VAI Subordinative Mode


The independent subordinative mode is used for secondary clauses that continue a previous dialogue in order to say something more 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.

Preverbs are often used in this mood to help color the nature of these linked ideas.

A preverb in the middle of a sentence with the meaning :

'at the location of _______'  

would naturally set the stage for additional information to be added about the location.

The main clause starts the story and subordinative clause tells “the rest of the story …”

The subordinative mode has a ‘narrative’ quality and is the preferred mode used in actual story telling. In this case, the main clause is the storyline itself and a series of sentences introduced by the word “then” or “subsequently” (nal) using the subordinative mode adds snippets of information to the story.

VAIs conjugate in subordinative mode using a set of endings called the ‘’n endings’‘. Vowel ending stems add the endings directly using the stem ending vowel. Unstable stems shift not in the subordinative mode. Consonant ending stems insert (u) before the n endings.

VAI Subordinative Mode

Vowel stem paradigm Consonant stem paradigm Meaning
nu-(vowel stem)-n nu-(consonant stem)-un I —
ku-(vowel stem)-n ku-(consonant stem)-un You —
wu-(vowel stem)-n wu-(consonant stem)-un He or She —
nu-(vowel stem)-neen nu-(consonant stem)-uneen We — (exclusive)
ku-(vowel stem)-neen ku-(consonant stem)-uneen We — (inclusive)
ku-(vowel stem)-neewa ku-(consonant stem)-uneewa Ye —
wu-(vowel stem)-neewa wu-(consonant stem)-uneewa They —
—-(vowel stem)-n —-(consonant stem)-un There is —

VAI Negative Subordinative Mode

Vowel stem paradigm Consonant stem paradigm Meaning
mah nu-(vowel stem)-wun mah nu-(consonant stem)-oowun I — not
mah ku-(vowel stem)-wun mah ku-(consonant stem)-oowun You — not
mah wu-(vowel stem)-wun mah wu-(consonant stem)-oowun He or She — not
mah nu-(vowel stem)-wuneen mah nu-(consonant stem)-oowuneen We — not (exclusive)
mah ku-(vowel stem)-wuneen mah ku-(consonant stem)-oowuneen We — not (inclusive)
mah ku-(vowel stem)-wuneewa mah ku-(consonant stem)-oowuneewa Ye — not
mah wu-(vowel stem)-wuneewa mah wu-(consonant stem)-oowuneewa They — not
mah —-(vowel stem)-wun mah —-(consonant stem)-oowun There is not —

(Reference Ives Goddard Delaware Verbal Morphology)

VAI Subordinative Examples

The verb alóhkeew ‘he works’

X   alóhkeen


mah ndalohkéewun     
mah ktalohkéewun 
mah wtalohkéewun 
mah ndalohkéewŭneen 
mah ktalohkéewŭneen 
mah ktalohkeewŭnéewa 
mah wtalohkeewŭnéewa
X mah alohkéewun

The verb pumaashŭwíhl ‘he swims’

X    pumáashŭwíhlun


mah mbumaashŭwihlóowun
mah kupumaashŭwihlóowun
mah pumaashŭwihlóowun
mah mbumaashŭwihlóowŭneen
mah kupumaashŭwihlóowŭneen
mah kpumaashŭwihloowunéewa
mah pumaashŭwihloowunéewa
X mah pumáashŭwihlóowun

Unstable verbs in subordinative mode

unstable (aa) verbs use (aa) + n endings 
unstable (ii) verbs use (ii) + n endings
verbs in (pwii) use (pwii) + n endings


unstable (aa) verbs use (aa) + negative n endings 
unstable (ii) verbs use (ii) + negative n endings
verbs in (pwii) use (pwii) + negative n endings
Mah neeka péewu. 
He is not coming. (indicative mode)

Nal ha mah neeka páawun.  

Subordinative mode usage:

Mild commands

The subordinative when used as the main verb in a non narrative phrase, forms mild commands or suggestions. (Reference Ives Goddard Delaware Verbal Morphology)

Let me go.  

eew vai-aa he goes  

These seem to have an unspoken main clause that says:

“Would you please…” + subordinative verb

Kóhpii wtaan.  
Let him go to forest.  

Please be nice.  (wulúsuw vai he is nice, good)  

Paan wiikuyaan.  
Let him come to my house. (peew vai he comes)  

Kway paanéewa.  
Let them come now.  

Numíitsiin maamalóoniish.   
Let me eat slowly.  
(maamalóoniish pc kind of slowly)  

Let me sleep.  

Let us sleep.  

Let me say.  

Secondary verbal clauses

The subordinative is also used when one verb is followed by a second verb which modifies it.

Some verbs leave one hanging with an uncertainty such that the verbal complement that follows to clarify the uncertainty has to be in the subordinative mode. Other verbs optionally may be followed by a verb in the subordinative mode when that verb serves to clarify or specify something that would otherwise be somewhat vague or incomplete. A non-subordinative pairing of two verbs is possible where the second verb does not play a secondary role to the first.

Àhwat mbóosiin.  
Its hard for me to get in. (car) 
áhwat vii be difficult, be hard   
póosiiw vai-s get in a vehicle (mbóosiim)  

Subordinative construct because the second verb explains something related to the first verb.

Its hard… me getting in (car) is what’s hard.

    Àhwat shukw noolamálsi.  
    It was hard but I am feeling well.   

Non-subordinative construct. Neither verb says something that is secondary to the other.

The following examples illustrate subordinative constructs.

Àhwat nŭmáw-kawiin.  
Its hard for me to go to sleep.  

Àhwat kpshíhkii-úndun.  
Its hard for you to be nice.  

Mah ahwatóowi nziin.  
Its not hard for me to say.  

Subordinative use with preverbs

Certain preverbs (and related verb roots) combine with a verb in a subordinative clause and provide a bridge of sorts back to the main clause. Each preverb colors the interaction between the two verbs in its own particular way.

Preverbs, particles and other parts of speech which refer to something vague like “in a certain place” or “in a certain way” or “a certain amount” are often connected to a “qualifier” or a “quantifier” in order to resolve the vagueness. When the qualifier is a sub-clause with a verb, then odds are that it will be in the subordinative mode. Non verbal qualifiers such a locative nouns or numbers are not subordinative constructs, the the verb in such phrases will not be in the subordinative.

(Main clause)-(vague preverb)-(locative noun qualifier)  
(Main clause)-(vague preverb)-(number quantifier)  
(Main clause)-(vague preverb)-(subordinative verb qualifier)  

Preverb li

The preverb (li-) is used to set up a verb so it provide information about the ‘way’ or the ‘manner’ that the action in the main clause occurred.

In other words, the action of the main clause can be understood more specifically and in terms of “how” or “manner” with a subordinative sub-phrase introduced by (li-).

li– pv how, so, in thus manner, in thus way, in relation to, the story behind that is…

Beginning pattern for (li-)  
(nu)-(li) => nduli-   
(ku)-(li) => ktuli-  
(wu)-(li) => wtuli-  

Variants: (lu-)  (li-)  
Reduplicated form is (ayúlu- ) ; with prefix: (ndayulu- ktayulu- wtayulu-)  

Reduplicated forms add emphasis, rhythm and cuteness.

English reduplications examples : razzle dazzle, fancy schmancy

(li-) may also be used in non subordinative phrases to provide emphasis or explanation based on ‘how’

It is important to keep in mind in interpreting phrases using (li-) that the main clause remains on the main clause, and the subordinative clause functions as an add on that tells the rest of the story.


Ndalumúsi wtúli-maw-kawíin.  
    Main clause => I left  
    Secondary clause => he went to sleep  
    wtuli- => tells us 'how' the main action happened, with action on 'his' part  

I left, and this happened in connection to him going to sleep.   
I left when he went to sleep.   
alúmsuw vai he leaves  

Mbéesi wtúli-alúmsiin.  
I waited until he left.  
(peesuw vai wait)  
(I waited  - the way of it was him leaving)  

Nal wtúlu-wiikwáhmung-piinjíikwsiin.  
Then - the way he got into the house was by crawling inside.  
    [piinjiikwsuw vai crawl inside - subordinative form]  
    [peeheew vai-aa wait]   
    (Reference John O'Meara Munsee Delaware Dictionary)

Yeelak ndúlu-pa.  
So I came from over there.   
(non-subordinative, emphatic use of (lu-))  

Ootéeneeng ndúlu-pumúsi.   
I got to town by walking there.  
(non-subordinative explanatory use of (lu-), single verb phrase)  

Yoon ha ndayúlu-máachiin.  
This is how I went home.   
Yoon refers to something said earlier, so this phrase is subordinate. 

Go to VAI Practicum 9 Subordinative 1

Subordinative constructs using other preverbs

Other preverbs are used in subordinative mode phrases. When a verb includes the basic word structure of the preverb in its ‘root’ the effect is similar to using the preverb.

(verbs are made of roots, medials and finals)


This word may be built into the verb as a root (tal-) root or may be used as a stand alone word (talí).

Tali connects phrases with the idea of ‘where, a place’ (in the same way that li- connects phrases with the idea of ‘’how’‘). The ‘qualifier’ for talí will be a location of some kind in these phrases. Without a qualifier it means ‘somewhere’ or a ‘place’. The subordinative mode is used with (tali) when the clause is secondary or for storytelling.

tal- (as verb root) there, in a certain place, that is where…

talalóhkeew   he works (somewhere)  

Beginning pattern irregularity:

    (un) is inserted between the prefix and (tal-)  

    (nuu)-(-un-)(talohkeew) =>  


Ootéeneeng ndundalalóhke. 
I work in town.   
(locative nouns as qualifiers do not require subordinative mode)  

Nun ha ndundalalóhkeen. 
That is where I work  
(subordinative mode because this phrase is a secondary clause to a narrative)  

Mostly [talí] and its variant [talú] are used as particles (standalone words).

When used with a verb as a preverb (talí) takes the form (unda-).

talí talú pc here, there, in a certain place

Nun wtúnda-lpákun.   
That's where he cried.  

Nun ndúnda-lpákun.  
Nun ktúnda-lpákun.  

Nun wtúnda-áan.  
Nun wtúnda-aanéewa.  

Nun wtúnda-apíin.  
Nun wtúnda-wumún.  

Nun ha wtúnda-alóhkeen.   
    This is where he used to work   
    (Reference John O'Meara Munsee Delaware Dictionary)

Yoon-uch ktúnda-áan.   
This is where you'll go.  

Indicative mode examples, using a non verbal qualifier.

Mohkamúyuw talí mbíing.   
It's icy in the water.  
(Reference dictionary)

Wíineew yoon talú.   
It is snowing here.   

Kóonung talú apúw.   
He is there, in the snow.   

Nii nŭmáw-pumúsi áaneeng talí.   
I went walking on the road.   

Mbíisung talí wuláhkameew.   
It's a nice day at the lake.  

Nii ndalóhke yu talí.  

Neekáawa pumúsuwak wéemu talú.  


Wunj- is a preverb that connects phrases with the idea of ‘from where’ or ‘for a certain reason of’ or ‘why’

Variations: wunju- wunj- wunji- wunjii-

When the quantifier is a noun in locative form, they one verb in the phrase does not need to be in the subordinative mode. Phrases with two verbs use the subordinative. When a pronoun such as “this” or “that” or “there” serves as a pointer back to something else said earlier, the subordinative is used, even though it may be the only verb in that sentence.

Wunj- also may be used as a prenoun, attached to a locative noun, indicating ‘from or at’ that location.

Peew oonju-miitsiin.   
He came so he can eat.   

Nun ha oonj-apíin.   
That's why he is there.  

Nu oonju-apiinéewa lúnŭwak.   
That's the reason why the men are there  

Ngawi noonju-wulamalúsiin.  
I slept so I would feel good.   

Nun ha noonj-níhtaa-aaptóoneen.  
That's the reason why I was good at speaking.  

Nah koonj-piinjíikeen, nal nu taa kŭlùmatápiin.  
You came inside from there, then that's when you sat down.   

nah pc there
nu taa  that's when   
piinjiikeew vai-s  come inside
shungiixiin vai lie down 

Nah noonj-piinjíikeen, nal nu taa lùmatápiin.  
Nah oonj-piinjíikeen, nal nu taa wŭlùmatápiin.  
Nah noonj-piinjiikéeneen, nal nu taa lumatapíineen.  

lumátapuw vai sit down  

Wunj-ootéeneeng pumúsuw (or wunj-pumúsuw).  
'He walked from town'   (indicative mode)  

Wunj can be used as a particle with meaning of ‘from’ and ‘reason, purpose’

Kweek ha wunj?   
Why? What is the reason?  

Palíi aal wunj kukung.   
Go away from your mother's place.   


sáhki- is a preverb that connects phrases with the idea of ‘the length, the extent, the amount of something’

Its qualifiers could be a number (non-subordinative) or a verb (as long as I can remember).

Sometimes the main clause verb is not overtly stated but is implied. “How tall are you?” as if to say “How tall are you getting to be?”

sahk-  (verb root) so long  
sáhki- pv   variants : sahku- sahkii-   
a certain length (of time,  measurement)  


sahkáhkwsuw vai be a certain height

    Tha wsahkáhkwsiin?  
    How tall is he getting to be?  
    What is the extent of his height?  
    (Reference: dictionary)

        Tha wsahkáhkwsuw?   
         How tall is he?   
         What is his height?  
         (Reference: dictionary)

    Tha nzahkáhkwsiin?  
    How tall am I getting to be?  

    Mah nuweewiitóowun tha nzahkáhkwsiin.  

    Taa eet tha wsahkáhkwsiin?  
    I wonder how tall he is  

    taa  pc  emphatic   
    eet pc maybe  

    Mbúmsi nsáhki-wiinamalsiin.   
    I walked so far I was sick.  

sáhksuw vai be a certain length

    Tha wsáhksiin na áxkook?  
    How long is the snake?   
    What is the extent- of the length of the snake  

Example without use of subordinative:

sahkáhkeew vai be gone a certain length of time.

    Niish-kíishooxkw sahkáhkeew.   
    He was gone for two months.  
    (Reference: dictionary) 

    Tha sahkáhke?   
    How long has he been gone?  
    (Reference: dictionary)  

sahkáhkwat vii be a certain height.

    Ta sahkáhkwat wíikwahm?  
    How tall is the house?   
    (Reference dictionary)  

sahku– pv

Neew-kíishooxkw wusáhku-péesiin.   
Four months is how long he waited. (He waited for four months.)   

Nu ha kusáhki-pumúsiin.   
That is how long I walked.  

Use with conjunct

sahku– pv a certain length (of time, measurement), informal.

    Séhku-wáapang ndalóhke.   
    I've been working since this morning.   
    (Reference dictionary) 

    Mbéehaaw sáhku-níish-kulakíike.   
    'I waited for him until two o'clock.'   
    (Reference dictionary)  

    Péesuw sáhku-neew-kulakíike.   
    He waited until four o'clock.   

    Séhki-píiskeek ngúndka.  
    I danced until nightfall.  
    (non subordinative construction)  

Use as particle

    Taa sáhki ndiit, 'nii uch nŭmáw-míitsi'.  
    After awhile I told myself, 'I'll go eat'.  
    (non subordinative construction)  


Go to VAI Practicum 10 Subordinative II


Storytelling and the subordinative

Story telling words like nal, nah, nun, nu may introduce a subordinate clause. It is as if each new sentence tells more of the story, and the whole story forms a string of interconnected sub-phrases, all in the subordinative mode.

nal pc then, subsequently + subordinative

nah pc there, ‘this is where …+ subordinative

(when nah is used as a destination => subordinative is optional)

na pc that animate, emphatic

nan pc that animate, emphatic

nu pc that (inanimate)

nun pr that inanimate emphatic

When these particles point to something vague, abstract indicative mode is used. In storytelling situations, subordinative is preferred. When the particle refers back to something or someplace previously mentioned, subordinative is preferred.

Nal ndalumúsiin.   
Then I went away (from there).  

Nal mah ndáawun.   
Then I didn't go (there).  

Nal mah ngáta-áawun.   
Then I didn't want to go (there).  

Nal ndáalu-aan.   
Then I couldn't go (there).  

Nal ndiit, 'nii táasa ndáan'.   
Then I thought, 'I might go (there).  

Nal mah kŭlùpakóowun.   
Then you didn't cry (about it).  


Examples using subordinative mode

Kway kíishkwihk ápih nah ndaan.   
I'm going there today.  

Wunúkwtun- nah -aan.   
She went there one time   

Nah ha óomun.   
This is where he comes from.  

Nah with indicative mode (abstract use)

Náalanu-kíishooxkw nah ndúnda-lalóhke.   
I worked there for five months.   
naalanu- pn five  

Ahch mah nah éewu.   
'He didn't even go there.'   
(Reference dictionary)  

Ask eet nah apúw.   
He must be there   
(abstract use of nah)   
ask pc have to, must  

Nah naláhii ndúlu-pumúsiim.   
'I walked to Munceytown.'   
naláhii pc Munceytown, Ontario  

Teet nah apúw.   
'Maybe he's there.'   
apúw vai be there, be here   

Na éepiit.   
There he is.   

Oxkwéewak nah apúwak wiikwáhmung.   
There were women in the house.  

Náakeesh-uch shukw nal-uch paskwiipáhtoon.   
After a while he'll jump up in a hurry.   

shukw nal - but then  
naakeesh pc a little while.   

Nu, nun, yu, na, ya, wa, wan, yool and the subordinative mode:

These words may be used to refer back to something or someone from the main narrative and will trigger the subordinative mode if coupled with a verb.

Nun ha oonjíiyayiin na lunuw.   
That's where that man comes from.  

Yoon wtaamíhlaan.   
He fell here.   
aamíhleew vai he falls over  

Nu wtaamíhlaan.   
He fell there.   

Nun ha lúnuw wsiin.   
That's what the man said.  

Nun ha nii nziin.   
That's what I'd say.  

Piish ndúlaan shukéhla wánsiin.   
I told him but he still forgot (it).  
piish pc indeed, yes;  

Yu pumaathóokwun.   
He floated right by here.   
pumáathookw vai float by  


subordinative mode=> specific place, secondary clauses

indicative mode => vague, abstract place

Non subordinative use

Aayáaxkwu nan nda.   
I went later.   
(nan as a vague destination:  'there')  

Héesh taa lúkih nan ndulootéewi.  
I go there to visit once in a while.  

Example above is notable for illustrating the use of (heesh) without conjunct  
lúkih pc extent.   
lootéewuw vai visit some place:,   

Nan noom lóowanu.   
I went there last winter.   

Nan mbúmu-lóowi.   
I passed by there.   
(nan - abstract destination)  

lóowiiw vai-s pass by.  
pumu- pv by, along.   

Naakaayéeke ápih nan mba.   
I'll come (there) in a little while.   

naakaayéeke vii in a while ; conjunct form  
nan pc emphatic there   

Nan mbúmu-laashíhla.   
I ran by in a flash.  

laashíhleew vai be a glimpse of s.o. seen while going by.  
nan as emphatic for there  

Verbs of motion

Certain verbs of motion may be used in subordinative mode – when a qualifier, other than a locative noun, ties together a main clause or preceding focus of discussion to a secondary verbal clause for which the qualifier resolves a vagueness.

He comes.   
i.e. he comes somewhere, or somehow or sometime  

Yu paan.  
He came to this (place).  

peew  vai-aa  mbaam kpaam peew  

Wíixkwii wunúkwtun-paan, nguk uw "káta-míitsi?"  
All of sudden one time he came early, and my mother said  "Do you want to eat?''  
(reference story transcription by John O'Meara)  

Pumúchii pumsiin.   
He's walking (there) beside me.  

pumuchii pc beside, alongside.  

The subordinative may be useful to shift the focus or emphasis of a phrase :

Na ha nii ha ndapiin. 
That was me who was there.

Plural and obviative endings on verbs in subordinative mode normally are omitted :

Niicháanak nah wtápiin wtapíinayung.  
My children are there in their beds  
(versus wtapiinéewa)  
apúw vai be there  

But sometimes plural endings are not omitted … VII subordinative example:

Nun ha wunj-punihléewal.  
Thats why they fell.  

punihléew vii fall down off s.t.  

Go to VAI Practicum 11 Subordinative III
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