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Morphology

Verbs

Verbs in Inuktitut may either be stems or affixes. Stem verbs must appear at the initial position of a word and may stand alone in the sentence accompanied only by verbal inflection. In contrast, verbs as affixes can never appear at the beginning of a word and cannot stand alone even with verbal inflection. Both stem verbs and affixal verbs can be intransitive, transitive, or ditransitive.

 

Stem Verbs

There are four classes of stem verbs in Inuktitut. They are intransitive and transitive verbs as well as agentive and non-agentive verbs which alternate between the two in different ways.

  1. Intransitive stem verbs take only one argument and are reflected only for that argument. Such verbs are typically stative and non-controlled, and may also be attributive. Examples include sinik- (sleep), ijukkaq- (fall), and kavaq- (be sad).

  2. Transitive stem verbs subcategorize for two arguments. Examples are kunik- (kiss), patik- (slap), and tigumiaq- (hold). This kind of transitive stem verbs can be antipassivized such that they appear as intransitives taking a direct object in the modalis case.

  3. Agentive stem verbs have an agentive subject and may appear with an overt object. Examples like niri- (eat) and mirsuq- (sew) can be either transitive or intransitive. They take a direct object in the intransitive form.

  4. Non-agentive stem verbs appear in intransitive frames with theme subjects, and in transitive frames with agent subjects and theme objects. Examples are matuq- (cover) and sukkuq- (break).

 

Affixal Verbs

Affixal verbs require either a verb or a noun to incorporate into them. They can be regarded as suffixes which attach to certain types of nominal and verbal roots. Their transitivity is not specified and maintains the transitivity of the stem verb.

 

Verbal Inflection

Verbal stems in Inuktitut take obligatory inflections which are marked for person and number of the subject and of the object if relevant, and the modality.

 

In the following list, the modalities in the left column are used in main clauses. Indicative and participial modalities are used in basic declarative sentences and their functions are similar. Interrogative modalities are for questions while imperative modalities are for commands and orders.

 

The modalities in the right column are used in subordinate clauses. The causative modality shows causation (e.g. because). The conditional modality expresses conditionality (e.g. if). The dubitative modality denotes uncertainty over the occurrence of the event. The contemporative modality marks past or current simultaneous occurrence of events (e.g. while). The incontemporative modality marks the potential future simultaneous occurrence of events.

 

-vuq

indicative

-mmat

causative

-juq

participial

-ppat

conditional

-va

interrogative

-mmangat

dubitative

-li

imperative

-luni

contemporative

 

 

-tsuni

incontemporative

 

Nominal Inflection

Nominal stems in Inuktitut obligatorily take inflections marked for number, case, and possessor if applicable.

Ergative case marks subjects of verbal stems with two-argument inflections, and is identical to the genitive marking on possessives. Absolutive case marks subjects of verbal stems with one-argument inflections as well as objects of verbal stems with two-argument inflections. Modalis case marks objects of transitive verbal stems with antipassives. Dative case marks the instrumental function (e.g. with), typical dative functions (e.g. to), and the agent of passives. The ablative case represents the source or the origin (e.g. from). The locative case denotes the location (e.g. in, at, on). The vialis case shows the channel or the means (e.g. through, by means of). The equalis indicates alikeness (e.g. like, similar to).

 

 

singular case inflection

plural case inflection

ergative

-up

-it

absolutive

-it

modalis

-mik

-nik

dative

-mut

-nut

ablative

-mit

-nit

locative

-mi

-ni

vialis

-kkut

-tigut

equalis

-titut

-titut

 

Possession, if applicable, is also marked by the nominal inflection. Possessors are inflected in the ergative case. Items possessed are inflected in any of the remaining seven cases.

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