3. The verb phrase

In this chapter I consider the structure of verb phrases. In Tokana, the 'unmarked' (or citation) form of the verb is characterised by the ending -a, which is attached to the verb stem: E.g. uim-a "love", its-a "speak", tom-a, "be big". In place of this ending, which may be thought of as a kind of default suffix, the verb stem may take one or more suffixes for marking order (or clause type), tense/aspect, and negation. Modality and comparison are also marked by suffixes, which attach between the stem and the verbal ending (e.g. uim-oin-a "begin to love", uim-uh-a "want to love").

I begin this chapter by discussing inflectional morphology: In section 3.1 I consider how negation is marked, while in sections 3.2 and 3.3 I consider tense/aspect and order, respectively. Section 3.4 deals with imperative morphology. A sample paradigm showing all the possible permutations of negation, order, and tense/aspect is given in section 3.5, while in 3.6 I discuss other kinds of inflectional morphology, including modal and aspectual suffixes.

The remainder of the chapter deals with subclasses of verbs and other issues. Section 3.7 concerns constructions involving irregular or 'defective' verbs (i.e. verbs which lack the full range of inflectional forms). These include optatives, the copula he "be", and the main-clause subjunctive marker tule "would, should". In 3.8 I consider the question of argument structure - that is, the number of noun phrase (or clausal) arguments which a given verb may take, and how those arguments are marked for case. In this section I discuss the semantic/thematic nature of case-marking in Tokana, and present examples of the various subclasses of verbs found in the language. In section 3.9, I discuss derivational morphology for forming nouns from verb stems and verbs from noun stems. Finally, in section 3.10, I briefly discuss the syntactic and semantic properties of degree words, which may be used to modify verb phrases.

Note that in Tokana, there is no morphosyntactically distinct class of adjectives. Instead, adjectival concepts (properties, states, etc.) are expressed for the most part by verbs:

toma     "be big"
kesta    "be happy"
liuna    "be

Everything in the following sections which applies to eventive verbs should thus be taken to apply to stative verbs (or 'adjectives') as well.

3.1. Negation

Negation in Tokana is marked by the particle tu "not", which immediately precedes the verb. As illustrated below, this negative particle triggers 'agreement' on the verb in the form of the suffix -oti:

Te nan kaila           "The water is
Te nan tu kailoti      "The
water is not hot"

Na moiha muelha
"The girl sleeps"
Na moiha tu
muelhoti   "The girl does not

This tu -oti construction, which frames the verb stem, is reminiscent of the ne... pas construction in French (although syntactically the two are actually rather different).

The particle tu is normally used only in cases where the negation is emphatic or contrastive (for instance, the sentence Te nan tu kailoti "The water is not hot" might be used in a situation where the speaker is contradicting someone who has just asserted that the water is hot). In non-emphatic contexts, tu is generally dropped, leaving the suffix on the verb as the only overt marker of negation:

Te nan
kailoti         "The water isn't hot"
Na moiha muelhoti      "The girl doesn't

Besides the particle tu, there are a number of other preverbal expressions which trigger negative marking on the verb. These expressions, which all contain the negative element tu(n)-, include the following:

tunte           "nothing"
tunton          "no-one"
intunte         "never, at no time"

tuiakme         "not anything, nothing at
tuiakmon        "not anyone,
no-one at all"
intuiakme       "not
ever, never at all"

"not (so) much/many"
"not (so) many" [animate]
intuiakante     "not (very) often"

tuiaku          "not at all, not
tuiaku teusu    "not very, not
so much"
tuiaketsuò      "not
too (much)"
touta           "never,
in no case"
tuneima         "not
tuiakeima       "not any more,
no longer"

Note that these elements may only occur immediately before the verb. Examples:

Te      tsaka kahu tuntone    ihenkoti
the:Abs kind
fish no-one-Dat Foc-like-Neg
"This kind of fish no-one likes [to

Te      katia lhon  tuiaku teusu
the:Abs house there not:so very  beautiful-Neg
house is not very beautiful"

ipuniotisa             itai    Tenmothaie
Foc-travel-Neg-they:NA the:Dat Tenmothai-Dat
"They don't often travel
to Tenmothai"
or "It's not often that they travel to

The suffix -oti is also required with constituent negation - that is, contrastive negation of some element within the predicate. In Tokana, constituent negation is generally formed by marking the phrase to be negated with the focus particle tun and placing it in the preverbal focus position (section 5.1.2):

Tun ne      suhpama       ikuolotiena
not the:Abs brother-my:NA Foc-meet-Neg-Pst-the:NA Han
not my brother than Han met (but someone

Consider also the following example of constituent negation, where tuiaku es translates as "not a single":

Itai    tulone   tuiaku   es  koin   isasotiekma
the:Dat road-Dat not:even one person Foc-meet-Neg-Pst-we:NA
uot;We didn't meet a single person on the

There is also a series of elements, called negative polarity items, which only occur within negative verb phrases (i.e. after a verb marked with -oti). These elements all contain the morpheme iak- (compare these with the preverbal negative elements with tuiak- listed above):

iakme        "any, anything"
iakmon       "anyone, anybody"
iniakme      "ever", "at any

iakante      "so
much/many", "very much/many"
iakanton     "so many", "very
many" [animate]
iniakante    "so
often", "very often"

"at all, ever, even"
"any more", "any


Kima   iasotie     iakme
eat-Neg-Pst anything
"We didn't eat anything"

Inlotka   lhianotie         iakmon
come:here-Neg-Pst anybody
"Nobody came yesterday"
"Yesterday [there] wasn't anybody who came"

Inlotka   lhianotie         iakanton
come:here-Neg-Pst many:people
"Not very many people came

Se         tenù   huaitotima
the:Pl:Abs people like-Neg-I:NA at:all
"Those people I
don't like at all"

Itai    talpè
lhai sehthoti uet    iakeima
the:Dat field-Dat here grow-Neg barley
"[We] don't grow barley in this field any

In connection with negation, note that the negative forms of the verbs iona "know" and aulina "be important" are not much used. In their place, the inherently negative verbs fana "not know, be unsure about" and oita "be unimportant, not matter" are generally preferred:

Imai  fana     miò melampano
I:Dat not:know who help-able-Subj us:Abs
"I don't know who
would be able to help us"
or "I'm not sure who would be able to
help us"

Oita        mà
unimportant what bring-Subj-you:NA
"It doesn't matter
what you bring"

Note also that the modal suffix -amp(a) "can, be able to" (discussed in 3.6.1), has a special negative form -amot "cannot, be unable to":

Ami hostana
"I dance"
Ami hostanampa    "I
can dance"
Ami hostanamot    "I
can't dance"

Iman hielan       "I
see him"
Ami hielampan     "I can
see him"
Ami hielamotne    "I cannot
see him"

3.2. Tense/aspect

Tokana verbs have three basic tense/aspect forms, marked by endings on the verb stem: These are the non-past (which is homophonous with the unmarked form), the past (or past definite), and the completive (or past indefinite). The suffixes used with main clause verbs are:

   positive  negative
 non-past  -a  -oti
 completive (Cpl)  -un  -otun
 past definite (Pst)  -e  -otie

For verbs whose stems end in a u glide, the completive suffix -un becomes -on due to vowel lowering (section 1.3). Below are sample paradigms for the verbs iasa "eat", paua "wash", and punia "travel":

   positive  negative
 non-past  iasa  iasoti
 completive (Cpl)  iasun  iasotun
 past definite (Pst)  iase  iasotie

   positive  negative
 non-past  paua  pauoti
 completive (Cpl)  pauon  pauotun
 past definite (Pst)  paue  pauotie

The meanings of the tense/aspect forms are described below:

(1) Non-past: This form is analogous in many respects to the 'simple present' tense in English. With stative verbs, the non-past is used to indicate a present state of affairs, or a habitual or general state of affairs:

Inai    Mothè     inlhai
the:Dat Mothe-Dat now    happy
"Mothe is happy

Inai    Mothè     uta
the:Dat Mothe-Dat always happy
"Mothe is always

Similarly, the non-past is used with eventive verbs to indicate habitual or generic actions:

Se         lati     ukpaua    inkekua
the:Pl:Abs children Refl-wash every:time
"The children bathe every

The non-past sometimes corresponds to the present progressive (e.g. is hanging) or the perfect progressive (has been living) in English, when it is used to denote present situations, or situations which began in the past and continue into the present. (In the latter case, the verb is often accompanied by the adverbial particle kas, which means "now", "as of now", "already"):

hoto        sena itai    ypiai    pahmauat
the:Abs cooking:pot hang
the:Dat over-Dat cooking fire
"The cooking pot is hanging over the

Asi      kas       sulhtai     Kemothasie
kete huoie      ume
they:Erg as:of:now live-the:NA Kemothasi-Dat for
twelve-Dat year
"They have been living in Kemothasi for twelve years
or "They have already been living in Kemothasi for twelve

The non-past is also used with both stative and eventive verbs to indicate a future action or situation (often accompanied by a marker of future time, e.g. ifoi "then, in the future", ilohfoi "tomorrow"):

Inai    Mothè     ilohfoi
the:Dat Mothe-Dat tomorrow happy
"Mothe will be happy

Kim    ifoi         lolhampute etai
we:Abs then(future) week-Dat   go-the:NA Uiluma-Dat
are going to Uiluma next week"

There are other ways to indicate future tense as well. For instance, the auxiliary eta "go" may be used with the dependent form of the verb to indicate a future action (cf. the expression be going to in English). Note that eta triggers absolutive case-marking on the subject:

Se         lati
eta laliat   iaslò itai    sihilale
the:Pl:Abs children go
play-Dep today the:Dat riverbank-Dat
"The children are going to play
by the river today"

Ilohfoi  eta kahpat
tomorrow go  fall-Dep rain
"It's going to rain

In this construction, tense and negation are marked on eta rather than the dependent verb:

lati     etun   laliat   iaslò itai    sihilale
children go-Cpl play-Dep today the:Dat riverbank-Dat
"The children
were going to play by the river today"

kahpat   sù   ilohfoi
go-Neg fall-Dep rain
"It's not going to rain

Future tense is also part of the meaning of the modal suffix -ahm- "intend to" (cf. ami iasa "I eat", imai iasahma "I intend to eat"). Modal suffixes are discussed in section 3.6.1.

(2) Completive: The completive form indicates that the event or situation is located at some time prior to the moment when the sentence is uttered. This is the form used to mark past tense on stative verbs, when they indicate a state or situation which no longer exists at the moment of speaking. Compare the sentence below with the non-past sentences above:

Inai    Mothè     inlotka   kestun
Mothe-Dat yesterday happy-Cpl
"Mothe was happy

With eventive verbs, the completive is usually used to indicate an event located at some unspecified time in the past, which does not continue into the present. Using the completive often puts emphasis on the result of the event in question, rather than the event itself and when it happened. For example, in the following sentence, the speaker is focusing on the fact that the house has a particular property (namely, the property of having been built by his grandfather). Exactly when the speaker's grandfather built the house is unimportant here:

katia lhon  tiespunna        miahtema
the:Abs house there
build-Cpl-the:NA grandfather-my:NA
"My grandfather built that

The completive may also have a durative interpretation. That is, it may indicate an event or situation which took place over some span of time in the past, but which does not continue into the present. For example, the use of the completive in the following sentence indicates that the speaker's grandfather lived in the village for an extended period of time, but that he no longer does so:

Itai    pule        lhai
sulhtunna       miahtema
the:Dat village-Dat here live-Cpl-the:NA
"My grandfather lived in this

The completive also indicates a repeated event or habitual activity which is confined to the past:

Ami   inumitka  etuni
kunoi    inante
I:Abs last:year go-Cpl-the:NA lake-Dat often
often went to the lake last year"
or "Last year, I would often go
to the lake"

Finally, the use of the completive may emphasise that an event forms part of the subject's prior experiences. In this usage, the completive corresponds to one of the uses of the present perfect (have visited) in English:

Ami   itai    Tenmothaie    itahun
the:Dat Tenmothai-Dat Foc-visit-Cpl
"I have visited Tenmothai

In this last sentence, the speaker is not alluding to a particular occasion on which she visited Tenmothai. Rather, she is asserting that visiting Tenmothai is something which she has done at least once before: It is part of her past experience.

(3) Past: The past (or past definite) form is not found with stative verbs, only eventive verbs. The past contrasts with the completive, in that a verb marked with the past tense suffix usually denotes a particular event which is located at a certain point in time in the past. Contrast the sentence above ("I have visited Tenmothai before") with the following:

Ami   itai
Tenmothaie    itahe
I:Erg the:Dat Tenmothai-Dat
"I visited

Unlike the completive sentence, which indicates merely that the speaker has visited Tenmothai at some point, the past tense sentence above refers to a specific event. Here, the speaker is asserting that she visited Tenmothai on a particular occasion (although the exact point in time may not be indicated).

Compare also the following sentences:

Na      Mafe malhune          halma
the:Erg Mafe
read-Cpl-the:Abs book
"Mafe has read this book (before)"

Na      Mafe malhè            halma
Mafe read-Pst-the:Abs book
"Mafe read/was reading this

The first sentence describes, as it were, a property of Mafe, whereas the second sentence describes a particular action which Mafe engaged in. Thus the first sentence might be appropriate in answer to the question How does Mafe know the plot of this book?; while the second sentence might be an appropriate answer to the question What did Mafe do yesterday?

Note finally that the past definite form can only be used to refer to a single event, while the completive can (in principle) imply a series of events happening over time. Consider this pair of sentences:

Itai    pule        sthoke      ante katia
the:Dat village-Dat destroy-Pst many house
"In this village, many houses were destroyed in a

Itai    pule        sthokun     ante
katia tohauatne
the:Dat village-Dat destroy-Cpl many house
"In this village, many houses have been destroyed in

The first sentence, with past definite marking on the verb, must refer to a single event: That is, there was one fire which destroyed all the houses. The second sentence, with completive marking on the verb, need not refer to a single event: Different houses could have been destroyed by different fires at different times.

The past tense is required when the verb denotes an event which has just happened. In this usage, the past tense corresponds to one of the uses of the present perfect (have finished) in English:

Kima   laisne
emukte     yksat   te      hepasyl
we:Erg just   finish-Pst dig-Dep
the:Abs ditch
"We (have) just finished digging the

Note that the past and non-past tense forms may combine with the aspectual suffix -ih- "be in the process of" to indicate present or past progressive actions:

ami iasa      "I eat"
ami iase      "I ate"

ami iasiha    "I am (in the process of)
ami iasihe    "I was (in the
process of) eating"

This suffix is discussed further in section 3.6.1.



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