VTA Subordinative Mode

The VTA Subordinative mode uses n endings.

VTAs in subordinative mode do not mark for obviation, and plural objects use the same forms as the singular.

Subordinative modes forms exist for direct mode, inverse mode, passives (indefinite subject) and local forms (You-Me and Me-You forms).

VTA Direct Mode Subordinative

These use the direct direction marker (aa) with n endings

(prefix) (verb stem) (aa) (n ending)

Paradigm Meaning
nu-(stem)-aan I — him
ku-(stem)-aan You — him
wu-(stem)-aan He — him (obviative)
nu-(stem)-aaneen We — him (exclusive)
ku-(stem)-aaneen We — him (inclusive)
ku-(stem)-aaneewa Ye — him
wu-(stem)-aaneewa They — him (obviative)
—-(stem)-aan He was —

VTA Negative Subordinative Mode

Paradigm Meaning
mah nu-(stem)-aawun I — him not
mah ku-(stem)-aawun You — him not
mah wu-(stem)-aawun He — him not (obviative)
mah nu-(stem)-aawuneen We — him not (exclusive)
mah ku-(stem)-aawuneen We — him not (inclusive)
mah ku-(stem)-aawuneewa Ye — him not
mah wu-(vowel stem)-aawuneewa They — him not (obviative)
mah —-(vowel stem)-aawun He was not —
Nal nii ngatáalaan  
Then I wanted him.  

Nal mah nii ngataaláawun.   
Then I wanted him not.   

VTA Inverse Subordinative Mode

These use the inverse direction marker (ukw) with n endings

(prefix) (verb stem) (ukw) (n ending)

This set is identical to the forms used for objective inverse forms for an inanimate subject.

Paradigm Meaning
nu-(stem)-ukwun he — me
ku-(stem)-ukwun he — you
wu-(stem)-ukwun he — him / her
nu-(stem)-ukwuneen he — us (exclusive)
ku-(stem)-ukwuneen he — us (inclusive)
ku-(stem)-ukwuneewa he — ye
wu-(stem)-ukwuneewa he — them

Nal wŭnéewkwun.   
Then he saw me.  

Nal mah wuneewkóowun.   
Then he saw me not.   

VTA Indefinite Subject Inverse Subordinative Mode (Passives)

These use the modified inverse direction marker (ukee) with n endings, except the 3rd person forms which use the direct X subject forms (aa) + n ending

(prefix) (verb stem) (ukee) (n ending)

Paradigm Meaning
nu-(stem)-ukeen I was —-
ku-(stem)-ukeen you were —-
—-(stem)-aan* He / She was —-
nu-(stem)-ukeeneen we were —- (excl)
ku-(stem)-ukeeneen we were —– (incl)
ku-(stem)-ukeeneewa ye were —–
—-(stem)-aaneewa They were —–

Nal kŭnéewkeen.   
Then you were seen.  

Nal mah kuneewkéewun.   
Then you were not seen.   

Nal néewaan.   
Then he was seen.  
(3p uses the x form of the indicative mode)  

Nal mah neewáawun.   
Then he was not seen.  

Nal neewaanéewa. 
Then they were seen.  

VTA Subordinative You-Me Forms

VTA Subordinative Local Forms use the (ii) and (ul) direction markers with n endings

Participants Paradigm
You —- me ku-(stem)-iin
Ye —- me ku-(stem)-íineewa
You —- us ku-(stem)-íineen
Ye —- us ku-(stem)-íineen
Nal kŭnéewiin.   
Then you saw me.  

Nal mah kŭneewíiwun.  
Then you saw me not.  

VTA Subordinative Me-You Forms

Participants Paradigm
Me, I —- you ku-(stem)-ul-un
Me, I —- ye ku-(stem)-ul-uneewa
We —- you ku-(stem)-ul-uneen
We —- ye ku-(stem)-ul-uneen
Nal kŭnéewŭlun.   
Then I saw you.  

Nal mah kuneewulóowun.   
Then I saw you not.   

All VTA Subordinative Negative Forms

All Negatives
(prefix)-(stem)-(direction marker)-(oo)*-(w)-(u)-(n ending)

*(oo) is inserted if there is a final consonant before the (w) negative suffix

Nal mah kuneewŭlóowun.
Then I saw you not.

Examples of uses:

Polite commands

The subordinative used alone forms polite commands or suggestions:

Ndáyŭwaan na móhkamuy.  
Let me have that ice.   
ayúweew vta get,buy,have s.o  

Let me tell her.  

Go with her.  

Mwuhaan niil óhpunal.   
Let him eat those potatoes.  
(subordinative verbs tend not to use plural or obviative endings)  

Numwuhaan niik óhpunak.   
Let me eat those potatoes.  

Mwuhaanéewa niil óhpunal.  
Let them eat those potatoes.  

Let us listen to him.  

Simple verbal complements

A verb in a secondary clause providing complementary information to the verb in the primary clause will usually be in the subordinative. When used this way the second verb is stylistically set apart and provides a certain nuance of meaning compared to verb pairings without subordinative use.

aapŭwéelŭmeew vta find s.o. easy (to do something with).

Ndaapuwéelŭmaaw ngihkulóolaan.   
I find him easy to talk to.   

Ndaapuwéelŭmukw ngihkulóolkwun.  
He finds me easy to talk to.  

áhwat vii be difficult, be hard

Áhwat kihkulóolŭlun.  
Its hard for me to talk to you.  
It is hard ... what's hard is me talking to you.  
kihkulóoleew talk to s.o.  

wiingáaleew vta like to do s.t. with s.o + subordinative

Nuwiingáalaaw nŭmeelawíihaan  
I like to play with him  

Kŭwiingáali kumeelawíihiin.  
You like me to play with you      
meelawiiheew vta play with s.o.  

ngúneew vta stop s.o.

Nákŭnaaw wtaashuwóoxween.  
I stopped him from walking across.  

aashuwóoxweew  vai walk across  

Wŭnàkunáawal wtaashuwóoxween.   
He stopped him from going across.  

Kŭnákŭnaaw kumátahkaalkwun.  
You stopped him from fighting with you.                 

matahkhaaleew vta fight with s.o.           

Subordinative Use with Preverbs

Certain preverbs (and related verb roots) combine with a verb in a subordinative clause and provide a bridge of sorts between two phrases, one in the main clause and the other in the subordinative clause. Preverbs color the interaction between the two verbs in a particular way.

Some preverbs, particles and other parts of speech refer to something vague like “in a certain place” or “in a certain way” or “a certain amount.” A “qualifier” or a “quantifier” provided afterwards will help resolve that vagueness. If the qualifier is a sub-clause containing a verb, then odds are that it will be in the subordinative mode. Non verbal qualifiers such a locative nouns, particles or numbers are not subordinative constructs, and the verb in such phrases will not be in the subordinative.

li- pv the ‘somehow’ preverb

The preverb (li-) with the verb to which it attaches, provides 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 “in what manner” when there is 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-)

li- may also be used in non-subordinative phrases to provide emphasis or to provide an explanation based on ‘how’ or ‘the manner by which.’

The key to interpreting phrases using li- is to remember that the main clause takes the main focus, and the subordinative clause is a side note which tells more of the story.


Mbéehaaw ndúli-néewaan.  
I waited for him until I saw him.  
(I waited for him... how it happened was me seeing him.)  
[péeheew wait for s.o.]  

Mbéehaaw wtúli-piinjíikeen.  
I waited until he came in.  

Ndulíihaan wtúli-mhwáan.  
I made him eat him.  

líiheew  vta make s.o. do sth + subordinative  

Yoon ha ktayulu-moxkáwaan.  
This is how you found him.  

Phrases with only one verb may use li- with a verb in the indicative mode, as long as the phrase does not have a secondary relationship to another part of the discourse.

Péexŭwii ndúlu-punáwaaw.   
Up close was how I looked at him.  

péexŭwii pc close, up close.   

Ootéeneeng ndúli-péeshŭwaaw.  
Into town is the way I brought him.  

Go to VTA subordinative Practicum I

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)
(Reference John O’Meara The Delaware Stem)


This word may be built into the verb as a root (tal-) root or may be used as a stand alone word (talí). Talí connects phrases with the idea of ‘where, a place’ (in the same way that li- connects 2 phrases with the idea of ‘’how’‘). The ‘qualifier’ will be a location of some kind in these phrases. Absence of a qualifier makes it mean ‘somewhere’ The subordinative mode is used with talí when there is a secondary clause situation or for storytelling, but single clause phrases using a location word or locative noun does not use the subordinative.

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

ndundal-  ktundal-  wtundal- (beginning pattern)  

see s.o. in a certain place  

Ooteeneeng ndundalatawáapamaaw.  
In town -  that's where I saw him  
(Qualifier is a locative noun, subordinative is not required)  

Nun ha ndundalatawaapamúkwun.  
That's where he saw me.  
(This type of phrase uses the subordinative)  
(Nun refers back to prior conversation...)  

Yu ktundalatawáapamaan.  
Here... that's where you saw him  

talí talú pc or unda- preverb ; here, there, in a certain place
(may also be used with a noun in locative form)
When used with a verb as a preverb it takes the form (unda-)

Nii mbúmsi nu talí néewaan máxkwak.  
I walk there, there where I saw the bears.  
(subordinative verbs often omit plural object endings)  

Nii mbúmsi yu talí neewkwunéewa máxkwak.  
I walk here, where the bears - they saw me.  

Nii nuwiichéewaaw mbíissung talí.   
I went with him to the lake.   
(mbiisus ni lake.) 
(no subordinative, single clause phrase)  

Nun wtúnda-káalaan.  
That's where he hid her.   
There ... is where he hid her. 

[káaleew hide s.o.]   

Yu ndúnda-peeháanak.  
I'm waiting here for them. 
(Reference Ives Goddard Delaware Verbal Morphology)

wund- built into the root of a word or wunju- connects phrases with the idea of ‘from someplace or for some reason’

wum- wund- (root) = from that place or cause

Ta wúndakw koondsútawaan?  
What direction did you hear him from?  
[wundsútaweew hear s.o. from a certain direction]  

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, there is only one verb in the phrase and it does not need to be in the subordinative mode. Phrases with two verbs use the subordinative.

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

Nah koonj-óhlaan, nah nu taa kupiindooxwálaan.  
Then you fetched him , and then you brought him inside''   

[nah pc there]   
[taa  pc  emphatic ]   
[óhleew get s.o. from somewhere]  
[piindóoxwaleew bring s.o. inside]  

Wunj-ootéeneeng wiicheewáawal.  
He went with her from town.  
(not in subordinative mode)  

Yoon ha oonj-péehaan.  
That's why he waited for her.  


sáhki- is a preverb that connects phrases with the idea of ‘the length of which is ’
Sahk- built into the root of a word connects phrases with the idea of ‘some length’ or ‘so long’

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

Neew-kíishooxkw wusáhku-wiichéewaan.  
Four months is how long he went with her.  
(He went with her for four months.)  

Nu ha kusáhki-punóolun.  
That is how long I looked at you.  

Séhki-píiskeek mbéehaaw.  
I waited for him until nightfall.  
(non subordinative construction)  

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

Nóotxaaw sáhku-neew-kulakíike.   
I waited for him until four o'clock.   
wtáxeew vta visit s.o.  

Go to VTA Subordinative Practicum 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 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
Wa or wan pc this
Yoon, yu this

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

Nal mbiipíinawaan.   
Then I chose her.  

[piipíinaweew choose s.o.]  

Nal mah nuwiicheewáawun.  
Then I didn't go with him (there).  

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

Nal ndáalu-laan.  
Then I couldn't tell him.   

Nal ndiit, 'nii táasa ndúlaan'.   
Then I thought, 'I might tell him'.  

Nal mah ha njíhnal kataalíiwun.  
Then you didn't want me anymore.  
njíhnal pc more    

Nah ‘there’
Examples using the subordinative mode (when ‘nah’ refers back to a prior topic of discourse, clarifies a vagueness, continues a story …)

Kway kíishkwihk ápih nah nuwiichéewaan.   
I'm going there with him today.  

Wunúkwtun- nah -wtaxáanak.   
She visited them there one time   
wtaxeew vta visit s.o.      

Nah ha mbahtshóokwun.  
This is where he cut me by accident.  
pahtsheew vta cut s.o. by accident, nu + p => mb  

Examples using the indicative mode. (‘there’ is either referred to in an abstract way, and/or is not referring back to a specific topic previously discussed).

Niish-kíishooxkw nah ndúnda-niishalohkeemáawak.   
I worked with them there for two months.   

Ahch mah nah wiicheewaawíiwal.   
'He didn't even go with her there.'   

Ask eet nah wtúnda-wtaxáawal.   
He must visit her there.  
(abstract use of nah) ask pc have to, must  

Nah naláhii ndúlu-peeshuwáawak.   
I brought them to Munceytown.  

naláhii pc Munceytown, Ontario, 'up-stream'.   

Teet nah ndúnda-néewaaw uch.   
Maybe I'll see him there.  

Oxkwéewak nah kwihkulooláawal wiikwáhmung.   
There were women talking with him in the house.  

Náakeesh-uch shukw nal-uch kpéeshŭwul mbambíilum.  
After a while I'll show you my book.  

shukw nal - but then  
naakeesh pc a little while.   

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

These may be used to represent something or someone referenced in the main clause or the narrative and will generally trigger the subordinative mode.
They may also represent an introduction of sorts, to a preverb like (li-) as if to say: ‘this is how …’

Nun ha ndúnda-néewaan na lúnuw.   
That's where I saw that man.  

Yoon ndohláanak.   
This where I got them.   
(plural ending is optional but useful here)  

Nu kóhlaan oxkwées'sak   
You got the girls from there.   
(optional plural ending is omitted here)  
ohleew  vta get s.o. from a certain place  

Nun ha lúnuw ndúkwun.  
That's what the man said to me.  

Nun ha nii ndúlaan.   
That's what I'd say to him.   

Piish ndúlaan shukéhla kwata-wtáxaan.   
I told him but he still wanted to visit her.  
piish pc indeed, yes;   

Yu ndúnda-niishalohkeemaanéewa.   
I worked with ye right by here.   
    subordinative mode => specific place
    the indicative mode => vague, abstract place

Many uses of these pronouns do not involve use of the subordinative mode. The indicative mode is preferred for casual discourse with an abstract or vague destination ‘there’. The subordinative is used when the verb is in a secondary role to a main clause that clarifies something vague or refers back to something specific.

Mah piish aa na káta-aloolaawíiwak.  
You should not hire them.  

Aaayáaxkwu-ch nan nóhlaaw.   
I'll get him later.   
(nan as a vague destination:  'there')  

Heesh taa lúkih nan ndúnda-wtaxáawak.  
I go there to visit them once in a while.  
ex of use of heesh without conjunct (ref dict ex for heesh)  
lúkih pc extent.   

Nan ktúnda-peeshuwáawa lóowanu.   
I brought ye there last winter.   

Nan uch kwiichéewul.   
I'll go there with you.   
(nan - abstract destination)  

Naakaayéeke ápih nan ngikulóolaaw.   
I'll talk to him in a little while.   
naakaayéeke vii in a while, usually only in conjunct order.   
nan - emphatic there   

Nan kpúmu-laashíinool.   
I ran by you in a flash.  
laashíinaweew vta see s.o. briefly, see s.o. for a moment,  
pumu- pv by. along.  

Certain verbs of motion may be used in subordinative mode. One may think of it in terms of adding ‘there’ to the sentence.

However single verb clauses using a locative noun do not use the subordinative.
Vague abstract qualifiers do not use the subordinative.

 Yu peetshíhkawaan.  
 He chased him there.   
 peetshíhkaweew chase, drive s.o. to here  

Wíixkwii wunúkwtun-wtéhkawaan, nal uw "kata-kihkulóoli?"   
All of sudden one time he came from behind, then he said "Do you want to talk to me?''   
wtéhkaweew vta come behind s.o., come from behind s.o.   

Use for focus and emphasis

The subordinative may be useful to make sure the main focus or emphasis of the narrative is apparent to the listener.

Néeka ha oxkwéewal wtahwáalaan.  
She is the woman he loves.  
(focus is on the woman)  

Neeka wtahwaalaawal óxkweewal.  
He loves the woman.   
(focus is on him)  

Peripheral endings and the subordinative mode

Subordinative forms normally use no peripheral endings (endings on verbs that match plural or obviative status of the verb object) but some speakers do use them some of the time.

I gave it to them.  
I gave it to him, them.  

Chíile liihíiwi apulúshak numóhaan.  
Don't make me eat the apples.  

Chíile liihíiwi nduli-mohaanéewa niik apulúshak.  
Don't make me eat those apples.  

Yoon ha kway nóhlaan neek kiikíipshak.  
That's where I got the chickens  
(not nohlaanak)  

[ohleew  vta get s.o. from a certain place]  

Yu ndúnda-péehaan.  
I'm waiting here for them.  
    [peeheew vai-aa wait] sg ending despite 'them' as object  

More examples:

2 verbs

Nákunaaw wtalumúsiin.  
I stopped her - from leaving - her process of leaving.  

Nakunukóona ndaashuwooxwéeneen.  
he stopped us -stopped our walking across.  

Wunakunáawal wtaashuwóoxween.  
He stopped him- stopped his going across.  

Nákunaaw wtalumúsiin.  
I stopped her - from leaving - her process of leaving.  


Nah noonj-alúmsiin, nah nu taa núkalaan.
Then I left from there, and I abandoned her.
[nah pc there]        
[taa  pc  emphatic ] 
ngáleew vta leave s.o.

Go to VTA Subordinative Practicum III

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