Lesson 8: Grammar

Incompletive (-Aorist) and Durative (-Progressive) Aspects

Observe the following groups of sentences taken from the Basic Sentences of this and previous lessons:

     (1) (a) ka meentik  "you do [it]"
          (b) ba'ax ka chéen meentik  "what're you doing?"
     (2) (a) kin weensik  "I put [him] to sleep"
          (b) táant in weensike'  "I've just gotten [him] to sleep"
     (3) (a) ku taasik  "he brings [him]"
          (b) ma' tech u taasik  "he doesn't bring him [ever]"
     (4) (a) ka tóokik  "you burn [it]"
          (b) ts'a tóokik  "you've finished burning [it]"
     (5) (a) kin bisik  "I take [it]"
          (b) yan in bisik  "I'm to take [it]"
     (6) (a) kin kaxtik  "I find [it]"
          (b) je' u paajtal in kaxtike'  "it'll surely be possible for me to find [it]"
     (7) (a) tu'ux ka bin  "where are you going? where do you go?"
          (b) táan in bin k'íiwik  "I'm going to the square"
          (c) kin bin k'íiwik  "I go to the square"
     (8) (a) ba'ax ka beetik  "what are you doing?"
          (b) táan in meyaj ich kool  "I'm working in the milpa"
          (c) kin meyaj ich kool  "I work in the milpa"
     (9) (a) way ka meyaje'  "are you working here? do you work here?"
          (b) táan in meyaj waye'  "I'm working here"
          (c) kin meyaj waye'  "I work here"

Note that sentence (a) of groups 1-6, and 8 contains (1) the "incompletive" particle k (underlined) and (2) a transitive verb, ending in (3) the suffix -ik (italicized). Note that sentence (b) of group 1 contains all of these, elements, but that further the object (ba'ax) of the transitive verb is specified, and the English equivalent uses the -ing form of the verb (doing). Note that in sentence (b) of groups 2-6, some other element (underlined) replaces the k of sentence (a), but that the -ik suffix is retained, and that although the English equivalents now add elements which refer to variations in time and state or aspect of the activity such as proximate perfective, negative general, terminative, compulsive, and assurative, the English equivalents for the principal verb are either infinitive (2, 3, 5, 6) or -ing form (4), that is the same variation in English equivalents noted in (1) continues. Note finally, that in groups 7-9, in an answer to a question containing Maya "incompletive" k, either a Maya "incompletive" or a Maya "durative" may appear, that is, either the k may be replaced by the durative táan (b) or it may remain (c).

It would seem, then, in view of this variability of meaning of Maya verbs accompanied by the particle k, that the reference in such verbs is neither to a particular time nor to a particular aspect of the activity, but rather that it is generic and unbounded or aorist, so that a more adequate label for such verbs with k would be incompletive-aorist, emphasizing both the lack of completion of the action (as opposed to forms with completive t) (3.3.5.) and the lack of progression of the activity (as opposed to forms with "durative" táan) (4.3.2.). For these latter, finally, a more adequate label would be durative-progressive.

Impersonal Verb Expressions

Observe the following sentences taken from the Basic Sentences of this lesson:

     (6) ku páajtal a k'uchul  "it is possible for you to arrive (= you can arrive) ,
     (37) je' u páajtal in kaxtike'  "it will surely be possible for me to find it (= I can surely find it)'

Observe the make-up of these. The form páajtal is always preceded by the third-person pronoun u the second verb, whether transitive or intransitive, is also preceded by a pronoun though here the pronoun is not restricted to the third person. Note also that the transitive verb in (37) has the suffix -ik We can compare this construction with these closely related constructions we have already observed (7.3.4.):

k'abéet a k'uchul  "it's necessary for you to arrive"
k'abéet in kaxtik  "it's necessary for me to find [it]"

We can refer to expressions of this sort as impersonal verb expressions, in contrast with others such as (7.3.2.):

a k'áat k'uchul  "you want to arrive"
in k'áat in kaxtej  "I want to find [it]"

in which person is distinguished in the prior verb.

Suffix -il "native of..."

Observe the following forms taken from the Basic Sentences:

      (10) wayile'exe'  "you're natives of here"
      (11) yucatánilo'on  "we are Yucatecos"
      (13) p'iste'ilech  "you're a native of Pisté"
      (14) petoilen  "I'm a native of Peto"

By comparing these forms with the roots on which they are built, viz., way- "here," yucatan "Yucatan," p'iste' "Pisté," and peto "Peto," it can be seen that the suffix -il functions here to indicate the relationship "being native of..."

Personal Suffixes with Verb "to be"

From the Basic Sentences of this and previous lessons, we abstract the following forms:

     (1) ta wotoch yanech  "you're in your home"
     (2) bix yanilech  "what condition are you in?"
     (3) uk'ajech  "are you thirsty?"
     (4) wayileche'  "you're of here"
     (5) wayile'exe'  "you (pl.)'re of here"
     (6) wayile'ex wae'  "are you from here?"
     (7) yucatánilo'on  "we're from Yucatan"
     (8) americanoso'on  "we're Americans"
     (9) petoilen  "I'm from Peto"
     (10) yanake'ex waye'  "you (pl.)'ve been here"
     (11) yanako'on waye'  "we've been here"

We note, attached to the forms which indicate a condition or the fact of "being," the personal endings (underlined)

     -en  "I"
     -ech  "you (sg.)"
     -o'on  "we"
     -e'ex  "you (pl.)"

and, in examples 1, 10, and 11 the forms yaan and yanak which indicate "location in, being in." In the remaining examples, the idea of "be" is implicit, that is, is not expressed overtly by yan in any of its forms. These, then, are the personal suffixes with expressions of "being."

Loss of k "we; our" after Prepositional t

In grammar note 3.3.6. we noted the loss of the particle k "we; our" after the incompletive k or the completive t. In 8.1.29 above we noted the following:

     (1) tin lu'um  "to my land"
     (2) t lu'um  "to our land"
     (3) k ka'a suut t lu'um  "we go back again to our country"

We note that in the position after the prepositional t "to" where there is a possessive particle in "my" in expression (1), there is no corresponding possessive particle k "our" in expressions (2) and (3). It is clear that k (after t and before another consonant) is lost.

Possessed Forms of Nouns

From the Basic Sentences of this and previous lessons we take the following:

Column 1 Column 2
k'aaba'  "name" a k'aaba'  "your name"
íits'in  "younger brother" a wíits'in  "your brother"
éet meyajo'ob  "co-workers" a wéet meyajo'ob  "your co-workers"
bej  "road" u beel  "his road"
kiik  "older sister" in kiik  "my older sister"
mama  "mother" a mama  "your mother"
k'áan  "hammock" a k'aan  "your hammock"
tsíimin  "horse" in tsiimin  "my horse"
atan  "wife" in watan  "my wife"
koj  "tooth" a koj  "your tooth"
otoch  "home" a wotoch  "your home"
tanaj  "house (inside)" in taanaj  "my house"
hijo  "son" a hijo  "your son"
amigo  "friend" in amigo  "my friend"
xikin  "ear" in xikin  "my ear"
naj  "home" a najil  "your home"
bej  "way" u bejil  "its way"
In Column 1, we see the forms of a number of nouns as they are when they stand alone. In Column 2, we see these same nouns in their possessed forms. For the most part, these are the same. In some cases, however, the possessed form differs in shape:

     (1) bej : beel
     (2) maama : mama
     (3) k'áan : k'aan
     (4) tsíimin : tsiimin
     (5) tanaj : taanaj
     (6) naj : najil
     (7) bej : (a) bejil , (b) be(j)il

As is evident, there are a number of types of variation:

(a) adding a -VI ending (1, 6, 7) with (1, 6, 7b) or without (7a) loss of a preceding j;
(b) changing from VV (rising tone) to VV (falling tone) (3, 4);
(c) changing from V to VV (falling tone) (5);
(d) changing from VV (falling tone) to V (2).

We shall include such irregular possessed forms in our vocabularies, and we shall have more, to say about the types of variation later.

Plurals of Nouns (Spanish and Maya)

Observe the following examples taken from the Basic Sentences:

Column 1 Column 2
dos meses  "two months" ka'a p'éel mes  "two months"
dos años  "two years" ka'a p'éel año  "two years"
We have here in Columns 1 and 2 alternate ways of saying the same thing. In Column 1 the words meaning "month" and "year" (Maya words borrowed from Spanish mes and año) are preceded by a Spanish numeral, dos. Note that the words for "month" and "year" in Column 1, after a Spanish numeral, have a plural suffix. The form of this suffix is -s after a vowel, -es after a consonant, thus año-s, and mes-es. We will say that the phrases in Column 1 are examples of the Spanish way.

In Column 2 we find the same loan words from Spanish for "month" and "year," but here they are preceded by a native Maya numeral ka'a "two" and classifier p'éel. Note here that after the Maya numerals there is no plural suffix on the nouns. These are examples of the Maya way.