Learning the Pronominal Prefixes
One of the early challenges in learning Kunwok is the pronominal prefixes. We'll break it down 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). Use the yi- (you) prefix to say yire (you go).
|Two kinds of verbs:
Step 1: Singular intransitive
We start with singular prefixes (I, you (sg), he/she/it).
|ngare||I go||ngawam||I went||nga- is the first-person singular, I|
|yire||you (sg) go||yiwam||you (sg) went||yi- is the second-person singular, you (sg)|
|kare||he/she/it goes||wam||he/she/it went||- (no prefix) 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).
|ngabidbun||I climb||ngabidbom||I climbed|
|yibidbun||you (sg) climb||yibidbom||you (sg) climbed|
|kabidbun||he/she/it climbs||bidbom||he/she/it climbed|
|ngamankan||I fall||ngamankang||I fell|
|yimankan||you (sg) fall||yimankang||you (sg) fell|
|kamankan||he/she/it falls||mankang||he/she/it fell|
You might like to try writing and saying these prefixes with a range of other intransitive verbs, e.g. dowen (be unwell), durndeng (return), nalkbun (cry), yerrkan (sit), dolkkan (stand).
Step 2: Plural intransitive
Next, we replace the singular with the plural prefixes (we, you (pl), they).
|karrire||we go||karriwam||we went||karri- means we (including the hearer), i.e. first-person plural inclusive|
|ngurrire||you (pl) go||ngurriwam||you (pl) went||ngurri- means you (pl), i.e. second-person plural|
|kabirrire||they go||birriwam||they went||birri- means they, i.e. the third-person plural|
Note that when we translate karrire as 'we go', it also means 'we're going', 'let's go', and 'we will go'. (If you find it strange that a verb can indicate present or future tense, just think about these English phrases: we go today, we go next week). Let's see these prefixes again with bidbun and mankan.
|karribidbun||we (incl) climb||karribidbom||we (incl) climbed|
|ngurribidbun||you (pl) climb||ngurribidbom||you (pl) climbed|
|kabirribidbun||they climb||birribidbom||they climbed|
|karrimankan||we (incl) fall||karrimankang||we (incl) fell|
|ngurrimankan||you (pl) fall||ngurrimankang||you (pl) fell|
|kabirrimankan||they fall||birrimankang||they fell|
Note that Kunwok has a special form of the plural which just concerns the case of two people or things. We will cover this case later. For now we'll make the simplifying assumption that any more than one is plural.
You might like to review what we have covered so far and make up a table for a verb in nonpast or past, for example:
|ngare, I go||karrire, we (incl) go|
|yire, you (sg) go||ngurrire, you (pl) go|
|kare, he/she/it goes||kabirrire, they go|
It's a good idea to master these 6 prefixes before going further. You could make flashcards, or find a bininj to practice with. You can also put these into sentences including nouns:
- bininj kare wolehwole, the man's going this afternoon
- karrire ngudda dja ngaye dja wurdurd, Let's all go, you, me, and the kids
- yimankang wanjh yidolkkang, You fell then you got up
Step 3: Singular transitive with third person object or subject
Remember that transitive verbs involve action that is transferred from subject to object. Let's look at some pronominal prefixes on transitive verbs. The first column should look familiar (it's the same as the intransitive verbs).
|nganan||I see him/her/it||ngannan||he/she/it sees me|
|yinan||you see him/her/it||ngunnan||he/she/it sees you|
|kanan||he/she sees him/her/it||kabinan||it sees him/her|
Note that the bi- prefix occurs when the subject is less animate than the object. So we can say bininj kanan duruk (the man sees the dog) or duruk kabinan bininj (the dog sees the man).
Note also that we can put these words in different orders without changing who is doing the action, e.g.:
- bininj kanan duruk the man sees the dog
- duruk kanan bininj the man sees the dog
- bininj kabinan duruk the dog sees the man
- duruk kabinan bininj the dog sees the man
You might learn these pronominal prefixes in pairs, nga/ngan, yi/ngun:
- ngayawan yawurrinj dja nakka nganyawan I'm looking for the young man and he's looking for me
- yibekkan yawkyawk wanjh ngalekke ngunbekkan You're listening to the girl then she'll listen to you
We can combine intransitive and transitive verbs:
- ngawam nganang nakamarrang I went to see Nakamarrang
- ngalbulanj kadjare kunwok nganbukkan Ngalbulanj wants to teach me Kunwinjku
- duruk ngunbayeng dja yimankang The dog bit you and you fell
- bininj mudika birribidbom wanjh birrilobmeng walem The men climbed into the truck then drove south
You might like to try making up some more sentences, and check them with a Bininj friend.
Step 4: Transitives between first and second person
The most common situation with a transitive verb is the "I>you" case, e.g. nan I see you, bukkan I show you, yawan I look for you. This case of the "zero prefix" appears in the top-left corner of the table.
|nan||I>you see||I see you (sg, pl)||kannan||you.sg>me/us see||you (sg) see me/us|
|ngundinan||we>you see||we see you (sg, pl)||kandinan||you.pl>me/us see||you (pl) see me/us|
We change from the zero prefix to ngundi- in the case of a plural subject, e.g. ngundibukkan we show you, ngundiyawan we look for you (bottom left).
The right side of the table concerns action in the reverse direction, from you to me, i.e. second person to first person.
Step 5: Transitives with 3rd person plural objects (draft)
|Singular Object||Meaning||Plural Object||Meaning|
|nganan||I see him/her/it||ngabennan||I see them|
|yinan||you (sg) see him/her/it||yibennan||you (sg) see them|
|kanan||he/she sees him/her/it||kabennan||he/she sees them|
|kabinan||it sees him/her||kabennan||it sees them|
|karrinan||we (incl) see him/her/it||karrbennan||we (incl) see them|
|ngurrinan||you (pl) see him/her/it||ngurrbennan||you (pl) see them|
|kabirrinan||they see him/her/it||kabindinan||they see them|