Learning the Pronominal Prefixes

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One of the early challenges in learning Kunwok is the pronominal prefixes. We break it down here, to make it easier to learn. Pronominal prefixes are like pronouns (e.g. I, you, she) except they attach to the verb. Thus, we can say ngare (I go), with the nga- prefix (I) attached to the re verb (go).

NB. Before getting started, it helps to understand the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs.

Step 1: Singular intransitive

We start with singular prefixes (I, you (sg), he/she/it).

Nonpast Meaning Past Meaning Comment
ngare I go ngawam I went nga- is the first-person singular, I
yire you (sg) go yiwam you went yi- is the second-person singular, you (sg)
kare he/she/it goes wam he/she/it went 0̸- is the third-person singular, he/she/it

Notice the extra prefix ka- which only shows up in third person singular in present tense. You'll hear it all the time, so you need to know it. Here it is again for bidbun (climb) and mankan (fall).

Nonpast Meaning Past Meaning
ngabidbun I climb ngabidbom I climbed
yibidbun you (sg) climb yibidbom you climbed
kabidbun he/she/it climbs bidbom he/she/it climbed
ngamankan I fall ngamankang I fell
yimankan you (sg) fall yimankang you fell
kamankan he/she/it falls mankang he/she/it fell

Step 2: Plural intransitive

Next, we replace the singular with the plural prefixes (we, you (pl), they).

Nonpast Meaning Past Meaning Comment
karrire we go karriwam we went karri- is the first-person plural inclusive, we (including the hearer)
ngurrire you (pl) go ngurriwam you (pl) went ngurri- is the second-person plural, you (pl)
kabirrire they go birriwam they went birri- is the third-person plural, they

Let's see these prefixes again with bidbun and mankan.

Nonpast Meaning Past Meaning
karribidbun I climb karribidbom I climbed
ngurribidbun you (sg) climb ngurribidbom you climbed
kabirribidbun he/she/it climbs birribidbom he/she/it climbed
karrimankan I fall karrimankang I fell
ngurrimankan you (sg) fall ngurrimankang you fell
kabirrimankan he/she/it falls birrimankang he/she/it fell