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Nahónda, also known as Nónda and referred to by its own speakers as Nahónda keloma (lit. "Nahónda speak"), is a language centered in Northwestern Montana. It is bordered by the Lakota Nation to the east, by the Cheyenne to the south, and the Blackfeet and Crow Nations to the north. Along its western border lies the Nez Percé Nation. Long considered a language isolate, new analyses has demonstrated it shares a common lineage with Minhast and Nankôre. It has now been classified as a member of the Nahenic language family, a small family that includes Minhast and Nankóre, as well as the recently discovered Neina or Na'ena language in northeast Siberia. Nahónda is the second largest member of this family, around 60,450 members in the First Nations Confederation, with a few expatriate communities the largest of which exists in southern Manitoba at around nine hundred members. Minhast remains the population juggernaut, at 26 million members in the Minhast homeland, and around 3 million more scattered in expatriate communities throughout the rest of the world.

Nahónda is an agglutinative and fusional language which is most apparent in its complex verb forms. Its morphosyntactic alignment is split-intransitive of the Fluid-S subtype. Agents are explicitly marked while patients receive null marking. Nahónda canonical word order is SOV, as in both Minhast and Nankóre, but word order is quite flexible and may deviate from SOV word order for pragmatics or other discourse considerations. Like Minhast, it is considered a polysynthetic language as it exhibits polypersonal agreement, noun incorporation, head marking, holophrasis, and the occurrence of adverbial, modal, and evidential markers inside the verb complex. The evolution of Nahónda polysynthesis is complex, reflecting both developments from its Nahenic ancestry, and influences from outside sources, especially the Siouan languages.

The influence of other Native North American languages cannot be overstated, as many had a major impact on the phonology, morphology, and lexicon of the Nahónda language, especially the Lakota language. These influences caused it to diverge from it sister languages to the point that earlier linguists considered it to be a member of the Siouan languages, although the Iroquoian language family was also a main contender.


Nahónda phonology is relatively straightforward. Except for ejectives, its phonemic inventory otherwise consists of an average set of consonants, and a five-vowel system. Its phonemic inventory is considerably larger than Nankóre, which lost most of its voiced consonants, and is slightly larger than Minhast, which lacks affricates. In syllabic structure, a CV syllabic structure predominates and almost all words end in a vowel, although intermedial biconsonantal clusters do occur, e.g. wanko /waŋku/ "that one over there".

Nahónda Consonantal Inventory

Under the influence of Siouan Sprachbund, Nahónda is the only Nahenic language that has preserved the original ejectives reconstructed from the protolanguage. The velar fricative and pharyngeal fricative were also lost, merging with /h/. The rhotic /r/ merged with /l/, likely due to Lakota influence.

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal Laryngeal
Plain Ejective Plain Ejective Plain Ejective Plain Ejective
Nasal m n
Plosive p b p' t d t' k g k' ʔ
Fricative s z s' ʃ ʒ h
Affricates t͡s d͡z t͡s' t͡ʃ d͡ʒ t͡ʃ'
Approximants w j
Lateral l

Nahónda Vowel Inventory

  Front Near- front Central Near- back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg


  • Initial voiceless consonants in affixes, or initial voiceless consonants arising from reduplication become voiced when they occur in word-initial position, e.g.:

- Reduplication: tonka "one buffalo" → datonka "two or more buffalo".
- Affixation:

1. No affix:


He lies down.

2. With affix:


He lays him down.




Like Minhast, Nahónda has a four-way gender distinction: masculine, feminine, neuter animate, and neuter inanimate. Just as in Minhast, Nahónda does not attach gender markers on nouns, but rather agreement affixes in the verb complex take up this role, each affix indicating the gender of its cross-indexed nominal argument. The verb's agreement affixes cross-index core roles, i.e. the agent and patient. If non-core nouns have been previously marked with deictic markers, a total of two additional markers can occupy the Extended slot of the verb template to cross-index the marked nouns.

Regardless, all nouns have inherent gender which must be memorized individually in order to select the proper verbal agreement affixes, or correctly identify the gender of a peripheral noun.


Unlike Minhast and Nankôre, Nahónda explicitly marks number on nouns with the affix -pi. This affix is a borrowing from Lakota. To indicate collectives, particularly of animals, reduplication is employed, e.g. tatselo[1] "elk" → tatatselo "a herd of elk". Collectives can be further pluralized, e.g. tatatselotatatselopi "elk herds".


Nahónda distinguishes two core cases, agent and patient, and one oblique case, the genitive. The Patient case is unmarked and serves as the direct object of most transitive verbs, and the subject of stative verbs. The Genitive marks possessors, e.g. Džalo-da wíkha "Dzhalo's rope. Additionally, it marks the recipient with donor verbs, e.g. wíkha Džalo-da nitsátačeyo "Give Dzhalo the rope", the hearer of speech verbs, e.g. Enane-da kelómatačeyelo "Speak to Mother!", as well as the direct or indirect object of transitive verbs belonging to other semantic types, e.g. Goal, Experiencer, etc.

Nahónda Case Markers
Suffix Sample Paradigm
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Agent -hi -hipi šúnkawakáne-hi šúnkawakáne-hipi
Patient -∅ -pi šúnkawakáne šúnkawakáne-pi
Genitive -da -dapi šúnkawakáneda šúnkawakáne-dapi

Pronominal Forms

Number Person Agent Patient
Independent Bound Independant Bound
Singular 1st yate -ya- ya -ya-
2nd itá -ta- ta -ta-
3rd Masc. kane -∅- ka -∅-
3rd Fem. kicela -kice- la -la-
3rd Neut. Anim. séha -se- se -se-
3rd Neut. Inanim. ma -ma- tsila -tsi-
Plural 1st Incl akene -ake- ake -ke-
1st Excl nene -ne- ne -ne-
2nd tahene -tahe- ta -ta-
3rd Common kene -ke- ke -ke-
3rd Neut. Anim. setse -se- se -se-
3rd Neut. Inanim. mate -ma- ma -ma-


Like its relatives Minhast and Nankôre, Nahónda makes a four-way distinction in its demonstratives. With the exception of the Invisible Demonstrative, all of the demonstratives have demonstrable cognates with another Nahenic language, namely Nankôre, and in one of the Minhast dialects[2]. The Nahónda demonstratives are listed in the following table:

Type Independent Translation Example Nahenic Cognates
Proximal nótsalo This one, near the speaker nahón nótsalo
"this man here"
  • Minhast Gull Speaker dialect:
  • Nankôre: hosiayri
Medio-Proximal iyáyalo This/that one near the listener "that" nahón iyáyalo
"that man next to you"
  • Minhast Gull Speaker dialect:
    -eyyar-, -yyar-
  • Nankôre: yaiyayri
Distal pʼáyalo Yonder, far from both speaker and listener nahón pʼáyalo
"yonder man""
  • Minhast Gull Speaker dialect:
  • Nankôre: paypayri
Invisible nando Used for objects beyond sight or obstructed
by another object.

It may also be used for a person or thing being
referred to within a narrative or other discourse,
and sometimes as a decessive.

nahón nando
"that man (e.g. on the
other side
of the mountain)"
  • Minhast Stone Speaker dialect:
    -onda- "to conceal"(?)[3]

Šúnkawakaninéhi pʼáyalo owožutkopi kasukakatsané.
šúnkawakáne-ne-hi pʼáyalo owožu-tko-pi ka-suka~ka-tsa-né
horse-DET.cylindrical.object-AGT DIST grass-DET.flat.prone.object-PL 3MS.AGT-run~INT-EVID.VIS-CONJ.CL

That horse is always racing across the plains.

The demonstratives may also be used as substantives, acquiring full noun status. Additional suffixes, such as determiners and case markers, may then attach to them, e.g.:

Pʼáyalonehi owožutkopi kasukakatsané.
Pʼáyalo-ne-hi owožu-tko-pi ka-suka~ka-tsa-né
DIST-DET.cylindrical.object-AGT grass-DET.flat.prone.object-PL 3MS.AGT-run~INT-EVID.VIS-CONJ.CL

That (cylindrical-shaped) one is always racing across the plains.

The demonstratives also have verbal clitic forms. For more information on the verbal clitic forms, refer to the verb section.


Like many languages that fall in the Siouan Sprachbund, Nahónda uses determiners to mark size and shape information on nouns. These determiners occur as a set of suffixes that attach to the noun preceding any case markers. These suffixes, descended from postural and motion verbs, reflect an evolutionary pathway similar to the non-Siouan languages. The verbs from which these suffixes developed originate from Nahenic roots.

Shape Motion Affix Source and Cognates Examples
Squat/Bulky Moving -ksa-
  • Proto-Nahenic *peθ- "to be still"
  • Neina bod "tree"
  • Common Minhast puħt- "to stand upright"
  • Stone Speaker Minhast puhuta- "to steady, fix in place"
  • Nankóre ikca "to fall down"
  • Old Nahónda *ketsa "to sit down"
Tatonkaksahi pʼáyalo owožutkopi sesukakatsané.
tatonka-ksa-hi pʼáyalo owožu-tko-pi se-suka~ka-tsan-é.
buffalo-DET.squat.object-AGT DIST grass-DET.flat.prone.object-PL 3NS.ANIM.AGT-run-INT-EVID.VIS-CONJ.CL

That buffalo is running across the plain.
Flat Stationary -tko-
  • Proto-Nahenic *yaphet- "to lie down"
  • Neina yovgod "tundra"
  • Common Minhast yafkut "flatlands, level terrain"
  • Nankóre ekkót "to lie down"
  • Proto-Nahónda *ikote "to sleep"
Cylindrical Moving -ne-
  • Proto-Nahenic *neoy-, nioy- "log"
  • Neina neyoy "snag"
  • Minhast nūy (Salmonic dialects), nuyyi (Horse Speaker dialect) "tree trunk"
  • Nankóre tanottáyta' "obstruction" < *tanayoy ta'itá' "It (INAN) tripped s.o/s.t (ANIM)."
Šúnkawakaninéhi pʼáyalo owožutkopi kasukakatsané
wanko šúnkawakáne-ne-hi owožu-tko-pi ka-suka~ka-tsan-é
DIST horse-DET.moving.object-AGT grass-DET.flat.prone.object-PL 3MS.AGT-run~INT-EVID.VIS-CONJ.CL

That horse is always racing across the plains.
Thin + Upright Stationary -lo-
  • Proto-Nahenic *roθj- "to be thin"
  • Neina rožo "stick; bow drill (for making fire)"
  • Common Minhast ruħyan "to starve"
  • Nankóre raš "to be hungry"
  • Proto-Nahónda *luya "to be skinny"
Tayénalo pʼáyalo tsožutkopi tsan-é
tayena-lo pʼáyalo tsa-wožu-tko-pi tsan-é
tree-DET.thin.upright.object DIST COLL-grass-DET.flat.object-PL stand-CONJ.CL

That lone tree stands by itself on the prairie.
Sharp or tapering Stationary -tso-
  • Proto-Nahenic
  • Neina
  • Common Minhast kassu "tooth"
  • Nankóre


Determiners may be added to verb complexes to create nominalizations:

Wanku yakitsítsala keklománalo kaynanči
/'waŋko jaki't͡sit͡sala kɛklo'manalo ka'jant͡ʃi/
Wanku ya-kitsitsa-lá ke~kloma-ná-lo kay-nan-či
DIST 1S.AGT-talk.about-PST REDUP~talk-CONJ.CL-DET.thin.upright.object good-be-NEG

That one I mentioned earlier, the one chatting there, is not a good person. Lit. "Over there I mentioned, talk-talks the thin one good is not".


Nahónda employs a base-10 system, although remnants of a base-20 system exist, as in tsentsatsa "twenty" (c.f. Minhast šentāz "twenty") and tsatsentatse "forty" (c.f. Minhast saššentāz "forty"). Siouan influence manifests again, from the numbers eleven through nineteen in the form of the prefix ak-, e.g. aktsunó "eleven" and aktsané "twelve". The prefix is derived from the Lakota prefix aké- found in the numbers eleven and up, as in the Lakota numbers akéwaŋži "eleven", and akénuŋpa "twelve", both literally meaning "ten and one" and "ten and two", respectively.

The accent shifted to ultimate position in virtually all numbers with the exceptions tsentsatsa and tsatsentatse. These exceptions usually occur where the base-20 system of the proto-language surface. Ironically, in their Minhast cognates the last syllable is stressed due to vowel lengthening of the final closed syllables, i.e. šentāz /ʃɛn'ta:z/ and saššentāz /saʃ:ɛn'ta:z/.

Number Cardinal Ordinal Verbal
one tsunó
two tsané
three dutsá
four maná
five gdané
six tsihá
seven glihá
eight nuná
nine galó
ten tatsnó
eleven aktsunó (ak- is derived from Lakota aké-, used for the 10's unit)
twelve aktsané
thirteen aktutsé
fourteen agmaná
fifteen akatsé
sixteen aktsihé
seventeen aglihé
eighteen agnuné
nineteen agdalé
twenty tsentsatsa
twenty-one tsanke tsunó
twenty-two tsanke tsané
twenty-three šentāz-u-duxt <--
thirty šentāz-u-tazem
forty tsatsentatse
fifty saššentāz-u-tazem
sixty duššentāz
seventy duššentāz-u-tazem
eighty meneštazem
ninety meneštazem-u-tazem
one hundred gādi
one thousand gaggādi


Verb Template

The polysynthetic Nahónda verb follows a templatic paradigm (c.f. Northern Iroquioan languages). A comparison of the Nahónda verb template with the verb template of its Minhast relative reveals major differences in their verbal structures. Nevertheless, certain components of each language's template reveal a common heritage with their Proto-Nahenic progenitor.

The Nahónda verb is divided into three major segments: the initials, the verb core, and the finals. These roughly correspond with the Minhast preverb, verb core, and the terminative. The Nahónda verb template is illustrated in the following table:

Nahónda Verb Template
Conjunctives Scalars Causative Pronominals
Active Patient Extensions
Verb Core
Reflexive/Reciprocal Root Incorporated Noun Tense/Aspect Conjugation Class
Adverbials Locationals Precatives Finals

The most noticeable difference between Nahónda and Minhast is the order and number of slots in their respective verb templates. The position of the pronominal elements particularly stand out; the Nahónda pronominal affixes appear before the verb root, while in Minhast the pronominals appear after the verb root. Adverbial affixes in Nahónda appear after the verb root, while in Minhast they appear in preverbal position, in the Mood-Tense-Manner slot. Additionally, the adverbial affixes in Nahónda are circumscribed: only some adverbial affixes may co-occur with each other, and when they do, they appear in rigid order, otherwise only one affix may occur at a time; while in Minhast, any number of adverbial affixes may appear and their ordering is highly variable, based on discourse considerations. Certain slot categories appear in one language and are absent in the other; Nahónda has a category for Conjunctives which are lacking in Minhast, while in Minhast the Applicatives slot does not appear in the Nahónda verb template. There are more slot categories in Minhast, which give the appearance that Minhast is more polysynthetic than Nahónda. For comparison, the Minhast verb template is presented below:

Minhast Verb Template
Scalar Operators Locationals I Mood-Aspect-Manner Control Applicatives
Verb Core
Root Incorporated Noun Prepronominals Pronominals Tense-Aspect Participials Transitivity
Evidentials Miratives Locationals II Emphatic Imperative Subordinators Irrealis Nominalizer

Nevertheless, there are certain patterns shared by both languages. In both languages, the scalar operators appear before the verb root in both languages. The position of the incorporated noun appears directly after the verb in both languages, an otherwise rare phenomenon in polysynthetic languages. The causative appears before the verb root in both languages, occupying a single slot within the Nahónda verb template, and Slot 3 of the Preverbal affixes in the Minhast template. Moreover, the tense/aspect and so-called "Conjugation Class", coinciding with the slot for the Minhast transitivity markers, appear after the verb root, in the same ordinal position in both languages. The placement of these slots relative to the verb root is not coincidental but is the result from a shared ancestry.

Interestingly, their non-polysynthetic relative, Nankôre, employs a similar process to noun incorporation called Quasi-Incorporation. And just as in Nahónda and Minhast, the quasi-incorporated noun appears immediately after the verb root, just before the verbal auxiliary.

The postverbal position of the incorporated or quasi-incorporated noun is a shared feature among the three languages, apparently inherited from the Nahenic protolanguage.

Comparison of Incorporated Noun Position in Nahenic Languages
Nahónda Minhast Nankóre
Default m
Bakran kemaran suharak iyyatixrisipsaptarmakabukilmaksaš?
Bakran kem=aran suharak yyat-xr-sipsap-tar-mak-ab-u-kilmakš=aš

Why must I keep on bringing (these) letters back and forth between them?
Makse rihat tayôreno ta'itá
/'makʃɛ̯ ɾi'hat ta'yo:reno taʔɪt'aʔ/
makse rihat ta=yôre=no ta-itá-ʔ
mouse.LA falcon.HA INV=bite=SEM INV-HS.COP-LS

The mouse bit the falcon.
Bakran iyyatixridustipsapsuħraktarkenkabukilmaksaš?
Bakran yyat-xr-dut-sipsab-suharak-tar-kenk-ab-u-kilmaks=aš

Why must I keep on bringing (these) letters back and forth between them?
Makse yôreno rihat 'itá'
/'makʃɛ̯ 'yo:reno ɾi'hat ɪt'aʔ/
makse yôre=no rihat ∅-itá-ʔ
mouse.LA bite=SEM falcon DIR-COP-LS

The mouse falcon-bit.
Reflexives and Reciprocals
Verb Root
Incorporated Noun
Tense and Aspect

Nahónda distinguishes two basic aspects, an imperfect and perfect, and six tenses, remote past, simple past, present, immediate future, simple future, and remote future.

Conjugation Class

The Conjugation Class slot is occupied by one of three suffixes or their allomorphs, -no, -né, and -na. These suffixes are descended from Proto-Nahenic auxiliaries, transitive *ne'nok "do", and intransitive*ya'na:ʔ "be". [4] While both Minhast and Nankôre preserve the distinction of transitive-intransitive or active-stative meanings from the protolanguage's auxiliaries, a considerable amount of syncretism has occurred in Nahónda. So while a slightly higher number of active verbs end with -no and stative verbs with -né or -na in their basic forms, many active verbs have -né or -na endings, and -no for stative verbs. Interestingly, when a third person singular agent acts on a third person singular patient, the verb obligatorily takes the -no ending, as third person singular agents and third person singular patients both take null marking.[5] This so-called "no-flipping" of -né/-na endings is the primary way of cross-indexing the agent when it experiences pro-drop. [6]

Local Affixes
Type Clitic Translation Example Nahenic Cognates
Proximal -tsaló here nahón=tsaló "this man here"
  • Minhast Gull Speaker dialect:
  • Nankôre: hosiayri
Medio-Proximal -eló-, -yelo- there,
close to you
"I see it next to you."
  • Minhast Gull Speaker dialect:
    -eyyar-, -yyar-
  • Nankôre: yaiyayri
Distal -peló yonder nahón=peló "yonder man""
  • Minhast Gull Speaker dialect:
  • Nankôre: paypayri


way over there
beyond sight
  • Minhast Stone Speaker dialect:
    -onda- "to conceal"(?)[7]
Male/Female Speech Clitics

Nahónda verbs use special clitics to differentiate whether the speaker is male or female. These clitics have no cognates in any of the Nahenic languages, but were adopted from their immediate Siouan-speaking neighbors, specifically, the Lakota. They are apparently a recent borrowing, as the forms and functions are the same as in Lakota, albeit having undergone a few trivial sound changes to accommodate the Nahónda phonemic inventory.

Male Female
Mild Assertive =yeló =ye
Emphatic Assertive n/a =kšó
Request =ye =na
Informal Interrogative =he
Formal Interrogative =huwo
Dubitative =so =se

Verb Types

Verb Stacking

Nahónda utilizes verb stacking for a variety of purposes. A clause containing the head verb is followed by one or more modifier verbs for various morphosyntactic processes that would otherwise be handled by verbal inflection as in other polysynthetic languages, case systems, or independent particles.

As was mentioned earlier, Nahónda lacks both adpositions and applicatives to indicate grammatical relations[8], both of which its relative Minhast possesses. Nahónda employs verb stacking in lieu of adpositional marking and applicativization to specify grammatical relations. Verb stacking may also be employed to convey various adverbial meanings.

In Nahónda, the clause containing the verb head, i.e. the "main verb", precedes the modifiers[9]. This is an unusual feature, as most(??) languages that employ verb stacking place the modifying verb before its head. Placement of the dependents appears to be motivated by scopal considerations, with each element having leftward scope over all elements preceding it in the verb phrase. The dependents are also are unmarked for TAM, and person marking is null, i.e. the dependents take third person singular marking. Instead, the dependents inherit their person and TAM marking from the main verb.

An example of verb stacking, with the verbs tatʼano ("to give") to convey an Allative relation, and bana ("to be quick") to convey immediacy, are illustrated in the following gloss:

Gokódené yakalódona tatʼano bana.
/go'ko:dɛnɛ: jaka'lo:dona 'tatʼano 'bana
gokóde-ne ya-∅-kaló-dona ∅-tatʼa-∅-∅-no ba-∅-∅-na
enemy-DET.cylindrical_moving 1S.AGT-3S.PT-throw-spear-PST give.3S-PFCT-PST-CONJ be.swift-PFCT-PST-CONJ

I immediately threw the spear at the enemy warrior mounted on horseback.

The following table contains the most commonly used verbs in serialization constructions.

Verb Meaning Cognates Examples
Ablative amané to approach Minhast hān "to come"
Comitative tsakané to accompany Minhast saħpan "to walk"
Instrumental tsipilače to use Minhast sespir "hand"
Yanelowonkeči, gatsatso yatsitsipilače
/janelo'wɔ̃ŋkɛt͡ʃi 'gat͡sat͡so jat͡sit͡si'pilat͡ʃɛ/
ya-ne-lo-awonke-če, gatsa-tso ya-ts-tsipila-če
1S.AGT-DET.cylindrical.object.stationary-DET.pointed.object.stationary-kill-TRN arrow-DET.pointed.object.stationary 1S.AGT-DET.pointed.object.stationary-use-TRN

I killed (the deer) with this arrow, lit. "I killed this one using this arrow."
Locative tsatsené to sit down Minhast saššian "to sit"
Takasalačé Anyale wanku tiksa tsatsená.
ta-ka-sala-čé anyale wanku ti-ksa tsatse-ná
2S.AGT-3S.PT-see-TRN PN.3S.PT DIST tipi-DET.squat.object sit-STAT

You will see Anyar inside that tipi.
Perlative [10] iláyaná to ford a river, stream, or other body of water
  • Neina dayan "water" (?)
  • Minhast dannum, dannua "water" (?)
  • Nankôre tanno "water" (?)
tahomatanélo wakpádze tadzeláyače kádaiga tagatsipilačeyo.
ta-homata-né-lo wakpá-dze ta-dze-iláya-če wanku kádai-ga ta-ga-tsipila-če-yo
2S.AGT-go-AGT.INTR-male.speech river-DET.slow.moving.object 2S.AGT-DET.slow.moving.object-go.across-TRN canoe-DET.stationary.long.object 2S.AGT-DET.stationary.long.object-use-TRN-male.speech

Go across the river in that canoe.



Reduplication is pervasive in Nahónda. In nouns, they indicate:

  1. Plurality

In verbs, reduplication is employed for:

  1. Durative aspect



  1. ^ Tatselo is cognate with Minhast kaslub "dog", and Nankóre kospor "fox".
  2. ^ Specifically, the Gull Speaker dialect's verbal local affixes. This dialect is also remarkable in sharing features with other Nahenic languages not found in any other Minhast dialect
  3. ^ This remains a highly contested hypothesis.
  4. ^ In Classical Minhast and many of the modern northern dialects, these became the transitive -un and intransitive -an affixes, and -u and -an in all other dialects. In Nankôre, the Proto-Nahenic auxiliaries survive as the verb unna, "to make", and the stative auxiliary iná.
  5. ^ Its Minhast relative shares this null-marking feature
  6. ^ The Siouan languages also null-mark third person singular agents and patients, but there is no reason to conclude that they contributed to no-flipping.
  7. ^ This remains a highly contested hypothesis.
  8. ^ Aka theta-roles
  9. ^ Interestingly, the order of dependent verbs mirrors the placement of verb affixes in the Eskaleut languges.
  10. ^ The words listed as possible cognates for the Perlative from the other Nahenic languages are highly speculative, as most scholars agree that Nahónda preserved Proto-Nahenic */d/. A sound shift from /d/ -> /l/ lacks supporting evidence; the /d/ -> /l/ alternation found in the Lakota dialects is insufficient to explain the phonological realization of the Perlative, as sound changes in Nahenic roots have by and large resulted from internal processes within Nahónda itself.