Introduction to Mahican Verbs


Review of the four types of verbs:

There are four basic verb types, classified according to gender, as we discussed in an earlier chapter. Each verb type conjugates by adding prefixes and suffixes to a verb stem. Conjugating verbs will be discussed later. The examples which follow are intended only to familiarize the reader with the four main verb types and illustrate the way the verbs contain information about the subject and object.

Inanimate Subject (No object) = VII

It red.  It is red.  

Mbúy máxkaayuw.     
Water, it red. The water is red.  

It is there. (It there)  

Nahah sookunąąn.     
It is raining way there.   

Animate Subject (No object) = VAI

He/she is sleeping. literally 'He sleeps'  

He is there  ('he' means s.t. or s.o. animate)  

Inanimate Object (animate subject) = VTI

He sees it.   

Kwąąm wunaamun miichŭwąąkan.   
Yes he sees it, the food.  
(miichŭwáakan is an inanimate noun)  

Animate Object (animate subject) = VTA

He sees him.   

Wąąk wŭnaawąąn nah niimanaaw..       
Again, he saw him, that man. He saw that man again.  

Verbs may stand alone without nouns as in the above examples because the subject and object as the case may be are included in the verb.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns were discussed for use with noun possession. They may be used with verbs, in which case they are technically redundant in most cases, but they can give a certain rhythm to the phrase and may give extra emphasis and in some cases provide clarity to the subject of a verb.

Personal Pronouns

Grammatical term Pronoun Uses
1st person singular (1st sg or 1s) nuyah me,I
2nd person singular (2nd sg or 2s) kuyah you, thee
3rd person singular (3rd sg or 3s) naakmah him,her ; he,she
1st person plural (1st pl or 1p) nuyaanah us,we (exclusive)
1+2 person plural (12p) kuyaanah us,we (inclusive)
1+2 person collective plural (12c) kuyaanookw us,we (inclusive collective)
2nd person plural (2nd pl or 2p) kuyaawah you (pl)
3rd person plural (3rd pl or 3p)
naakmąąwah them,they
Indefinite subject (or X) X someone, something, some group

As each verb type is explained, it will be helpful to know this list of pronouns and their abbreviations. Verb conjugation charts always follow this basic order. Details of how to conjugate verbs in all verb classes will be the object of the next several chapters.

The 3 versions of “we” …

Nih ndapíhnah.    
We are here.  
Us, the ones talking to you (excluding the listener) ... are here.  

Nih ktapíhnah.    
We are here.  
Us, you and I (including the listener) ... are here.  

Nih ktapihnookw.
We are all here. 
Us, all of us including you are here. 


Preverbs (PVs) function much the same way as prenouns. Preverbs are precede the verb and the ‘preverb-verb compound stem’ functions like one newly created big word. Prefixes, if any, are added to the beginning of the preverb part of the compound word and endings are added onto the very end of it.


Preverbs are listed in the dictionary in a neutral, non-inflected form. Personal prefixes may trigger beginning pattern phonology rules affecting the preverb instead of the initial verb root. In some cases this changes things around quite a bit. For this reason I will often provide examples of verb forms with and without preverbs.

Example (1)

He sees him.  


He sees him well.   

wunih- pv  unable to      


Note how the (wu) prefix attaches to the pv and not to the verb stem
The beginning pattern for the pv wunih– (wu + wu—- = oo—-) applies

Example (2)

He sees it.  


He wants to see it     

kataaw- pv want, intend to   


Extra words, including other pv’s, may be inserted between the pv and the verb, forming an expanded preverb-verb compound stem.

prefix-(preverb)-(extra words)-(verb)-suffix  


Is it going to snow?  

Ustah ootaanaak ngiisih-mawih-míitsiiw.          
I am not able to go eat in town.  

mawih pv go to (do something)  

He is going to see him.  

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