Imperatives use imperative word order (verb-subject-arguments).
This word order is sufficient to indicate imperative mood. Although
subjunctives share the same word order, subjunctives always have other
particles to mark them as such.
Here are some examples of imperative sentences:
This sentence is formed simply by rearranging the words in its indicative
analog. However, unlike in English, the use of the 2nd person pronoun in an
imperative weakens it. Normally, the 2nd person pronoun is
Even when politeness is desired, the 2nd person pronoun is normally not
preferred, unless the imperative is addressed specifically to someone within a
larger audience. Instead, the adverb ina, “please”, is
appended to the verb:
The finalizer is sometimes included in imperatives to make it more
forceful. It implies that the requested action is expected to be performed
completely. For example:
Note that using a finalizer with an imperative does not always indicate
forcefulness, since the finalizer may be present for syntactic purposes, such
as described later for conditional statements.
Another way of expressing a forceful imperative is by appending the adverb
eka, “must”, to the verb:
[You] must go to the house!
It is also common to use the temporal adverb kana
(“now” or “immediately”) to strengthen an
Go to the house immediately!
These can be combined to make a very strong imperative:
[You] must go to the house immediately, go!
Questions use interrogative word order. The finalizer is omitted, and
interrogative markers are present to indicate that the sentence is a
question, and what type of question it is.
For yes/no questions, the interrogative postposition ta is placed
in adverbial position:
Did the girl walk to the volcano?
The postposition ta may modify the subject NP instead, to ask a
Was it the girl who walked to the volcano?
(Note that when ta follows sei, they contract into
Was it to the volcano that the girl walked?
If the question is formed from a non-verbal sentence such as an adjectival
statement, ta is placed after the predicate, and the finalizer is
omitted. For example:
The expected answer to this type of question is ai
(“yes”) or bai (“no”).
Yes, the water is hot.
No, the water is not hot.
Asking about alternatives
One may also use a double subject in questions to inquire about
Is it the girl or the young man that you see?
The interrogative ta occurs on both subject NP's, and indicate a
choice between them. (Note: kita is the contraction of kei
In answering such a question, one may simply state the bare NP:
The noun case of the answer must match that of the question.
The double subject construction may also be used for adjectival questions.
In this case, the interrogative ta replaces the finalizer. For
Is she ugly or beautiful?
In the answer, the finalizer associated with the adjective should be
[She is] ugly.
[She is] beautiful.
For “what” or “who” questions, the interrogative
nouns sia and sii (“who” or “what”)
are used. For example:
Who is that person?
What is that thing?
Who walked to the house?
sii can be used for both animate and inanimate nouns, and
sia can only be used for people (“who”). However,
sia is only used when the person referred to isn't known yet, and
sii is used when the person is known but not yet identified. In the
first example above, san tara' sei (that person) is already known, and
the question is concerning the identity of that person. Hence, sii is
used (literally, it means “What kind of person is that?”). In the
third example, the person who walked to the house is unknown, and so
sia is used instead.
The interrogative particle ta is not used when sia or
sii are used. (They have conflicting meanings: ta is used for
yes/no questions, and sia/sii are used for who/what
The postposition ipai, “at (a location)”, is used with
sii to ask “where” questions. For example:
Where is that person? (Lit. in what place is that person?)
Similarly, the postposition iti, “at (a point in
time)”, is used with sii to ask “when” questions.
When did/will you go to the village?
So far, we've only considered sentences built from a single
clause. We now consider how multiple clauses can be joined together
to make complex sentences.
In complex sentences, the position between the subject NP and the verb in a
constituent clause is called the conjunctive position. Conjunctions
— words that indicate how this clause relates to others — usually
appear in this position.
Sometimes, when the subject NP of a clause is coreferent with the subject NP
of the preceding clause, it may be omitted. In this case, the case clitic will
reattach itself after the conjunction, making the conjunction appear
at the head of the clause. Examples of this will be shown in the following
The conjunction hena [hɛna] is used to join two or more
clauses together. It indicates a sequence of events. For example:
I heard the girl, and [I] walked towards her.
Note how the case particle sa in the second clause serves to mark
the case of the elided huu. Since the subject NP is the same in both
clauses, it is elided from the second clause.
The finalizer is present in both clauses, but could be omitted in any but
the last clause for dramatic effect. This is device is used especially when
more than two clauses are joined together by hena. For example:
I saw the wild wolf, and threw a rock at it, and the rock struck it on the head.
The absence of the finalizer in all but the last clause lends dramatic
emphasis to it.
The conjunction isi [ʔisi], “because”, is used
to make cause-and-effect statements. It is present in both clauses.
The cause clause omits the finalizer, whereas the result clause keeps the
finalizer as a manner of emphasis. When the subject NP is present,
isi occurs immediately following it. If the subject NP has been
elided, isi may serve the role of a conjunction in the manner of
hena, occurring clause-initially and taking a case particle as a
I ran towards the volcano, because I saw the girl on it.
Because I saw the girl on the volcano, I ran to it.
(Note: isa is the contraction of isi and sa.)
Observe that the presence or absence of the finalizer determines which
clause is the antecedent and which is the consequent. The ordering of the
clauses is arbitrary.
If the cause clause is a non-verbal clause such as an adjectival statement,
isi appears at the end of the clause and replaces the
finalizer (if any). For example:
That woman is ugly, so I do not look at her.
If the adjectival statement occurs in the result clause, isi
appears between the subject NP and the predicate. For example:
Because the boy played in the ash, he is grey.
The conjunction bera means “if not”, “or
else”, or “otherwise” and is used for expressing
alternatives. For example:
Leave the house; otherwise I will be angry.
Just like hena, it can be placed after the subject NP, or, if the
subject has been elided, it can appear clause-initially followed by the case
clitic of the elided subject. For example:
If I see her, I will follow her; otherwise, I will go home.
The conditional construct used in this example is explained in the
A conditional (if A then B) is constructed by putting together a
subjunctive clause with an indicative clause. The subjunctive clause is called
the antecedent and the indicative clause the consequent. The
conditional particle era [ʔɛɾa] is placed in
adverbial position to serve as a subjunctive marker in the antecedent, and the
finalizer is omitted from the same. The finalizer only appears in the
If you look under the conifer, you will see the chanterelle.
The monkey will bite you, if you walk under the tree.
If you walk to the hut, you will see her wolf.
You will walk to the hut, if you saw her wolf.
The conjunction bera may be used to add an “else”
clause. For example:
If you eat the giant mushroom, I will eat the chanterelle; otherwise I will eat the giant mushroom.
If the antecedent is a non-verbal clause, such as a statement of
equivalance or an adjectival statement, the predicate is moved to the front
and modified by era, and the subject NP is placed last. For example:
If the rabbit is slow, I will catch it.
Imperative clauses may also be used as the consequent of a conditional
statement. In this case, the finalizer will always be present in the
imperative clause, and does not necessarily indicate forcefulness. Here is an
example of an imperative consequent:
If you see the rabbit, tell the girl.
Quoted discourse is started by the particle e [ʔɛ],
and terminated by the modified finalizer e'aniin (sometimes simply
aniin). For example:
The girl said to me, “I ran away from the cinder cone, because I saw a Kutakaranim on it!”
When the verb is araf (to shout), the quoted discourse is ended
by daa or eraa instead. For example:
The young man shouted, “Run! A pyroclastic flow comes!”
not X but Y or
X instead of Y, the formula be
... ai is used, with be and ai inserted between the
corresponding nouns and their case clitics:
Mother gives him not a red mango but a pear.
When ai appears before a feminine case particle, they undergo
euphonic contraction, as here with
To express actions performed on oneself, the reflexive noun sahu is
Mother speaks to herself.
sahu always refers back to the subject NP; thus the meaning may
change if the subject NP is switched with an argument NP:
The chief spoke about himself to the young man.
The chief spoke to the young man about (the young man) himself.
sahu never appears as the subject NP in a clause.
Last updated 21 Apr 2023.