Lesson 9: Grammar

Peripheral Pronouns as Objects of Transitive Verbs

In lessons 1, 2, and 3, you were introduced to two sets of pronouns: first to the independent pronouns teen, teech, leti', to'on, te'ex, and leti'o'ob; then to the dependent pronouns in-, a- u-, k' a-...-e'ex, and u-...o'ob. These dependent pronouns, you learned, are used as the subjects of certain forms of verbs. Such dependent pronouns are also used as possessive pronouns with nouns.

In the Basic Sentences of the present Iesson you have learned the following verb phrases:

     (1) táan u yáantiken  "he's helping me"
     (2) táan u yáantikech  "he's helping you"
     (3) kin wáantik  "I help [him]" or "I help [it]"
     (4) táan u yáantiko'on  "he's helping us"
     (5) táan u yáantike'ex  "he's helping you (pl.)"
     (6) kin wáantiko'ob  "I help them"

Note that these are transitive verb phrases: the verb phrase of line 3, ending in -ik, is, of course, already very familiar to you. You know that its object can be the (understood) third person singular "him," "her," or "it," or it can be an overt noun or a noun phrase, as in kin wáantik le máako' "I help that man."

Now observe that in the other examples above, the objects of the verb are neither a noun or a noun phrase nor a third person singular pronoun "understood;" in these, the objects are other pronouns, expressed by suffixes following the suffix -ik. Representing the third person singular object here by a zero suffix (-ø) we can now display a second set of dependent pronouns:

  Singular Plural
(1) -en -o'on
(2) -ech -e'ex
We can refer to this set of dependent pronouns as the peripheral set, appearing as they do on the periphery of a transitive verb, in contrast with the earlier set of dependent pronouns which, appearing in the verb nucleus between the aspect markers and the root, we can call the nuclear set. It is also clear that, in contrast to the nuclear set which functions as the subject, the peripheral set functions as the object of transitive verbs.

Note now the following forms abstracted from the Basic Sentences of this lesson:

     (1) ka taale'ex a k'ajóoltej  "you (pl.) come to know [it]"
     (2) j taalo'on k xíimbaltech  "we came to visit you"
     (3) j taal u ximbalte'ex  "she came to visit you (pl.)"

We see here that likewise with secondary verbs of dependent clauses (indicating subordination to a primary verb by their total lack of aspect-marking ending) (except for terminal -ej which covers the lack of an ending in utterance-final position) the personal objects are indicated by one of the peripheral set (-ø "it" in 1, -ech "you" in 2, and -e'ex "you (pl.)" in 3).

Peripheral Pronouns as Subjects of Intransitive Verbs

Observe the following forms taken from or modeled after those in the Basic Sentences of this and previous lessons:

  Column 1 Column 2
1. kin taal  "I come" j taalen  "I came"
2 ka taal  "you come" j taalech  "you came"
3. a. ku taal  "he comes"
b. ku taal a kiik  "your sister comes"
a. j taalij  "he came"
b. j taal a kiik  "your sister came"
4. k taal  "we come" j taalo'on  "we came"
5. ka taale'ex  "you come" (j taale'ex)  "you (pl.) came"
6. ku taalo'ob  "they come" j taalo'ob  "they came"
Note that the forms in both columns are intransitive. As can be inferred from the English equivalents, those in Column 1 refer to present time, while those in Column 2 refer to past time. Observe that in Column 1, as you already know, the subject is marked by a nuclear pronoun. Note that in Column 2, however, there are no nuclear pronouns. Instead we find the peripheral pronouns serving the function of marking the subject. We conclude that the subject of intransitive verbs which refer to past time is marked by a peripheral pronoun.

The Terminal Suffix -ij

Observe the following examples:

  Column 1 Column 2
(1) j taal a wéet kaajal  "your compatriot came" j taalij  "he came"
(2) j taal u xíimbalten  "he came to visit me" j taalij máasima'  "he came, didn't he?"
(3) j taal Juan  "Juan came" j taalij Juan  "did he come, Juan?"
In Column 1 we find the verb form j taal indicating "he came." In Column 2 we find the verb form j taalij, likewise indicating "he came." Observe that the form j taal occurs only in phrase-medial position, when what follows is included in the same phrase (as a modifier, subject, or complement). The form j taalij occurs only in phrase-final poiition. It may be followed only by certain "absolute" (phrase-external) expressions such as máasima' or Juan.

The terminal suffix -ij occurs with intransitive verb forms only in third person singular (marked by zero, i.e. the absence of any other person suffix) just as the terminal suffix -ej occurs only with transitive verb forms in the third person singular also marked by zero. Furthermore, the suffix -ij (like the suffix -ej) occurs in that position only when no other element (suffix or word) belonging to that same phrase occurs there. We conclude that -ij (like -ej) is a phrase-terminal marker.

Intransitive Verbs with Reference to Past Time

Observe the following verb expressions taken from the Basic Sentences:

  Column 1 Column 2
Section A    
1 kin taal  "I come" (j) taalen  "I came"
2 k bin  "we go" (j) bino'on  "we went"
Section B    
1 ka wokol  "you enter" j ookech  "you entered"
2 ka k'uchul  "you arrive" j k'uchech  "you arrived"
Observe the verbs in Section A, which refer to present time in Column 1 and to past time in Column 2. Note that with these verbs the reference to past time is expressed simply by adding the peripheral pronoun suffix to the root to which a j is preposed.

Now observe the verbs in Section B. In Column 1, the forms okol and k'uchul consist of the roots ok- and k'uch- respectively, followed by a suffix of the form vowel plus l (Vl), the vowel matching the vowel of the root. The function of this suffix seems to be to form from certain roots one kind of intransitlve stem, that intransitive stem which occurs, for example, in the environments ko'ox_____ and k in w_____. We shall refer to that intransitive form of a verb which occurs in these environments, as the first-stem form. Thus, the following are all first-stem forms: bin, taal, meyaj, okol, ajal, wenel, k'uchul, uk'ul, úuchul, jóokol, and lúubul.

In Column 2, we see the past forms of okol and k'uchul. Note that the past of these is not based on the first stem. The peripheral pronoun is suffixed rather to a stem formed from the root with an optionally preposed j and no suffix.

Some roots in this environment (Column 2) have a shape different from their shape in the environment found in Column 1 (ook- but ok-). We have so far met only a few of such variable roots:

Column 1 Column 2
kin wajal  "I wake up" j aajen  "I woke up"
ka wenel  "you sleep" j weenech  "you slept"
Here the past-referencing roots are aaj and ween (like ook-) in contrast to the roots underlying the present-referencing stems aj(al)and wen(el) (like ok- underlying okol). We shall follow up this difference later. We shall refer to the stem of intransitive verbs in such past environments, whatever its shape, as the second-stem form.

It should be noted that these apparent time-references with intransitive verb roots and stems parallel similar apparent time-references with transitive verb roots and stems (3.3.5.):

Column 1 Column 2
ku kanik "he learns [it]" tu kanaj  "he learned [it]"
There we labeled the contrast one of aspect: incompletive for Column 1, completive for Column 2. Here, too, the Column 1 time-referencing forms (taal, k'uchul) might be labeled incompletive, and those in Column 2 (taal, k'uch) might be labeled completive. We shall return to this question again.

Forms Borrowed from Spanish

In the Basic Sentences of this and previous lessons we have met a number of words whose component-sound make-up is variable:

  Column 1 Column 2
Group A    
1 primo primo waye'
2 prima prima waye'
3 tío u tío
4 tía u tía
5 hijo le in hijoe'
6 hija le a hijae'
7 viejo viejoen
8 vieja viejaech
9 trabajadora trabajadorae'ex
10 Marcelino Marcelino
11 Pedro Pedro
Group B    
12 teen tene'
13 un túul un túul hija
14 máa' ma'atech
15 ba'ax ba'ax
16 máasewáal masewal t'aan
17 maaya maya' t'aan
18 yéetel yetel in kiik
19 k'abéet k'abet ten
20 tumeen tumen
21 wáaj je' wa suuktale'
22 teech teche'
Each of these has two (and sometimes more) variant forms. There are a number of types of variation:

1 VVCV(falling) > VVCV(falling then rising) (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
2 VV(rising first) > VVV(rising in the middle) (3, 4)
5 CVVC(falling) > CVC (VC) (12, 22)
6 CVVC(rising) > CVC(rising) (13, 16, 18,19)
7 CVVC(rising) > CVCV (14)
8 CV'VC > CVVC(rising) (15)
9 CVVCVj > CVCV' (17)
10 CVVC(falling) > CVC (20)
11 CVVj(rising) > CV(rising) (21)
It is clear that of these types, no examples of any one are to be found in both Groups A and B above, that is, that the types of variation undergone by words of Spanish origin (Group A) are peculiar to them and are not shared by Maya words. We shall return to a more systematic presentation of these types and their conditions when more examples have accumulated.

Combinations of Subjects and Objects

A number of combinations of nuclear dependent pronouns (subjects) and peripheral dependent pronouns (objects) have already appeared in the Basic Sentences:

1.1.2 ka wa'alik "you say [it]"
1.1.5 kin wilikech "I see you"
2.1.26 u k'ajóole'ex "he knows you (pl.)"
3.1.21 tu kanaj "she learned [it]"
3.1.23 ta kanaje'ex "you (pl.) learned [it]"
3.1.3. k u'uyik "we hear [it]"
3.1.33 tin na'ataj "I understood [it]"
7.1.7 j taalen in xíimbaltech "I came to visit you"
7.1.26 je' in bisikech "I'll take you"
9.1.12 kin wáantike'ex "I help you (pl.)"
9.1.13 táan u yáantiko'on "he's helping us"
Combining these and rounding out the pattern we find the following possible combinations:

The numbers indicate the person-number categories of the pronouns, numbers 1, 2, and 3 being singular first, second, and third persons, respectively; numbers 4, 5, and 6 being plural first, second, and third persons, respectively. The number to the left of the hyphen represents the subject (underlined) pronoun, the number to the right represents the object (italicized) pronoun. Where both numbers are the same, a (#) on the second number indicates that the object, though of the same person and number as the subject, is not the reflexive object.

1-1   (see 10.3.3) 1-4   (no such form)
1-2   kin wáantikech 1-5   kin wáantike'ex
1-3   kin wáantik 1-6   kin wáantiko'ob
2-1   ka wáantiken 2-4   ka wáantiko'on
2-2   (see 10.3.3) 2-5   (no such form)
2-3   ka wáantik 2-6   ka wáantiko'ob
3-1   ku yáantiken 3-4   ku yáantiko'on
3-2   ku yáantikech 3-5   ku yáantike'ex
3-3(1)   ku yáantik 3-6(1)   ku  yáantiko'ob
3-3   (see 10.3.3) 3-6   (no such form)
These combinations represent only those with singular subjects. Those with plural subjects will be presented in a subsequent lesson.