VAI Independent Indicative Mode


VAIs or animate intransitive verbs are verbs that talk about people doing stuff.

They have an animate subject and conjugate for all eight subjects:

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

Indefinite subject forms make a statement about the action going on but leaves the subject unspecified for number (sg or pl) and gender (animate or inanimate).

VAIs take the form: SUBJECT – VERB (and no object)

Alóhkeew.          He works.  
Ndalohkéhna.    We work.  

Animate nouns, built in 3rd person subjects of verbs and verb objects may be referred to as ‘he’ however ‘he’ could mean ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘something animate


These are verbs which conjugate like VAIs but 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. These verbs will be integrated into the chapters pertaining to VAIs because they behave and conjugate like VAIs.


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.
(Reference John O’Meara Munsee Delaware Dictionary)


VAI Stem Types

To conjugate a VAI, one must learn the ways the prefixes interact with the verb stem (beginning patterns) and the ways the endings interact with the verb stem (endings patterns).

VAI stems ending in vowels are sub-divided into categories of “stable” and “unstable”. Unstable stems shift the stem ending vowel according to characteristic patterns in the 3rd person forms whereas stable verbs do not undergo this shift.

One can easily determine the stem of a VAI using the form listed in the dictionary, which is the 3rd person singular independent indicative form, using the following guidelines.

Consonant ending verbs: the verb stem is the form as listed.

Shungíixiin. He lies down.  Stem = (shungiixiin)  

Vowel + (w) ending verbs: the verb stem is identified as outlined below.

First one drops the word final (w)


If the vowel = (ii) the stem is a stable stem ending in (ii) or (stem-ii)
Kawíiw.  He sleeps.  Stem = (kawii)  


If the vowel = (aa) the stem is a stable stem ending in (aa) or (stem-aa)
Níimaaw. He brings lunch.  Stem = (niimaa)  


If the vowel = (u) the stem is an unstable stem ending in (ii) or (stem-ii)
Apúw. He is there.  Stem = (apii)  


If the vowel = (oo) then the stem is a stable stem  ending in (oo) or (stem-oo)
Piinjiipáhtoow. He hurries inside. Stem = (piinjiipahtoo)  


If the vowel = (ee) then the stem could be either :
a stable stem ending in (ee) or (stem-ee)
Alóhkeew. He works. Stem = (alohkee)  


an unstable stem ending in (aa) or (stem-aa)
Kúndkeew. He dances.  Stem = (kundkaa)  

The dictionary listing provides clues to telling these two apart. Unstable verbs will list forms using (aa) for a verb listed with the ending (eew)

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
–eew (stem-ee) vai stable aaptóoneew speak
–aaw (stem-aa) vai stable níimaaw bring lunch
–uw (stem-ii) vai unstable apúw be there
–eew (stem-aa) vai unstable kúndkeew dance
–n (stem-n) vai consonant shungiixiin lie down
–d (stem-d) vai consonant und be so
–m (stem-m) vai consonant wum come from
–k (stem-k) vai consonant lpakw cry
–l (stem-l) vai consonant pumáashŭwihl swim
–am (stem-am) voti1a wuleelúndam feel good
–um (stem-um) voti1b amáashŭnum act oddly
–oow (stem-oo) voti2 piinjiipáhtoow hurry inside


Go to VAI basics Practicum 1 Stems



VAI Conjugation Pardigms

(Reference Ives Goddard Delaware Verbal Morphology)

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

Phonology rules modify the end result in characteristic ways. Beginning patterns affect the way the prefixes attach to the verb stem. Vowel ending stems behave differently for stable vs unstable stems as we will study shortly. Consonant ending stems have some phonology quirks as well.


Vowel Ending VAI Stems

VAI Stable Vowel Stem Independent Indicative Mode

Paradigm Meaning
nu-(vowel stem)-m* I —
ku-(vowel stem)-m* You —
—-(vowel stem)-w He or She —
nu-(vowel stem)-hna We — (exclusive)
ku-(vowel stem)-hna We — (inclusive)
ku-(vowel stem)-hmwa Ye —
—-(vowel stem)-wak They —
—-(vowel stem)-n There is —

*(m) optionally drops

Example: alóhkeew vai-s he works

ndalóhke or ndalóhkeem   I work  
ktalóhke or ktalóhkeem        
X alóhkeen                        There is working  

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

The example above shows two ways of using the m endings for the 1st and 2nd person :

ndalóhke or ndalóhkeem 

ktalóhke or ktalóhkeem 

Either one is acceptable.  

Consonant ending stems

These use the same endings technically but the words are reworked per phonology rules.

(stem-consonant)+(m) => (stem-consonant)     i.e. the (m) drops  
(stem-consonant)+(w) => (stem-consonant)     i.e. the (w) drops      

(oo) inserts before the plural subject endings (hna) and (hmwa) and (wak)  
The combination of (oo-wak) contracts to => (ook)  
(oo) before (h) shorten to (oh)

VAI Consonant Stem Independent Indicative Mode

Paradigm Meaning
nu-(consonant stem) I —
ku-(consonant stem) You —
—-(consonant stem) He or She —
nu-(consonant stem)-óhna We — (exclusive)
ku-(consonant stem)-óhna We — (inclusive)
ku-(consonant stem)-óhmwa Ye —
—-(consonant stem)-ook They —
—-(consonant stem)-un There is —


mbumáashŭwihl             I swim  
X pumaashŭwíhlun      There is swimming  

VAIs ending in consonants all follow this paradigm, including the VOTIs ending in (am) and (um). Irregularities are few and will be discussed later.


Grammar Notes

1) Regarding the indefinite subject X forms: alohkeen, pumaashŭwíhlun

The subject is so indefinite that it could be someone (s.o.) or a group, therefore one cannot translate alohkeen 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) 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.


Personal Pronoun use

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

Kway ndalohkéhna.   
We're working now.   
[we exclusive as indicated by the nu- prefix and the (hna) suffix]           
(alóhkeew  he works)  

Kway niiloona ndalohkéhna.   
We're working now.  
(with personal pronoun)  

Nii ngata-alóhke.   
I want to work.  

I want to work.  

Beginning pattern (k-)

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


Go to VAI Basics Practicum 2



Now let’s look at the negative forms and see how they are constructed. All negative forms use the same paradigm of adding (-wii-) before the verb conjugation ending. Phonology rules cause some conjugation endings to drop or become modified after negative endings.

VAIs drop singular endings after the negative suffix is added ...   
i.e. the (m) and (w) endings of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd p sg forms.  

Consonant stems add (oo) before the negative ending (wii)  

VAI Negative Independent Indicative Mode

Paradigm Vowel Stems Paradigm Consonant Stems Meaning
mah nu-(stem)-wi mah nu-(stem)-oowi I — not
mah ku-(stem)-wi mah ku-(stem)-oowi You — not
mah —-(stem)-wi mah —-(stem)-oowi He or She — not
mah nu-(stem)-wíhna mah nu-(stem)-oowíhna We — not (exclusive)
mah ku-(stem)-wíhna mah ku-(stem)-oowíhna We — not (inclusive)
mah ku-(stem)-wíhmwa mah ku-(stem)-oowíhmwa Ye — not
mah —-(stem)-wíiwak mah —-(stem)-oowíiwak They — not
mah —-(stem)-wun mah —-(stem)-oowun There is not —

Example – vowel stem

mah nii ndalohkéewu              I work not   
mah kii ktalohkéewu  
mah neeka alohkéewu  
mah niiloona ndalohkeewíhna  
mah kiiloona ktalohkeewíhna  
mah kiiloowa ktalohkeewíhmwa  
mah neekáawa alohkeewíiwak  
X mah alohkeewun  

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

(wi) may be expressed or written as (wu) so you may see me write it either way in examples using negative endings.

Consonant stem negative example:

mah mbumaashŭwihlóowi  I swim not  
mah kpumaashŭwihlóowi     
mah pumaashŭwihlóowi          
mah mbumaashŭwihloowíhna      
mah kpumaashŭwihloowíhna      
mah kpumaashŭwihloowíhmwa     
mah pumaashŭwihloowíiwak      
X mah pumaashŭwihlunóowun  

Go to VAI basics Practicum 3

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