Lesson 2: Simple Sentences

This lesson is to help a learner be able to make very simple sentences in Konkow. These are the type of sentences you would make when you are describing something you did or are doing, or when you are telling a story. Fluent speakers rarely make their sentences simple! But as beginners, this is the best way to get started.

Verb roots
bojehto swing
c’ésy looked at
k'útumbùmbukk'ajeh go about hunting
mé: grab
pípa: swim
só: release
Noun roots
ʔa:k’ crow
ʔákc’olma Pacific Pond turtle
héno coyote
hènojká:no Old Man Coyote
jý:py teenage girl, woman
ká:no old man, fellow
kónojbe girl (younger than teen)
kýle woman, wife
wóc’olky turtle - the kind in the Turtle Girls story
màjdy man, person
máko fish
sól song
sým deer
Verb suffixes Suffixes are meaningful pieces added after a noun or verb roots. The dash in front is the standard way of showing they are suffixes. When we analyze a word we will show dashes between the parts of the word.
-n, -in marks the end of a verb
Noun suffixes
-m, -im marks a noun as the subject of the sentence
-i marks a noun as the object of the sentence
1. One-word sentences - verbs

A Konkow sentence can be as short as one word – a verb. (A verb is a word about doing something.) This is a possible sentence in Konkow:

só:n. They released him.

That’s a complete sentence, even though it is only a verb. Actually, who released who is not clear from the sentence itself. It could also mean “He released her,” “She released it,” and so on. The reason we wrote “They released him” is because it is a sentence out of a story, Coyote and the Turtle Girls, and it was previous sentences that made it clear, that it was the Turtle Girls who released Coyote.

Coyote had been under water with the Turtle Girls for a while, and he was running out of breath. So he exclaimed “Let me go for a little while!” The girls said “all right.” só:n. “They released him.”

So you can see that unlike English, a Konkow sentence doesn’t have to have pronouns or nouns in every sentence. Here are some more verbs – each of them work as a whole sentence. There is an -n at the end of the verb in each case. We call that -n the “verb final.”

c’ésy-n. (he/she) looked at (it/her/him).
mé:-n. (he/she) grabbed (it/her/him).
pé-n. (he/she) ate (it).
bojehto-n. (he/she) swung (it).
pípa:-n. (he/she/it/they) swam.
(he/she) went about hunting, they say.

Note: -sámʔan, at the end of this verb, means “they say,” and is common in story-telling. This is the first word in the story “Coyote and the Turtle Girls.”

We wrote these sentences as being in past tense. Sentences like these are usually translated as past tense in the stories, but in the right context, they could be about the present as well. On its own, mé:n could translate “(he) grabbed it” or “(he) grabs it”.

2. sentences with nouns

Of course to make sense when you talk about something, you really do have to communicate who is doing the action, and without context a verb alone doesn’t have that information in it.

So let’s add some nouns to our simple sentences. Here is a list of nouns.

kóle:m boy
hènojká:nom Old Man Coyote (literally coyote old man – he's who you hear about in the stories)
hénom coyote
kánom old man, fellow
wóc’olkym turtle (the kind in the Turtle Girls story)
ʔákc’olma turtle (Pacific Pond turtle)
máko:m fish
jý:pym woman, teenage girl
exercise 1 and 2

Remember, the “it” in the English is there in these sentences because English always has to have a noun or pronoun; but you don’t have to include it in Konkow. And we don’t have to say “the” in Konkow, either.


The sentences below have words from the above two lists. Say the sentences below out loud and figure out what they mean:

jýpym -m
subject marker
pe:n. -n

wóc’olkym -m
subject marker
c’ésyn. -n

hènojká:nom -m
subject marker
pi:pan. -n

jýpym pe:n. The woman ate (it).

wóc’olkym c’ésyn. The turtle looked at (it).

hènojká:nom pi:pan. Old Man Coyote swam.


Now translate the following sentences into Konkow. Just say the sentences out loud, don’t bother writing them if you don’t want to.

a. The deer swam.

b. Old Man Coyote grabbed it.

c. The turtle ate it.

d. The woman went about hunting (they say).

exercise 2 answers

a. sýmim pí:pan.

b. hènojká:nom mé:n.

c. wóc’olkym pe:n.

d. jý:pym k'útumbùmbukk'ajehsám’an.

(Since word order is variable, it would be unusual but not wrong to put the noun after the verb.)

3. subject and object suffixes

Notice that all the nouns above end in -m. That -m is to mark the noun as the one that did the action. We call the one that does the action the subject of the sentence.

In case you need a review of what a subject is, that is the person or people doing the action. So in the sentence "That girl grabbed onto that boy," who did the grabbing? "That girl" did. Who got grabbed? "That boy." We call the one that got the action done to him the object of the sentence.
Sometimes it makes the various parts of the word clearer to show these words with a dash between the noun stem and its suffix:
hènojká:no-m Old Man Coyote-subject
wóc’olky-m turtle-subject
máko:-m fish-subject
jýpy-m girl-subject
All the nouns above end in a vowel before the -m suffix. If the noun ends in a consonant instead, the suffix would be -im. Here are some examples:
sól-im song
By the way, this is true of the verb suffix too – if the verb ends in a consonant, the suffix is -in
wássatiwè:s-in keep on making mistakes
bə́də:t-in make somebody happy
Sometimes there is a -sa after the subject suffix. Examples below. At this point the meaning of the added -sa is not clear; so we just call that a “subject-extender.”
kỳle-m-sa woman, wife
màjdy-m-sa man
We will use these dashes to make clear the separate parts of a word.
4. Word Order

Usually the subject comes before the verb. But notice that sometimes the subject comes after the verb, as in the first sentence from The Turtle Girls story:

Hover over the parts of the sentence below to reveal the sentence parts.

k’útumbùkk’ajeh -verb phrase-
went about hunting
sám’an, they say
hèǹojká:nom. -subject-
Old Man Coyote
5. Objects

The “object” of a verb is the thing or person that the action is done to.

In the English sentence “The woman grabbed the fish” The woman is the subject, and the fish is the object. In Konkow, this sentence would look like this:
jý:pym -subject-
mako: -object-
mé:n. -verb-

The woman grabbed the fish.

Either the object or the subject can also be understood in the context of a story or conversation. So the sentence below doesn’t have a subject, but is understood to mean “(She) ate the turtle.”
woc’olky pe:n.
As mentioned earlier, all these nouns end in a vowel when no subject marker is added. But for the nouns that end in consonants instead, and when they serve as the object, there will be an -i at the end.
********png chart***********
Examples of nouns with the object marker -i :
sól-i song
mom-i water
sým-i deer
The -i object suffix disappears after a word that ends in a vowel, because you can’t have two vowels in a row in Konkow. That’s why wóc’olky doesn’t have and i at the end in the sentence above even though it’s the object of the sentence. When we identify the suffix for the object we can call it -i / Ø meaning that sometimes the object is marked by -i and sometimes by Ø (nothing).
Either the object or the subject can also be understood in the context of a story or conversation. So the sentence below doesn’t have a subject, but is understood to mean “(She) ate the turtle.”
woc’olky pe:n.
exercises 3 and 4

Practice what you have learned with these exercises.

EXERCISE 3 What are some of the differences you notice between how you say this sentence in English and how you say it in Konkow?
jý:pym mako: mé:n.
The woman grabbed the fish.

exercise 3 answers

a. English has to have “the” in front of each noun; Konkow doesn’t.

b. In English the object follows the verb; in Konkow it precedes the verb.

c. In Konkow, this sentence could translate either as “The woman grabbed the fish” or “The woman grabs the fish.” The English sentence is clearly in past tense.

d. Konkow doesn’t use capital letters; English does.

(You may have noticed other differences too.)

EXERCISE 4 Look at the simple sentences below and figure out what they mean. Note that the order of the words is not like English word order.
Remember these three things while you figure out the sentences:
  • 1. The one that does the action (the subject) has an -m (or -im) on the end of the word.
  • 2. The one that has the action done to it (the object) does not have an -m at the end.
  • 3. The verb has an -n at the end.
Here are the sentences:

a. hènojká:nom woc’olky pe:n.

b. jýpym kóle: c’ésyn.

c. hènojká:nom mako: bojehton.

exercise 4 answers

a. Coyote ate the turtle.

b. The woman looked at the boy.

c. Coyote swung the fish.

(Like Exercise 2, we give the most common word order here, but other orders are possible.)


Review what you have learned in this lesson about making words and sentences in Konkow.

  • 1. A Konkow sentence can be as short as a single word (a verb). Either the subject or the object, or both, can be understood through the context of a conversation or story.
  • 2. Typically a sentence ends in a verb, though word order is flexible.
  • 3. The noun referring to the subject (the actor) of the sentence has the suffix -m (-im). The suffix is -m when the noun root ends in a vowel, and -im when the noun root ends in a consonant.
  • 4. The object (the thing acted upon) of the sentence is marked by the subject -i when the noun root ends in a consonant, and by nothing when the noun root ends in a vowel.
  • 5. One way to think about the disappearing i is to realize that in Konkow you cannot have two vowels in a row. So if, for example, the root ends in the vowel and is followed by a suffix that starts with one, then one of the vowels has to “go away.”