A verb tense refers to the way a verb can be used to express ideas such as the present, the past or the future.
Algonquian languages such as Mahican classify verbs according to three orders. Verbs are further sub-classified into modes which provide a specific type of usage within the particular order.
The Independent Order
Verbs in the independent order refer directly to the subject of the verb.
This order has two modes:
1) The Independent Indicative Mode:
This mode is used for direct simple statements (subject-verb statements) and questions.
2) The Subordinative Mode:
This mode is used for secondary clauses that continue to say something about a previously mentioned subject, topic or place. As such, this mode is often used in narratives and story telling. This mode helps to link ideas together, and often provide details of quality, quantity, manner about a subject in a series of clauses all of which refer back to the subject mentioned beforehand.
The Conjunct Order :
The conjunct is used for clauses that are joined to the main clause. The conjunct clause sets or clarifies something about the main clause, providing information such as when, if, before, or after.
Conjunct modes include :
The Changed Conjunct Mode
This mode specifies that the action in each clause is occurring together in a same time frame. "I cleaned the house while she was sleeping.
The Changed Subjunctive Conjunct Mode
Used for past events subsequent to another past event. "When I was three … I cried alot."
The Subjunctive Conjunct Mode
Used for events that have not yet occurred and events that are conditional or that depend on something else happening. "If it snows … I’ll be happy"
Verb conjugated as participles take on a meaning similar to that of a noun. Māāxkāāyuk. The red one, that which is red. (participle) Maxkāāyuw. It is red. (verb)
The Imperative Order
This order is for commands. It has two modes. The ordinary mode for verbs conjugated as commands and the prohibitive mode for commands not to do something.
Note: Some commands may be stated using subordinative forms and conjunct forms, to create nuanced effects.
Other types of verb construction
Objective and Absolute Constructs
Using one set of endings instead of another allows for the expression of a sense of definiteness or indefiniteness in terms of the relationship between a verb and a third person object. English does this using the word “the” to express definiteness (I saw the chair.) and uses the words “a” and “some” to express indefiniteness (I saw a chair. I saw some chairs.).
Nāāmun ahpapoon. I saw the chair. Nāām ahpapoon. I saw a chair.
Mahican verbs that are conjugated to specify definiteness toward an object are said to be in the objective state.
An ending is added to these forms, so called “n endings” for the TIs and “w endings” for the TAs.
Verbs lacking such definiteness use a more simple pattern of conjugation and are said to be in the absolute state.
Objective verb constructs may stand alone because the added ending provides data about the object, whereas absolute verb constructs require a noun to be present somewhere in the discourse.
Nāāmun. I saw it. Nāām ahpapoon. I saw a chair.
Transitive animate verbs have an animate subject and an animate object.
The prefixes and endings added to a verb stem provide information about the participants or those persons and/or animate things that are associated with the verb. A direction marker added to the verb stem before the endings indicates which of the participants functions as the subject and which one is the object. English accomplishes this using word order and by changing pronouns. Mahican TA verbs use one of four theme signs as direction markers to accomplish this.
I saw him. He saw me.
Verbs which use the direct theme sign: /aa/ also called theme 1 are said to be in direct mode and the subject is identified chiefly by the prefix affixed to the verb and the object of the verb is identified by the endings.
Ndahwąąnąąw. I love him (or her). /nu-ahwąąn-ąą-w/
The verb stem is /ahwąąn-/ and the prefix /nu-/ indicates a 1st person participant (me or I). The theme sign /-ąą-/ signifies direct mode interpretation for a third person participant as object of the verb and the /-w/ ending lets us know the third person involved in non-plural and not obviative.
Verbs which use the inverse theme sign: /ukw/ also called theme 2 are said to be in inverse mode and the object of the verb is identified chiefly by the prefix affixed to the verb and the subject of the verb is identified by the endings.
Ndahwąąnukw. He (or she) loves me. /nu-ahwąąn-ukw-w/
The verb stem is /ahwąąn-/ and the prefix /nu-/ indicates a 1st person participant (me or I). The theme sign /-ukw-/ signifies inverse mode interpretation for a third person participant as subject of the verb and the /-w/ ending lets us know the third person involved in non-plural and not obviative.
Theme 3 uses the local you-me theme sign: /ii/ which indicates that the subject of the verb is a 2nd person participant “you” and the object is a 1st person participant, “me”. These forms always use the /ku-/ prefix and endings after the theme sign indicate the particulars of the participants in terms of number (you, you plural; me or us).
Ktahwąąnih. You love me. /ku-ahwąąn-ii/
Theme 4 uses the local me-you theme sign: /un/ which indicates that the subject of the verb is a 1st person participant, “I” and that the object is a 2nd person participant “you”. These forms always use the /ku-/ prefix and endings after the theme sign indicate the particulars of the participants in terms of number (you, you plural; me or us).
Ktahwąąnun. I love you. /ku-ahwąąn-un/
The theme 2 marker for the inverse /ukw/ may be replaced by /ukāā/ in which case the inverse interpretation of prefix and endings remains but the third person subject is transformed into an indefinite subject of unknown gender and number. To translate this using the verb “to see” into English in the 1st person, one would have to say “someone, something, some people or somethings saw me” The same idea is conveyed in English using the passive (I was seen) which is why forms of this type are referred to as passives. I found it useful to think of such forms as having a mystery subject (Mystery subject saw me). Indefinite subjects are often represented by the symbol “x”
Ndahwąąnŭkah. I am loved. /nu-ahwąąn-ukāā/
Theme signs are used also in TA verbs in the subordinative mode and in the conjunct order.
This system of theme markers is complex and difficult to grasp for a native English speaker, and a very large number of forms must be learned because of the various ways prefixes, endings and theme signs combine together.
Below is a list for each verb type of the modes into which it may conjugated.
Approximate English glosses in parentheses are intended only to provide reminders about how a form is used.
Independent Indicative (it is good)
Changed Conjunct (that it is good)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct (when it was good)
Subjunctive Conjunct (if it is good)
Participle Conjunct (the good one)
Independent Indicative (he is good)
Independent Subordinative (then he was good)
Changed Conjunct (that he is good)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct (when he was good)
Subjunctive Conjunct (if he is good)
Participle Conjunct (he who is good, the good one)
Imperative Ordinary and Prohibitive (be good, don’t be good)
Independent Indicative Objective (I saw it)
Independent Indicative Absolute (I saw (something))
Independent Subordinative (then I saw it)
Changed Conjunct (that I saw it)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct (when I saw it)
Subjunctive Conjunct (if I saw it)
Participle Conjunct (the one who saw it)
Imperative Ordinary and Prohibitive (see it, don’t see it)
Independent Indicative Objective Direct (I saw him(obv))
Independent Indicative Absolute Direct (I saw (someone))
Independent Indicative Objective Inverse (he saw me)
Independent Indicative Absolute Inverse (A or some (animate noun) saw me)
Independent Indicative Passives (I was seen)
Independent Indicative Local Me-You (I saw you)
Independent Indicative Local You-me (you saw me)
Independent Subordinative Direct (then I saw him)
Independent Subordinative Inverse (then he saw me)
Independent Subordinative Passives (then I was seen)
Independent Subordinative Local Me-You (then I saw you)
Independent Subordinative Local You-me (then you saw me)
Changed Conjunct Direct (that I saw him)
Changed Conjunct Inverse (that he saw me)
Changed Conjunct Passives (that I was seen)
Changed Conjunct Local Me-You (that I saw you)
Changed Conjunct Local You-me (that you saw me)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct Direct (when I saw him)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct Inverse (when he saw me)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct Passives (when I was seen)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct Local Me-You (when I saw you)
Changed Subjunctive Conjunct Local You-me (when you saw me)
Subjunctive Conjunct Direct (if I see him)
Subjunctive Conjunct Inverse (if he sees me)
Subjunctive Conjunct Passives (if I am seen)
Subjunctive Conjunct Local Me-You (if I see you)
Subjunctive Conjunct Local You-me (if you see me)
Participle Conjunct (the one who sees him)
Imperative Ordinary (See him)
Imperative Ordinary with 1st person object (see me)
Prohibitive (don’t see him)
Prohibitive with 1st person object (don’t see me)
The future, past and present tenses are expressed using a combination of phrase context, preverbs, extra words such as particles and clue words.
Verbal expression of doubt, certainty, wonder, duty obligation or correctness (and others) are expressed using preverbs, particles, and other sometimes specialized verbs.
There is no way to specifically conjugate a verb in a “future tense” per se in Delaware. Future tense is indicated by using certain words which clearly set a context pointing to the future.
The future enclitic particle (=chih) may be added to a verb or any other part of speech to indicate the action will occur in the future.
Wąąk=chih kunāāwun. Again will I see you. Kahnąą=tāā=ch ahtāāw.. It will surely be there.
The preverb (katāāw-) meaning ‘want to or intend to’ adds to the verb a future intention or desire
Wkátāāw-nāāwąąn wąąpákah. He wants to see him tomorrow. (wu)-(katāāw) - (nāāw)-(ąąwan) Kátāāw-sookunąąn wąąpákah. Its going to rain tomorrow Noonoh tāāpohkwiik kátāāw-sóokunąąn? Will it rain tonight? Kátāāw-nāāwun ootāānāāk? Will I see you in town?
wąąk pc might, future
Wąąk wunąąskiiwih-nāāmun. He'll see it again. Wąąk=chih mbah. I'll be back. (Again I will come) Iinih pāāw. Soon he is coming.
nąąkāāwih pc a little while
Nąąkāāwih wunāāwąąn. He'll see him later. -or- Nąąkāāwii=ch apúw. He'll be there later. (ch) blends with the preceding word -this combination is called an enclitic formation Enclitics attach to words using the "=" symbol.
mchiimih pc easily, soon
Mchiimih wunāāmun. He'll be seeing it soon. Mchiimih pąąmah. Come back soon. (s131) (delayed imp)
mihkāāw pc later
Mihkāāw=chih wunāāwąąn. He will see him later.
Noonoh wahkamāāk Today
Noonoh wahkamāāk nih apúw. He'll be there back there today.
Wąąpkah tomorrow (wąąpan vii be dawn)
Wąąpkāā=ch pxąąn. Tomorrow it will snow.
Mahican uses several methods to express past events. Nouns and verbs can take absence markers, verbs may be conjugated into forms marking past tense with preterite and present tense suffixes, and certain conjunct modes may be used for past events. Preverbs such as anih- may indicate completed action but this preverb can take many different meanings such that context really drives its interpretation.
In general, past tense is context driven and as such, context creating words are useful.
nąąwatah pc long ago …
Nąąwatah wunāāwąąn. He saw him long ago.
Wunąąkwah yesterday …
Sóokunąąn wunąąkwah. It rained yesterday.
mahchih pc after, afterwards
Numahchih-miitsih. I have already eaten. Kumahchih-namiitāān? Did you see it? (Sw134-95av)
mahchih- pv after, afterwards
Mahchih mbootawah. I already made fire. (Sw134-93av) Mahchih ndakwapih. I'm already married. (Sw134-93av)
kāāchih pc now
Kāāchih wunāāmun. He sees it now.
ąąpchiiw pc always
Aąpchiiw wunāāwąąn. He always sees him.
noonoh pc now
Noonoh nih apúw. Now he's here.
Mawih pv go and do s.t.
Nŭmáwih-anahkah. I'm going to work. vs Nŭmáwii=ch-anahkah. I will be going to work.
Negative forms of verbs:
These forms are conjugated, and details will be presented as we learn about each verb type.
The general principles of forming negatives using verbs will be briefly outlined here.
Negative statements use a negative particle:
ustah or stah = 'no' or 'not'
The verb is conjugated using the negative suffix (wii)
(vowel stem) + (wii) + (endings) (consonant stem) + (oowii) + (endings)
When in word final position, the (wii) shortens to (wih)
1st and 2nd sg negative forms shorten to w in Eastern Mahican. The Western Mahican variant ending in -wih may be used if desired.
Some verb endings drop if preceeded by a negative suffix including (w)
Nāāwąąw. I see him. Ustah nāāwąąw. I do not see him. Ustah nāāwąąwih. I do not see him. (variant with non-truncated ending) Wŭnāāwąąn. He sees him. Ustah wunāāwiiwąąn. He does not see him. Wunāāmun. He sees it. Ustah wunāāmóowun. He does not see it Nāākmah apúw. He's there. Ustah nāākmah apíiwih. No he's not there. verb stem of apúw = (apii) + (wii) Pxąąn. Its snowing. Ustah pxąąnoowih. Its not snowing. Wąąk=chih mbah. I'll be back. Wąąk=chih mbąąw. I won't be back.
Specifics will be provided as each verb is discussed in depth
A special mode for negative commands (prohibitive mode) will be discussed in chapters dealing with the imperative mode.