Mini-Module 1

Intransitive Sentences with Common Noun Subjects

 

Mini-module #1 will discuss the pattern of intransitive sentences with common noun subjects. The sentences discussed here are "declarative" sentences that state a fact or describe a situation.  In addition to declarative sentences like these, every language has sentences that ask questions, give commands, express disagreement and invite participation. Example:

Nah xst'og̱a haas.

 

      

The dog slept.

Sm'algya̱x organizes the information in its sentences very differently than English does.

 

  • English uses the word order   SUBJECT-VERB

  • Sm'algya̱x uses the word order VERB-SUBJECT

 

Furthermore, each part of a Sm'algya̱x sentence is "glued" to the preceding sentence part by a connective. There are a number of different connectives, and which one is used depends on the type of word that follows, as well as on how the sentence started.

When the subject of an intransitive sentence is a PROPER NOUN like Mary, John or my grandmother) or a PRONOUN, such as I, you, we, they, etc., there are sharp differences between independent and dependent sentence patterns in Sm'algya̱x. When the subject of the sentence is a common noun, such as woman, table, idea or dog, however, both patterns are identical. In this mini-module we will be only focusing on the latter.

Here is the template for an intransitive sentence with a common noun subject, with each component in a distinctive colour:

Start - verb-a connective - common noun subject - end.

 

*** Click on each section for details.*** 

 

Start

The green "start" component of the sentence may be filled either by a time word such as:

 

  • yagwa (ongoing action, -ing),

  • ła (already, after, when, while),

  • nah (completed action, -ed)

  • dm (future, will, going to)

  • or by a combination of these terms, such as ładm (about to),

 

 or by a clause-initial conjunction such as

  • ada (and),

  • dzida (if),

  • awil (because),

  • ts'u (although) or

  • dawila (and then)

or any other sentence starter.

Yagwa yaawxga haas

 

The "start" slot may also be left empty. If it is empty, and the sentence describes an action, it is understood to have already happened; if the sentence describes a state or quality, it is understood to be ongoing. Here are intransitive sentences with possible sentence starters, each with a common noun subject:

Yagwa yaawxga haas.                    The dog is eating.

Ła luunksa hoon.                            The fish are already dry.

Dm hadiksa sts'ool.                        The beaver is going to swim.

Nah sisaaxsa ɬguwoomɬk.             The baby laughed.

Ada sisaaxsa łguwoomłk.              And the baby laughed. 

Baxwaalxsa 'yuuta gyaatk.            The men walked up last night.

verb​​​

The second slot in the pattern is for the intransitive verb, which is coloured yellow in the template. This is the place where the word for the action, state or quality expressed by the intransitive verb in the sentence is placed. Remember, an intransitive verb is one that has a subject but no object. This means that the subject does the action, but it is not done to anything (there is no object or receiver of the action). Here are some examples of intransitive verbs:

Actions             

Yaa (walk)                  

Wa̱n (sit down, pl.) 

Tgi oks (fall down) 

Ḵ'oł (run, plural)        

T'aa (sit, sg.)   

'Wiihawtk (cry)                  

States  and Qualities

Siipk (sick)      

Alaskw (weak)

Łuunti  (angry)

Amap'a̱s (pretty)

 Ła̱p (deep)

 Eepn (light in weight) 

Notice that actions, states and qualities all pattern the same. The only distinction is that state verbs do not co-occur with the sentence starter yagwa (-ing). This is not hard to remember because a similar restriction is found in English. In English we don't say *The girl is being tired. And in Sm'algya̱x we don't say *Yagwa sunaała hana̱'a̱.  (Notice the * marking sentences that are not grammatical.) Also, a sentence with a state verb doesn't require a time word, and is not understood as being completed, as an action verb without a time word is.

Alasgwa hana̱'a̱ gwa̱'a̱.                   This woman is weak.

Yaawxga hana̱'a̱.                             The woman ate.

Yagwa yaawxga haas.                    The dog is eating.

Ła luunksa hoon.                            The fish are already dry.

Dm hadiksa sts'ool.                        The beaver is going to swim.

Nah sisaaxsa ɬguwoomɬk.             The baby laughed.

Baxwaalxsa 'yuuta gyaatk.            The men walked up last night.

Dm hadiksa sts'ool.  

 

-a connective

The next slot in the pattern is coloured bright pink, and in Sm'algya̱x this is the place for the -a connective. This sentence pattern takes the –a connective on the intransitive verb because it precedes a common noun subject.  When the subject of the sentence is a common noun, then the link between the verb and the subject is an a-connective.

Siipga 'yuuta gwii                         That man is sick

Ła g̱oydiksa hana̱'a̱x                    The woman is coming.    

Ending changes

Notice that in the  first sentence here the word for "sick" has changed its form slightly compared to the root that was shown above (siipk). Sm'algya̱x has a general process of sound adjustments when an ending is added to a root word. Depending on what the final sound of the root word is, one of three different things will happen:

1. If the root word ends in one of these sounds  
   
(s,  ɬ,  k',  k'w,  k'y,  k',  p',  t',  ts')  the ending is just added directly to the root:

  • sisaaxs (laugh, root word)

  • becomes.... Nah sisaaxsa łguwoomłk (The baby laughed.)

 

2. If the root word ends in one of these voiceless sounds
    
(k, ḵ, p, t, d, kw, ky, ts, x)
    then
 the last sound of the root word is modified to a voiced sound:,
    k > g,   ḵ > g̱,   p >b,   t > d,   kw > gw,   ky > gy,   ts > dz,   x > g̱

  • Yaawxk (eat, root word) 

  • becomes... Dm yaawxga 'yuuta   (The man will eat.)

Nah sisaaxsa łguwoomłk.

 
 

common noun subject

The final required component in the template for an intransitive sentence with a common noun subject is the common noun itself. A common noun is a word that refers to a person, place or thing, but does not identify a specific individual. 

 

The –a connective is chosen for this pattern because it introduces a common noun. It attaches to the verb and may change its pronunciation as shown above. This pattern of linking sentence parts with connectives is why we say that in Sm'algya̱x each part of a sentence is "glued" to the preceding part.

Yaawxga hana̱'a̱.                             The woman ate.

Ła luunksa hoon                           The fish are already dry.

Dm hadiksa sts'ool                       The beaver is going to swim.

Nah sisaaxsa ɬguwoomɬk.             The baby laughed.

Ła luunksa hoon.

Amap'pasa̱ hana'a g̱wa'a. 

end.

This slot is for "extra" information about when, where, how, why, or with what the action of the sentence happened. This "extra" information is not essential to the sentence and can always be omitted. For more examples of intransitive sentences that are expanded with "extras" see Visible Grammar, Module 13: Expanded Intransitive Sentences.

Aam łgu 'yuuta gwii                    That boy is good.

Baxwaalxsa 'yuuta gyaatk.          The men walked up last night.

Amap'asa̱ hana'a g̱wa'a.               This woman is beautiful.

3. If the root word ends in one of these sounds: any vowel (a, e, i, o, u, ü) or any "resonant" (l,m,n,w,y), the vowel –a of the connective is
    "eaten" by the root word so the connective -a is not pronounced or written: . Resonants are consonants that have some vowel-like qualities.

  • Yaa (walk, root word) Awil yaa hana̱'a̱. (Because the woman walked.)

  • Aam (good, root word) Aam łgu 'yuuta gwii. (That boy is good.)

 

Putting it all together

The table below shows six sentences split up into their component building blocks, in boxes that are shaded to represent the template for an intransitive sentence with a common noun subject. Notice that both the start and end positions may be left empty, but every sentence has a verb, an –a connective, and a common noun subject. Remember the sound adjustments that happen when the –a connective is added to a root. Notice that sometimes the common noun subject can have extra words added, but still fills the same slot in the template.

Review Information:

 

  • Notice, as shown in the first example, that there is a sound adjustment when the –a connective is suffixed, as in yaawxk-a; this word is pronounced yaawxga, not *yaawxka. This is always the case with words ending  in the voiceless sounds k, kw, ky, ḵ, p, t, ts, and x, which are pronounced as the related voiced sounds g, gw, gy, g, b, d, dz, and g respectively. This is a consistent pattern in Sm'algyax, in which the –a connective ending triggers "voicing" of plain voiceless consonants, but does not occur with "hard" consonants such as k', p', t', and ts'. (click here for exceptions) 

  • Notice also in the last example that the –a connective is not pronounced when it is added to a word ending in a vowel or resonant, such as aam.

  • Notice that three of the example sentences listed above have no temporal marker, and that when the verb expresses a quality or state of being such as be pretty, be full, the English translation is in the present tense. When there is no expressed time word and the verb expresses an action, such as walk up, the translation is in the past tense. 

More examples:

Here are some more intransitive sentences with common noun subjects.

 

Yagwa gyebn neexɬ.                      The killerwhale is coming up for air.

Dm hadiksa sts'ool.                       The beaver is going to swim.

Ła luunksa hoon.                           The fish (plural) are already dry.

Nah sisaaxsa ɬguwoomɬk.             The baby laughed.

Baxwaalxsa 'yuuta.                        The men walked up.

'Wiileeksa hana'ag̱a gwii.              That woman is large.

Remember: When there is no time word in the sentence, an action verb is understood as completed action.

 

Remember: When there is no time word in the sentence, a verb of state is understood as a continuing state.

Click the image below to play a matching game at Cram.com.

Baxwaalxsa 'yuuta. 

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