Mahican VAI Independent Indicative Mode


VAIs or animate intransitive verbs are animate verbs which use an animate gender subject which is built into the verb. They are intransitive which means they do not include an object. In other words they take the form subject-verb. These verbs are also referred to as AI verbs.

The built in animate subject can be any one of the following nine subjects, and a unique pattern of prefixes and suffixes identify which subject is included in the verb.

Possible subjects of AI verbs include:

I, me   
Him or her or animate noun   
We (exclusive)   
We (inclusive)   
We (collective plural)
You (plural)   
They (or plural animate noun or two or more animate nouns)   
Indefinite subject (x-subject)  

We exclusive is a way of saying ‘we’ excluding the listener.
We inclusive means ‘we’ including the listener and is commonly used to mean ‘you and I, us’.
We collective plural refers to ‘we’ all of us with reference to a larger group of individuals.
Indefinite subject or x-subject forms for these AI verbs make a statement about the action going on but the subject is ambiguous and unspecified. Since the subject could be one or many and could be animate or inanimate these forms are often translated using a participle such as ‘walking’ or ‘there is walking going on’.

Anahkāāw. He works.  
Ndanahkahnah.    We (exclusive) work.  

Animate nouns may be thought of as ‘he’ however ‘he’ could mean ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘something animate’. The 3rd person subjects or objects in verb forms also refer to ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘something animate’.


VOTIs are verbs which are like VAIs in that they have an animate subject and no object, but they are structurally related to another type of verb, the VTIs, and share some of the phonological quirks of the VTIs. VOTI stands for objectless transitive inanimate verb. Some of these verbs conjugate either as VOTIs or VTIs and in most cases it is easy to tell them apart based on the types of endings and context. These verbs will be integrated into the chapters pertaining to VAIs because they behave like VAIs.

Nuyah nsiiwāānŭtam.  I am sad.  (VOTI - no object)
Nuyah nsiiwāānŭtamun. I am sad about it. (VTI - with an inanimate object)


VAIs may be conjugated into the independent indicative mode, the independent subordinative mode, all four conjunct modes, and the imperative Mode (commands).

VAIs are listed in the dictionary in the 3rd person singular independent indicative mode form. This follows the patterns used in the Munsee-Delaware dictionary familiar to Stockbridge Mohican tribal members. (Reference John O’Meara Munsee Delaware Dictionary)

Example of a dictionary entry for an AI verb with a stable stem:

anahkāāw vai-s work, do, make
M alohkeew
ind 1st sg  ndanahkah
conj 3rd sg  anahkāāt
imp anahkah
ptcpl  āānahkāāt
intensive reduplication anunahkāāw

Nan kiishih-anahkāān. It is done. It happened. (s77)=(s96) (xsubject form)
Aānahkāāchiik. The workers. (s152)
Niin āānahkāāt. He has worked (s152)


VAI Stem Types

To conjugate a VAI, one must learn the ways the prefixes interact with the verb stem (beginning patterns) and how to interpret those prefixes or the absence of a prefix. There are also patterns to the ways endings interact with the verb stem (endings patterns).

Verbs will be listed using the 3rd person independent indicative form which has no prefix. This allows one to easily see the beginning part of the verb stem. This form will be referred to as the listed form for convenience.

It is practical to think of VAI stems in terms of whether the stem ends in a vowel or a consonant.

AI Consonant Stems

Some AI Verbs with stems ending in a consonant do not use an ending in the listed form. In these cases the listed form is, in fact, the verb stem.

anahookw vai be lost, run away.
The verb stem is anahookw

Other AI Verbs with stems ending in a consonant vocalize the consonant in the 3rd person independent indicative forms by adding -uw. These verbs are identified using the designation vai-cv.


mbuw vai-cv die. 
The verb stem is nup

wunāāyuw vai-cv be good, do good (s22 63) 
The verb stem is wunāāy

So called vocalized consonant forms conjugate exactly the same as non vocalized consonant stems except for adding the -uw vocalization on third person indicative forms. This -uw ending makes it appear that the verb is a vowel ending stem with an unstable stem ending in ii. There are few other verbs with atypical vocalized endings on the listed form which be noted as we encounter them.

AI Vowel Stems

The listed forms which end with the sequence vowel-w have stems which end in a double vowel, with the exception of the vocalized consonant forms, labeled in the listing as vai-cv.

Vowel stems may be stable or unstable. Stable stems consistently use the stem ending vowel in all conjugated forms. Unstable stems use the true stem vowel for most forms but will shift the vowel for some forms, including the listed form.

An unstable stem:

aníhnāāw vai-ąą run to a place (JE)
M lihleew
ind 1st sg ndunihlah
conj 3rd sg anihnąąt
imp anihnah
ptcpl āānihnąąt

Note how the listed form uses the vowel āā but other forms use the nasalized vowel ąą. The verb is labeled as a vai-ąą indicating the true stem vowel.

A stable stem:

anahkāāw vai-s work, do, make
M alohkeew
ind 1st sg ndanahkah
conj 3rd sg anahkāāt
imp anahkah
ptcpl āānahkāāt
intensive reduplication anunahkāāw

Note how the listed form and all other forms use the vowel āā. Such verbs will be labeled, whenever necessary, as a vai-s indicating a stable stem vowel.

There are theoretically three types of stable stems based on whether the stem ending vowel is ii, āā or ąą however I did not find any stable stems in Mahican that end in ąą. The stems I found which end in ąą all appear to be unstable stems

Stable stems ending in —-āā add a -w to the stem in the 3rd person indicative forms. These verbs are identified using the abbreviation vai-s.
Example: anahkāāw vai-s work, do, make
Verb stem: anahkāā

Stable stems ending in —-ii also add a -w to the stem in the 3rd person indicative forms.
Example: ąąmiiw vai rise, get up (P mlh31)(HA37)
Verb stem: ąąmii
Since stable stems ending in ii are easily identified, they are labeled using the abbreviation vai and are not specifically labeled using vai-s.

Unstable stems may be found which have a true stem vowel of either ąą or ii.

This true stem vowel characteristically changes to a different vowel in the 3rd person indicative forms. Because the vowel changes, the stem is considered to be an unstable stem.

Unstable stems ending in ąą change to the vowel āā when the w of the 3rd person indicative is added. These verbs are identified using the designation vai-ąą.
Example: aniitahāāw vai-ąą think so, lit. feel in one’s heart, hope (s19 38) (s80)
Verb stem: aniitahąą

Unstable stems ending in ii change to the vowel u when the w of the 3rd person indicative is added.
Example: kiiθpuw vai be full (s16) have enough (s62) (Prince)
Verb stem: kiispii

VOTI Stems

Theses stems use the same classification as do the VTIs. VOTI stems are classified based on the type of class marker which is added to the stem.
VOTIs using the class marker -am are designated as voti1a and those using the class marker -um are designated as voti1b. Their conjugation patterns differ only slightly from those of consonant ending VAIs.

VOTIs ending in āāw designated as voti2 and conjugate as a stable stem VAI. The class marker here is -aw which evolved over time to āā. These stems conjugate exactly the same as if he stem was a stable stem ending in āā. In this case the VOTI designation is of theoretic interest more so than of practical interest.

Below is a list summarizing the VAI and VOTI stem types.

VAI or Animate Intransitive Verb Stems

Verb ending Stem Stem type Example Meaning
–iiw (stem-ii) vai stable kawíiw sleep
–āāw (stem-ee) vai stable aaptóonāāw speak
–uw (stem-ii) vai unstable apúw be there
–āāw (stem-ąą) vai unstable anihtāāw think
–n (stem-n) vai consonant anaxakiixiin lie down
–am (stem)-am voti1a ahwāānŭtam feel angry
–um (stem)-um voti1b wmah come from
–āāw (stem-āā) voti2 pąąkwiitāāw shoot a gun




VAI Conjugation Pardigms

VAIs conjugate using a set of prefixes and endings called the ’m endings‘.

Phonology rules affect in characteristic ways. Beginning patterns affect the way the prefixes attach to the verb stem. Vowel ending stems add some endings differently than consonant ending stems.


Vowel Ending VAI Stems

VAI Stable Vowel Stem Independent Indicative Mode

Meaning Paradigm Final form
I — nu(stem)m nu(stem-short vowel)h
You — ku(stem)m ku(stem-short vowel)h
He or She — —-(stem)w —-(stem-long vowel)w
We — (exclusive) nu(stem-short vowel)hnąą nu(stem-short vowel)hnah
We — (exclusive collective) nu(stem-short vowel)hnookw nu(stem-short vowel)hnookw
We — (inclusive) ku(stem-short vowel)hnąą ku(stem-short vowel)hnah
We — (inclusive collective) ku(stem-short vowel)hnookw ku(stem-short vowel)hnookw
You (pl) — ku(stem-short vowel)hmąą ku(stem-short vowel)hmah
They — —-(stem-long vowel)wak —-(stem-long vowel)k
There is — —-(stem-long vowel)n —-(stem-long vowel)n

*Note: the stem long vowel shortens to a short vowel and adds h
**Note: the sequence (long vowel)(wak) contracts to (long vowel)(k)

It is a rule in Mahican that word ending long vowels shorten and are followed by h pronounced as a breathy h sound.

Example: anahkāāw vai-s he works

ndanahkah   I work  
X anahkāān                   There is working  

Stable stems ending in (ii) or (āā) and VOTI2 stems ending in (āā) are conjugated using this paradigm. Unstable stems exist and will be discussed later.

Consonant ending stems

VAI Consonant Stem Independent Indicative Mode

Meaning Paradigm Final Form
I — nu-(consonant stem)m nu-(consonant stem)
You — ku-(consonant stem)m ku-(consonant stem)
He or She — —-(consonant stem)w —-(consonant stem)
We — (exclusive) nu-(consonant stem)-hnąą nu-(consonant stem)-hnah
We — (exclusive collective) nu-(consonant stem)-hnookw nu-(consonant stem)-hnookw
We — (inclusive) ku-(consonant stem)-hnąą ku-(consonant stem)-hnah
We — (inclusive collective) ku-(consonant stem)-hnookw ku-(consonant stem)-hnookw
You (pl) — ku-(consonant stem)-hmąą ku-(consonant stem)-hmah
They — —-(consonant stem)-wak —-(consonant stem)-āāk
There is — —-(consonant stem)-un —-(consonant stem)-un


ndanahookw             I am lost  
X anahookwun      Being lost.  
*phonology rule: kw + āāk => kāāk

VAIs ending in consonants all follow this paradigm, including the VOTIs which use their characteristic class marker (am) and (um) when conjugated in this mode.


Grammar Notes

1) Regarding the indefinite x-subject forms: anahkāān

The subject ‘X’ is indefinite such that it could be someone (s.o.) or a group, therefore one cannot translate anahkāān as ‘’someone is working’‘ because it could be misleading. Working is going on but the working is being done by an indefinite subject which could be a person or more than one person or animal. The verb does not specify that information.

2) Exclusive and Inclusive and Collective Version of We.

We exclusive ‘excludes’ the listener, and is used for of group subject of several including the speaker. It is formed with the 1st person prefix (nu) with a 1st plural subject ending.

We inclusive ‘includes the listener’ and is used for a group subject that includes the speaker and the listener and perhaps others as well. It is formed by the 2nd person prefix (ku) with a 1st plural subject ending.

We collective is used for a larger group subject that includes the speaker and everyone present and could include people not present. This form of we may exclude or include the listener. It is formed by the 1st person prefix (nu) with the hnookw ending if it excludes the listener and uses the 2nd person prefix (ku) with the hnookw ending if it includes the listener.


Personal Pronoun use

All forms of conjugated VAIs may be used with or without personal pronouns.

Kāāchih ndanahkahnah.   
We're working now.   
[we exclusive as indicated by the nu- prefix and the (hnah) suffix]           
(anahkāāw  he works)  

Kāāchih nŭyāānah ndanahkahnah.   
We're working now.  
(with personal pronoun)  

Nuyah ngatāāw-anahkah.   
I want to work.  

I want to work.  

Beginning pattern (k-)

(nu) + (k-) =>  (ng-)  
(ku) +  (k-) =>  (k-)  
(wu) + (k-) =>  (kw-)   




All negative forms add (-wii-) before the verb conjugation ending.
Certain rules apply to negatives but this basic pattern holds true.

Ustah anahkāāwih. He is not working. 

Rules for negative endings:
1. -wii- is the only ending for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular forms. The final long vowel of -wii- shortens and adds h to form the ending -wih. The ending -wii- is shortened to -w for the 1st, 2nd but not for the 3rd person singular forms.

Ustah ndanahkāāw. I am not working. 
Ustah ktanahkāāw. You are not working. 
Ustah anahkāāwih. He is not working. 

2. The non-truncated ending -wih may be used as a Western Mahican variant if desired for the 1st and 2nd person singular forms.

Ustah ndanahkāāwih. I am not working. 
Ustah ktanahkāāwih. You are not working. 

3. Consonant stems add (oo) before the negative ending (wii):

chiikaniixiin vai lie still 
Ustah njiikaniixiinoowih. I am not lying still. 
Ustah njiikaniixiinoow. I am not lying still. (truncated negative)

4. Special rules apply to unstable stems.

Stems ending in ąą shift the stem vowel to āā in 3rd person negative forms. Unstable stems ending in ii do not shift vowels in any of the negative forms. See the unstable stems chapter for a full discussion of this topic. 

VAI Negative Independent Indicative Mode

Paradigm Vowel Stems Paradigm Consonant Stems Meaning
ustah nu-(stem)-w* ustah nu-(stem)-oow* I — not
ustah ku-(stem)-w* ustah ku-(stem)-oow* You — not
ustah —-(stem)-wih ustah —-(stem)-oowih He or She — not
ustah nu-(stem)-wíhnah ustah nu-(stem)-oowíhnah We — not (exclusive)
ustah ku-(stem)-wíhnah ustah ku-(stem)-oowíhnah We — not (inclusive)
ustah ku-(stem)-wíhmah ustah ku-(stem)-oowíhmah You (pl) — not
ustah —-(stem)-wíik** ustah —-(stem)-oowíik** They — not
ustah —-(stem)-wun ustah —-(stem)-oowun There is not —

*optionally may use the non-truncated form ustah —-(stem)-(oo)wih
** contracted from ustah —-(stem)-(oo)wíiwak

Example – vowel stem

Ustah nuyah ndanahkāāw. I work not.   
Ustah kuyah ktanahkāāw. 
Ustah nāākmah anahkāāwih. 
Ustah nuyāānah ndanahkāāwihnah.
Ustah nuyāānookw ndanahkāāwihnookw.
Usah kuyāānah ktanahkāāwihnah.
Ustah kuyāānookw ktanahkāāwihnookw.
Ustah kuyāāwah ktanahkāāwihmah  
Ustah nāākmāāwah anahkāāwiik  

(wii) shortens to (wih) in word final position, as is the case for most other word ending long vowels.

Consonant stem negative example:

Ustah njiikaniixiinoow. I am not lying still. 
Ustah kchiikaniixiinoow. 
Ustah chiikaniixiinoowih. 
Ustah njiikaniixiinoowihnah. 
Ustah njiikaniixiinoowihnookw.
Ustah kchiikaniixiinoowihnah. 
Ustah kchiikaniixiinoowihnookw.
Ustah kchiikaniixiinoowihmah. 
Ustah chiikaniixiinoowiik.
Ustah chiikaniixiinoowun.

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