SECTION VII: VERBS

VIIa – Prefixes

There are just three affixes that can be attached to the start of verbs.  Their meanings are dealt with in the following sections, but here for convenience is a summary of their forms:

Like the more common suffixes, these prefixes have no effect on the verb's stress pattern (IIb); me·numa·uk “not to see” is stressed regularly on the second vowel of the verb numa itself: menumáuk, “men‐oo‐MOWK”.

The form me· becomes mi· before an e, a, or o; on· becomes before any vowel, and the n in both on· and man· changes to r before an r, l before an l, and m before an m, p, b, or f:

VIIb – Negation

English negation is needlessly complicated, and involves adding a “not” (or suffixing form “·n't”) either to the verb itself (“is·n't”) or to an extra helper verb “do/did” (“I do·n't understand”).  In this language things are simpler; negation is just a matter of a prefix me· on the verb itself –

Things can also be confusingly straightforward when it comes to verbs like “must”: desen·uk odoim·ap means “I must speak” (it is necessary), but desen·uk mi·odoim·ap never means “I must not speak” – it means “I needn't speak” (it is not necessary).  To say “I must not‐speak”, negate the verb “speak”: me·desen·uk odoim·ap.

VIIc – Aspect

As a very rough guide, I could say that Aspect is like Tense; but the Perfective/Imperfective distinction is not really equivalent to any simple feature of the English verb system.  A prefixed on· doesn't specify when something happened, or how long it took, or whether it was repeated (though it might well hint at any or all of these).  In essence it's just a question of the narrator's attitude; compare the difference between English “I did something” and “I have done something”.

If you're wondering how to tell past from present or future in un‐tense‐marked sentences, the answer is that sometimes it doesn't matter, sometimes it's clear from context, and sometimes words like tuker “already” anchor the sequence of events.  There are also verbs like serau “plan to” or moek “want to”, which can stand in quite adequately for the English so‐called future tense.

PERFECTIVE
desen without a prefix is Perfective, which implies that the verb describes a single, complete event, forming part of a series of incidents narrated in sequence, and probably (by default) in the past.  Possible English translations include “he spoke”, “she has spoken”, “they did speak”, “(and then) he speaks”, etc.
IMPERFECTIVE
on·desen with the on· prefix is Imperfective; that is, it refers to an unbounded, ongoing process (often repetitive or longlasting) forming a background or setting to the main narrative; it also commonly implies present or future tense.  English translations include “he is speaking”, “she used to speak”, “they always speak”, and so on.
BEING
The linking verb (VIIIc) “be” is exceptional in that rather than having a basic perfective form and a prefixed imperfective form it has two separate basic forms: khoi (inherently perfective) used to describe incidental/transitory properties; and re (inherently imperfective) for essential/permanent properties.  Thus gutho khoi·s tearik·a means “the beer is (currently) cheap”, while gutho re·s tearik·a means “beer is (always) cheap”.  The distinction is often lost by the tendency of both versions of “to be” to vanish (see Va): gutho — tearik·a would be a grammatically acceptable substitute for either of the above sentences.

VIId – Verb‐Suffixes

A verb's basic form given in the dictionary (e.g. sifulu, “die”) is what's called the “verbal stem”.  Note that when the verbal stem itself ends in u, each of the suffixes listed below as containing a u is instead formed with an o – thus it's sifulu·ok “to die” (not sifulu·uk), sifulu·okh·ap “if I were to die”, and so on.

SUBJUNCTIVE
The suffix ·ukh (sandwiched between the stem and any other suffixes) signals the subjunctive “mood”, a rather subtle form used to establish an attitude of tentativeness or subjectivity: thus “if I spoke”, duo desen·ukh·ap.  The subjunctive is often required in particular constructions such as after lemmo: “so that they would begin”, lemmo daimpi·ukh.
INFINITIVE
The form used for a verb demoted to a subordinate function ends in ·uk; this is often equivalent to an English verb preceded by “to”, but don't translate that as u – use the suffix instead.  Thus niamo·uk means “(to) eat” as in “begin to eat” or “must eat” – see also IXa on word‐order.  The ·uk suffix is never combined with a subjunctive or pronoun‐suffix ending, but it is perfectly common for it to be accompanied by a reflexive: niamo·uk·or, “to eat oneself”.  Infinitives can also (to a limited extent) behave as neuter nouns: raman·uk — jammares·a “to fly is difficult”.
PRONOUN‐SUFFIXES
See the pronouns section, VIa.  Just as ·(a)p, ·(o)m, ·(a)n etc. can be attached to nouns and prepositions, they can also serve as “subject agreement”: desen·om “we spoke”.  Orders and entreaties take a special alternative set of pronoun‐suffixes, as detailed in VIIIa.
REFLEXIVES
The very last kind of suffix that can be tagged on is ·(o)r (·r after a vowel), which turns a transitive verb into a reflexive (VIIId): niamo·r “he ate himself”.