3.6. Additional inflectional morphology

In addition to the endings discussed in 3.1-3.4, there are a number of other affixes which may be attached to verb stems. For example, various modal and aspectual distinctions are marked by means of suffixes, as shown below. Such suffixes are discussed in 3.6.1.

malha       "read"
malhampa    "be able to read"
malhoina    "begin to

Reflexive/reciprocal expressions are formed by adding the prefix uk- to the verb. This prefix (together with the 'arbitrary subject' prefix iok-) is discussed in 3.6.2:

paua        "wash"
ukpaua      "wash oneself, wash each

Furthermore, comparison is marked on stative verbs by means of affixes, viz. the relative prefix an-, discussed in 3.6.3, in combination with the equative suffix -if- and the comparative suffix -eht-, as shown below:

"be big"
antomifa    "be as big
antomehta   "be bigger

Finally, the prefix i- must be attached to the verb when it is preceded by an interrogative word or focused constituent. This prefix is discussed in section 3.6.4.

3.6.1. Modal and aspectual suffixes

There are a number of suffixes which can be added to a verb stem to mark various modal and aspectual distinctions. The aspectual suffixes include the following elements, shown with example forms involving the verb eta "walk":

Progressive             -ih-     etiha
"be walking"
Inceptive/Inchoative    -oin-
etoina    "begin to walk"
Atelic                  -ok-     etoka     "walk

Note that the progressive suffix -ih- becomes -eh- when preceded by a stem ending in an i glide, as shown below. This is in accordance with the rule of vowel lowering, discussed in section 1.3:

punia       "travel"
punieha     "be

The progressive suffix indicates that the event in question is ongoing. Compare the following:

Ani malha
halma       "She reads books (habitually)"

or "She will read a book"
Ani malhiha
halma     "She is reading a book (at the moment)"

Ani malhe halma       "She read a
Ani malhihe halma     "She was
reading a book"

The progressive suffix is most felicitous with agentive verbs - that is, verbs which take a volitional subject, marked with ergative case. Thus while sentences like Ani malhiha halma "She is reading a book" are fine, sentences like Kahpiha sù "It is raining" would be considered marginal by most speakers. To say "It is raining", it is more natural to simply use the non-past tense form: Kahpa sù.

The suffix -oin- refers to the beginning of an event or state. Note that it receives an inceptive interpretation ("begin to") when attached to an eventive verb, and an inchoative interpretation ("become") when attached to a stative verb:

Ami malha        "I read"
Ami malhoina     "I begin to read"

Mai liunun       "I was old"
Mai liunoinun    "I became old" (lit.
"I began to be old")

The atelic suffix -ok- is used mostly with verbs of motion that take ergative case subjects, such as eta "go, walk", penta "run", uasta "fly", sihana "swim", and so on. Attaching -ok- to such verbs indicates that the motion event is random - i.e., not directed towards any particular goal:

"run (to someplace)"
"run around (for a while)"

"swim (to someplace)"
"swim around (for a while)"

Recall that noun phrases in the dative case may denote (among other things) the goal towards which an object moves or the location at which an event takes place, as shown below:

Sianen            moiha itai
enter-Pst-the:Abs girl  the:Dat house-Dat
"The girl went
into the house"

Muelhena         moiha itai
sleep-Pst-the:NA girl  the:Dat house-Dat
"The girl slept
in the house"

In the first sentence, itai katiai is a goal (into the house), while in the second sentence, itai katiai is a location (in the house). With motion verbs of the type mentioned above, use of the suffix -ok- helps to disambiguate dative noun phrases: When -ok- is absent, the dative phrase denotes a goal, and when -ok- is present, the dative phrase denotes a location:

Pentena        moiha itai
run-Pst-the:NA girl  the:Dat forest-Dat
"The girl ran
into the forest"

Pentokena           moiha itai
run-Atel-Pst-the:NA girl  the:Dat forest-Dat
"The girl
ran around in the forest"

In addition to the progressive, inceptive, and atelic suffixes, Tokana also has aspectual suffixes which indicate the duration of the event or state denoted by the verb, or whether that event/state takes place on one occasion or multiple occasions. I illustrate them using the verb iasa "eat":

-onk-   iasonka     "eat for a long
-yn-    iasyna      "eat for a
short time"
-ihp-   iasihpa     "eat
on one occasion"
-is-    iasisa
"eat on several


Ami   ihutka     etyne        itai
I:Erg last:night walk-Asp-Pst the:Datmountain-Dat
night I took a walk on the mountain for a while"

Inumefoi  tahisama       se
next:year visit-Asp-I:NA
"I will visit them several times next

The modal suffixes of Tokana are listed below:

Intentional     -ahm-
iasahma    "intend to eat"
Abilitative     -amp-     iasampa    "be able to
Attemptive      -ank-     iasanka 
"try to eat"
Desiderative    -uh-
iasuha     "want to eat"
Deontic         -ulhk-    iasulhka   "must

When preceded by a stem ending in a u glide, the desiderative -uh- and deontic -ulhk- undergo vowel lowering to become -oh- and -olhk-, respectively, as shown below with paua "wash":

pauoha      "want to wash"
pauolhka    "must

The aspectual suffixes discussed above have no effect on the case marking of the subject they attach to. The modal suffixes, by contrast, do have an effect on the case of the subject. Verbs which are suffixed with -ahm- or -uh- take dative subjects, while verbs suffixed with -amp-, -ank-, or -ulhk- take ergative subjects.

For example, consider the verb itskana "arrive", which in its unsuffixed form takes an absolutive subject:

Mai   inlotka
I:Abs yesterday arrive-Pst
"I arrived

As the examples below show, when a modal suffix is attached to itskana, this absolutive case assignment is 'overridden' by the case assigning properties of the suffix:

Imai  inlotka
I:Dat yesterday arrive-intend-Cpl
"I intended to
arrive yesterday"

Ami   inlotka
I:Erg yesterday arrive-can-Cpl
"I was able to
arrive yesterday"

Ami   inlotka
I:Erg yesterday arrive-try-Pst
"I tried to arrive

Imai  inlotka
I:Dat yesterday arrive-want-Cpl
"I wanted to arrive

Ami   inlotka
I:Erg yesterday arrive-must-Cpl
"I had to arrive

As the above examples illustrate, modal and aspectual suffixes attach directly to the stem, preceding any negation, tense/aspect, or order suffixes. Note, however, that there is a special negative abilitative suffix -amot "be unable to, cannot", which is used in place of -amp + -oti:

Ami uhnampa       "I can sing"
Ami uhnamot       "I can't sing"

Tai kespampama    "I can carry it"
Tai kespamotma    "I can't carry

Verbs suffixed with -amot inflect for tense/aspect and order as follows:

   simple  non-past  -amot
 completive  -amotun
 past definite  -amotie
   dependent indic.  non-past  -amotia
 completive  -amotuna
 past definite  -amoteia
   dependent subjunc.  non-past  -amotio
 completive  -amotuno
 past definite  -amoteio
  resultative  -amoteu

3.6.2. Reflexive and arbitrary subject verbs

To form reflexive and reciprocal constructions, English employs a set of special object pronouns, e.g. myself, yourself, herself, ourselves, etc.. Tokana forms reflexive constructions in another way, by attaching the prefix uk- to the verb:

"wash"               uima
ukpaua   "wash
oneself"       ukuima   "love

Note that when the prefix uk- attaches to a verb beginning with h, the prefix and the verb undergo h-metathesis (section 1.3), as in the following example, where k + h becomes hk:

hiela      "see"
uhkiela    "see

Similarly, when uk- attaches to a verb beginning with k, the k of the prefix and the k of the stem undergo degemination (section 1.3), becoming hk:

kahta      "hit"
uhkahta    "hit

Finally, if the verb stem begins with a consonant cluster, the extended form uke- is used:

"look at"
ukeskona   "look at

The reflexive prefix attaches to transitive verbs which take an absolutive object and an ergative or dative subject (see section 3.8.3). The resulting form takes its subject in the absolutive case, as shown below. Compare:

Na      iha
kahten          kal
the:Erg woman hit-Pst-the:Abs man
woman hit the man"

Ne      kal
the:Abs man Refl-hit-Pst
"The man hit

Inai    mikale  hielen          moiha
itai    ailote
the:Dat boy-Dat see-Pst-the:Abs girl  the:Dat
"The boy saw the girl in the mirror"

Ne      moiha uhkiele      itai    ailote
girl  Refl-see-Pst the:Dat mirror-Dat
"The girl saw herself in the

When the subject of a the verb is plural, the resulting construction may have either a reflexive interpretation or a reciprocal interpretation, depending on context:

Se         moiha uhkiele      itai
the:Pl:Abs girl  Refl-see-Pst the:Dat mirror-Dat
girls saw themselves in the mirror"
or "The girls saw each other
in the mirror"

In place of uk-, the preverbal particle ala "each" (see 5.4.4) may be used in combination with the noun iat "other" or iaton "other [animate]" to indicate a reciprocal meaning - especially to express situations where the agents alternate in performing the action on each other:

Sa         moiha ala  kahten
the:Pl:Erg girl  each hit-Pst-the other:one
"The girls
hit each other (in turn)"
lit. "The girls each hit the

Sa         moiha ala  pusuke   homa
meile kamana     iatone
the:Pl:Erg girl  each make-Pst bread honey
for-the:NA other:one-Dat
"The girls made honeybread for each other (in
lit. "The girls each made honeybread for the

In English, there are a handful of transitive verbs which may be used intransitively with an inherently reflexive or reciprocal meaning (e.g. The mother washed the boy versus The boy washed, or John met Bill versus John and Bill met). Note that the corresponding verbs in Tokana always require the uk- prefix when used in this way:

Ne      mikal
the:Abs boy   Refl-wash-Pst
"The boy washed

Ne      Mafe'lh  ne      Mothe
uhkuole       itai    tulone
the:Abs Mafe-and the:Abs Mothe
Refl-meet-Pst the:Dat road-Dat
"Mafe and Mothe met (each other) on the

Closely related to uk- is the 'arbitrary subject' prefix iok-, which may be attached to a verb in place of an ergative or dative subject (note that this prefix undergoes the same sound changes as uk-, viz. metathesis before a verb beginning with h, degemination before a verb beginning with k, and use of an extended form ioke- before consonant clusters). Prefixing iok- to the verb serves to indicate that the agent of the action is arbitrary, or that his/her identity is irrelevant or unknown to the speaker, as the following examples show:

Na      ahte   limè
the:Erg father open-Pst-the:Abs door
"The father opened
the door"

Arb-open-Pst-the:Abs door
"Somebody opened the

Te      hitol ioklime
the:Abs door
"Somebody opened the door"
or "The door was
opened (by somebody)"

This prefix is frequently used in embedded subjunctive clauses to mark an arbitrary subject, as in the following example:

Ikime  fala      ioktemiohanò
we:Dat want/wish Arb-fix-Subj-the:Abs roof
"We want
someone to fix the roof"
or "We want the roof to be

The prefix iok- is discussed further in section 3.8.7.

3.6.3. The relative form (marking comparison)

Stative verbs (in particular, stative verbs which denote qualities that can be evaluated on a scale) have a relative form, which is marked by adding the prefix an- to the verb stem:

Base form     Relative

ynna          anynna       "be
kaila         ankaila
"be hot"
nohta         annohta
"be cold"

In many cases, the prefixing of an- to the verb stem triggers sound changes (section 1.3): If the verb stem begins with a non-nasal consonant, the n of the prefix assimilates in place of articulation to that consonant (and a following s becomes ts). If the verb stem begins in a consonant cluster, the extended form ane- is used. And if the verb stem begins with h, then h-metathesis takes place. These changes are illustrated below:

pata          ampata       "be tall"
fiha          amfiha       "be
suliuna       antsuliuna
"be old, be stale"
aneklota     "be fast"
ahnaitina    "be weary"

The meaning of the relative form is best explained by considering a pair of examples:

Te      katia
the:Abs house tall
"The house is tall"

Te      katia ampata
the:Abs house
"The house is tall"

The first sentence, with the non-relative form pata, means that the house is tall in 'absolute' terms, with reference to some appropriate standard of tallness, e.g., the average height of houses. The second sentence, with the relative form ampata, means that the house has a certain degree or measure of tallness (which in this sentence is left unspecified).

It is extremely rare for a verb to occur in the relative form by itself, as in the above example. Normally the relative form is accompanied by some explicit reference to a measurement (which appears in the instrumental case), as in the following sentence:

Te      katia
ampata   ihtahne  kastam
the:Abs house Rel-tall six-Inst
"The house is six kastams

Here the instrumental phrase ihtahne kastam "six kastams" indicates the degree of tallness of the house. Note that six kastams, or about 11.5 feet, is not very tall for a house, at least by Tokana standards. Thus the house is not tall in absolute terms. A more exact, if cumbersome, translation of this sentence would be "The house has a degree of tallness (which is equal) to six kastams".

There are a handful of degree words in Tokana (section 3.10) which must occur with a stative verb in the relative form. These include mulh "enough", tsuò "too much", and tsyi "not enough":

mulh ampata    "tall
tsuò ampata    "too
tsyi ampata    "not tall

The relative form is also required in questions containing the operator miante "how much", when those questions ask about the degree of a particular property:

katia miante'n    iampata?
the:Abs house how much-Qu
"How tall is the house?"
lit. "(By) how much is
the house tall?"

As the following examples illustrate, relative verbs may take adjunct clauses headed by ku "to, for, in order that, so that":

Te      naka
lhai anthota   ku  tiyisotioma
the:Abs rock here Rel-heavy for
"This rock is so heavy that I can't lift
lit. "This rock is heavy so that I wouldn't lift

Te      pahmauat     mulh   ankaila ku
the:Abs cooking:fire enough Rel-hot for
"This fire is hot enough to cook (over)"
lit. "The
fire is hot enough so that (one) would cook (over it)"

Te      pahmauat     tsuò     ankaila ku
the:Abs cooking:fire too:much Rel-hot for
"This fire is too hot to cook

In addition to the above uses, the relative form of the verb serves as the base to which the equative and comparative suffixes -if- and -eht- are added:

(Equ)     -if-    ampatifa     "be as
tall as"
                           ankailifa    "be as hot as"

aneklotifa   "be as fast

Comparative (Com)  -eht-   ampatehta    "be taller than", "be
                           ankailehta   "be hotter than", "be
                           aneklotehta  "be faster than", "be

Note that equative verbs (e.g. ampatifa "be as tall as, equal in tallness") and comparative verbs (e.g. ampatehta "be taller than, exceed in tallness") are syntactically transitive: These forms take an absolutive argument to indicate the subject of comparison, and a dative argument to indicate the standard of comparison. For example:

Ne      kal
ampatifana          ihai
the:Abs man Rel-tall-Equ-the:NA
"The man is as tall as the

This sentence could be paraphrased something like "The man has an equal degree of tallness compared to the woman", or "The man is equal-in-tallness to the woman". Additional examples are given below (note the use of the reflexive prefix uk- in the first example):

Ne      kal ki  ne      iha
the:Abs man and the:Abs woman Refl-Rel-tall-Equ
man and the woman are equally tall"
lit. "The man and the woman
are as tall as each other"

Ne      kal
ampatehtana         ihai
the:Abs man Rel-tall-Com-the:NA
"The man is taller than the woman"

Ne      kal lhai ampatehta
the:Abs man here
"This man here is the

Consider also the following example, where a standard of comparison (inai ihai, "the woman") and a phrase indicating degree (esne kastam, "one kastam") are both present:

Ne      kal
ampatehta    esne     kastam inai    ihai
the:Abs man Rel-tall-Com
one-Inst kastam the:Dat woman-Dat
"The man is one kastam taller than
the woman"

When two actions are being compared, rather than two entities, then the standard of comparison is usually an embedded clause introduced by a dative case-marked operator - e.g. miomie "how-Dat" in the examples below. Note that the operator, which is not present (overtly) in the English translations, is obligatory in this construction. (See section 3.7.2 for the use of the auxiliary nià "do" in these sentences.)

Ami   penta ie
aneklotehtat     miomie  niat   ani
I:Erg run   with
Rel-fast-Com-Dep how-Dat do-Dep he:Erg
"I run faster than he
lit. "I run faster than how he does"

Ami   iaslò pente   ie   aneklotifat      miomie
niet       inlotka
I:Erg today run-Pst with Rel-fast-Equ-Dep how-Dat
do-Dep:Pst yesterday
"I ran as fast today as I did
lit. "I ran as fast today as how (I) did

Semantically and morphologically related to comparative and equative verbs are the quantifiers anehte "more (than), most" and anifte "as many (as)" (section 2.5.2). Like normal quantifiers, these each have an animate and a temporal adverbial form, shown below, with examples:

"more (people)"         anifton
"as many (people)"
"more, more often"      inanifte
"as often (as)"

Ami   iase    anehte pami
mahe     nienko
I:Erg eat-Pst more   food what-Dat
"I ate more food than you did"
lit. "I ate
more food than what you did"

lhiane        anifton mahe     niet       inlotka
come:here-Pst as:many what-Dat do-Dep:Pst yesterday
"As many (people)
came today as did yesterday"

Ne      Han ukpaua
inanehte   miantè       niat   ami
the:Abs Han Refl-wash
more:often how:much-Dat do-Dep I:Emph
"Han bathes more often than I
lit. "Han bathes more often than how much (that) I

3.6.4. The focus marker

If a noun phrase or other constituent occupies the preverbal focus position (section 5.1.2) or the operator position (5.1.3), then the prefix i- must be attached to the verb. I will refer to this prefix as the focus marker. Compare the following:

Na      miua sapente   peilan
the:Erg cat
chase-Pst bird
"The cat chased a bird"

miua peilan isapente
the:Erg cat  bird   Foc-chase-Pst
"The cat
chased a bird"
or "It's a bird that the cat

In the first sentence, the focus position is empty, and so the verb sapenta "chase" is unprefixed. In the second sentence, however, peilan "bird" has moved up to the focus position, and so the prefix i- is attached to sapenta. The following example shows the use of i- in interrogative questions: Here, "what" is in the operator position, while na miua "the cat" is occupying the pre-focus topic position (see 5.1.4):

Na      miua mà'n    isapente?
the:Erg cat
what-Qu Foc-chase-Pst
"What did the cat chase?"
or "The cat,
what did (she) chase?"

Additional examples, showing focused adverbials and prepositional phrases, are given below. Notice that in the second example, the focus-marked verb carries the negative suffix -oti, in 'agreement' with the focused negative adverb intunte "never" (see 3.1). For more discussion of focus fronting and the use of i-, see sections 5.1.2 and 5.1.3.

Ohpinan             Hanne    iemuktampunkima
because of-him:Inst Han-Inst Foc-finish-can-Cpl-we:NA
"We were able to finish our work because of
"It's because of Han that we were able to finish our

Itai    tomlai       lhon  intunte ihotun
iakmon talhatat
the:Dat mountain-Dat there never   Foc-be-Pst anyone
"Never has anyone climbed that

Note that when the focus marker is attached to a word beginning with i, the i of the prefix becomes e: E.g., i- + itsa "say" becomes eitsa, while i- + iona "know" becomes eiona. This is in accordance with the rule of vowel lowering discussed in section 1.3.

When the focus marker i- precedes the relative marker an- when both are attached to the verb:

Te      katia lhon
ampata   kelune     kastam
the:Abs house there Rel-tall seven-Inst
"That house is seven kastams tall"

Te      katia lhon  miante'n    iampata?
house there how much-Qu Foc-Rel-tall
"How tall is that
lit. "That house, (by) how much is (it)

Te      katia lhon  kelune     kastam
the:Abs house there seven-Inst kastam
"That house is seven kastams

The focus marker also precedes the reflexive/reciprocal prefix uk- and the arbitrary subject prefix iok- (where i- + iok- becomes eiok-):

Miò'n  iukpaue?
"Who washed himself?"

Mà   katia n'eioksuehkiospe?
what house
Qu-Foc-Arb-burn down-Pst
"Which house was burned

If the verb is preceded by a degree word (section 3.10), i- attaches to the degree word rather than the verb. For instance, in the examples below, i- is prefixed to omi "so, so much" and mioteumi "completely", respectively:

Ymiohpa'n iomi
why-Qu    Rel-so:much sad
"Why are (you) so

Te      mas  imè'n   imioteumi
the:Abs soup when-Qu Rel-completely boil
"When will
the soup be completely cooked?"

The focus marker also attaches to the negative particle tu (section 3.1), yielding the form itù:

Ne      Mothe itù     lhianotun
the:Abs Mothe
Foc-Neg come:here-Neg-Cpl
"It's Mothe who didn't

3.7. Defective and irregularverbs

In this section I discuss constructions involving 'defective' verbs - that is, verbs which lack the full range of inflectional forms discussed in 3.1-3.4, and which in many cases consist of a single 'frozen' form. Such verbs include slune, ete, and onie, used to form imperatives and optatives (3.7.1), and tule, which marks the subjunctive/conditional mood in main clauses (3.7.2). Also, in 3.7.3, I discuss the copula he "be" and the auxiliary nià "do", which have irregular conjugations.

3.7.1. Imperatives and optatives

Recall from section 3.4 that imperatives are formed by adding the suffixes -o (for the positive) and -ife (for the negative) to the verb stem:

"Come here!"
Pauote kopo!
"Wash the pots!"
Nelhife kas!
"Don't leave yet!"

Imperatives formed in this way are usually felt by native speakers to be rather brusque. An alternative construction is thus often used to form requests or polite commands: This construction involves the unmarked form of the verb (viz. the simple non-past), accompanied by the defective verb slune, glossed "please". For example:

Slune lhiana
"Please come here"
Slune pauate kopo
"Could you please wash the pots?"
nelhoti kas   "Please don't leave

Note that slune is formed from the old verb root slun- "help", to which the optative suffix -e (not to be confused with the past tense suffix -e) has been added. At an earlier stage in the language, -e could apparently be attached to any verb, but now this suffix is only attested on three frozen forms, slune, ete, and onie, and in a handful of idioms (such as the expression nioktè telanko "may your kindess return to you", which is the Tokana way of saying "thank you").

The defective verb ete "come, let's" (from eta "go") is used with the unmarked form of the verb to indicate an invitation or suggestion:

Ete afanakma        "Why don't you
come with us?"
Kim ete nelha kas
"Let us leave now"

Note that ete can be used by itself as an exclamation meaning "let's go!", "let's do it!", "go ahead!", "come on!", et cetera. This form is also found in the expression ie eliat iete ma "may you go easily", which is the Tokana way of saying good-bye or wishing someone well.

Finally, the defective verb onie "may, may it be that", is used with the unmarked form of the verb to indicate a wish or desire:

Se       mioton
onie hulia!
they:Abs all/whole may  healthy
"May they all be

Onie stelhma mà
may  find    what look:for-Dep
"May (you) find what
(you) are looking for!"

3.7.2. Main clause subjunctives and conditionals

As discussed in section 3.3.1, indicative and subjunctive embedded clauses are distinguished by the form of the ending on the verb. In main clauses, the subjunctive is formed using the defective verb tule "would, could". Recall that subjunctives denote potential or hypothetical events. For example:

Mai   tule
afanakyina          aun alhano
I:Abs would accompany-you:Pl:NA if
"I would come with you, if it were

Tule is used quite frequently in combination with the modal suffixes. As the following examples show, tule does not play any role in assigning case to the subject:

Ami tule afanampa      "I could come
along", "I would be able to come along"
Imai tule afanuha      "I would like to come
Ami tule afanulhka     "I
would have to come along", "I ought to come

When a clause containing tule is negated, it is tule rather than the lexical verb which bears the negative suffix -oti:

Imai tulotie afanuha   "I would not
like to come along"

To form past tense subjunctives, the completive marker -un or the past tense marker -e is suffixed to the main verb. No tense marking appears on tule itself. Compare:

Mai tule
afanakyina    "I would come with you"
Mai tule afanekyina    "I would have come with

Tule is also sometimes found in embedded clauses, where it occurs in place of dependent subjunctive morphology on the verb. In embedded clauses, tule has the form tulit, as in the following examples. Notice that the clitic determiner -kim "we" attaches to the main verb rather than to tulit:

Na      Elim nesepe  ni tulit
the:Erg Elim ask-Pst Qu would-Dep
"Elim asked if we would like to come along
(with him)"

Na      Elim nesepe  ni tulit
the:Erg Elim ask-Pst Qu would-Dep
"Elim asked if we would have liked to
come along (with him)"

The complete paradigm for tule is given below. Notice that, in addition to an absence of tense marking, there is no resultative form and no imperative form:


Simple order        tule
Dependent order     tulit



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