The long-awaited “transitive animate” paradigm! To figure out how to conjugate a form, find the person of the subject by going down to the left-side column to find the right row; next move over to the column for the object you want. For example, a first person exclusive subject (13) acting on a second person plural object (2PL)––e.g. for “We saw you guys”––gets the ending -ulneg.
|↓ Subj / Obj→||1||13||12||2||2PL||3||3PL|
Before we get into the patterns themselves, a few points should be made: diagonally from top right to lower left you see cells marked “(refl)” for “reflexive”; these forms will get a special marking, not included here. In addition to the reflexive forms, there are certain cells that are impossible. Note that these are cells where features “overlap”. Meaning, if there is a first person specified anywhere in the subject, it can’t be anywhere in the object; same for second person. This rules out forms like “You all saw you”, and “We saw us”. In Mi’gmaq, third persons can act on third persons, but this is where obviation comes into play, which we will save for a future post.
Also, note that some forms begin with either a -(V) for vowel or a -(Ve). With a stem like nemi- “see”, the final vowel is kept in the stem when the (V) appears, but dropped elsewhere. For example: nemul “I see you”, but nemi‘g “I see him”. In other verb forms, the vowel doesn’t appear. Take taqam- “hit”: taqamul “I hit you” and taqam‘g “I hit him”. It would be interesting if we could find regularities here.
(I should preface what I am about to write by saying: the next part might be fun for people interesting in finding patterns here. That said, understanding all of it isn’t necessary to being able to use these forms! However, if you are interested and something I’ve written is unclear or just plain wrong, please post comments.)
Looking now more carefully at the table above, some basic patterns emerge. First, we can assign feature values to morphemes (pieces) as follows:
-i’li – 1 object; -ul(n) – 2 object; -a – 3 object; -ugsi – “participant” plural object; -eg – 13; -gw – 12; -oq – 2PL; -ig – 3PL; -n – 2 subject; -t – 3 subject
Now how do we figure out how to put all of these together? Though it becomes more clear in the negative forms (to be posted), we can think of these as involving 2 slots, plus an additional slot if there is a third person plural involved. So we can think of our template as looking roughly like this:
Verb – Slot1 – Slot2 – (3PL)
The first step is to figure out what goes in slot 1; this is the easier slot, because we can basically just think of it as object agreement: see the object forms listed above. A couple of tricks apply here. -i’li is triggered if a first person is part of the object, including first person plural; this means that a 13 object gets -i’li in a 2>13 form like -i’lieg. However, if we find a third person subject acting on a participant plural object (12, 13, or 2PL), we get -ugsi in the first slot. Finally, note that in the 3rd person object cases, we don’t always see the -a. It will show up for us in negated forms though.
Next step: what goes in slot 2? Well, if no participant plural morphemes are involved, life is easy: just agree with the subject––note that the subject agreement forms (-n and -t) look familiar from the VAI paradigm. This means that a form like nemi’lin “You see me” can be straightforwardly broken down into nemi-i’li-n: see-1obj-2subj. Also as in the VAI paradigm, there is no clear subject agreement marker; rather, a 1st person subject is indicated by the absence of marking, as in the form nem-ul “I see you”, where we only have agreement with the second person object.
If plural participants (again, 12, 13, or 2PL) are involved as either the subject or the object, they will occupy the second slot. If a first person plural is involved anywhere, the second slot will agree with it (-gw for 12, -eg for 13). If neither of these is involved, agree with second plural, -oq. This means that sometimes the subject will not get to realize any of its features. Take for example 1>2PL, “I saw you”: nem-uln-oq. First we have the stem, then we have second person agreement with the object (-uln), then we have second person plural agreement again with the object (-oq). First person is nowhere to be found. (Why isn’t this form ambiguous? Remember, if a 3rd person subject is acting on a local plural object, you get a special object form -ugsi in slot one.)
Finally, note that almost all forms involving 3PL––whether in the subject or object––end in -ig, and this appears outside of the second slot. (Remember that [t] turns into [j] before an [i], accounting for alternations like -it/-ijig.) Interestingly, this morpheme also comes outside of tense when tense is involved. Negation also intervenes between the 1st and 2nd agreement slots, making it clear that these really are separable. A full template, which needs more work, looks like this:
Verb – Slot1 – (Neg) – Slot2 – (Past) – (3PL)
Lots remains to be worked out! In some cases some unclear sound changes take place, but again, stay tuned for negative forms to see the pattern described above a bit more clearly. That said, everything here is subject to revision––please don’t hesitate to post comments, questions, or suggestions.
Some particular questions:
- What is -ugsi? It seems like it can also be used in VAI forms, and is listed in Pacifique as a passive morpheme in some contexts. Is it possible that the -ugsi forms are really passives?
- Some speakers dislike -ig endings for 3 plural subjects when a plural object is also involved––is there a pattern here? Do some sound worse than others with -ig?