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Created byAnyar
SettingPacific Northwest
Native toNanhoshka Kôya
EthnicityNanhoshka people
Native speakers3,232,430 (2014)
  • Nankoric
    • Nankôre
Official status
Official language in
Koya Island


Nankôre, from the words nan ("man, human") and kôre ("speech"), is spoken by the Nanhoshka people of Kôya Island. There are two main dialects, the Konishmak, located in the Northeastern Coastal Mountains, and the Sapshira, encompassing the western and southern parts of the country. The dialects differ chiefly in pronunciation and differences in certain lexical items, but are otherwise mutually intelligible.

For a little over a century the origins of the language and its people remain clouded in mystery. Physically, the Nanhoshka people look distinct from the Northwest Pacific Native Americans just 862 kilometers from the eastern shore, but their physical features bear a strikingly close resemblance to the Minhast people of the Republic of Minhay, who live much further away on the other side of the Pacific Ocean close to Japan and Moshir Ainu. Because of these physical resemblances, both anthropologists and linguists started exploring a possible relationship between the two peoples. Recent genetic research uncovered that both the Nanhoshka and Minhast belong to the haplogroup C-M212, indicating a common ancestry. Linguists had a more difficult task in establishing a relationship. Finally Benson et. al. compiled an extensive Swadesh list and internally consistent sound correspondences between the two languages. Most importantly, a set of affixes that were quite conservative were revealed, notably the Causative affix, and a set of fossilized affixes which are prefixed to body parts to derive verbs. In addition, a third language, Nahónda, also previously classified as a language isolate, was discovered to contain common vocabulary and affixes which it shared with both Nankôre and Minhast. Therefore, both Nankôre and Minhast, along with Nahónda, are now recognized as belonging to the same language family, which has been named the Nahenic language family.

Typology and Grammatical Overview

Like Minhast and Nahónda, Nankôre is an SOV language. However, unlike its relatives, Nankôre is not a polysynthetic language but is relatively sparse in terms of affixes for determining syntactic relations. Nouns do not receive case or number marking, nor are they marked for gender. Word order within the verb complex is rather strict, but core, patient, and obliques may occur in various orders. The verb complex consists minimally of a main verb, which possesses suffixes for marking evidentiality, and the auxiliary, which contain a rich set of affixes to mark the core arguments for various syntactic features: number, tense, voice, agency, etc.

Nankôre displays a mixed morphosyntactic alignment. Particularly noticeable is the Hierarchical alignment in its transitive verbs, which employ Direct-Inverse marking to indicate core argument roles. The nominal hierarchy is complex; at least ten noun classes based on animacy can be identified, and within those classes sub-hierarchies are observed based on semantic features, although discourse processes (e.g. the introduction of new arguments that are roughly equal in animacy with previously established arguments, or a previous argument that serves as the topic over extended discourse) may affect how direct-inverse marking is expressed. Thus hierarchical relations are primarily dependent on the semantics of the core argument and the verb class, although other factors are at play; native speakers intuit the hierarchy based on a complex interaction between the both the noun and verb classes, discourse patterns, and context.

The language also displays an Active-Stative alignment of the Split-S subtype in its intransitive verbs. As in its relative Nahónda, Nankôre intransitive verbs are split into two categories, one that requires an Agent as the sole core argument, and another that takes only Patients. Two different auxiliary paradigms are used for intransitive verb roots, the itá paradigm for agentive verbs, and the iná paradigm for stative verbs.



The Nankôre orthography is based on the Allen-Mills system, derived from the Latin alphabet. However, a second system, the American Media system, has started displacing the Allen-Mills system. Although based on the Allen-Mills system, the American Media system uses the the digraphs <ch> and <sh> to make transcription of the language more accessible to American readers.

Allen-Mills American Media IPA
' (n/a) ʔ
a,ā, â, á a,ā,â, á a, a:
e e e
i i ɪ, i
o, ô o, ô o, o:
u u u
c ch
s sh s, s̺, ʃ
š sh ʃ
h h ɦ
k k k
r r r
m m m
n n n
p p p
t t t
y y j

Note that the grapeme <s> in the Allen-Mills system is pronounced /ʃ/ or /s̺/ when followed by [i] (e.g. sinkokah /ʃin'kokah/ "orca"), or in coda position (Nanhoska /nan'hoʃka/ "the True People"). A few decades after the Allen-Mills transcription system was developed, a sound shift appeared in the northwestern Hoyampe dialect, whereby /s/ shifted to the voiceless apico-alveolar fricative /s̺/ when followed by /i/ or in coda position. A similar sound shift occurred at around the same time in the northeastern Konishmak dialect (possibly the result of the Hoyampe sound shift), but it was the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative /ʃ/ that appeared. It was this sound shift that spread out through most of the country, although there are some remote regions of the country that have not been affected by either sound shift. As a result in foreign transcriptions <sh> is often used in words where the /s/ >> /ʃ/ has already occurred, e.g. akôsh vs. the original akôs transcription. The grapheme <ô> is used to indicate vowel length for /o:/, and <ā> for /ɑ:/.

Although the American Media orthography system is the most widely used system, the Allen-Mills has long been used in academic publications, and will be used throughout the rest of this article, unless otherwise noted.


Nankôre has a small inventory of consonants, only thirteen in number. Noteworthy is the paucity of voiced consonants which contributes to the limited number of consonants in the Nankôre language. The following table contains the entire consonantal inventory:

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Apical Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop p t k ʔ
Affricate t͡ʃ
Fricative s ʃ ɦ
Approximant j
Flap ɾ


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








Nouns do not inflect for number, which is usually determined by context, but a numeral joined by the Connective si= to its head noun can be used to indicate plurality, eg:

ôhi sikurasno.
/'o:ɦi ʃi ku'raʃno/
ôhi si=kurasno
two CONN girl

two girls

If the noun is a core argument, then the auxiliary obligatorily marks for number. Number is indicated on the auxiliary by the affix -n-. For plural Agents, it is infixed, and for plural Patients, it is suffixed. Additionally, if the auxiliary is marked with the Inverse prefix, the prefix redundantly encodes number by vowel length, eg ta- for the singular, and tā= for the plural. Some examples are given below:

Example of a HA singular Agent acting on a LA singular Patient:

kurasno rompóy rayrokor nitá'.
/ku'raʃno rom'poɪ 'raɪrokor nɪ'taʔ/
kurasno rompóy Ø-rayro=kor Ø-ni-Ø-itá-ʔ

I heard that the girl played with the dog recently.

Example of a HA plural Agent acting on a LA singular Patient:

kurasno rompóy rayrokor nintá'.
/ku'raʃno rom'poɪ 'raɪrokor nɪn'taʔ/
kurasno rompóy Ø-rayro-kor Ø-ni-n-itá-'

I heard that the girls played with the dog recently.

Example of a LA singular Agent acting on a HA plural Patient:

rompóy kurasno tarayrokor tānintá'.
/romp'oɪ ku'raʃno ta'raɪrokor 'ta:nɪntáʔ/
rompóy kurasno ta=rayro=kor tā-ni-n-itá-ʔ

I heard that the dog played with the girls recently.

Example of a LA plural Agent acting on a HA plural Patient:

rompóy kurasno tarayrokor tānintan.
/romp'oɪ ku'raʃno ta'raɪrokor 'ta:nɪntan/
rompóy kurasno ta=rayro=kor tā-ni-n-itá-n

I heard that the dogs played with the girls recently.

The Nominal Hierarchy

Nankôre nouns, at first glance, appears very simple. They are not inflected for case, gender, nor do adpositions indicate their directional or positional relationships. Number is distinguished only in pronouns. Nevertheless, the nominal system has a complex hierarchy of animacy, which although unmarked, is a semantic feature of the noun and pronoun. This hierarchy of animacy is used to determine the syntactic roles of the core arguments of a clause, namely that of Agent and Patient. Arguments that are higher in the Animacy Hierarchy are by default considered Agents, whereas lower animacy arguments are considered Patients. If the syntactic roles of two core arguments are reversed, namely a lower animacy argument acts as an Agent on a higher animacy Patient argument, a special construction known as the Inverse Voice, involving the prefix tā-/ta-, is added to both the first verb in the verb phrase and the auxiliary verb itá'. Thus, the Inverse Voice is doubly-marked.

Where a given NP falls within the animacy hierarchy must be memorized in order to use the verbal inverse prefix tā-/ta- correctly (see section on Verbs for additional details regarding inverse marking).

The Nankôre nominal hierarchy has been traditionally classified along two axes, the first marking the noun class, and the second marking levels of hierarchy within a given class. Animacy along classes decrease as one traverses from Supernatural/Phenomonological onwards towards the Ephemeral. Animacy decreases as one goes down the Level axis. The following table illustrates the animacy relations between the noun hierarchies, although in reality, animacy is more complex than the table would suggest, as discourse and other contextual elements may influence a native speaker's expression of the hierarchy in a given utterance.

Table of Nominal Animacy hierarchy
Noun Class
Level Supernatural &
Human Animals Lower Animals Riverine Weather Plants Geophysical Material Ephemeral
Mammals Birds
1 Gods, the Earth, the Sun, the Sky/Heavens Adults >> Children predator >> prey Reptiles (excluding snakes) Rushing rivers Clouds Forests Mountains Liquid, usually in a container Magic
2 Demons Older >> Younger wild >> domesticated Slow-moving rivers Rain Snakes Large Trees Glaciers Food Actions
3 Human & Animal Spirits Male >> Female Pet (usually carnivorous) >> Non-Pet (usually raised for food) Amphibians Streams
Snow Small Trees Cliffs
Jagged outcroppings
4 Destructive Forces of Nature Large >> Small Fish Lakes Wind Fruit/Nut Trees Flat land
Gently rolling landscape
Wood Thoughts
5 Lightning Strong >> Weak Breeze Crustaceans Bushes
Buildings Disease
6 Ocean Quick >> Slow Insects Moving Water Prairie grass Metals States
7 Thunderstorms Intelligent >> Unintelligent Carnivore >> Herbivore >> Carrion Eater Worms Air Leafy plants Jewels and gemstones Abstractions
8 Fire Fertile >> Infertile Stud >> Gelded Flight >> Flightless Mollusks Muggy weather Mushrooms
Gelatinous sea invertebrates
Stones, rocks, pebbles Death

If two nouns with equal animacy but different number appear as core arguments, the plural noun is assigned a higher animacy status than the singular noun. However, if animacy and number are equal, the most recently introduced noun, providing it was introduced as a core argument, is assigned the higher animacy status.

In situations were two nouns have equal animacy and equal number, the rules for assigning the position each core argument in the hierarchy is as follows:

  1. If one of the nouns is newly introduced information, it is considered less animate because the older noun has been presumably been the center of discourse and at least during part of the previous discourse it was agent. SOV order is usually used, particularly if pragmatics and other contextual cues cannot disambiguate the syntactic roles
  2. HOWEVER, if the new noun is topicalized with the clitic =si, it is considered the agent.
  3. Another pattern, where a new noun is introduced as a Patient argument, it is regarded as the less animate argument once the older noun is reintroduced back into the discourse in a transitive construction.
  4. If the animacy level of each argument cannot be resolved, then the unmarked SOV word order is used when context can't disambiguate syntactic roles.


  • -no: Diminutive suffix, e.g. kuras (woman), kurasno (girl)
  • -CV(C) reduplication: Augmentive, e.g. kurasras (big woman); analogous to Minhast augmentation
  • -ra-CV(C) infixation + reduplication: Augmentive-Deprecative: nahón -> na-ra-hón-ho (big/fat, ugly man); very similar to Minhast -ra- infixation and reduplication of first syllable, e.g. Minhast kas~ka~ra-slub "large dog, hunting hound" < kaslub "dog"

Adjectival Suffixes

Nankôre lacks a separate word class for adjectives. They may be expressed as attributive verbs, e.g. Aryak neshkak itá, "Aryak is smart", Kanko shoykar sip'itá', "Kanko (an indigenous vegetable) makes good" (for your health), or a suffix may be attached to the noun it modifies. These suffixes are called adjectival suffixes. Some of these suffixes are etymologically derived from an attributive verb, e.g. -kerek > karyak itá "to be red". Others appear to be derived from separate roots, c.f. "Aryak-arku", ("clever Aryak") vs "Aryak neshkak itá" ("Aryak is clever"). Theoretically an unlimited number of suffixes may be appended to the noun, but in practice the number of adjectival suffixes seldom exceeds three. The suffixes may appear in any order, so long as the meaning is comprehensible. Nevertheless it appears that scope determines the ordering of the suffixes: suffixes with wider scope tend to appear towards the end e.g. "Kenenkor-pita-shune-une itá" (bed plush-red-soft-very 3S.COP ) "It is a very soft, red and plush bed."

While the number of adjectival suffixes are considerable, they remain for the most part a closed class. Moreover, with a few exceptions, each adjectival suffix may be expressed by a corresponding stative verb.

There are seven observed categories of adjectival suffixes:

  1. Quality
  2. Quantity
  3. Strength
  4. Size
  5. Color
  6. Tactile
  7. Other Attributes


Type Independent Clitic Translation Example Nahenic Cognates
Proximal [independent particle] =skoro this one near me; now nan=iskoro "this man here"; oriyat=hepi "today"
Medio-Proximal [independent particle] =hori, =ori that one by you; just awhile ago nan=hori "that man next to you"
Distal [independent particle] =nko, =kekori yonder, that one near him/her/them; yesterday, a few days ago nan=inko "yonder man""
Invisible [independent particle] =nanak that one beyond the horizon, or occluded by a distant object nan=nanak "that man (e.g. on the other side of the mountain)"

The Temporal Deitic particles usually occur at the head of a sentence, e.g. Antak Anut Amerika san-kamuk hitá' , "A year ago, Anut flew to America". In multiclausal sentences, the clause in which they appear have scope over the all other clauses following it. At least one, yorai, cannot appear after the initial clause. Some particles also have a clitic form which can attach to the main verb, as in Anut Amerika san-kamuk-entak hitá'.

type Independent Clitic Meaning Example Nahenic Cognates
Past yoráy =yoráy Once upon a time; back then Example
inkát =(i)nkát Several years ago Example
šeyhori =šeyhor A few years ago Example
antak =(e)ntak A year ago Example
kake =(e)kak Several days ago, last week Example
nateha =nate The day before yesterday Example
kirá =kira Yesterday Example
Diurnal yohori =ho Earlier this morning Example
tantori =tora Just awhile ago Example
yot =(e)yót Now Example
nas =(e)nas Soon Example
Future kesór =k(e)sor Tomorrow Example
nekós =n(i)kos In the next few days Example
nankóy =n(a)koy In the indeterminate future Example


Quantifier Substantive Attributive
All kamun kamun si=
Most toman toman si=
Some cene cisi=
Many etco etcisi=
Both hani hanisi=
Each nune nisi=
Few cato catci=
Another/Other hane hanesi=


Header text Header text Notes
Who ra', rā Possibly cognate with Minhast redad
What pôh c.f. Minhast bak
When tu'a
Where nahí' c.f. Minhast nakki. Also, note dialectal variant enket (Sapshira dialect)
Why penóh
Which yôri- C.f. yôhori, to choose, Minhast yāhuran (to make a turn at an intersection of a path, road)
Polarity aní Used for yes-no questions, occurs in sentence-final position.

Cognate with Minhast ni (Classical, Horse Speaker, and Salmonic dialects)

=yo Like ani, used for yes-no questions. However, it cliticizes to the first word of the clause.

The Interrogatives manifest WH-movement, appearing immediately before the auxiliary itá' with rising intonation and a slight pause after the main VP. The Irrealis suffix -hi often accompanies WH-words but is often dropped, as in the second example, especially among younger speakers. However, it is required for polar questions, i.e. questions marked with aní, in which case its allmorph -ha is used.

Okep nari ayrarke, penóh hô'itáhi?
'okɛp 'na:ɾi aɪ'ɾaɾke pe'noɦ ɦo:ʔɪ'taɦi
Okep nari ayrarke, penóh Ø-hô-Ø-'itá-ʔ-hi
PN child spank why DIR-HOD-HS-COP-LS-IRR

Why did Okep spank (her) child earlier this morning?
Ka tahone, ra' taspitá?
ka ta'ɦo:nɛ ɾaʔ taʃpɪ'ta
Ka ta=honé, ra' ta-sp-Ø-itá-ʔ

Who is making you cry?

The following two sentences are polarity questions, with no difference in meaning. The third sentence, containing both polarity markers =yo and sentence-final particle ani, implies incredulity:

Koykâre cori yoskara sip'itáha' aní?
/koɪ'ka:ɾɛ 'tʃoɾi 'joʃkaɾa ʃɪpʔɪtaɦa a'ni/
koykâre cori yoskara sip-Ø-itá-ʔ-hi aní
boy house burn CAUS-DIR.PRS.HS-COP-LS-IRR Q

Did the boy burn the house (down)?
Koykâryo cori yoskara sip'itáhi?
/koɪ'ka:ɾjo 'tʃoɾi 'joʃkaɾa ʃɪpʔɪ'taɦi/
koykâre=yo cori yoskara sip-Ø-itá-ʔ-hi
boy=Q house burn CAUS-DIR.PRS.HS-COP-LS-IRR

Did the boy burn the house (down)?
Koykaryo cori yoskara sip'itáha aní?
/koɪ'kaɾjo 'tʃoɾi 'joʃkaɾa ʃɪpʔɪ'taɦa 'ani/
koykâre=yo cori yoskara sip-Ø-itá-ʔ-hi ani
boy=Q house burn CAUS-DIR.PRS.HS-COP-LS-IRR Q

Did the boy burn the house (down)?

With the exception of the polarity particle aní, interrogatives can also serve as conjunctions, provided that the interrogatives is joined to the dependent clause with the connective si=:

Horyák kosno nitá' penóh si-Okep nari ayrarkekór ho'itá'.
hôri=ák kosno Ø-n-Ø-itá-ʔ penóh si=Okep nari ayrarke-kór Ø-ho-Ø-'itá-ʔ

I did not hear/receive the news why Okep spanked (her) nephew early this morning.

Neither a pseudo-incorporated noun or adjunct may appear between the Interrogative and the auxiliary. The next sentence is well-formed, with the pseudo-incorporated noun appearing before the interrogative penóh (why), whereas the next sentence is unfelicitous, since PINs are barred from appearing between the WH-word and the auxiliary:

Koykâre yoskara cori penóh itá'?
koykâre yoskara cori penóh Ø-itá-ʔ
boy burn house why DIR.PRS.HS-COP-LS

Why did the boy burn the house (down)?
*Koykâre yoskara penóh cori sip'itá'?
koykâre yoskara penóh cori sip-Ø-itá-ʔ
boy house burn why CAUS-DIR.PRS.HS-COP-LS

Why did the boy burn the house (down)?

Interrogatives can also serves as Conditionals by a =si Topicalization structure:

Ra'si karámpo taneknek ta'itá', siakos tamáko itá'
'raʔʃi ka'ɾampo ta'nɛknɛk 'taʔɪtaʔ 'ʃakoʃ ta'mako ʔɪ'taʔ
Ra'=si karampo ta=neknek ta-Ø-itá-Ø, si=akos tamakó Ø-Ø-itá-ʔ
Who=TOP bear INV=kill INV-HS-COP-LS CONN=1P danger.liability DIR-HS-COP-LS

Whoever slaughtered the bear (in this manner) is a danger to us all.

The Topic marker =si should not be confused with the Connective si= that is linking the embedded clause to the matrix clause. The former is an enclitic, whereas the latter is a proclitic.

Among the Interrogative pronouns, ra' ranks the highest in animacy; nevertheless, Interrogative pronouns are lower than non-Interrogative nouns in the animacy hierarchy.

Yôri- is always prefixed to the noun it modifies and can never appear as an independent word. It can be prefixed to pôh and ra' , i.e. yôripoh and yôra' , where it takes the meaning "which one", yôripoh for Noun Classes II and III, the sentient members of Class I, and yôra' for the rest.


The first group of pronouns are used in intransitive clauses. They consist of both independent and cliticized forms. The animacy of each pronoun is arranged in the following hierarchy:

Pronominal hierarchy
1st > 2nd > 3rd

Plurality generally does not affect the animacy level across persons. However, if two 3rd person arguments have the same animacy and one of the arguments is plural, then the plural argument is assigned a higher animacy level.

The following table lists the forms of the simple pronouns:

Intransitive Pronouns
Person Singular Plural
Independent Clitic Long Form Short Form Clitic
1 ak =ák akôs aóy
=ká kakôs koy =koy
=tá takôs toy =toy

If used as a core argument, the singular forms and the plural short forms may appear just before the clause-final auxiliary itá,e.g. Nitori kā 'itá! (You are a fool); or the clitic form of the pronoun attaches to the main verb, e.g. Nitoriká 'itá!. They may also be used to emphasize a noun, in which case the pronoun precedes the noun linked with the connective si=, as in tā si=naho (She/Her, the mother).

Transitive Portmanteau Pronouns
Singular Plural
1S 2S 3S 1P 2P 3P


yakká' kattá'


yakkóy nattóy
2S akká'


kattí yakkós


3S yettá' kattí kettá' yanós tarós
Plural x Plural


2P kakkóy


3P okkóy
toy (!)

As earlier stated, nouns in Nankôre are not inflected, nor are case clitics attached to them to indicate case relations. Transitive verbs take two NPs as core arguments. The case relations of the two arguments are determined by the position of the noun in the animacy hierarchy; the core argument that is higher in the animacy hierarchy is assigned the Agent role, and the other argument is assigned the Patient role. However, an inverse affix tā=/tāh=/ta=/t= is prefixed to the primary verb, as well as a redundant ta- affix that is added to the auxiliary to alter the argument structure and promote the lower-animacy argument to Agent role.

[OBSOLETE] Unlike the Intransitive forms, the portmanteau Transitive forms come before the main verb, not the auxiliary verb, e.g. Akostos karok tā'itá' , "I ate it". Sometimes the portmanteau is cliticized to the main verb, as in Akostos=karok tā'itá' . If the Inverse marker appears simultaneously with the Transitive portmanteau pronoun, the preverbal Inverse marker tā=/tāh=/ta=/t= cliticizes to the portmanteau pronoun. Since the Inverse voice is double-marked, the Inverse form of the auxiliary itấ' also is used, as in the improbable sentence, Takostos karok tahortā'itá'/Takostoskarok tahortā'itá' , from Tā-akostos-karok tahortā'itá' , "He/she/it ate me".

Obliques cannot be inserted into the verb complex. If oblique arguments appear outside their clause, they must be joined to it with the connective clitic si=. Context alone determines the semantic role of the oblique. To illustrate, the sentence Maska si=ohipna koykare ekán itá (anthill=CONN twig boy twist COP.PST), i.e. "The boy inserted the twig into the anthill", the oblique noun maska (anthill is marked with the clitic si= to join it to the rest of the sentence.


The verb phrase in Nankôre require at a minimum an initial verb, plus the auxiliary. An initial verb may be the main verb itself, or an auxiliary. A sort of division of labor exists between these components components; a certain set of clitics or affixes may attach to one of the components, and another to another.

The following set of markers cliticize to the first verb of the VP, which may be either the main verb, or a coverb. All preverbal clitics attach to the the initial verb.

  • Initial Verb
  1. Inverse
  2. Aspect

However, a set of bound morphemes, occurring as suffixes, attach exclusively to the main verb, regardless if it is the initial verb of the VP or not:

  • Main Verb
  1. Evidentials

Finally, the auxiliary hosts the following set of morphemes, which are not clitics but actual affixes:

  1. Inverse
  2. Tense
  3. Number
  4. Voice
  5. Irrealis

The Verb Phrase Structure

The following example demonstrates a complex verb predicate, with the Inverse marker ta= cliticizing to the coverb yam (accompany) in the Imperfect aspect, followed by the main verb yayak (go up a mountain) with the Hearsay Evidential suffix -kor, and finally the auxiliary marked with the redundent Inverse clitic ta'=.

Rompóy kurasno tayampo yayak hosmakór ta'nitá'.
/rom'poɪ ku'raʃno ta'yampo 'yayak hoʃma'kor taʔnɪt'aʔ/
Rompóy kurasno ta-yam-po yayak hosma-kor ta'-∅-nitá-ʔ.
dog.LA girl.HA INV-accompany-IMPF go.up.mountain-EVID.HEAR INV-HS-PST.COP-LS

The dog was going up the mountain with the girl, I heard.
Diagram of the Nankôre Verb Phrase

The verbal elements follow a relatively strict order. The required elements for a VP to be well-formed are the Main Verb and the Auxiliary. Adjuncts are unbound morphemes, and exhibit rather free order; however, they are barred from appearing between the Inverse Marker and any following verb, be it the Coverb or the Main Verb. If a Coverb appears between the Inverse Marker and Main Verb, an adjunct may appear between the Coverb and Main Verb. However, if the Inverse Marker is not followed by a Coverb, then an adjunct may not appear between the Inverse Marker and the Main Verb. Moreover, if Pseudo-Noun Incorporation (PNI) takes place, an adjunct may not intervene between the Main Verb and the Pseudo-incorporated noun (PIN).


Coverbs are auxiliary verbs that serve to provide additional syntactic information to the main verb itself, or to the core arguments. There are two classes of coverbs, Directionals-Positionals coverbs, and Modals. Directional and positional coverbs serve as a way of indicating case relations of the core arguments, somewhat like Applicatives in other languages, such as those of its distant cousin Minhast. In fact the older linguistic literature often refers to these coverbs as "Applicative Verbs". The Directionals-Positionals coverbs always precede the Modals.

Directional-Positional Coverbs

Directional and positional coverbs have both a long and short form. The long form, also called the Independent Form, may serve as a bona fide standalone verb, or it may serve as a coverb provided that no clitics attach to it. Thus the coverb sanha, in its long form, means "to go towards, to approach" as an independent verb, but its short form, san, always indicates motion towards an entity; this sort of syntactic relation is usually handled by the Allative case in languages which indicate case marking on the noun. Clitics that otherwise attach to the main verb, such as the Inverse marker and and aspect markers, move to and attach to the first occurring coverb of the VP. Clitics attach only to the short form. Additionally, morphophonemic alternations may take place when the Inverse marker ta= cliticizes to the coverb, such as in the Subessive cor-.

Goal Coverb Forms
Long Short Coverb + Inverse
Goal sanha san tasan

Anut America sanha kamukkor itáʔ.
anut america sanha kamuk-kor itáʔ
PN.HA PN.LA going.towards fly-EVID.HEAR COP.DIR

Anut supposedly flew to America.
Rompóy sikatti yacor pitasi san yapokor itáʔ.
rompóy si=katti yacor san yapo-kor itáʔ
dog CONN=PN.HA ball.LA going.towards throw-EVID.HEAR COP.DIR

Kathy tossed the ball towards the dog.
Katti yacor san yapokor rompóy itáʔ.
Katti yacor san yapokor rompóy itáʔ
PN.HA ball.LA going.towards throw-EVID.HEAR dog COP.DIR

Kathy tossed the ball towards the dog.
Kurasno siyacor rompóy tasan nahoyra ayorkor ta'itáʔ.
Kurasno siyacor rompóy ta-san nahoyra ayor-kor ta-ʔitáʔ
girl CONN=ball.LA dog.HA INV-going.towards do.repeatedly bring-EVID.HEAR dog INV-COP

The dog repeatedly brought back the ball to the girl.
  • Benefactive

Directional and Positional Coverbs
Long Short Coverb + Inverse Sample Sentence Translation Comment
Goal sanha san tasan Anut America sanha kamuk-kor itá. Anut supposedly flew to America. -kor = HEARSAY.EVID, is suffixed to the main verb.
Dative tohta toht tatóh Anut nanna tatóh ittáh tanno ta'itá. Anut gave his mother water. c.f Minhast dative applicative -dut-, menā' "mother", hittu "give", dannua "water"
Benefactive nasko nas tanas Nanhoska karen tā-nas eynakor itá. It is said the (sacred) tree gave (life) for the people. c.f. Minhast postposition =nī, =ni
Comitative yampe yam tam Anut yam temenkor itá Anut walked beside the river with him. temen = to perform an activity by a river
Instrumental makôr mak tamak Ehok mak-nahoyra yurasnanetkor itá. The adolescent struck (it) repeatedly with a club.
Ablative risa ris tars Šôni Nan Kamun Koryas ris mankor itá First Man emerged from (out of) the snow. c.f. Minhast applicative -raħk-
Šôni Nan = "the First Man"
Kamun Koryas "All Snow" (the birthplace of First Man)
Locative neyhi ne tan Yonka asrok ta-n akunkor hô'itá. I heard that a fly buzzed inside Yonka('s mouth) this morning. asrok = fly, insect
Vialis nahke nak, nahk tanak, tanahk Ka pohak ta-nahke šokor-nui itá' I saw the river take you through the cave. c.f. Minhast applicative -naħk-, -ni-
pohak = cave
šokor = to flow
-nui- = VIS.EVID
Prolative roskar ros taros Ak piri roskar hô'itá'. I crossed the street earlier this morning piri = street, road, path
Superessive oros or tor Ayôhe arupenrô or yaunkekor hô'itá. The airplane flew over Ayôhe township earlier this morning. arupenrô = airplane
yaunke = to fly
Subessive yorha yor toyor, cor Ekurki saska yor-ro kahorokor itá. The turtle swam underneath the ice. ekurki = turtle
saska = ice
kahoro = to swim
Ablative-Superessive isuk suk, su task, tasku (Example) (Example)
Ablative-Subessive royna roy taroy (Example) (Example)
Riverine temen tem tatem No si-kurasno tem rohnaskor itá. The girls supposedly were playing by the river.
Montaigne yayak yay tay Kahno côri yay cire/ciri itá' The old man went up the mountain.

Modal verbs follow the Directional-Positional coverbs. Modals include a wide range of expressions, such as ability, potentiality, similitude, desire, inclination, etc.

Modal Meaning
Potential makan be able to, can
Necessitive nehái need to
Desiderative tasmi want to
Inceptive yari begin to
Resumptive kenoy again


The verb, in contrast to the auxiliary, encodes aspect with clitics that attach to the end of the word. If a coverb appears, the aspect marker will cliticize to the coverb, otherwise it will cliticize to the main verb. Nankôre possesses several aspect markers, as illustrated in the following table:

Aspect Marker Meaning
Semelfactive =no completed in one single motion/act, e.g. hit
Simple Imperfect =ro
Durative/Repetitive =nahoyra, =noyra several times
Habitative =(h)osma, =sma often
Factive =yosir (general truth statement, e.g. "The sun rises in the east")
Continuative =namporo to continue
Cessative =ciri to stop
Terminative =ruykáno to finish
Incipient =kara about to
Approximative =tontoro almost, nearly
Frequentative =nokori, -(o)nkori often

Main Verb

The main verb is believed to be descended from a verbal noun and carries the main semantic meaning of the verb phrase. The main verb hosts the Inverse Marker tā-/ta-, aspect, and evidential/modal markers. As mentioned earlier, the Inverse and aspect markers may detach from the main verb and attach to a converb, while the modal/evidential suffixes remain tightly bound to the main verb.

Moods and Evidentials

The Mood and Evidential markers occur as bound suffixes of the main verb. Unlike the Inverse and aspect markers, they do not detach from the main verb but remain bound to the main verb.

Neutral -∅
Emphatic-Factual -mas
Hearsay -kor
Visual -nui
Inferential -yay
Intentive -neat, -ne
Dubitative -anene

The Auxiliary

In terms of morphological complexity, the auxiliary hosts more affixes and clitics than the main verb; in addition to redundantly marking the Inverse voice, it also encodes tense, number, irrealis, inchoativity, and causation through a complex series of affixation.

The auxiliary serves two purposes:

  • To links noun phrases to their predicates:
Nan konkekma yoriká ináhi?
/nan kon'kekma 'yo:riká ɪn'ahi/
nan konkekma, yôri-ká ∅-iná-ʔ-hi
human snake which-2S DIR-PRS.COP.STAT-S-IRR

Are you man or snake?
  • To serve as a host for tense, number, animacy, and voice markers to the verb phrase.
Kanro kacekák hôsipnitá'.
/'kanro ka't͡ʃekák ho:sipnɪ'taʔ/
kanro kacek=ák ∅-hô-sip-nitá-ʔ hide=1S DIR-HOD-HS-PST.COP.TRN-LS

I hid the old man yesterday.
Ea? Kacek ka, yôrikani hôsipnitáhi?
/ea 'kat͡ʃek ka, yo:ri'kani ho:ʃɪpni'tahi/
ea kacek ka yôri-kani ∅-hô-sip-nitá-ʔ-hi

Really? Where did you hide him?

The Inverse marker ta'- indicates a lower animate NP is the Agent acting on a higher animate NP whose role is that of Patient. The marker occurs in two locations: as a clitic to the first verb of the VP, and as a bound prefix to the auxiliary itá':

kattí tarayrokor ta'itá'.
/ka't:i ta'raɪrokor taʔɪ'taʔ/
kattí ta-rayro-kor ta-itá-ʔ

I heard that he played with you recently.

Number is marked on both core arguments: for transitive clauses, singular HA arguments are null-marked, and LA arguments are marked with the suffix . For plurality, plural HA arguments are marked with a prefixed or infixed -n-, while the LA argument is marked with the suffix -n for plurality. Additionally, the vowel of the Inverse marker lengthens when the LA argument is plural; for example, the singular LA argument of the present tense auxiliary is ta'ita', whereas the plural form of the verb is tā'inta'. The Hodiernal tense is an exception: the vowel of the Inverse marker neither undergoes vowel lengthening, nor does it receive compensatory stress; the form *tāhô'intá' is ungrammatical, the form tahô'intá' instead. This is presumably because the vowel of the tense marker, -ô-, suppresses lengthening of a preceding vowel according to Nankôre phonological rules, thus moving the stress rightward.

The Inchoative consists of a the prefix yis-, which frequently occurs as a circumfix, y- + -s-, for certain conjugations. The affix causes the Inverse affix ta(h)- to palatize; the -s- segment of the circumfixal form may occur before or after a pluralizing -n- affix, or the tense-bearing prefix of a given conjugation. Knowing which form of the Inchoative, and where the -s- segment occurs is unpredictable and requires memorization. When used in transitive sentences, it serves to mark the Inceptive aspect. The -s- component has been shown to be cognate with the Minhast inchoative affix -saxt-.

The Causative is marked with the affixes sip- or -sp-, which is cognate with the Causatives in Minhast -šp- and Nahónda -ps-. As Causatives typically increase the valency in a clause's argument structure, the Causee is typically the Patient argument, and the target of the Causee is a si- marked argument phrase that follows the matrix clause; a slight pause usually occurs before the si- connective. The construction suggest the Causee's target is an anti-topic, although it may be fronted at the beginning of its governing clause by the si- connective for topicalization.

The Irrealis -hi is suffixed to the auxiliary. It is obligatory for all Future tenses. It also surfaces in imperatives, yes-no questions which are marked with the =yo marker cliticizing to the first or second word of a sentence, as in Cire=yo tā'itá'-hi? "Did he die?", and in WH-questions when the event actually happening has not yet been established as having occurred; for example, Enket cire tā'itá'?, "Where did he die?" implies that the person's death is a fact, and it is only the location that is being inquired, versus Enket cire tā'itá'-hi? implies that not only is the location unknown, but the person's actual death happening still remains to be established. An interesting structure, called the "double interrogative", is a combination of a WH-word followed by a word bearing the =yo clitic, which also turns the question into yes-no question: Enket cire=yo tā'itá'-hi?, "Did he die, and if so, where?" The -hi suffix is believed to be cognate with the Minhast Irrealis clitic .

Transitive Paradigm
 Present Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG itá' itán yistá' yistán sip'itá' (pis'itá') sip'itán (pis'itán)
PL nitá' nitán yisnitá' yisnitán sipnitá' (pisnitá') sipnitán (pisnitán)
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
Low Animate Agent SG ta’itá' ta’itán castá' castán taspitá' taspitán
PL tānitá' tānitán casnitá' casnitán tāsipnitá' tāsipnitán
Hodiernal Past ‡
Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG hô'itá' hô'itán yôsitá' yôsitán hôsipnitá' hôsipnitán
PL hô'intá' hô'intán yôsintá' yôsintán hôsipnintá' hôsipnintán
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
Low Animate Agent SG tahô'itá' tahô'itán costá' costán tāhópsintá' tāhópsintán
PL tahô'intá' tahô'intán cosnitá' cosnitán tāhópsintá' tāhópsintán
Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG nitá' nitán yisnitá' yisnitán sipnitá' sipnitán
PL nintá' nintán yisnitá' yisnitán sipnintá' sipnintán
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
Low Animate Agent SG ta’nitá' ta’nitán casnitá' casnitán tasipnitá' tasipnitán
PL tānintá' tānintán casnintá' casnintán tāsipnintá' tāsipnintán
Medio-Distal Past
Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG hitá' hitán yistá' yistán hispitá' hisiptán
PL hintá' hintán yisintá' yisintán hisipnitá' hisipnitán
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
Low Animate Agent SG tahitá' tahitán castá' castán tasiphitá' tasiphitán
PL tāhintá' tāhintán casintá' casintan tāsiphintá' tāsiphintán
Distal Past
Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG pitá' pitán yipsitá' yipsitán pisiptá' pisiptan
PL pintá' pintán yipsintá' yipsintán pisipnitá pisipnitán
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
Low Animate Agent SG ta’pitá' ta’pitán caspitá casipnitán tápsipnitá' tápsipnitán
PL tápsintá' tápsintán casipnitá casipnitán tápsipnitá' tápsipnitán
Medio-Proximal Future
Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG nitáh nitahán yisnitáh yisnitahán nisiptáh nisiptahán
PL nintáh nintahán yisnitahá yisnitahán nisipnitáh nisipnitahán
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
Low Animate Agent SG ta’nitáh tantahán casnitáh casnitahán tasipnitáh tasipnitahán
PL tānintáh tānintahán casnintáh casnintáhan tāsipnitáh tāsipnintahán
Immediate Future
Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG hitáh hitahán yistáh yistahán hisipitáh hisiptahán
PL hintáh hintahán yisnitáh yisnitahán hispintáh hisipnitahán
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
Low Animate Agent SG tahitáh tahitahán castáh castáh tahisipitáh tahisiptahán
PL tāhintáh tāhintahán cahsintáh cahsintahán tāhispintáh tāhisipnitahán
Distal Future
Low Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG pitáh pitahán yipsitáh yipsitahán pisiptáh pisiptahán
PL pintáh pintahán yipsiptáh yipsiptahán pisipnitáh pisipnitahán
High Animate Patient
Indicative Inchoative Causative
High Animate Agent SG ta’pitáh taptahán capsitáh capsitaháh tapsiptáh tapsiptahán
PL tāpintáh tāpintahán capsintáh capsintahán tápsipnitáh tápsipnitahán

‡ Note the irregular Indicative Hodiernal tense form; the Inverse marker does not lengthen as it does for the rest of the paradigm.

Intransitive-Active Paradigm

The paradigm for the auxiliary with intransitive verbs is not as elaborate as its transitive counterpart, nevertheless it still displays a great deal of complexity. The intransitive paradigm is used for stative verbs, NP arguments that are semantic Patients, and also for NP arguments whose thematic roles are clearly that of Agents.

Tense Number Indicative Inchoative Causative
 Present SG itá' yistá' sip'itá' (pis'itá')
PL itán yisnitán sipnitán (pisnitán)
Hodiernal Past SG hô'itá' yôsitá' hôsipnitá'
PL hônitán yôsintán hôsipnintán
Past SG nitá' yisnitá' sipnitá'
PL nintán yisnitán sipnintán
Medio-Distal Past SG hitá' yistá' hispitá'
PL hintán yisintán hisipnitán
Distal Past SG pitá' yipsitá' pisipta
PL pintán yipsintán pisipnitán
Medio-Proximal Future SG nitáh yisnitáh nisiptáh
PL nintahán yisnitahán nisipnitahán
Immediate Future SG hitáh yistáh hisiptahán
PL hintáhan yisnitahán hisipnitahán
Distal Future SG pitáh yipsitáh pisiptáh
PL pintáhan yipsiptahán pisipnitahán
Intransitive-Stative Paradigm

The intransitive paradigm of the auxiliary is listed in the table below:

Tense Number Indicative Inchoative Causative
 Present SG iná' inán sip'iná' (pis'iná')
PL niná' yisniná' sipniná' (pisniná')
Hodiernal Past SG hô'iná' yôsiná' hôsipniná'
PL hônniná' yôsinniná' hôsipnininá'
Past SG niná' yisniná' sipniná'
PL ninnininá' yisninniná' sipninniná'
Medio-Distal Past SG hiná' yisná' hispiná'
PL hinniná' yisninniná' hisipninniná'
Distal Past SG piná' yipsiná' pisipná'
PL pinniná' yipsininniná' pisipninniná'
Medio-Proximal Future SG nináh yisnináh nisipnáh
PL nininnináh yisninnninahá nisipninnináh
Immediate Future SG hináh yisnáh hisipináh
PL hinnináh yisninnináh hispinnináh
Distal Future SG pináh yipsináh pisipnáh
PL pinninnináh yipsipninnináh pisipninnináh


Nankôre has a set of verbalizing prefixes that when attached to nominal roots, often body parts, create verbs. These prefixes are most likely the remnants of Proto-Nahenic noun incorporation, based on comparisons with Nankôre's distant relatives, Minhast and Nahónda; similar or even identical fossilized affixes have been found in these languages that likewise attach to nominal roots for body parts to derive verbs, e.g. Minhast kirim (from k-erum, literally "make sound with the mouth) and Nahónda teloma (from t-loma, note that Minhast /k/ maps to Nahónda /t/); kirim is the Minhast cognate of Nankôre kôre.

Verbalizing Prefixes
Prefix Sample Noun Example Meaning Nahenic Cognates
Sound k- ore "mouth" k-ore to speak Common Minhast k-irim "to speak" (NB: Nankôre ôre = "mouth" is cognate with Minhast erum = "mouth")
Striking ya- shipa "hand" ya-shpa to punch Minhast, Horse Speaker dialect: wi-šnu "to strike, hit" (Minhast išna "fist", "knuckles")
Movement ho-
nake "foot" ha-nake to scoot along the floor with one's foot; to kick around Nahónda: ho-shishpa "to give" shishp = hand; c.f. Minhast sespir = hand, Nankôre shipa = hand
Stability pa- are "eye" p-are to stare Common Minhast p-uħta "to stand up" (from yuħta = "sole of the foot", cognate with Nankôre yohíhita = "flat surface")
Removal ro- ampe "body" ro-yampe to remove one's clothes Common Minhast ruyyamb "to take off clothing" (but note that Minhast lost the original *yambet (body), replacing it with tarti (body)


The Nankôre number system is dozenal, i.e. base-12. The numbers thirteen through twenty-three are modified compounds consisting of the unit numbers shori (1) through shiktash (11) compounded to shin (12). The number twenty-four hanoshin can be analyzed as han-o-shin, where the affix -o- signifies "multiplied by", so hanoshin literally means "two times twelve". The multiplicative pattern continues until the number 144, which is called nakpa. The number 100 (nenanoshin >> nena ān-o-shin) is literally "four (and) eight times twelve". The ordinals for the numbers 1-7 are the cardinal numbers suffixed by -ak or -ok. Numbers 8-11 are the cardinal numbers suffixed with the ending -u. The ordinal for the number 12 is again suffixed with -ok, and the higher numbers with -nok. If the -nok affix is preceded by a consonant followed by -i-, the -i- may be dropped, provided that this does not form the impermissible consonant cluster -CCC- sequence.

Number Cardinal Ordinal
one šôri šoriak
two hani, ôhi hanyak
three tusta, tak tustak
four nena, kayoka nenak
five sišak catak
six sirišo siiršok
seven kerišo kiršok
eight ān anku
nine karu karku
ten kaše kasku
eleven siktas sistu
twelve sin sinok
thirteen šorsin šorsinok
fourteen hansin hanisnok, hanisnok
fifteen tusin tusnok
sixteen ninsin ninsinok, nisnok
seventeen casin casinok,casnok
eighteen sirsin sirsinok, sirisnok
nineteen kirsin kirisnok
twenty ansin asnok
twenty-one karusin karushnok
twenty-two kasmin kasminok
twenty-three siksin siksinok
twenty-four hanosin hanosnok
thirty-six tustosin tustosnok
one hundred nenanosin nenanosnok
one hundred forty-four nakpa nakpanok

Clitics and Particles

Connective si=

Other Particles

Particle Meaning Cognates
ira yes Upper Minhast ēlā
ecá', icá' no Common Minhast hatā'
na and Nahónda máma "also", Common Minhast =mā "and then"
piya but Neina (hi)yo
kusur then Neina kisero "afterwards"
ritá'a however Neina riha "to turn", Nahónda letsaya "to twist", Upper Minhast ruttakšuran "to seduce" (from Classical Minhast ruttay-gurra-ša'ra-ana "to swing one's hips")


Word Order

Nankôre's canonical word order SOV, more specifically, SOV1V2, where V2 represents the auxiliary itá. Although the core argument NPs do not take any overt case marking, the animacy hierarchy and direct-inverse system of marking usually provide enough information to identify the Agent from the Patient. Thus, OSV1V2, SVO1 V2, and other orders are found, both in speech and text. When pronouns appear as core arguments, they usually appear before the main verb, but they may cliticize to the end of the main verb:

Minhaste kôryak itá'
/'minɦaʃte 'ko:rjak ɪt'aʔ/
minhast kôre=ak ∅-∅-itá-ʔ
Minhast.language speak=1S DIR-HS-COP-LS

I speak the Minhast language.

Nevertheless, for all word order variants, the only restriction is the auxiliary is restricted to clause-final position.

Fronting a constituent is used for emphasis, as in the following sample, where the O argument has been fronted before the S argument. Fronted constituents are typically followed by an audible pause, as in the following example:

Makse, rihat kakno itá
/'makʃɛ̯ ɾi'hat 'kakno ɪt'aʔ/
makse rihat kak=no ∅-∅-itá-ʔ
mouse.LA falcon.HA seize=SEM DIR-HS-COP-LS

It was the mouse the falcon seized in one fell swoop.

Constituents can also be backgrounded. An O argument can be moved from its usual preverbal position to an intervening position between the main verb and auxiliary. This form of backgrounding, available only to O arguments, is known as Quasi-Noun Incorporation (QNI). It serves discourse functions similar to full noun incorporation found in its Minhast and Nahónda relatives, backgrounding the incorporated NP, decreasing valency, and providing additional specificity to the semantics of the main verb. The following example of compares and contrasts the default SOV1V2 word order, with that of a SV1OV2:

  • Default SOV1V2 Order
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.
  • Quasi-Noun Incorporation, SV1OV2 Order
Makse yôreno rihat 'itá'
/'makʃɛ̯ 'yo:reno ɾi'hat taʔɪt'aʔ/
makse yôre=no rihat ∅-itá-ʔ
mouse.LA bite=SEM falcon DIR-COP-LS

The mouse falcon-bit.

Quasi-noun incorporation, like the full noun incorporation found in Nankôre's relatives, Minhast and Nahónda, lowers valency, transforming transitive clauses to intransitive clauses. The use of the Inverse marker is no longer needed, as the incorporated noun has been reduced to an adjunct. As such, the incorporated noun no longer occupies a core position. Decreasing the clause's valency reduces the saliency of the incorporated noun.

As in many SOV languages, modifiers precede their heads:

Sirkos sirohpa
/'ʃirkos ʃiroɦpa/
sirkos si=rohpa
foreigner fine.cloth

This fine foreign cloth

The Noun Phrase


Possession is indicated by joining the possessor to the possessum with the connective si=, followed either by the verb ras to indicate inalienable possession e.g. Koykare si=naho ras, "The boy's mother", or ocité for alienable possession, e.g. Koykare si=maska ocité. If the possessor is lower in the animacy heirarcy, the inverse marker ta'/tah is prefixed to the verb, as in the improbable Maska si=koykare tah-ocité, "The anthill's boy".

The Verb Phrase

The verb phrase is made up of the verb complex, and its predicate. The verb complex must end with the appropriate form of the auxiliary itá. Itá was originally a auxiliary but later on accreted voice, tense, and the secondary ta- Inverse marker. The main verb precedes the auxiliary and may be separated from it by a de-focused noun or by one or more adjuncts. De-focused nouns appear immediately after the main verb, and adjuncts cannot be inserted between the two (see "Quasi-Incorporation" below). Coverbs appear before the main verb. The primary ta- Inverse marker cliticizes to the first verb of the verb complex, which may be either a coverb, or the main verb.

Quasi-Noun Incorporation

Nankôre canonical word order is SOV1V2, but under certain circumstances, the O-argument may occur between V1 and V2, i.e. SV1OV2. The O-argument becomes backgrounded, thereby assuming a peripheral role; as a result, the clause is effectively detransitivized. As a result, the Inverse marker ta- cannot occur in these derived intransitive clauses; it must be omitted for the clause to remain grammatical. This operation is called quasi-noun incorporation, and occurs cross-linguistically in unrelated languages, e.g. Dutch and Hungarian. A feature of Nankôre psuedo-incorporation is that adjuncts, which typically can occur in most positions of a clause, including clause-finally, cannot occur between V1 and the relocated O-argument.

Quasi-incorporation may eventually evolve into full noun incorporation, as in the case of Nankôre's distant relatives, Minhast and Nahónda. Both exhibit full noun incorporation. Like Minhast and Nahónda, Nankôre adds the incorporated noun after the verb root, e.g. Minhast Ušnirumpakekaru << ušn-ruppumak-ek-ar-u (hit-face-3S.ABS+1S.ERG-PST.PFCT-TRANS) "I hit him in the face, I face-hit him", Nahónda klomenatsoyetolayo<< kloma-natsoye-Ø-t-ola-yo (speak-wisdom-3S.PT-1S.AGT-PST-AGT) "I gave him counsel, I wisdom-speak to him. Most languages that exhibit noun incorporation attach the incorporated noun before the verb root; placement of the incorporated noun after the root is rare among incorporating languages. The process by which Nankôre performs pseudo-incorporation, namely by placing the O-argument between the primary verb and auxiliary verbs, may explain why Minhast and Nahónda place their incorporated nouns after the verb. Proto-Nahenic may have also placed a quasi-incorporated noun after the primary verb but before the auxiliary verb, an order which the descendant languages preserved.

Comparatives and Superlatives

Degrees of comparison are formed by placing the coverb soyka (to be big, i.e. to be more) or hatka (to be small, i.e. to be less) before a stative verb. Since two arguments are involved, namely the comparer NP and the compared NP, the phrase is structurally equivalent to a transitive clause, requiring an Agent and a Patient, and follows the rules governing the nominal animacy hierarchy. In the sentence Joe Sara soyka inupe itá (Joe is stronger than Sarah; lit. "Joe bigs strongs Sara"), soyka precedes the stative verb inupe (to be strong). Joe, being male, is higher in the animacy scale and so is assigned Agent status. If Sara were stronger, the Inverse affix ta-/tā-/tāh- surfaces, as in Joe Sara ta-soyka inupe ta'itá (Sara is stronger than Joe). Other examples:

1) Joe Sara soyka soyka ta'itá (Joe is taller than Sara; lit. "Joe big bigs Sara").

2) Joe Sara tā-hatka nahamos ta'itá (Sara is less tan than Joe).

3) Joe Sara hatka hatka ta'itá (Joe is smaller than Sara; lit. "Joe small smalls Sara").

4) Natos Suhe soyka makit itá (Natosh [masc.] runs faster than Suhe [fem.]; lit. "Natosh big runs Suhe").

5) Orôyo Paul ta-soyka soyka itá (The volcano is bigger than Paul; note that orôyo is less animate because it is a sessile object, hence the use of the inverse marker ta-).

To express the superlative, the auxiliary verb norhe/norhâ appears before soyka and hatka, e.g. Orôyo norhe soyka soyka itá (This is the largest mountain), or Sikôya orôyo norhe soyka soyka itá (This is the largest mountain in Kôya Island).

Example texts

Table of Abbreviations

Abbreviation Meaning
C Single Consonant
V Single Vowel
VV Long/Geminate Vowel
PN Proper Noun
NP Noun Phrase
VP Verb Phrase
OBL Oblique argument
DEM Demonym
AGT Agent
PT Patient
DIR Direct Voice
INV Inverse Voice
CONN Connective
HA High Animate
HS High Animate Singular
HP High Animate Plural
LA Low Animate
LS Low Animate Singular
LP Low Animate Plural
NEG Negator
CAUS Causative
INCH Inchoative
SEM Semelfective
PNI Pseudo-Noun Incorporation
PIN Pseudo-Incorporated Noun
SG Singular
PL Plural
REM.PST Remote Past Tense
HOD Hodiurnal Past Tense
PST Past Tense
PRS Present Tense
IMM.FUT Immediate Future Tense
FUT Future Tense
IMPF Imperfect Aspect
PRF Perfect Aspect
IRR Irrealis

Other resources