaŋkheɁmasimeɁ means is being carried off.
5: Completing this word is the Singular Nominaliser –na, without which this word would remain incomplete. All in all, yaŋkheɁmasimeɁna also means is being carried off, but as mentioned earlier, I am mostly certain that this acts as a Direct Evidentiality marker, i.e. to indicate that the speaker is a direct witness to the event.
Because the verb does not contain any person markers, then by default it is in the 3rd Person.
As with a number of other secondary verbs, -kheɁ can combine with other verbs to create new meanings that are different to the direct sum of their parts.
4.19 ŋkhusakhyana = He did not escape
In this sentence, our main verb is khus, which means to steal, and our secondary verb is khy, which is the 3rd Person Singular stem for kheɁ.
In her grammar, Schackow says that the combination of khus and kheɁ, which creates the meaning to escape, is “without an implication of stealing being implied”, but I do wonder whether this is a direct Yakkha equivalent to the English colloquial phrase to steal away.
In other instances, the secondary verb –kheɁ still retains the original meaning of to go, for example:
4.20 camraŋbe cama iya nnicayakhyamahoŋ = After they have fried and eaten some food in Camrang and gone away…
camraŋbe = in Camrang
cama = food
iya = what
nnicayakhyamahoŋ = after they have fried and eaten and gone away
Our monster of a compound verb is built from 8 components. These are, in order of appearance:
1: The 3rd Person Plural Prefix n-.
2: The primary verb ni, which means to fry, giving us nni, meaning they fry.
3: The secondary verb –ca, which means to eat, giving us nnica, in this case meaning they fry and eat.
4: The Past Tense Suffix –ya, which creates nnicaya, which means something along the lines of they fried and ate.
5: Our second secondary verb –khy, thus creating the form nnicayakhy, whose translation is somewhere along the lines of they fried and ate and go. This word is notable for the simple reason that both of its secondary verbs carry their original meaning.
6: We now re-attach the Past Tense Suffix –ya, which reduces to –a in the presence of the /y/ before it, giving us nnicayakhya, which means they fried and ate and went.
7: We now attach the Prefect Tense Suffix –ma, which creates nnicayakhyama, which means they have fried and eaten and gone away.
8: Last but not least, we have the Sequential Clause Linking Marker =hoŋ, which indicates that the event takes place in a temporal sequence. In English, it can translate is when or as or after, and it takes the place of the relevant nominaliser suffix. Where it appears, it indicates that the event took place before another event.
With this final addition, we find ourselves with nnicayakhyamahoŋ, which means after they have fried and eaten and gone away.
Before we proceed to the next pronoun, here are two other examples of the Instrumental in action:
4.21 chomna phiswakŋa hothaksuna = He pierced it with a pointed knife
chomna = pointed
phiswakŋa = with a knife
hothaksuna = stabbed
phiswakŋa is the Instrumental Case Declension of phiswak, which means knife.
hothaksuna is built from four components. The first whereof is the Primary Verb hot, which means to pierce.
This is followed by the Secondary Verb –haks, which means to send. We will explore this in our analysis of the following sentence, wherein it also appears. Together, we get hothaks.
Out third component is the 3rd Person Past Tense Patient Suffix –u. Once attached, we get hothaksu, which means either s/he pierced it or they pierced it.
Last, but not least, we have the Singular Nominaliser Suffix –na, thus creating hothaksuna, which specifies that either he pierced it or she pierced it.
4.22 kisiɁmaŋa solop miyaŋ eghaksuksu = Out of fear, he immediately broke off a little (from the stick)
kisiɁmaŋa = out of fear
solop = immediately
miyaŋ = a little
eghaksuksu = he broke off
kisiɁmaŋa is the Instrumental Case Declension of kisiɁma, which means fear.
eghaksuksu is also built from four components. These are, in order of appearance:
1: The Primary Verb eg, which means to break.
2: The Secondary Verb –haks, which means to send (things). This is used to express motion away from a point of reference, and is a counterpart to the Secondary Verb –khet (-kheɁ), which we touched upon earlier. The main difference between the two is that with –haks, the object is being carried away from the agent, whereas with –khet, the object is being carried away with the agent.
Thus, -haks means sent away, while –khet means carried away.
A further difference between the two is that they both indicate a sense of irreversibility, i.e. that the referent in question won’t be returning any time soon.
Therefore, eghaks means something along the lines of to break off something that cannot be reattached.
3: The Perfect Tense Suffix –uks, giving us eghaksuks, which bears a translation approximating has broken off something that cannot be reattached or more simply broke off something that cannot be reattached.
4: Completing our word is the 3rd Person Past Tense Patient Suffix –u, whose addition bestows eghaksuksu, which means s/he broke off something (and it cannot be reattached). In its original context this must have referred to an aforementioned stick.
Pronoun 4-8: 3rd Person Non-Singular
4.23 uŋcinuŋ pyak yaŋ mmayaman = They did not have much money
uŋcinuŋ = with them
pyak = much
yaŋ = money
nmayaman = did not exist
uŋcinuŋ is the Comitative Case Declension of the 3rd Person Non-Singular Pronoun uŋci.
The Comitative Case is used to indicate association, and is a direct equivalent to the English word and.
4.24 sukunuŋ kithrikpa = Suku and the policeman
4.25 khumdunuŋ namma = to smell tasty (lit. to smell with taste)
mmayaman is built from five components. The core of this word is ma, which is the 3rd Person Singular stem for the verb to exist.
ma is a shortened form of the Existential Copula wama, which means to live, to exist or to live. We will discuss how it conjugates in a short moment.
It is proceeded by 1 Prefix and 3 Suffixes, which are as follows.
1: The Negative Prefix m-, which gives us mma.
2: The Past Tense Suffix –ya, which gives us mmaya.
3: The Perfect Tense Suffix –ma, which gives us mmayama.
4: The Negative Suffix –n, which gives us mmayaman.
One significant absence in the Yakkha language, at least from the perspective of an English speaker, is a direct equivalent for the word to have.
Instead, if you want to express this sort of possession, then you need to create a new expression.
For example, with our current sentence:
4.23 uŋcinuŋ pyak yaŋ nmayaman = They do not have much money
4.23 (Literal): uŋcinuŋ pyak yaŋ nmayaman = There does not exist much money with them
There seems to be some flexibility as to whether you can use the Comitative or Locative case on the noun that possesses. For example:
4.26 sombare dajuge muŋci ŋwaɁyacibu = Older brother Sombare has some mushrooms, they say
sombare = Sombare
dajuge = on the older brother
muŋci = mushrooms
ŋwaɁyacibu = they exist, they say
dajuge is the Locative Case Declension of daju, which means older brother.
Another word for older brother is aphu, and the words for older sister include ana and didi.
There is one word, anuncha, which means younger sibling (of either sex).
Another mammoth of a topic that we are yet to discuss is the Yakkha Kinship System, which we will no discuss at a later time.
However, of greater interest is the verb itself, which has five components. The core of this is waɁ, which is a shortened version of the Existential Verb wama, which means to exist.
The other four components appear in the following order.
1: ŋ-, the 3rd Person Plural Prefix, creating ŋwaɁ.
2: =ya, the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix, creating ŋwaɁya.
3: =ci, the Non-Singular Suffix ŋwaɁyaci.
4: =bu, the Reportative Suffix ŋwaɁyacibu, which means something along the lines of they say that they exist.
The Reportative Suffix, as the name implies, is used to indicate that the information is second-hand, i.e. it has been reported to the speaker. When it is translated, it usually takes the form of tag phrases like people say, or they say or s/he says.
This is an Evidentiality Suffix, and the source of information can be unspecific, e.g. it is said, or from a quotable source. It is a common feature in Yakkha myths and legends, since these are a prime example of hearsay knowledge.
Before we discuss the Existential Copula, however, here is the literal translation of the above sentence.
4.27 sombare dajuge muŋci ŋwaɁyacibu = They say that mushrooms are on the older brother Sombare
Now, we will discuss the Existential Copula wama. This is used mainly to express existence and location.
In the negation paradigm, there are the two possible stems, these being ma and wai. Currently, the difference between ma and wai is not yet fully understood on a linguistic level.
In Schackow’s corpus of Yakkha phrases, the ma forms are more common.
4.28 nnabe mamu wameɁna = The girl will be there
nnabe = there
mamu = girl
wameɁna = will be
Here, we will discuss the difference between waiɁna and wameɁna, since in a number of respects they are the same verb.
waiɁna is built from two components, while wameɁna is built from three. In both of these instances, the final segment is the Singular Nominaliser –na.
wameɁ is built from the 3rd Person Stem wa, and the Non-Past Tense Suffix -meɁ.
waiɁ, meanwhile, is a contraction wameɁ. The difference between these two forms is that the latter indicates that the event extends beyond the point of utterance. In this sense, it functions as somewhat of a quasi-Future Tense.
Another important aspect of these forms is the presence of niti in the Plural forms. This appears only in the 1st and 2nd Person Plural Non-Past Inflections of wama, or at the very least they have not been found anywhere else.
For reference, the marker –niti only appears in three Affirmative Conjugations, these being: the 1st Person Plural Exclusive wainitiŋha, the 1st Person Plural Exclusive wainitiya, and the 2nd Person Plural wainitigha.
(While these conjugations do have negative equivalents, Schackow appears to have been somewhat unsure of these, based on the question marks that she places next to them).
4.29 eko Selele-Phelele baŋna nwak wayanabu = Once upon a time, there was a bird called Selele-Phelele
eko = one
Selele-Phelele = Selele-Phelele
baŋna = so-called
nwak = bird
wayanabu = Once upon a time, there existed
Here, I would like to draw your attention to our verb wayanabu, which is built from 2 components, one of which can itself be sub-divided into its own trio of components.
On the macro-scale, our two components are the 3rd Person Singular Past Tense I Affirmative conjugation wayana, and the Reportative Suffix –bu.
Earlier, I mentioned that the Reportative Suffix is often used in myths and legends, which we see in this particular sentence, where we give it the translation once upon a time.
On the micro-scale, wayana is itself built from three components. These are, in order of appearance:
1: wa-, the reduced verb stem of wama, which means to exist.
2: -ya, the 3rd Person Past Tense Suffix, which gives us waya, which means he existed or she existed or they existed.
3: Last, but in no way least, our bosom companion the Singular Nominaliser Suffix –na, thus giving us wayana, which narrows down the meaning to either he existed or she existed.
Now the reason why I have broken down this particular copula is because it shows us an incidence of the Nominaliser and Reportative Suffixes co-occurring next to each other.
I mention this because previously I have stated that the Nominaliser shares the function of a direct Evidentiality suffix, i.e. an indication that the speaker’s knowledge of the event comes from direct, first-hand experience.
This example iterates the notion that this is not necessarily the case, and rather my own interpretation. This shows that I may need to re-assess my conclusions.
(On a tangential note, the reason why I have left most of the example copulas un-analysed is due to time. As you may have already inferred, each copula, whether it be identificational or existential, is built from a number of components. If you would like to research these further, I would direct you straight to Schackow’s grammar, which, if you know the right websites, you should be able to download from the internet for free. This is what I did, although I shall not name the specific website due to its complicated relationship with copyright law.)
4.30 panga moɁmorok eko hoŋma waisana = A bit downhill from the house there was a river
paŋga = from the house
moɁmorok = a bit downhill
eko = one
hoŋma = river
waisana = it existed
paŋga is the Genitive Case Declension of paŋ, which means house.
Therefore, the noun phrase paŋga moɁmorok literally means the house’s downhill.
Thus, the literal translation of this sentence would be:
4.31 paŋga moɁmorok eko hoŋma waisana = A river existed on the house’s small-way downhill
At this point, we have expended almost 9,000 words in discussing our first eight 1st Person Pronouns. In total, we have 10 more to discuss (or 5 more and 5 prefixes.)
Pronoun 4-9: 1st Person Singular Possessive
4.32 nhaŋ akka kamnibakci hippaŋ tikturawaŋciŋ = And I will bring along two of my friends
nhaŋ = and then
akka = my
kamnibakci = friends
hippaŋ = two humans
tikturawaŋciŋ = I will bring them along
Here, we will quickly discuss the Yakkha numerals. With a few exceptions, the Yakkha numerals come not from its Tibeto-Burman inheritance, but from Nepali. In fact, Yakkha itself has only three numbers, these being i (one), hip (two), and sum (three). All numbers from 4 and above are Nepali borrowings.
However, it is worth noting that in everyday speech, the Yakkha word i has largely been replaced by the Nepali eko. Exceptions where Yakkha retains its original numeral include the set phrase i len, which means one day.
(The term Tibeto-Burman refers to all the non-Sinitic languages of the wider Sino-Tibetan language family.)
-paŋ, meanwhile, is the Human Classifier, which is attached to the end of numbers in order to specify that it refers to humans. On the whole, noun classification does not play a major role in Yakkha, or in any of the Kiranti languages.
-paŋ is the only Noun Classifier in Yakkha, all non-human objects receive neither general nor specific classification. (In this manner, this is inverse to the Yidiñ language we discussed in Chapter 2.)
tikturawaŋciŋ is built from seven components, the first whereof is the Primary Verb tikt, which means to lead.
1: -u is the 3rd Person Patient Suffix. tiktu means either to lead him/her or to lead them.
2: –ra is the Secondary Verb, which means to bring. This is defined in the Grammar as caused motion towards, as we will explore shortly. tiktura means to bring him/her or to bring them.
3: -wa is the Non-Past Marker, which in this sentence indicates a Future Tense meaning. tikturawa means will bring him/her or will bring them.
4: -ŋ is the 1st Person Agent Suffix. tikrutawaŋ means I will bring her/him or I will bring them.
5: -ci is the 3rd Person Non-Singular Patient Suffix. tikturawaŋci, which specifies that it means I will bring them.
6: -ŋ makes here its second appearance, giving us tikturawaŋciŋ, whose meaning is unchanged from before.
Our Secondary Verb, -raɁ, refers to the act of bringing something from further away. It specifies that the event is transitive, and therefore it can modify a verb of motion, e.g. in the above sentence, or it can express a sequence of events, as below.
4.33 eko phuŋ chikturana = She plucked a flower and brought it
eko = one
phuŋ = flower
chikturana = she plucked and brought it
In this sentence, our main verb is chikt, which is the 3rd Person Singular Agent Past Tense form of the verb to pluck.
Put more simply, chikt means he plucked (it/them) or she plucked (it/them).
In addition, it can also function as a verb of motion. For example:
4.34 ten khibrumbaŋa momdurana = The fog came, covering our village
ten = village
khibrumbaŋa = fog
momdurana = covered and came
khibrumbaŋa is the Ergative Case Declension of khibrumba, which means fog. In this sentence, the Ergative Case Marker specifies that it is the fog that is covering the village, as oppose to the other way around. This is what allows us to put the object at the start of the sentence, and have it always remain the object.
momdurana contains 2 verbs. The Primary Verb is momd, which means to cover, or more specifically he covered (it/them) or she covered (it/them), although in this context, the translation it covered (it/them) would be most appropriate.
The Secondary Verb is –ra, which means to bring, although in this sentence, it takes on something more akin to the English Verb to come.
Thus, a more literal translation of the above sentence would be:
4.35 ten khibrumbaŋa momdurana = The fog brought itself and covered the village
Pronoun 4-10: 1st Person Dual Exclusive Possessive
4.36 anciŋga biha ikhiŋ salbe leksana? = In which year was our marriage?
anciŋga = our
biha = marriage
ikhiŋ = how much
salbe = in the year
leksana = happen
In this sentence, the Pronoun anciŋga makes explicit information that is implicit in the English translation.
1: It is a Dual Pronoun, which means that the marriage was conducted between two people, i.e. the speaker and his or her spouse.
2: This is an Exclusive Pronoun, which indicates that the speaker is not speaking to his or her spouse.
As a result, this question could be addressed to either a single person or multiple people. Keep this in mind when we move onto its Inclusive Equivalent.
On a related tangent:
hiŋkhuma = wife
hiŋkhuba = husband
(There is no sex-neutral word for spouse.)
This brings us onto the subject of Yakkha Family In-Law Vocabulary, which is incredibly complex and specific, and I would encourage you to check it out for yourself. Here is just a small taster:
tabhaŋ = daughter’s husband
taŋme = son’s wife
yaŋmen tabhaŋ = daughter’s daughter’s husband or son’s daughter’s husband
yaŋmen taŋme = son’s son’s wife or son’s daughter’s wife
anamma = mother-in-law
anamba = father-in-law
Since we are now on the subject of marriage, I will list some related vocabulary here. This should provide a modicum of insight into Yakkha society and culture.
Maŋgaŋba = a ritual specialist who is responsible that ancestral rituals are executed properly. They assist each household in undertaking rituals concerning birth, marriage and death.
mandata = the actual marriage, and the first step in the incorporation of the bride into her husband’s clan
bagdata = the second step in the incorporation of the bride into her husband’s clan. Here, the husband must once again ask his in-laws for their daughter, which can happen years or even decades after the first step. Only after this ritual is the bride fully incorporated into her husband’s clan.
If, Heaven forbid, the wife dies before the bagdata, then her original, or natal, clan is responsible for undertaking the death rites.
keilakma = “dancing the drum dance”
On marriages and other ritual occasions, the Yakkha people gather in large circles where they dance slowly to the rhythm of drums beaten by a number of men.
ikhiŋ can mean either how much or how many. Under certain conditions, it can also mean simply how or something. Here are three examples:
ikhiŋ mamha = something big
ikhiŋ mina lambu = what a narrow road
ikhiŋ cancan = how high
salbe, meanwhile, is the Locative Declension of sal, which means year.
leksana has three components, the first whereof is leks, which is the 3rd Person Singular form of the verb for to happen.
1: Attach the Past Tense Suffix –a, giving us leksa, which means it happened (although you could, if you wanted, say he happened or she happened).
2: Attach the Singular Nominaliser Suffix –na, leading to the full form leksana, whose meaning is largely to wholly unchanged from before.
Pronoun 4-11: 1st Person Dual Inclusive Possessive
4.37 enciŋga ceɁyaŋbu chem lumbiɁmanalai = She says that we have to sing a song in our language
enciŋga = our
ceɁyaŋbu = with the language, she says
chem = song
lumbiɁmanalai = have to sing
Just as with the previous sentence, the possessive pronoun enciŋga makes explicit information that is either implicit or ambiguous in the English sentence.
1: This is a Dual Pronoun, which indicates that only two people are required to sing.
2: This is an Inclusive Pronoun, which indicates that the other person to whom the language belongs is among the people being addressed by the speaker. To place this in context, consider these two situations:
- If the speaker is talking to a single person, then by default, the language and the obligation to sing belong to that person also.
- If the speaker is conversing with two or more people, then the language and obligation are directed at a particular person among them.
ceɁyaŋbu is built from three components. The first is the noun ceɁya, which means language, and is followed by two components.
1: -ŋ, which is the Instrumental Case Suffix. ceɁyaŋ literally means with the language, although in English we use the Locative in the language.
2: The Reportative Suffix –bu, which in this sentence translates as she says that. By itself, ceɁyaŋbu means something along the lines of she says that… with the language.
lumbiɁmanalai is itself built from five components, the first whereof is the Primary Verb lum, which means to tell.
1: -biɁ is a Secondary Verb which means to give, and was explored in detail in a previous section. In this sentence, lumbiɁ takes the English meaning to sing.
2: -ma is the Deontic Infinitive. In Yakkha, the Deontic Infinitive is used to express obligation or duty, e.g. through verbs such as must, should or have to. lumbiɁma means must sing or have to sing.
3: -na is the Singular Nominaliser, of whose function in this word I am not entirely sure. As far as I can see, lumbiɁmana still means must sing or have to sing.
4: -lai is the Exclamative Suffix which, as mentioned earlier, is used to express surprise on the side of the speaker. In this sentence, for example, it could be that the speaker had previously assumed that they could get away with not singing a song. Thus, lumbiɁmanalai means it surprises me that we have to sing, or something in that ilk.
Personally, I feel that by using both the Reportative and Exclamative Suffixes, the speaker is trying to distance themselves from this decision. On a more cynical reading, one could infer that the speaker actively wishes to transfer blame onto this currently unknown she.
The Deontic, before we move on, is a form of linguistic modality which indicates how the speaker wishes that the world ought to be. The verb to which the Deontic is attached will indicate the action that will bring the actual situation into closer alignment with the speaker’s preferred ideal situation.
Pronoun 4-12: 1st Person Plural Exclusive Possessive:
4.38 nda aniŋga nabhukci lepthaksucigha = You have dishonoured us all
nda = you (Singular)
aniŋga = our
nabhukci = noses
lepthaksucigha = you throw them
In this sentence, the use of aniŋga indicates that the listener has not dishonoured themselves, only the we mentioned by the speaker.
nabhukci is the Plural Inflection of nabhuk, which means nose.
lepthaksucigha is built from six components, the first of whom is the Primary Verb lept, which means to throw.
1: -haks is the Secondary Verb, which means to send, and has already been discussed. lepthaks means to throw away from oneself.
2: -u is the 3rd Person Patient Past Tense Suffix. Therefore, lepthaksu means someone threw it away or someone threw them away.
3: -ci is the 3rd Person Non-Singular Patient Suffix. lepthaksuci specifies that someone threw them away.
4: -g is the 2nd Person Agent Suffix. lepthaksucig means you threw them away, and by itself it can indicate either the singular or plural form of you.
(In this sentence, the singular is specified via the inclusion of the pronoun nda.)
5: -ha is the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix. lepthaksucigha still means you threw them away.
Of particular interest here is this phrase:
aniŋga nabhukci lepthaksucigha = you dishonoured us
However, the literal translation of this phrase is:
aniŋga nabhukci lepthaksucigha = you threw our noses away
In addition, it is also possible to throw one’s own nose away, for example:
4.39 unabhuk lepthaksuna = He dishonoured himself / She dishonoured herself
unabhuk = his nose / her nose
lepthaksuna = he threw it away / she threw it away
In this instance, what we are dealing with is a linguistic feature known as the Experiencer as Possessor Construction, which are a not uncommon feature across the languages of South and Southeast Asia.
In Yakkha, numerous experiential concepts are expressed via the combination of a noun and a verb, wherein the noun is considered the location of the concept, or the arena wherein a psychological or physiological experience takes place.
These nouns can refer not only to emotions and sensations, but also to body parts and excreted substances.
Naturally, there are several different classes of Experience as Possessor Constructions. For the sake of brevity, I shall only include the class to which nabhuk lepthaksuna belongs:
The Yakkha system of Experiencer as Possessor Constructions is very complex and well developed, with 5 Transitive Classes and 1 Intransitive Class. In total, I was able to count no fewer than 21 Intransitive Constructions, and no fewer than 34 Transitive ones distributed unevenly across the 5 sub-categories.
Pronoun 4-13: 1st Person Plural Inclusive Possessive:
4.40 nnahaŋmaŋ kaniŋca eŋga pamaci pyak luŋma tukmahaci = So that is why we also have to love our parents very much
nnahaŋmaŋ = so that is why
kaniŋca = we also
eŋga = our
pamaci = parents
pyak = much
luŋma = liver
tukmahaci = we have to pour
nnahaŋmaŋ is built from three components. The first is the demonstrative nna, which translates as that.
1: -haŋ is the Ablative Suffix, which implies motion away from something. nnahaŋ means something along the lines of from that, or it is from that, or in some contexts that is why.
2: -maŋ is the Emphatic Suffix, which is used to add emphasis to the sentence. nnahaŋmaŋ therefore means something akin to so that is why or so it is from that.
kaniŋca is the Additive Form of the 1st Person Plural Pronoun kaniŋ. In this sentence, the Additive informs us that, according to the speaker, there are a pre-established set of other people who also have to love their parents.
pamaci is simply the plural form of pama, which is the sex neutral word for parent.
The non-sex neutral words for parent are:
ama = mother
appa = father
tukmahaci, meanwhile, is composed of four parts, the first of whom is the verb tuk, which means to pour.
1: -ma is the Deontic Infinitive, which here expresses a Command or a Request, depending on your interpretation. In either context, tukma means have to pour.
2: -ha is the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix. tukmaha can mean we have to pour, or both/all of you have to pour or they have to pour.
Basically, more than one person has to pour.
3: -ci, meanwhile, is the Non-Singular Suffix, giving us tukmahaci, whose meaning is largely unchanged, at least so far as I understand.
You may have noticed that when the verb takes an infinitive form, it does not take any Agent or Patient prefixes or suffixes.
In contrast to other verbs, infinitive verbs do not inflect for person. Instead, the meaning of I/we, you or s/he/they is given through other grammatical information or context.
They do, however, inflect based on number. If there are no Number Suffixes attached, then the automatic meaning is singular; the Non-Singular requires the presence of –ha, and –ci, although the latter can be replaced by other suffixes, e.g. the Reportative –bu.
The phrase luŋma tukma is another Transitive Experiencer as Possessor Construction. The literal meaning is to pour the liver, while the straight translation would be to love.
This verb belongs to a different class than nabhuk lemnhaŋma (to throw away the nose or to dishonour), which we explored in the previous sentence.
The difference between the Class A and Class B Experiencer as Possessor Construction lies in the form of how they are built. If you wish to study the blueprints of these Construction Classes, as well as those of Classes C to E, I direct you towards Schackow’s grammar.
As things stand I shall refrain from doing so not only for the sake of time, but also because I am not quite sure I am able to do this myself.
Here, I will briefly touch upon the difference between the Possessive Pronouns and the Possessive Prefixes, which we will discuss later. In terms of overall meaning, the two are largely interchangeable; the main distinction comes in terms of focus.
Basically, if the speaker wishes to emphasise or focus on the possessive relationship itself, then the pronouns are used. If, on the other hand, the possessive relation is relatively unimportant, then the prefix is used
Pronoun 4-14: 2nd Person Singular Possessive
4.41 ŋga yupma nyusa? = Are you tired?
ŋga = your
yupma = sleepiness
nyusa = they were full
nyusa is built from three components, these consisting of one verb, one prefix, and one suffix.
Our verb is yus, which means to be full.
Our prefix is the 3rd Person Plural Prefix n-, and thus we get nyus, which means they be full or more grammatically for them to be full.
Our suffix is the Past Tense Suffix –a, giving us nyusa, which therefore means they were full
Although our verb is a plural one, the noun yupma is in the singular. In this sentence, it appears that the plural in this sentence is somewhat optional.
Here are several alternative and equally grammatically correct ways to build the above sentence:
4.42 ŋga yupmaci nyusa? = Are you tired?
4.43 ŋga yupma nyusaci? = Are you tired?
4.44 ŋga yupmaci nyusaci? = Are you tired?
However, of greater interest is the phrase yupma yuma, which means to be tired, although the more literal translation is something like to be full of sleepiness.
This is but one of many Intransitive Experiencer as Possessor Constructions. Here is a non-comprehensive list of others, before we move on.
One unexplored aspect of these constructions is the preponderance of the noun niŋwa, which means mind or brain.
This noun is far and away the most common noun in such constructions. Of the 55 examples listed by Schackow in her grammar, 17 contain this noun. If my counting is correct, then the next most common noun is miɁwa, which means tears, with only 3 appearances.
Pronoun 4-15: 3rd Person Singular Possessive
4.45 ukka pik luktheksana lamsiɁmana = Her cow is about to run away, we have to hold her
ukka = her
pik = cow
luktheksana = she is about to run away
lamsiɁmana = we have to hold her
Just as the regular pronoun can mean both he/him or she/her, it is also the case that ukka means both his and her.
luktheksana is built of four constituents, the primus inter pares of whom is the Primary Verb lukt, which means to run.
-heks is the Secondary Verb, which means to cut. Coupled together, the compound verb means to run away.
-a is the 3rd Person Patient Past Tense Suffix. Thus, luktheksa means either s/he was about to run away or they were about to run away.
-na, meanwhile, is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix. Therefore, luktheksana narrows the meaning down to s/he was about to run away.
The Secondary Verb –heks is used to indicate that the action described by the main verb is about to begin. Its literal meaning is either to cut or to saw, and for various reasons it is almost always in the Past Tense.
More specifically, -heks is used to indicate either an immediate prospect, or that the event is to be done separately.
Another example of the immediate prospect is thus:
4.46 sabun mendheksana = the soap is about to be finished
sabun = soap
mendheksana = is about to be finished
With an instruction or a command, it indicates that the hearer should start or continue doing something while the speaker leaves the speech situation. Two examples include:
4.47 yuŋheksa = Sit down (while I leave a moment)
4.48 coheksu = Keep eating (without me)
yuŋheksa is built of three components:
yuŋ is the Primary Verb, which means to sit or to sit down.
-hekt indicates that the action should continue after the speaker has left, or is no longer there. Thus, yuŋheks means something along the lines of to sit down while I, the speaker, am no longer there.
-a is the Imperative Suffixes, which indicates that the verb is a command.
To return to our original sentence, our second verb lamsiɁmana is also built from four components.
lam is the Primary Verb, which here means to catch.
-siɁ is the Secondary Verb, which means to avoid or to prevent.
-ma is the Deontic Infinitive, which indicates that this is an event which will help the preferred set of actions come to pass.
-na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix.
Naturally, this brings us to a discussion of our second Secondary Verb -siɁ, which means to avoid or to prevent. It is attached to any action that is designed to prevent something else happening. In our example sentence, the action of catching is used to prevent the pig from escaping.
Here are two more examples of this Secondary Verb in action:
4.49 moktheksuksana, nhaŋ thindisiŋna = He was about to beat him, so I scolded him and stopped him
moktheksuksana = he was about to beat him
nhaŋ = and then
thindisiŋna = I scolded him and stopped him
moktheksuksana is built of four components:
1: mokt is the Primary Verb, and it means to beat.
2: -heks is our Secondary Verb, which we discussed not a very long time ago indeed. moktheks means to be about to beat.
3: -uksa is the 3rd Patient Past Perfect Tense Suffix, which with –heks is used to indicate the simple past tense. moktheksuksa thus means something was about to beat him/her.
4: -na is the Singular Nominaliser, which gives us moktheksuksana, which means something along the lines of he was about to beat him.
thindisiŋna is also built from five constituent parts:
1: thind is the Primary Verb, which means to scold.
2: -i is the Completive Suffix; thindi means scolded.
3: -si is the 3rd Person Patient Past Tense form of the Secondary Verb -siɁ, which means to prevent; thindisi thus means scolded in order to prevent, or scolded and stopped.
4: -ŋ is the 1st Person Agent Suffix; thindisiŋ means I scolded in order to prevent, although here we have translated it as I scolded and stopped.
5: -na is our old bosom companion the Singular Nominaliser, hereby giving us the full form thindisiŋna.
As one can expect, the Secondary Verbs –heks and -siɁ often appear in the same sentence as each other. This, of course, is due to the fact that preventative action is typically taken in order to avoid an action that is yet to occur.
Like many other Secondary Verbs, -siɁ can also form compound verbs whose meaning is more than the sum of their parts.
4.50 nhe, mamu wannehoŋca, baru khaɁla comkana, nna, lakhe coŋsiɁmana = Here – even though there is a girl present – instead, one should do it like this, one should castrate them
nhe = here
mamu = girl
wannehoŋca = even though she exists
baru = instead
khaɁla = like this
cokmana = one should do
nna = that
lakhe = castrated
coŋsiɁmana = one should do it in order to prevent
wannehoŋca is built of three components.
1: wanne is the 3rd Person Non-Past Tense conjugation of the verb wama, which means she exists, since it is in relation to the girl.
2: -hoŋ is the Sequential Clause Linking Suffix; wannehoŋ means she exists at this moment.
3: -ca is the Additive Suffix, thus wannehoŋca means she exists also at this moment.
Much like verb combinations, other suffixes can combine in order to create new meanings, and the above sentence is an example of this.
If we combine the Sequential Clause Linkage Suffix –hoŋ and the Additive Focus Suffix –ca, then we come across the Concessive Clause Suffix –hoŋca.
The Concessive Clause indicates that the condition expressed by the main clause is contrary to what the speaker was expecting. In this example, it indicates that speaker wishes to excuse himself for talking about such a sensitive topic in the presence of a young girl.
cokmana has three components.
cok is one form of the verb to do.
-ma is the Deontic Infinitive, which indicates that the action is desirable to the achievement of a known end state. Thus, cokma means should do.
-na is the Singular Nominaliser, which gives us cokmana meaning one should do it.
lakhe is an adjective which means castrated.
coŋsiɁmana is built from four components.
coŋ is another form of the Primary Verb to do. For reasons known primarily to her, Schackow did not include a dictionary in her grammar. Thus, I am not quite sure what the original or primary form is.
-siɁ is the Secondary Verb to prevent. Thus, coŋsiɁ means do in order to prevent.
-ma is the Deontic Infinite: coŋsiɁma means one should do in order to prevent.
-na is the Singular Nominaliser; coŋsiɁmana means one should do it in order to prevent.
If we combine the previous two words, we get this phrase:
lakhe coŋsiɁmana = one should castrate them (in order to prevent something)
Or more literally:
lakhe coŋsiɁmana = one should make them castrated (in order to prevent something)
As far as I can see, there is no specific verb that means to castrate. As to whom or what the speaker intends to castrate, I shall leave that to your imagination.
Pronoun 4-16: 2nd Person Dual Possessive
4.51 njiŋga niŋbe uŋci iha cokmaca tayar nleŋme = They will be ready to do anything in your name
njiŋga = your
niŋbe = in the name
uŋci = they
iha = what
cokmaca = to do anything
tayar = ready
nleŋme = they become
njiŋga is a Dual Pronoun, which means that it is addressed to two people, or one person but the statement applies also to one other person only.
niŋbe is the Locative Case Declension of niŋ, which means name.
iha is the Non-Singular Nominaliser form of the word i, which simply means what. In this sentence, however, it instead takes on the meaning anything.
cokmaca is built from three components:
1: cok, which means to do.
2: The Infinitive –ma, which here has no deontic meaning. cokma also means to do, but precludes it from being able to inflect for either agent or patient.
3: -ca is the Additive Suffix, which typically means too or also.
In this context, I believe that the Additive Focus Suffix is used to express that this is new information, and does not contribute directly to the English translation.
nleŋme is built from the verb leŋ, which means to become.
This is preceded by the 3rd Person Plural Prefix n-, giving us nleŋ, which means they become.
These are then succeeded by the Non-Past Tense Suffix –me, thus creating nleŋme, which means they become, although a more natural-sounding translation is they will be.
Meanwhile, a closer word-for-word translation of the above Yakkha sentence is:
4.52 njiŋga niŋbe uŋci iha cokmaca tayar nleŋme = In your name they will be ready to do anything
Another language where the verb to become can translate into English as will be is German. Where German differs from Yakkha, however, is in the requirement of the verb meaning to be.
Pronoun 4-17: 3rd Person Non-Singular Possessive:
4.53 nam ayaniŋa uŋciga honna leksa, ceɁya = During sunset, they settled that very matter
nam = sun
ayaniŋa = as it descended
uŋciga = they
honna = that very
leksa = happened
ceɁya = matter
The foundation of ayaniŋa is the verb a, which means to descend.
1: -ya is the 3rd Person Singular Past Tense Suffix. In this context, aya means it descended.
2: -niŋa is the Co-Temporal Linkage Suffix, which indicates that the event occurred at the same time as the other event described. ayaniŋa thus means that the descent happened at the same time as the other event.
Taken together, the phrase nam ayaniŋa has a number of equally valid translations, among which are while the sun was setting, when the sun went down, or the aforementioned during sunset.
honna has two components:
hon means that very, and –na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix.
In English, honna translates as that, or that very, and officially it is known as the Singular Anaphoric Demonstrative.
In Yakkha, Demonstratives distinguish themselves based on distance and number.
The Proximal refers to people or objects that are close to the speaker, in particular those that the speaker can either touch or point at.
The Distal refers to those which are further away or are absent from the current speech situation.
The Anaphoric, meanwhile, refers to something that has already been mentioned at a previous point during the conversation.
In addition, these can replace 3rd Person Pronouns, because the use of them “is considered somewhat rude”.
leksa is the 3rd Person Singular Past Tense Conjugation of leks, which means to happen.
Now, we will briefly consider the main part of the sentence, which can occur independently:
4.54 uŋciga honna leksa ceɁya = they settled that matter
The more literal translation of this phrase is:
4.55 uŋciga honna leksa ceɁya = that matter of theirs happened
This second translation refers to the fact that the matter would, in context, already be known by the listener.
The initial sentence comes from a commonly known legend called The Linkha Man’s Bet with the Sun, and it is the eponymous bet which is referenced by ceɁya.
Pronoun 4-18: 2nd Person Plural Possessive
4.56 nniŋga ten nthaktuŋniŋgobi, ka ndayaŋanbi = If I had not liked your village, then I would not have come
nniŋga = your
ten = village
nthaktuŋniŋgobi = if I had not liked it then
ka = I
ndayaŋanbi = I would not have come
nthaktuŋniŋgobi is built from seven components, the first of whom is the verb thakt, which means to like.
1: n- is the Negative Prefix; nthakt means to not like or not to like, depending on one’s attitude towards the split infinitive. (My own personal preference is towards the former.)
2: -u is the 3rd Person Patient Suffix: nthaktu means to not like it or to not like them.
In this context, however, the presence of the Singular Object nniŋga ten makes the second translation somewhat unlikely.
3: -ŋ is the 1st Person Singular Subjunctive Agent Suffix. In Yakkha, the Subjunctive is used to in the formation of hypothetical statements, warnings, threats and permissive questions, among others.
nthaktuŋ thus means something along the lines of if I do not like it.
4: -niŋ is the Co-Temporal Clause Linkage Suffix, which indicates that this event is relative at the same time as the next verb. Without further suffixes or context, nthaktuŋniŋ also means if I do not like it.
5: -go is the Topic Particle, and it too is difficult to impossible to translate directly into English.
This indicates the constituent about which the question or assertion is made. In this sentence, it indicates that the statement is made about the act of not liking something.
Thus nthaktuŋniŋgo still means something along the lines of if I do not like it.
6: Last, but not least, we have the Irrealis Suffix –pi, which takes the form –bi when it follows a vowel or a nasal. It is used to create a counterfactual statement, i.e. it is the then in the above sentence.
When the Irrealis appears, the verb is always part of the Past Subjunctive, which gives us the specific meaning if I had not liked it, then.
ndayaŋanbi, meanwhile, is built from only one verb, one prefix and four suffixes. Our verb here is da, which means to come.
n- is the Negative Prefix, giving us nda, which means to not come.
-ya is the general Subjunctive Suffix, giving us ndaya, meaning would not come.
-ŋa is the 1st Person Singular Suffix, creating ndayaŋa, which means I would not come.
-n is the Negative Suffix, giving us ndayaŋan, which still means I would not come. In Yakkha, a double negative does not create a positive statement, as in Modern Standard English. Instead, a double negative actually reinforces itself, e.g. as is seemingly the case in African American Vernacular English.
Once again, we have the Irrealis Suffix –bi, which indicates that this is the second part of the counterfactual statement. Thus, ndayaŋanbi means I would not have come.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a Counterfactual Statement refers to the possible consequence of a hypothetical situation. In this context, the hypothetical situation is the act of not liking the village, and the consequence (or reaction) is the act of not coming to said village.
Before we move on to our final set of pronouns, I just realised that, in Yakkha, negation in the singular is done via the use of a Circumfix. In essence, a Circumfix occurs where one needs to enwrap the verb in both a Prefix and a Suffix.
The upper case N in eN- indicates that the prefix undergoes nasal assimilation in compliance with the following consonant. The three forms it can take are en-, em-, and eŋ-.
Based on a quick reading of the Yakkha consonant table, I make this list of predictions concerning nasal assimilation:
en- occurs on nouns beginning with /n/, /t/, /d/, /j/, /s/, /r/ and /l/, as well as variants thereof.
em- occurs on nouns beginning with /m/, /p/, /b/, /y/, and /w/, as well as variants thereof.
eŋ- occurs on nouns beginning with /ŋ/, /k/, /g/, and variants thereof.
Pronoun 4-19: 1st Person Dual Exclusive Possessive Prefix:
4.57 anciŋcuwaci uknimbikhusa cayaŋciŋha = You and I, we accidentally drank up each other’s beer!
anciŋcuwaci = our beers
uknimbikhusa = drank up each other’s
cayaŋciŋha = you and I did this to each other
anciŋcuwaci is built of three components.
anciŋ- is the 1st Person Dual Exclusive Possessive Prefix, which means our. This indicates that the beer belonged to the speaker and one other person who is not the listener.
cuwa is a noun, which means beer. anciŋcuwa means our beer.
-ci is the Non-Singular Suffix; anciŋcuwaci means our beers, although in English the word beer is uncountable in this context.
uknimbikhusa is constructed from four constituents.
The Primary Verb uk means to drink.
-nim is the Transitive Completive Suffix, which, as implied by the name, indicates an event which has already been completed.
uknim means something like to drink completely, or the better sounding to drink to completion.
-bi is the Secondary Verb, which means to drink, and also implies a completive notion. Thus, the meaning of uknimbi remains to drink to completion.
-khusa is one half of the Reciprocal Construction, which is used to indicate that the people who did the action did so to one another. uknimbikhusa means to drink to completion in a reciprocal manner.
anciŋcuwaci uknimbikhusa means something along the lines of to drink each other’s beers to completion.
cayaŋciŋha is built from six components.
ca is a shortened form of the Reciprocal Auxiliary Verb cama, which means to eat. The Reciprocal Auxiliary Verb is used when each participant is simultaneously the performer and the beneficiary of the described action.
-ya is the Past Tense Suffix: caya means ate.
-ŋ is the Exclusive Suffix: cayaŋ means you, the listener/s, are not among the eating party.
-ci is the Non-Singular Suffix: cayaŋci means you, the listener/s, are not among the more than one person who ate.
Once again we have the Exclusive Suffix –ŋ, which is identical to the 1st Person Singular Suffix: cayaŋciŋ means one other person and I ate.
Last, but not least, is the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix –ha, whose inclusion gives us the complete word cayaŋciŋha.
Pronoun 4-20: 1st Person Plural Inclusive Possessive Prefix:
4.58 cuŋŋa enlaŋci khoktucociha? = Did our legs get stiff from the cold?
cuŋŋa = from the cold
enlaŋci = our legs
khoktucociha = did they get stiff
cuŋŋa is the Ergative Case Declension of cuŋ, which means the cold. In this sentence, the Ergative Declension expresses the idea that, in this sentence, the cold is exercising some form of agency.
enlaŋci is built from two components.
en- is the 1st Person Plural Inclusive Possessive Prefix, which makes explicit two pieces of information that, in English, must be inferred from context.
1: This is a Plural Suffix which specifies that it relates to three or more people.
2: This is an Inclusive Suffix, which specifies that it also refers to the listener or listeners.
laŋci is the Plural Inflection of the noun laŋ, which means leg.
khoktucociha is built from 5 components, the first among whom is the Primary Verb khokt, which means to chop.
-u is the 3rd Person Past Tense Suffix: khoktu means something chopped it, or in this context something chopped them.
-co is the 3rd Person Past Tense Conjugation of the Secondary Verb –ca, which means to eat: khoktuco means something chopped and ate it, or in this context something chopped and ate them.
The addition of the Non-Singular Suffix –ci specifies that more than one object is being affected: khoktucoci has the unambiguous meaning of something chopped and ate them.
-ha is our old bosom companion the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix, which does not change the semantic meaning of the word to which it is attached.
khoktucociha thus means something chopped off and ate them.
In this sentence, there is no specific interrogative element. Rather, I assume that in spoken speech, the idea that this is a question is expressed either through rising intonation or the context wherein it is uttered.
Here is the literal translation:
4.59 cuŋŋa enlaŋci khoktucocica? = Did the cold chop your legs off and eat them?
Personally, I favour the literal translation, but you are free to make your own decision.
Pronoun 4-21: 1st Person Singular Possessive Prefix
4.60 hoŋkhaɁniŋ tenbeɁna yalumma amumŋa sosaŋ kaya: = At that time in the village, my talkative grandmother who was watching it said:
hoŋkhaɁniŋ = that very time
tenbeɁna = in the village
yalumma = talkative granny
amumŋa = my grandmother
sosaŋ = who was watching it
kaya = she said
hoŋkhaɁniŋ is the Anaphoric Time Demonstrative Adverb, which translates roughly into English as right at that time, and typically refers to a previously specified series of events.
Similar to other aspects, Yakkha has a detailed system of Demonstrative Adverbs and Quantifiers which give additional deictic information, i.e. in relation to a centre of reference which is typically, but not always, the speaker.
In Yakkha, Demonstrative Adverbs and Quantifiers provide additional information relative to Location, Time, Manner and Amount (which refers to both Size and Degree).
tenbeɁna is built from three constituent parts that combine to form the phrase in the village.
The noun ten means village.
-beɁ is the Locative Case Suffix.
-na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix.
The noun yalumma actually means talkative granny.
Based on previously established principles, one would predict that yalumba means talkative grandad.
Sadly, however, there are no instances of this occurring in Schackow’s grammar. Perhaps it can be found in her raw files.
amumŋa is the Ergative Case Declension of amum, which means my grandmother.
In contrast to other languages that we plan to discuss, Yakkha does not make any distinction between maternal or paternal grandparents. This means in practice that:
mum = mother’s mother or father’s mother
pum = father’s father or mother’s father
sosaŋ is the Simultaneous Aspect form of the verb so, which means to look, or to watch.
As its name implies, the Simultaneous Aspect is used to connect two events which happen at the same time or during the same period.
Finally, kaya is the Past Tense Conjugation of ka, which is the 3rd Person Singular form of the verb to say.
Pronoun 4-22: 1st Person Dual Inclusive Possessive Prefix:
4.61 na inimmabe enciŋpa enciŋmaci heɁne mphapsakhya mphapsakhya = My parents got lost somewhere in this market.
na = this
inimmabe = in the market
enciŋpa = our father
enciŋmaci = our mothers
heɁne = where
mphapsakhya = they went and entangled
mphapsakhya = they went and entangled
inimmabe is the Locative Case Declension of inimma, which means market.
In this sentence, we have the phrase enciŋpa enciŋmaci, which here translates as our parents, while the literal translation is our father our mothers.
While there does exist the word pamaci, which simply means parents, there are no instances of it co-occurring with a possessive prefix, although there is at least one instance where it appears with a possessive pronoun.
Instead, it appears that the phrase used in the sentence is by far the more popular one.
In addition, pama is probably a shortened form of the word appa-ama, whose literal meaning is father-mother, but is more typically translated as parent.
The use of the Dual Inclusive Possessive Prefix enciŋ- makes explicit information that is not encoded in the English grammar.
First, because this is an Inclusive Pronoun, which means that these parents also belong to the listener.
Secondly, because this is also a Dual Pronoun, it specifies that there is only one listener, or if there is a group of listeners, then only one of them is the speaker’s brother or sister.
Last but not least is the verb mphapsakhya, which is reduplicated in order to express Indefinite Reference. By Indefinite Reference, it specifies that, although the Interrogative word heɁne is present in this sentence, it remains a statement and not a question.
Anyway, how does one construct mphapsakhya?
1: m- is the 3rd Person Plural Prefix.
2: phaps is the Primary Verb, which means to entangle: mphaps means they entangle.
3: -a is the Past Tense Suffix: mphapsa means they entangled.
4: -khy is the Secondary Verb, which means to go, and here indicates the irreversibility of the event, i.e. they cannot, under current circumstances, become unlost. mphapsakhy means they go and get entangled.
5: The second occurrence of –a gives us mphapsakhya, which means they went and got entangled, or here means they got lost.
Pronoun 4-23: 1st Person Plural Exclusive Possessive Prefix:
4.62 aniŋkoŋmaŋa jhyal pegenduna = Our aunt accidentally shattered the window
aniŋkoŋmaŋa = our aunt
jhyal = window
pegenduna = accidentally shattered
aniŋkoŋmaŋa is the Ergative Case Declension of aniŋkoŋma, which means our aunt, but specifies that it was the aunt who broke the window, as oppose to the window who broke the aunt.
Although the simplest translation of koŋma is aunt, Yakkha is much more specific in this regard. In Yakkha, aunts and uncles are much more specific. For now, we will merely cover the aunts.
Aunts acquired via the loins of one’s grandparents are as follows:
koŋma = mother’s younger sister
ni = father’s younger sister
yem = mother’s elder sister
ni = father’s elder sister
Aunts acquired through the marriages of one’s blood-reluctance are as follows:
ni = mother’s younger brother’s wife
ni = mother’s elder brother’s wife
chim = father’s younger brother’s wife
yem = father’s elder brother’s wife
The 1st Person Plural Exclusive Possessive Prefix aniŋ, like its equivalents, specifies information that has to be inferred from context in the English translation.
This is an Exclusive Prefix; this means that if the listener’s mother does have a younger sister, she was not involved in the breaking of the window.
Secondly, because this is a Plural Prefix, the aunt in question has more than two nieces and nephews.
jhyal is the Absolutive Case Declension of jhyal, which means window.
pegenduna is built of four components, which are as follows:
1: The Primary Verb peg, which means to shatter.
2: The Secondary Verb –end, which means to insert; pegend here translates as to shatter accidentally.
3: The 3rd Person Past Tense Patient and Agent Suffix –u; pegendu means either it shattered accidentally or something shattered it accidentally.
One aspect that we are yet to explore are the Yakkha Portmanteau Suffixes, which simultaneously indicate both Agent and Patient. When the Agent is in the 1st or 2nd Persons, then –u is just the 3rd Person Patient Suffix. If, meanwhile, the Agent is in the 3rd Person, as is the case here, -u indicates that both Agent and Patient are in the 3rd Person.
4: -na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix, giving us pegenduna, whose meaning is unchanged.
Another aspect that we have not discussed is the order wherein Suffixes and Secondary Verbs are attached to the verb. For reasons of brevity we will leave this, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless.
The Secondary Verb –end (or –nen before consonants), has the literal meaning of to apply or to insert. As a Secondary Verb, it specifies motion downwards, but in no particular direction whether towards or away from the point of reference.
In addition, it can also convey that the downwards motion is the result of another action, as in this example:
4.63 tabekŋa siŋga uwhak cenenduna = He cut down the branch with a khukuri knife
tabekŋa = with a khukuri knife
siŋga = the tree’s
uwhak = it’s branch
cenenduna = he cut it down or he chopped it and it went down
A khukuri knife, also known as a khukuri or simply a kukri, is a type of machete that originates from the Indian subcontinent. It has a distinctive curve and is strongly associated with the Nepali-speaking Gurkhas of India and Nepal.
Furthermore, it can also impart regret on behalf of the speaker, as in our initial sentence:
4.64 aniŋkoŋmaŋa jhyal pegenduna = Unfortunately, our aunt shattered the window
Maybe this meaning comes from the idea that regrettable actions bring down the speaker in some way or another.
The 3rd Person Singular Possessive Prefix has the default form u-, but before stems containing an /e/ or an /o/ it takes the form o-.
Pronoun 4-24: 3rd Person Non-Singular Possessive Prefix:
4.65 uŋcicamyoŋba ŋgeksan, namŋa ghak heri = Their food did not ripen, the sun dried up everything
uŋcicamyoŋba = their food
ŋgeksan = it did not ripen
namŋa = the sun
ghak = everything
heri = it dried it up
uŋcicamyoŋba is built of two components:
1: uŋci is the titular possessive prefix, and it translates directly into English as their.
(While I personally use their as a singular possessive as much as anyone else, I don’t yet believe that it is sufficiently established to become part of the Prescriptive Grammar.)
2: camyoŋba means food, and it appears to be built according to a pattern. However, the exact pattern is not entirely transparent, involving stems that rarely to never occur independently.
camyoŋba is in the Absolutive Case, which specifies that the food is that which is being dried up, rather than that which is drying something else up.
ŋgeksan is built from four constituents:
ŋ- and –n form the Negative Circumfix.
geks is the 3rd Person Singular form of the verb to ripen, i.e. it means it ripens, although if you are in the habit of assigning biological sex to sexless objects, you could say he ripens, or she ripens.
-a is our bosom companion the Past Tense suffix.
namŋa is the Ergative Case Declension of nam, which means sun. In counterpart to the Absolutive Case, the Ergative Case specifies that it is the sun which dried up the food, as oppose to the food which dried up the sun.
heri is the 3rd Person Patient Past Tense Completive form of her, which means to dry, or to dry up.
Pronoun 4-25: 3rd Person Singular Possessive Prefix:
For this section, I have sought out a natural sentence that contains both forms of this prefix. This has resulted in easily the longest sentence in this chapter.
This sentence comes from a story known as The Namthalungma Rocks, which is part of the Yakkha Oral Mythological Narrative.
4.66 mamliŋbe ochebaci uppa, upumciŋa, ghak, ihawe, ŋkha ghak mbhyaksuksu = In Mamling, her male clan relatives, her father, her grandfathers, everybody, they gave away everything to her
mamliŋbe = in Mamling
ochebaci = her male clan relatives
uppa = her father
upumciŋa = her grandfathers
ghak = all
ihawe = things
ŋkha = that
ghak = all
mbhaksuksu = they gave away to her
mamliŋbe is the Locative Case Declension of mamliŋ, which in English is spelt as Mamling. Mamling is a member of the core group of Yakkha-speaking villages, and is located in the South-East of the country. Officially, it is a “Village development committee” in the Sankhuwasabha District in the Kosi Zone.
ochebaci is built of 3 components:
1: o-, the 3rd Person Singular Possessive Prefix.
2: cheba, which means male clan relative. ocheba means either his male clan relative or her male clan relative.
3: The Non-Singular Suffix –ci, which gives us ochebaci, meaning either his male clan relatives or her male clan relatives.
Unfortunately, I could not find an equivalent word for female clan relative, but if I had to make an educated guess, then I would say it was chema.
uppa is the 3rd Person Singular Possessive form of pa, which means father.
Where it occurs before u-, pa undergoes gemination to become ppa. In this sense it is an irregular noun, as gemination is an uncommon process in Yakkha.
upumciŋa is built from four components:
1: u- is our Possessive Prefix of the hour.
2: pum means grandfather; upum means his grandfather or her grandfather.
3: -ci gives us upumci, meaning his grandfathers or her grandfathers.
4: Last, but not least, is the Ergative Suffix –ŋa: upumciŋa tells us that it is the grandfathers who are giving everything away, rather than those to whom it is given away.
This brings us to the notion of Apposition, which is where several grammatically related items are put together in order to indicate some form of connection.
This occurs here with the phrase ochebaci uppa upumciŋa. Essentially, even though only umupci carries the Ergative Case Suffix –ŋa, Apposition means that all three carry the Ergative Case.
Without getting too technical, here is another way to show how this Case Marking works:
[ochebaci uppa upumci]-ŋa.
Based on the other examples and notes I could find, it would be highly unnatural to put the Ergative Case Suffix on each component, it could even be downright ungrammatical.
ihawe is built from three components:
1: i, which means what.
2: -ha, the Non-Count Nominaliser Suffix.
3: -we, another variant of the Locative Suffix.
Together, the resultant compound word has a range of similar translations, among which are what, something or anything.
Considered all together, the phrase ghak ihawe ŋkha ghak means everything or all things, depending on what sounds more natural to the English ear. Individually and out of context, each constituent within this phrase is difficult to translate naturalistically.
Last, but by no means least, is the verb mbhyaksuksu, which is built from 5 constituents:
1: m- is the 3rd Person Plural Agent Suffix, which agrees with the phrase ochebaci uppa upumciŋa.
2: b- is an abbreviated form of the Primary Verb piɁma, which means to give; mb here means they give, but no Yakkha speaker would consider this a complete word.
3: -hyaks is the Secondary Verb meaning to send, which is used to express motion away from the agent. mbhyaks means they give away.
4: -uks is the Perfect Tense Suffix; mbhyaksuks means they gave away.
5: -u is the 3rd Person Past Tense Patient Suffix; mbhyaksuksu means they gave it away.
Pronoun 4-26: 2nd Person Plural Possessive Prefix:
4.67 nniŋphaŋŋa tek leŋnuŋmeɁna = Your uncle keeps changing his clothes
nniŋphaŋŋa = your uncle
tek = clothes
leŋnuŋmeɁna = keeps changing
nniŋphaŋŋa is the Ergative Case Declension of nniŋphaŋ, which means your uncle, and specifies that the speaker is talking to three or more of the man’s nieces and nephews.
This brings us to the Yakkha words for uncle.
One’s uncles directly via the loins of one’s grandparents are:
koŋba = mother’s younger brother
phaŋ = father’s younger brother
koŋba = mother’s elder brother
yep = father’s elder brother
Uncles acquired via the marriages of one’s biological aunts are as follows:
phaŋ = mother’s younger sister’s husband
ku = father’s younger sister’s husband
yep = mother’s elder sister’s husband
ku = father’s elder sister’s husband
Here, the Ergative Case indicates that it is the uncle who is changing his clothes, rather than the clothes who are changing the uncle. (Naturally, the degree to which your clothes affect your personality is a question for another day.)
tek is the Absolutive Case Declension of tek, which means clothes, or clothing more generally. The Absolutive Case specifies that it is the clothes that are being changed by the uncle, rather than the other way around.
The compound verb leŋnuŋmeɁna is built from four components:
1: leŋ is the Primary Verb, which means to exchange, although here the verb to change is better English.
2: -nuŋ is the 3rd Person Singular form of Secondary Verb, whose tentative meaning is to sit; leŋnuŋ means he always changes, or she always changes.
3: -meɁ is the Non-Past Tense Suffix; leŋnuŋmeɁ means the same as the above, but is specific about it.
4: -na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix, which does not change the meaning of the particular word.
The Secondary Verb –nuŋ indicates that the verb has a Continuative meaning. Essentially, this indicates that the event is going on longer than expected, and is not oriented towards any particular end point.
Other examples of this Secondary Verb in action include:
4.68 alaŋci ŋaŋkhenuŋmeha = My legs keep falling down
alaŋci = my legs
ŋaŋkhenuŋmeha = they keep falling down
ŋaŋkhenuŋmeha is built from six components:
1: ŋ- is the 3rd Person Plural Patient Prefix.
2: aŋ is the Primary Verb, which means to descend; ŋaŋ means they descend.
3: -khe is our 1st Secondary Verb, which means to go, which indicates the irreversibility of the event, i.e. no matter how many times you pick your legs back up, they will inevitably fall down again; ŋaŋkhe means they fall down.
4: -nuŋ is our 2nd Secondary Verb, which means to sit, and indicates that the event in question keeps happening; ŋaŋkhenuŋ means they keep falling down.
5: -me is the Non-Past Tense Suffix, which here specifies that the event takes place in either the present or future: ŋaŋkhenuŋme means they keep falling down.
6: -ha is that permanent nuisance that will not go away, i.e. the Non-Singular Nominaliser: ŋaŋkhenuŋmeha continues to mean they keep falling down.
Our third example of this Secondary Verb is thus:
4.69 heɁniŋca ŋonsinuŋmeɁna = She is always shy
heɁniŋca = always
ŋonsinuŋmeɁna = she always feels shy or he always feels shy
heɁniŋca is built from two components:
1: heɁniŋ is an Interrrogative word which means when.
2: -ca is the Additive Suffix; heɁniŋca means always, with the literal translation when always.
ŋonsinuŋmeɁna is built from four components:
1: The Primary Verb ŋonsi means to feel shy.
2: -nuŋ is the 3rd Person Singular form of the Secondary Verb to sit, which indicates that the feeling of shyness is an ongoing state of affairs: ŋonsinuŋ means he always feels shy or she always feels shy.
3: -meɁ is the Non-Past Tense Suffix, giving us ŋonsinuŋmeɁ means the same as the above.
4: -na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix, creating ŋonsinuŋmeɁna, whose meaning remains lexically unchanged.
Typically, -nuŋ occurs with the Non-Past Tense. With the Past Tense, one tends to use the Secondary Verb –nes, which also means to sit. That said, these two Secondary Verb seem, in many cases, to be entirely interchangeable.
Pronoun 4-27: 2nd Person Dual Possessive Prefix:
4.70 njiŋnapnima heɁniŋca sisughondwana = Your niece always walks around drunken
njiŋnapnima = your niece
heɁniŋca = always
sisughondwana = always walks around being killed
The 2nd Person Dual Possessive Prefix njiŋ- specifies that the speaker is informing exactly two of the drunken women’s aunts and uncles.
Having explored the words for aunts and uncles, we will now explore the words for their children, and since I am a knave with a very chivalrous heart, we will start with the fairer sex:
napnima = mother’s younger sister’s daughter
khoknima = mother’s younger brother’s daughter
napnima = mother’s elder sister’s daughter
khoknima = mother’s elder brother’s daughter
Sons born to the siblings of your mother are known thus:
napniba = mother’s younger sister’s son
khokniba = mother’s younger brother’s son
napniba = mother’s elder sister’s son
khokniba = mother’s elder brother’s son
If this is too many words to keep in mind, here is a simplified list:
napnima = mother’s sister’s daughter
napniba = mother’s sister’s son
khoknima = mother’s brother’s daughter
khokniba = mother’s brother’s son
As we can see, the words that refer to the children of your maternal aunts and uncles is fairly simple.
The same cannot be said for the children of your paternal aunts and uncles. Since my chivalry only goes so far, we will begin with their sons:
khokniba = father’s younger sister’s son
phu = father’s younger brother’s elder son
nuncha = father’s younger brothers younger son
khokniba = father’s elder sister’s son
phu = father’s elder brother’s elder son
nuncha = father’s elder brother’s younger son
Their daughter’s meanwhile, have these words:
knoknima = father’s younger sister’s daughter
na = father’s younger brother’s elder daughter
nuncha = father’s younger brother’s younger daughter
khoknima = father’s elder sister’s daughter
na = father’s elder brother’s elder daughter
nuncha = father’s elder brother’s younger daughter
Of course, we can condense this list further:
khokniba = father’s sister’s son
khoknima = father’s sister’s daughter
phu = father’s brother’s elder son
na = father’s brother’s elder daughter
nuncha = father’s brother’s younger son or daughter
In addition, we can also organise these words into a single list that encompasses all words for niece and nephew.
khoknima = mother’s brother’s daughter and father’s sister’s daughter
napnima = mother’s sister’s daughter
na = father’s brother’s elder daughter
nuncha = father’s brother’s younger son or daughter
khokniba = father’s sister’s son and mother’s brother’s son
napniba = mother’s sister’s son
phu = father’s brother’s elder son
heɁniŋca, as we explored earlier, is the Additive Aspect form of heɁniŋ, which means when.
Our verb sisughondwana is built from five components:
1: sis is the Primary Verb, which actually means to kill.
2: -u is the 3rd Person Patient Suffix; sisu means either to kill him/her or to kill them.
3: -ghond is the Secondary Verb, which means to roam: sisughond means either s/he walks around being killed or they walk around being killed.
4: -wa is the Non-Past Tense, which does not change the meaning from the above.
5: -na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix, which specifies that this means s/he walks around being killed.
Thus, sisughondwana has two potential meanings:
(Literal) sisughondwana = s/he walks around being killed
(Colloquial) sisughondwana = she walks around drunken
The Secondary Verb –ghond means either to roam or to wander around. As a modifier, it indicates that the action or event occurs across a number of physical locations.
Here are two other sentences where we see this Secondary Verb in action:
4.71 heɁne maŋdu maŋdu kha luplumcibe wayaghonda iyaghondaniŋca… = While he also used to live and walk around somewhere far, far away, in those caves…
heɁne = somewhere
maŋdu = far away
maŋdu = far away
kha = those
luplumcibe = in the caves
wayaghonda = he used to exist in multiple places
iyaghondaniŋca = also while he resolved and walked around
luplumcibe is the Locative Case Declension of luplumci, which is the Plural Inflection of luplum, which means den or cave.
wayaghonda is built from four components:
1: wa is an abbreviated form of the Primary Verb wama, which normally means to exist, but here it takes the meaning to live.
2: -ya is the Past Tense Suffix: waya means existed or lived.
3: -ghond is the Secondary Verb meaning to roam; wayaghond means existed to roam, or lived to roam.
4: -a is an abbreviated form of the Past Tense Suffix: wayaghonda literally means roamed and existed, or roamed and lived, although the term used to live is probably better.
iyaghondaniŋca is built from six components:
1: i is the Primary Verb, which means to resolve.
2: -ya is the Past Tense Suffix; iya means resolved.
3: -ghond is here the 3rd Person Singular form of the Secondary Verb meaning to go; iyaghond means either he walks around and resolved or she walks around and restored.
4: -a is, again, an abbreviated form of the Past Tense Suffix: iyaghonda means either he walked around and resolved or she walked around and resolved.
In this context, however, i appears to function as some variety of dummy verb. At the very least, it does not seem to add directly to the semantic content of the sentence. Maybe this is the part of the sentence that translates into the English verb used to.
5: -niŋ is the Co-Temporal Clause Linking Suffix, which indicates that the event takes place at the same time as the main event, which does not appear in this example; iyaghondaniŋ means while he used to walk around somewhere.
6: -ca is the Additive Suffix, which translates to English as also; thus, our complete word iyaghondaniŋca means something like while he used to walk around.
Our second example sentence:
4.72 ijaŋ yoniŋ-kheniŋ njiŋghommeha? = Why do they walk around learning?
ijaŋ = why
yoniŋ-kheniŋ = thither and hither
njiŋghommeha = they walk around learning
The compound term yoniŋ-kheniŋ is interesting for two reasons:
First of all, it puts the term for thither (yoniŋ) before the term for hither (kheniŋ).
Secondly, the terms yoniŋ and kheniŋ are built from the Geomorphic Orientation Markers yo and khe, which roughly mean across the hill yonder and across the hill respectively.
(The Geomorphic Orientation System is discussed in greater detail earlier in the chapter, for those cheeky monkeys among you who skipped towards the end.)
The verb njiŋghommeha is built from five components:
1: n- is the 3rd Person Plural Prefix.
2: jiŋ is the Primary Verb, which means to learn: njiŋ means they learn (and it looks exactly the same as the 2nd Person Dual Possessive Prefix).
3: -ghom is a phonological variant of the Secondary Verb –ghond, which means to walk around: njiŋghom means they walk around learning.
4: -me is the Non-Past Tense Suffix, creating njiŋghomme, which means they walk around learning.
5: -ha is our bosom companion the Non-Singular Nominaliser Suffix, giving us njiŋghommeha, whose meaning remains unchanged.
We have now reached our final pronoun. I hope that you have enjoyed the journey so far, I certainly have.
4.28: 2nd Person Singular Possessive Prefix:
4.73 mbaŋa nda kabe pinnhaŋmeŋnabui? = Did they say that your father will give you to me (in marriage)?
mbaŋa = your father
nda = you
kabe = to me
pinnhaŋmeŋnabui = did they say that he will give you to me?
mbaŋa is the Ergative Case Declension of mba, which means your father. In this sentence, the Ergative Case specifies that it is the father who is doing the giving; he is the giver, and the grammar means that he can only be the giver.
nda is the 2nd Person Singular Pronoun, which in this sentence acts as the direct object, i.e. the thing which is being given.
kabe is the Locative Case Declension of the 1st Person Singular Pronoun ka. On a literal basis, kabe means in me or on me, although here it means to me.
pinnhaŋmeŋnabui is built from seven components:
1: pin is the Primary Verb, which means to give.
2: -nhaŋ is the Secondary Verb, which means to send, and indicates direction away from the agent, i.e. the father; pinnhaŋ thus means to give away.
3: -me is the Non-Past Tense Suffix, which here indicates a future event; pinnhaŋme means will give away.
4: -ŋ is the 1st Person Singular Patient Suffix; pinnhaŋmeŋ means will give away to me.
5: -na is the Singular Nominaliser Suffix; pinnhaŋmeŋna means he will give away to me.
6: -bu is the Reportative Suffix; pinnhaŋmeŋnabu means they said that he will give away to me.
7: -i is the Question Suffix which, as the name infers, turns a statement into a question: thus pinnhaŋmeŋabui means did they say that he will give away to me?
Thus ends our main discussion of the Yakkha language, at least for now. As I mentioned earlier, this is another chapter that I wrote with no prior experience of the language. In addition, this is also the first Himalayan language that I have studied, although it won’t be the last. We have at least one more ahead of us, and if memory serves me correctly, it is a language isolate.
Anyway, what are my overall thoughts on the Yakkha language?
Without exaggeration, I have never had more fun studying a language in this level of depth. This is not in spite of, but categorically and unambiguously because of its sheer complexity.
While I enjoyed looking into its system of secondary verbs, by far my favourite feature is the Geomorphic Orientation System. One reason is its sheer complexity and specificity, which always appeals to my baser instincts.
The more significant reason, however, is that it creates a direct link between language and geography. Essentially, the Yakkha Geomorphic Orientation System is a feature that could probably only emerge in (the foothills of) a mountain range which, itself, is home to the highest and second-highest peaks in the world. This is not to say that it is impossible, for example, for such a system to evolve on a small Pacific island with only a single hill less than 100ft in height, but it isn’t very likely.
To simplify things, the flatter the area, the less useful such a system becomes.
In our next chapter, we shall travel to the island nation of Vanuatu, where we will discuss the language of West Futuna-Awina, and is the 3rd consecutive language that I will jump into blind.
- On a hill, a sheep that had no wool saw horses, one of them pulling a heavy wagon, one carrying a big load, and one carrying a man quickly.
2. The sheep said to the horses: “My heart pains me, seeing a man driving horses.”
3. The horses said, “Listen, sheep, our hearts pain us when we see this: a man, the master, makes the wool of the sheep into a warm garment for himself. And the sheep has no wool.”
4. Having heard this, the sheep fled into the plain.
- naɁto utamphwak newaɁle bhendaŋa onci nisuksucibu; ekoŋa pelele tikturasya, ekoŋa mana yubak khuŋurasya, ekoŋa paghyam hani khuŋurasya.
2. bhendaŋa onci kaya: “acwa tugama, nisuŋiŋa: paghyamŋa onci sahetwana.”
3. onciŋa ŋgaya: “aniŋcwaci ndugci, niswamniŋa: paghyam, yakkhabaŋa bhendaga utamphwakŋa kurta cokcameɁna. bhendanuŋ utamphwak mmanha”
4. khepsuhoŋ, bhenda oƫemma khusakhyana.
- I could not find a Yakkha word for sheep, and thus I substituted the Nepali word bhenda
- nisuksucibu carries the Reportative Suffix –bu, which here indicates an ancient or mythical fable. It will only appear on this verb, and applies to the rest of the sentence by apposition
- My translation for that had no wool is utamphwak newaɁle, which literally means without wearing hair. I do not know whether a Yakkha speaker would say this is another question.
As you can probably infer, I could not find a Yakkha word for wool, and originally I planned to use the Nepali word, although later I opted against this strategy.
4: My translation for pulling a heavy wagon is pelele tikturasya.
pelele is an adjective which means pulling something heavy or blocked.
tikturasya is built from 6 components, which come together to form the verb to lead towards.
The Primary Verb is tikt, which means to lead, and the Secondary Verb is –ra, which here means towards, although this is not explicitly included in the English translation.
5: My translation for carrying a big load is mana yubak khuŋurasya. I am highly unsure whether this is correct or natural, in particular the verb khuŋurasya.
- sahetwana is built from the Primary Verb sa (short for saŋ), which means to lead by rope.
- I could not find any word such as master, lord etc. with which I felt satisfied. I thus chose the word yakkhaba, which means Yakkha man. This appealed to me on a stylistic level, since the idea of referring to an authority figure as simply the Yakkha fits in quite well with the overall archaic sense of the tale.
Out of interest, paghyam means old man in particular.
Diana Schackow, A grammar of Yakkha (Berlin: Language Science Press 2015)