Pacifique’s conjugations 4–5: “Transitive inanimate”

The 4th and 5th conjugations provided in Father Pacifique’s grammar are for “transitive inanimate” verbs. This means verbs that take both a subject and an object, but the object belongs to the category of inanimate nouns.

These stems fall into two main groups: in the 4th conjugation, stems end in a consonant and are then followed by [m]. Frequently the final two consonants in the conjugated forms are [tm], as in nestm- “to understand (something inanimate)”, but we also find others such as [lm] in pegawatelm- “to buy (something inanimate)”, [gm] as in ewi’gm- “to write (something inanimate)”, and te’pm- “to deserve (something inanimate)”. Stems of the 5th conjugation end in [tu]. I’ve separated the [m] and the [tu] out in the paradigms for each below.

In the tables below, the forms with singular objects are in the first column, the forms with plural objects are in the second column. For example mena’tu’n is “You remove it (inanimate)”, while mena’tu’nn is “You remove them (inanimate)”. Note that while Pacifique provides a distinction between dual and plural subjects, as in VAI, speakers we have consulted prefer to make only a singular/plural distinction with most of these forms.

Beginning with the 4th conjugation, we see that endings here after the [m] are very similar to those in the VAI conjugations, with a few exceptions. In the first person singular, we find the suffix -an appearing in the plural. Based on some other work, it seems likely that this is the first person suffix, and it perhaps does not appear in most contexts. Note that in the third person singular we find a final [g] rather than the [t]––we will see other places where [t] and [g] alternate in the 3rd singular. Note also that in the 3rd person singular the [m] final does not appear. The 3rd person dual is also different: [-ijig] in VAI, but [-i’tij] here.

TI “4th conjugation”: nest-m- “to understand (something inanimate)”

 ↓ Subj / Obj → singular plural
1 -m -m-an-n
13 -m-eg -m-eg-l
12 -m-u’gw -m-u’gw-l
2 -m-n -m-n-n
2PL -m-oq -m-oq-l
3 -’g -’g-l
3PL -m-i’tij -m-i’tit-l

Turning to the 5th conjugation we again see familiar suffixes after the [tu], but again some surprises. Note here that the third singular is [-toq]. We also find the [u] of [tu] lengthened in some forms––looks like before consonants?

TI “5th conjugation”: mena’-t- “to remove (something inanimate)”

↓ Subj / Obj → singular plural
1 -tu -tu-an-n
13 -tu-eg -tu-eg-l
12 -tu-‘gw -tu-‘gw-l
2 -tu-‘n -tu-‘n-n
2PL -tu-oq -tu-oq-ol
3 -t-oq -t-oq-ol
3PL -tu-‘tij -tu-‘tij-l

More examples of each conjugation can be found in Pacifique––also note, there is a new version of the Francis and Hewson translation, available here. As with the first three conjugations, it would be interesting to know if there is a way of predicting if a stem belongs to the 4th or 5th group––both clearly involve [t]. Pacifique also notes that for most forms in the 5th paradigm, there is no distinct negative form (negation also involves a [u]). As always, we welcome your comments, additions, and corrections!

2 thoughts on “Pacifique’s conjugations 4–5: “Transitive inanimate”

  1. The -t/-g alternation for the ANsg basically goes back to this: -t after V, -g after -C. Hence we get pegisin-g ‘AN arrives’, mesgil-g ‘AN is big’, but -t after the far greater number of V-final stems/Finals.

    What complicates the picture are the subsequent sound changes: originally these TIs in -‘m were, basically -‘m with expected postconsonantal ANsg -g, but at a PA/PEA level, the -‘m-g worked out as (roughly speaking) -‘Ng, with the -N- later dropped, giving just -‘g. Such that the current alternation is -‘m as the base form, -‘g as that -‘m plus the ANsg ending. Hence we see the -‘m come back in other AN forms, e.g. -‘m-‘li-t ‘AN obv…’, and so on.

    The odd form -toq originates from this, too. Historically it is PA *-tākw, which regularly comes out as -toq in Mi’gmaq. This *-tākw in turn is essentially *-tāw/-*-taw (the length alternates) with the postconsonantal allomorph -k (= Mi’gmaq -g) of familiar -t. Then evidently the -w flipped around to the other side, i.e. *-tāw-k > *-tākw. It’s a quirky one, to say the least.

    The lengthening effect is also due to the fact that this morpheme originally ended in -w, and that the 2s ending -n originally was -‘n. Or rather, it was PA/PEA -an (which regularly works out as -‘n in Mi’gmaq). So that basically PA/PEA *-taw-an became -t’w’n, which works out as -tu’n. Same again for *-taw-akw as -tu’gw; -tu’tij works out a little differently: basically we had *-taw as *-tō in a form PEA *-tō-həti-t, with that working out in Mi’gmaq as -tu-‘ti-t, which then gets us -tu’tit. The final palatalization is a separate process, worth putting off for the moment.

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