Kirtumur verbs

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Verbs in Kirtumur have grammatical properties which differ from those of the other word classes. They have a different inflection as well as a distinct syntactic function. A clause is a grammatical unit that consists of a predicate and the elements that accompany it. Kirtumur has nominal, copular and verbal clauses, the predicate of the latter is a verb. Verbs refer to a large variety of actions and states. The number and kinds of participants involved differ between different actions and states and thus between different verbs. Also Kirtumur verbal forms are either finite or non-finite. The non-finite verbal forms (or the participles) have a different inflection from the finite forms.

A verbal form can contain several prefixes and suffixes. In addition, one or more clitics can be attached to it. The prefixes and suffixes express a large variety of meanings, including several for which English uses pronouns, adverbs, or auxiliary verbs.

Just like any other language, Kirtumur has word classes of verbs. There are two main classes: finite and non-finite, although many verbs can have forms that belong to both these classes. All finite verbs are primary, that is, verbs which refer directly to some action or state and can make up a clause by themselves. This is often not the case with non-finite verb forms, which rarely make up a clause by themselves and require an additional verb to form a clause. Although a large subgroup, called adjectival verbs, can act similarly to finite verbs in this aspect.

Verbal clause

Verbs refer to a large variety of actions and states. An action involves a number of participants, who have roles in that action, and a state involves a participant, who experiences that state. The number and kinds of participants involved differ between different actions and states and thus between different verbs. Because there is a wide variety of actions and states, there are also many kinds of participants.

Every verb has a specific set of syntactic functions expressing the participants who have roles in the specific action or state. For example, the verb thacha "to give" expresses its three participants with a transitive subject (or the agent), a direct object (the patient), and an indirect object (the recipient). In this way, the verb determines the basic structure of the clause and can therefore be said to be the centre of it. If a clause contains more than one verb, the centre is called the main verb. A subject, object, or adjunct is expressed by using a noun phrase and/or a verbal affix. In the following example the verb teka "to pour", for instance, has four participants, a person pouring (the agent), a fluid poured (the patient), a recipient, who has something poured (the indirect object) and a container, into which something is poured (location). An agent is expressed by a noun phrase in the ergative case, a patient by a noun phrase in the absolutive case, an indirect object by a noun phrase in the dative case and an indirect locative object by an noun phrase in the absolutive case (since the locative case is only used with place nouns):

Mulittarara wa ninatektē ŋaškin Arkaunišes
Mulittar-ara wa-Ø ni-na-tek-t-ē ŋaškin-Ø Arkauniš-es
Mulittar=DAT water-ABS 3sg.Loc-3rd.AN.IndObj-pour-PRF-3sg.Ag.3sg.Pat cup-ABS Arkauniš-ERG
"Arkaunishi has poured water for Mulittari into a cup".

Because non-finite verbal forms lack person markers, except for the indirect onject markers, the method for expressing a subject and object is different in non-finite clauses:

Mulittarara wa ninatektei ŋaškin ...
wa-Ø Mulittar-ara ni-na-tek-tei ŋaškin-Ø ...
water-ABS Mulittar=DAT 3sg.Loc-3rd.AN.IndObj-pour-PRF.NFIN cup-ABS ...
"when (he) has poured water for Mulittari into a cup..."

This phrase cannot be a standalone sentence, since the verb tektei is non-finite, it requires a main verb. Neither the agent not the patient can be expressed with by using verbal affixes, these instead would be placed on the main verb only.

Finite verbs

As Kirtumur finite verbal forms can be quite complex, their structure takes up a major portion of its grammar. The make-up of the verbal stem itself is quite simple, the vital step is to determine the correct order of affixes in order to analyse the verb. A finite verbal form consists of a verbal stem preceded by one or more prefixes and followed by at least one suffix (though this suffix can be a zero morpheme).

A finite verbs has several forms depending on its aspectual category. There are five distinct verb forms in Kirtumur: imperfective, aorist, perfect, irrealis and imperative. The imperfective describes ongoing, continuous or repeated actions, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future. The imperfective contrasts with the aorist, which usually expresses perfective aspect and refers to past events and typically also has a resultative use. The perfect form indicates that an action or circumstance occurred earlier than the time under consideration and is already completed. The irrealis describes events that are considered unlikely, depend upon a certain condition, or are expected or awaited. Finally, the imperative forms a command or request and only implies a second-person subject (you), while for a first- and third-persons the optative is used instead, which belongs to the irrealis form. All of these forms can be further divided into TAM categories. Each form receive a different marking, represented in a table below:

Aorist Imperfective Perfect Irrealis Imperative
Future tense Future Optative
Present tense Gnomic
Present Perfect Present
Past tense Aorist Past Pluperfect Past

The following table lists the obligatory parts of a finite verbal form, in the same order as they occur in actual forms (the root is marked with an underscore):

Forms Aorist Imperfective Perfect Irrealis Imperative
Future _-is kur-_
Present e-_-e _-e _-(e)t pa-_ _-eya
Past e-_ e-_-e e-_-(e)t he-pa-_ nu-_-(ey)a

Finite verbs are further divided into two major classes: intransitive and transitive, which differ in their conjugation for person. Intransitive verbs take person prefixes to mark the agent of a sentence, while all transitive verbs use person suffixes instead, which mark both the agent and patient (or the subject and the direct object). The category of number is also expressed differently in both classes.

Intransitive verbs

An intransitive clause is a construction with an intransitive subject and a predicate. Although it may contain one or more indirect objects, it is not as common as their use in transitive clauses. An intransitive verb takes one person prefix in order to indicate its agent. There are two sets of prefixes: one for affirmative (or positive) verbs and one for the negative ones.

Affirmative Negative
1st person ha- ŋi-
2nd person ō- ŋō-
3rd person animate i-/Ø- ki-
3rd person inanimate sa- nes-

In order to indicate the number of a person a number suffix is used: -u for dual and -it for plural. The singular remains unmarked and is viewed as the default, when there is no number marking on a verb, even when the nouns in the clause are marked.

Transitive verbs

A transitive verb is a verb that accepts one or more objects in addition to the subject in the ergative case. Technically, there is no limit to how many objects a transitive verb can accept, but there must be at least one. Every transitive verb contains a person suffix, which not only indicates the person of the arguments of a verb, but also their relation:

Affirmative Negative
1→2 1←2 -(e)hō 1→2 -ōŋ 1←2 -kō
1→3 -i 1←3 -šu 1→3 -iki 1←3 -uška
2→3 -an 2←3 -(e)he 2→3 -ŋam 2←3 -ek
3An→4 3In/4An→3 -ur 3An→4 -ēki 3In→4An -raka

A number suffix, used for dual is -k and for plural it is -tu. Only the subject can be marked for number and the noun in the dual or plural form will always be treated as a subject, unless specified otherwise: nenētu is "they see him/her", but nenurtu is "he/she sees them".

Modal Prefixes

Kirtumur verbs often have a grammatical morpheme which in the relative order of verbal prefixes precedes other morphemes is a proclitic, called the modal prefix. They perform different roles, but usually expresses modality or contrast. If a verb phrase contains more than one verb, the proclitic will be used with the main verb.

The first group of proclitics contains the dimensional prefix u-, which shows the sequence of actions. For example: Eišilel unilatturtu wimmuk "She/He left after she/he has put them into a basket" (PAST-3Sg-leave REL-3Sg.Loc-put-INV.3Pl basket-Abs). The prefix ut- has the meaning of "on" or "during" but unlike the previous prefix, it can also be a separate word, especially in old texts. Most often it is used with non-finite verb forms: uttarca Iktarenen "during the celebration of the Ascending". Another prefix, which belongs to this subgroup, is itu- ("by", "near", "around"): ituiŋale Khekaltum "He/she is living near the city of Kigaldam".

The second group has no temporal meaning, but rather expresses various kinds of modality. The prefix ix(i)- express positive or negative wishes, commands, and assertions, for instance: ixneithachan "You must give it back to him/her". It can often be used with the imperative. Another proclitic is ŋa- (and its negative counterpart ŋem- which either marks contrast, if two actions are different or has the meaning of "also": ŋakhartiki "I did not take it either"; ŋemkartiki "But indeed I did not take it". In older texts, as well as in the noble speech the prefix nu- is often used as hortative, while in spoken Umunesal (the common speech) it is almost completely replaced by the optative, with the exception of some fossilised expressions: nulua "let’s go".

Finally, the third group contains the proclitic i-, which marks a subordinate clause, which can be translated as "what..." or "when...", for example: i-ōtumta kina. "What you have said is true", where the proclitic marks the dependent clause "you have said". The same sentence can be without a dependent clause (using a participle instead): laxatumēni kina. Both constructions are equally valid in Kirtumur, however in Umunesal phrases with dependent clauses are preferred. This clitic can also be used instead of the proclitic lē- "if", the same way as in Kērsalur, from which it was borrowed into Kirtumur instead of native lē-. Another proclitic from this group is mu- "because": eneiyihes mu-wamitimeikha "He did not think about it because it was not possible".

Emphatic prefixes

There are two prefixes which have no clear meaning on their own, but can be used with verbs to express something which the speaker wishes to emphasize. These two prefixes are ši- and ša-, they are always word-initial, unless preceded by a modal prefix. The prefix ša- is restricted to the past tense and the perfect, while ši- is used elsewhere, but also in the former condition before a high vowel: namzizim šihisma "It is actually not guaranteed", atra šiyipheles "it will definitely fall eventually".

Locative prefixes

The locative prefixes indicate a location or motion and precede indirect object prefixes and often occur word-initially, when a verb does not contain any proclitics. There are several locative or dimensional prefixes and they are different for every grammatical person (there is no animacy distinction in third person):

Singular Dual Plural
1st person zin- win- min-
2nd person ti- tiu- tin-
3rd person ni- ri- nin-

Indirect object

The indirect object is expressed with prefixes, which can be used with all verb types (for verbs, that cannot have a subject, this is the only way to show a grammatical person). In ditransitive verbs the indirect object marker serves a dative or, less commonly, instrumental role. Kirtumur indirect object prefixes are shown in the table below:

Singular Dual Plural
1st person za- zau- me-
2nd person la- lau- le-
3rdAn person na- nau- ne-
3rdIn person ca- cau- ce-

The other set of indirect object markers are the comitative suffixes, which encodes a relationship of "accompaniment" between two participants in an event. Only animate participants can be marked with the comitative suffix, otherwise the indirect object prefix would be used.

Singular Dual Plural
1st person -ta -tak -taphi
2nd person -tar -tarak -tarpi
3rd person -(e)nta -(e)ntak (e)ntaphi

The comitative suffixes are not used very often and only with animate nouns: neihaluistar "I will go there with you". Inanimate nous are instead marked as oblique objects: muŋis nini ixicalakte heim "The child ran out of the house with food" (food-Abs child-Abs 3Sg.And-3sg.IndObj-3sgSubj-run-PRF house-Abs).

Directional prefixes

Two prefixes, used most commonly with verbs of motion are the andative prefix xi- and the venitive prefix ei-/i-. In the general sense, the prefix "ei" shows movement towards the listener or the deictic centre and "xi" shows movement from or away from it: taukhiŋ leihašalis "I will travel to you tomorrow" and laxišileis mu-ŋiarepe "I will leave (from) you now, since I don’t feel good". The andative is used less often, than the venitive and in some cases this prefix can be dropped, when the meaning of a phrase can be inferred from the context: lašilais ("about to leave you"). The venitive prefix also has the meaning "about": eneiyatumu "We were talking about it". Also, if there is no movement involved, the venitive prefix denotes a certain nearness to the speaker and means "here": neihalellešis "I will be staying here".

Voice and valency

Verbs refer to actions and states which involve participants. The number and kinds of participants involved differ between different actions and states and thus between different verbs. In this way every verb combines with a specific set of grammatical relations (subject and objects). This set is called its valency. Kirtumur has several mechanisms which change the normal valency of a verb. The middle, passive and antipassive voices reduce its valency. For increasing the valency of a verb, it has causative constructions.


Middle voice is unmarked and morphologically looks fairly similar to the active voice of intransitive verbs: hakaure "I am sleeping (active)", hakhat "I stop (middle)"; the only difference is the absence of "-e" in middle verbs. The subject of such verbs is like the subject of active verbs, but it is also affected by the action it performs. This also makes this voice similar to reflexive, which, unlike the former, has a direct object, which is the same as the subject: ecamakhat "I stopped myself from (doing) it".


An antipassive is an intransitive construction derived from a transitive one by changing the agent of a transitive verb into an intransitive subject, while the former patient becomes the adjunct. Unlike middle verbs, an antipassive verb must contain the adjunct and it can never be dropped: hakhathō "I stop you" (lit: I stop to/by you") from khathō "I stop you". Antipassive is rarely used on its own, it usually emphasises contrast or focuses on the intransitive subject of a sentence.


In a clause with passive voice, the patient of the main verb becomes the intransitive subject, while the former agent is deleted. Morphologically it is formed from a transitive verb by replacing its person suffix with a prefix m-: khathō "I stop you" – mōkhathe "You are stopped" (here the suffix "-e" reappears, because it is no longer blocked by the person suffix). Unlike antipassive, passivisation always involves deleting the transitive subject, never changing it into an adjunct. This construction is called the dynamic passive, the usage of which is restricted, because it is similar to reflexive and in some cases the forms can coincide: meyil means either "it was thrown away" or "it threw itself away". Kirtumur solves this ambiguity by mainly choosing a reflexive meaning, while for a passive meaning the stative passive is used instead: yilauni "thrown away"; this is a non-finite verb form and usually such forms cannot be used on their own in a sentence, for example, the sentence heimnu ritēni amax "(this) is the place, where his/her house is built" is correct, because it contains a predicate amax, while *heimnu ritēni yim "*here his/her house built" is not valid, because it requires a finite verb. A stative passive differs from a dynamic passive in that it only indicates the event or state and does not specify its duration. The form heim mirite "the house is being built" indicates that the action is ongoing, unlike the previous example.

Reflexive and Reciprocal

A reflexive verb has the same semantic agent and patient (typically represented syntactically by the intransitive subject and thus behave the same way as intransitive verbs in Kirtumur), for example: mithue "he/she is washing him-/herself". A reciprocal verb denotes that the agents perform the mutual actions among themselves, as in English constructions using "each other", for instance: ukhiaŋu "they love each other". Thus, reflexive is marked by the prefix m-, while reciprocal is marked by the prefix u- and can only be used with dual or plural forms. If used with the singular, u- becomes a patient focus instead, but this form is obsolete. Both forms are made from transitive verbs.


Kirtumur has two causative constructions, one derived from an intransitive construction and the other – from a transitive construction. In both cases the valency of the verb is increased by one participant. The causative of an intransitive verb becomes a regular transitive verb: the intransitive subject becomes the patient, while the causer is expressed by the agent. Such verbs, as "to hold" or "to do", are intransitive by default and in order to indicate the subject they require causative: ikhe "she/he is doing (something)" hēlnim khaē "she/he is casting a spell". The causative of a transitive construction is derived in a slightly different way. The causer is likewise expressed by the agent, but the original agent becomes the indirect object. The original patient remains unchanged: nakhei ŋeša uttexe "I made him/her do it faster" (3Sg.IndObj-do-1sgAg.3sgPat fast-INF before-DAT).

Non-finite verb forms

Kirtumur has several non-finite verb forms. As noted above, they cannot be the root of an independent clause. These forms are further divided into two classes: infinitives and participles, although such a division is not clearly defined.


Paticiples combine the characteristics and functions of both finite verbs and adjectives (which are non-finite stative verbs in Kirtumur). They are connected to certain grammatical tenses: there are present and past participles (future participles were present in the earliest varieties of Kirtumur, probably under the Kērsalur influence); and they also inflect for voice: active, middle, passive and antipassive. They are also exlusively deverbal, unlike adjectives.

Voice Present Past
(affirmative) (negative) (affirmative) (negative)
Active -in -imi -anu -ōmu
Middle -is -isma -ēs -ēsma
Passive -ēni -ēmi -auni -eumi
Antipassive -un -uma -ōn -ōma

The following examples illustrate how different participles are used:

  • Eneni Wamešti ŋisin.
    "I saw Wameshti eating" (while she was eating).
  • Heimax mauzenē curitēni.
    "There is a house, built on the mountain".
  • Eneni namtal tachatis.
    "I saw the door opening".
  • Neizalzal Wamešti wa ŋaškin nicatekun.
    "He/She waits for Wameshti to pour water into a cup".

In many cases participles can be substituted with infinitives without changing the general meaning.


Kirtumur infinitives are very similar to pariciples, but differ from them morhologically, having different forms. They also encompass a broader variety of forms, including stative verbs. Infinitive phrases, unlike participle phrases, often have an implied grammatical subject making them effectively clauses rather than phrases. Their subject is in the absolutive or (more rarely) dative case:

Urukum mauzkannuex namtartum kupeita ...
Urukum mauz-kan-nu-ex namtartum-Ø kup-a-ita ...
Urugumis mountain-PL-3SG.POSS=DAT border-ABS stand-INF.IPFV-PL ...
"The Urugumis Mountains mark the border".

The Kirtumur infinitive has four tenses (imperfective, aorist, future and perfect). Unlike participles, infinitives have no voice distinction. They can often have adverbial meanings, for example: hul-kha "to do wrong (in a wrong way)". Infinitives are often used in declarative sentences, mostly in connexion with verbs of saying (tuma) or thinking (hesa), but also such verbs, as "hope" unkara, "expect" pišša: itum kina "he/she thinks he/she is correct"; in some idiomatic expression: neituma... "they say, that" (literally: "of it to say"), neišala... "I heard, that..." (lit: "of it to hear").

All types of Kirtumur infinitives are represented in the table below:

Tense Suffix Example Translation
(affirmative) (negative)
Imperfective -a -akha rira "to write/to be writing"
Future -eis -eiska rireis "to be about to write"
Aorist -ei -eikha rirei "to write (once)"
Perfect -tei -teikha rirtei "to have written"

The difference between the imperfective and the aorist infinitive is aspect or state of action. More specifically, the imperfective infinitive denotes the process or course of the state of an action or being, while the aorist infinitive marks the completion of the state of an action, expressing a well-defined or well-delineated state of an action or being. The future infinitive denotes events or states, that will occur soon, and the perfect infinitive shows an action or event as whole and complete.


A copular clause is a grammatical unit which consists of three parts: a subject, a nominal or adjectival predicate, and the copula clitic. The subject of such a phrase, if present, is in the absolutive case. The predicate can be either a noun phrase, to which the copula directly attaches, or a stative verb, which does not require the clitic in many cases. Here is an example of a copular clause:

Yira Mulittari Kappalu muiššarnuax
yi-ra Mulittar-i Kappalu mu-iššar-nu-ax
this-time Mulittar=ABS Kappalu=ABS


"at this time the ruler of Kappalu is Mulittari"

This copular clause consists of an adjunct (yerōnei), a subject (Mulittari), and a nominal predicate (Kappalu muiššarnuax), which includes the copular clitic (-ax). Kirtumur only has only one copular clitic. Older varieties of Kirtumur also had a separate word ula ("to be somewhere") which only expresses the locational or temporal meaning, but is not present in Umunesal, using the clitic for that purpose as well. The copula is never used independently, like in Kērsalur, where even there independent copula is rare. Some old texts and Erepursal copy that usage, even though it had never been present in any spoken variety of Kirtumur: ektei ma "it was me, who did it" (the spoken version would instead be: nu eaktei). Below are the forms of the clitic copula, based on person and number of a subject. There is no animacy distinction in the third person.

singular dual plural
1st person -ma/-am -mawa -meita
2nd person -ōwa -ōita
3rd person -ax -xawa -xeita

Compound verbs

There is a limited number of ways to make new verbs in Kirtumur. The most productive way is to combine existing words to make a compound with a different meaning. This process is called composition, for example: hatallu "to come and go/to go back and forth" (lit. "come-walk"). Some of such compounds cannot be separated by any words or affixes, usually when two words belong to the same class, such as in the previous example, while other compounds act as separate words phonologically. Such compounds are called phrasal verbs: namšarkat kapa "to rob" (lit."to robbery commit"), huleilim kapa "to argue" (lit. "to arguing commit"), pēr šama "to decorate" (lit. "to hand touch"). A special case is the word kha "to make/ to do", which is used in a large amount of compounds, for example: hēlnim-khaē "she/he is casting a spell". In fact it is used so often, that it became a clitic in most componds: eixulakta "he/she has made an appearance".

Derivational affixes are exceedingly rare, they are no longer productive and became fossilised, apart from the causative and reduplicated forms, for instance: taun "lightning" – taunašna "to hit by lightning"; tara "to split" – ektara "to ascend".


Some verbs in their imperfective and perfect forms have special stems, which differ in form from the primary stem. Which verb has such a stem is not entirely unpredictable. These verbs typically have a progressive meaning or are used with collective or plural nouns. A few of the verbs with special stems have paradigms with suppletive stems instead, for example, the verb "to come" hatta is etat- in its aorist forms, but hatat- in its imperfective. The verb lu "to go" has a progressive counterpart lalak ("to go for a walk/to go out"). Most verbs with a special stem, however, have one which is reduplicated. For a monosyllabic verb stems of the C1VC2 type reduplication is straightforward: kaša "to sew" – kaškaša "to be sewing"; khara "to cut" - kharkara "to cut into pieces". For larger verb stems or stems with a different shape there are several reduplication patterns:

  • C1V1C2V2C3 → C1V1C2V2C2V2C3: kecapa "to cover/to wear" – kecacapa "to get dressed";
  • C1V1C2C3V3C4 → C1V1C2C1V1C3V3C4: teppala "to sink/ subside" – tettepala "to dive".

These forms are treated as separate words rather then different forms of the same word, because they can often differ in meaning. Old reduplicated verbs, inherited from Proto-Kyrdan, can often show ablaut, especially verbs that contain diphthongs: phela "to fall" – phelpala "to be falling down". Ablaut had become non-productive already in Proto-Kyrdan, but its daughter languages preserved some relics of it. Kirtumur preserves ablaut only in derivational morphology as a relic, new verbs cannot be created this way anymore: nila "to float (by itself)" – nala "to hover (with an active effort)"; hesa "to think" – hasta "to have an idea".

Plurality is typically marked on verbs with suffixes, but some verbs have reduplicated stems instead. These forms should also be treated as separate verbs: itume "she/he says (intransitive)" – tumtumētu "they are discussing it (transitive)".