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.
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:
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.
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.”
(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”.
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.
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:
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).
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.)
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.
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.
went about hunting
Old Man Coyote
The “object” of a verb is the thing or person that the action is done to.
Practice what you have learned with these exercises.
The woman grabbed the fish.
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.)
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.
a. hènojká:nom woc’olky pe:n.
b. jýpym kóle: c’ésyn.
c. hènojká:nom mako: bojehton.
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.”