Subject prefixes on verbs

Every Numbami verb has to have a prefix that shows the person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular, plural) of its subject and the tense (nonfuture or future). To show that it requires a prefix, we write a hyphen at the beginning of each bare verb stem.

Here is a full paradigm for one of the most important verbs in the language, -nggo ‘to say, talk, tell, scold’, using Tok Pisin glosses. The following examples show hyphens between each prefix and verb stem, but the hyphen is not necessary in normal writing.

wa-nggo ‘mi tok’
u-nggo ‘yu tok’
i-nggo ’em i tok’
ta-nggo ‘yumi tok’
ma-nggo ‘mipela i tok’
mu-nggo ‘yupela i tok’
ti-nggo ‘ol i tok’

na-nggo ‘bai mi tok’
nu-nggo ‘bai yu tok’
ni-nggo ‘bai em i tok’
tana-nggo ‘bai yumi tok’
mana-nggo ‘bai mipela i tok’
muna-nggo ‘bai yupela i tok’
ina-nggo ‘bai ol i tok’

In most cases, subject prefixes are easy to separate from verb stems, but in a few very common words, the final vowels of the prefixes merge with initial vowels of the stems to yield irregularly inflected forms, as in the following paradigm for -ani ‘to eat’. (Another very common verb, -ambi ‘to hold, take’, works the same way.)

wani (< wa-ani) ‘mi kaikai’
woni (< u-ani) ‘yu kaikai’
weni (< i-ani) ’em i kaikai’
tani (< ta-ani) ‘yumi kaikai’
mani (< ma-ani) ‘mipela i kaikai’
moni (< mu-ani) ‘yupela i kaikai’
teni (< ti-ani) ‘ol i kaikai’

wambi (< wa-ambi) ‘mi holim/kisim’
wombi (< u-ambi) ‘yu holim/kisim’
wembi (< i-ambi) ’em i holim/kisim’
tambi (< ta-ambi) ‘yumi holim/kisim’
mambi (< ma-ambi) ‘mipela holim/kisim’
mombi (< mu-ambi) ‘yupela holim/kisim’
tembi (< ti-ambi) ‘ol i holim/kisim’

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