Epiq Verbs

Since just about everything else is up, it's now time to talk about verbs. Verbs start out as small, and then get larger. They're usually of the shape CVCV, where the last V is a class vowel (I'll talk about that in a minute), though they can have other shapes. The main thing to remember about verbs in Epiq is that they do a lot of work. Most of the semantic content of the sentence is contained within the verb, leaving the nouns and adverbs to fill in the details. With that said, I'll now discuss verb classes, and I'll move on from there.

Verb Classes

Epiq verbs are divided into four classes. These classes are based largely on semantics, though there are exceptions (cf. Georgian). Here's a summary of the classes:

  1. Class 1: Verbs of Class 1 are intransitive but active in nature. They assign the nominative case to their subjects and the dative case to their indirect objects or beneficiaries. The class vowel for Class 1 verbs is a. Each verb will end in either -a, -ya or -wa.

  2. Class 2: Verbs of Class 2 are transitive active verbs. They assign the nominative case to their subjects, the accusative case to their definite direct objects, the genitive case to their indefinite direct objects, and the dative case to their indirect objects or beneficiaries. The class vowel for Class 2 verbs is i. Each verb will end in either -i or (though note: a preceding uvular will lower these to -e and , respectively).

  3. Class 3: Verbs of Class 3 are verbs of experience. They can be either intransitive or transitive. They assign the dative case to their subjects, the nominative case to their direct objects, and the accusative case to their beneficiaries. The class vowel for Class 3 verbs is â. Each verb will end in either , -yâ or -wâ.

  4. Class 4: Verbs of Class 4 are performative verbs. They assign the nominative case to their subjects, the instrumental case to their direct objects, the dative case to their indirect objects or beneficiaries, and the adverbial case to their thematic complements (e.g., "I pronounce him dead"). The class vowel for Class 4 verbs is u. Each verb will end in either -u or -ÿ (though note: a preceding uvular will lower these to -o and , respectively).

Class information is vitally important, since each verb is conjugated differently depending on its class. Luckily the class vowels are a dead giveaway, for their never irregular. A verb's semantics may not match up with the usual semantics of the verb class, but a verb that ends in an -a will always be a Class 1 verb, no matter what its semantics are.

A Preverbal Interlude

Before moving on to conjugation, etc., let's talk about the thing that comes linearly first: the preverb. Not all verbs have a preverb. And not all verbs need to occur with a fixed preverb. Some do, though. Others don't. But certain of them do.

Preverbs mainly started off as motive classifiers. That is, for verbs of motion, they specified the type of motions. Preverbs are still used in this way, but they've also grown to be used as derivational affixes, much like English prepositions or Georgian preverbs. I'll give a few examples of some of these later on. First, let me show you what the preverbs are.

Each preverb has something to do with motion. So, for example, the preverb no-, specifies that a specific type of motion occurs southward, or in a southerly direction. Further specifications on motion can be made, though, and so what you can get is a concatenation of preverbs. For example, if you added nopâyâqepwâ- to the front of a motive verb, it'd mean that the verbal action was happening in a south-easterly direction up towards the speaker at a lethargic pace. This is a combination of five different preverbs. Not all preverbs can combine, though. The chart below will help to explain how exactly they can combine.

Class Subclass Form Use
Directionals Longitudinals kâ- Used to indicate northward motion.
no- Used to indicate southward motion.
Latitudinals pâ- Used to indicate eastward motion.
lâ- Used to indicate westward motion.
Vialis X Axis yâ- Used to indicate motion towards something.
fi- Used to indicate motion away from something.
me- Used to indicate nonspecific motion.
Y Axis qe- Used to indicate upwards motion.
su- Used to indicate downwards motion.
Velocitous Accelerative či- Used to indicate quick, deliberate motion.
xo- Used to indicate hasty, erratic motion.
Decelerative që- Used to indicate cautious, careful motion.
pwâ- Used to indicate dull, lethargic motion.

The colors in the table, though not pleasing, are no accident. They're meant to give information on how preverbs can be combined. Basically, you can take at most one prefix from the furthest right green box and combine it. So you can have one longitudinal prefix and one latitudinal prefix in the same word, but never more than one of each. The same is true of x axis and y axis prefixes: You can have one of each, but never more than one from the x axis set or from the y axis set. Now, when you get to the bottom set, the velocitous prefixes, you can have only one. It doesn't matter which subclass it's from: You can have only one.

So that's what I tried to do with the color. Maybe I'll change it some day when it suddenly dawns on me how to make it all make color sense...

Pronominal Agreement

Though Epiq doesn't have any overt pronouns, it does mark things like first person, second person, etc. (In theory they say no language could do without some kind of person marking. To that, I point my palm to my face and push it down, turning it into a fist. [A joke for ASL signers.] After all, tons of languages do without third person pronouns, and for first and second, well, that's why we have names.) Unlike English, but not unlike Georgian, Epiq verbs agree with both the subject and the direct object of the sentence (and sometimes also with the indirect object). The type of agreement and the markers of said agreement, however, vary depending on the class of the verb. Below are four tables which summarize the person agreement found in Epiq verbs. In these tables, "IO" stands for "indirect object", and anywhere you see a consonant in parentheses, it means that that consonant will pop up if the previous letter is a vowel, but only in that context. Also, when you see "—", it stands for null marking. When you see a "Ø" in a cell, though, that means that that form is impossible. It may not be unthinkable, but it's impossible in Epiq.

Class I Verbs

Class I Verbs With No IO With IO
1st Person Singular Subject mu- mü-
1st Person Dual Subject mu- mu-
1st Person Plural Subject mü- mü-
2nd Person Subject ku- ku-
3rd Person Subject (n)u-

Class II Verbs

Class II Verbs 1st Pers. Sing. Obj. 1st Pers. Dual Obj. 1st Pers. Plu. Obj. 2nd Pers. Obj. 3rd Pers. Obj. No Obj. / Passive Reflexive
1st Pers. Sing. Subj. Ø Ø Ø ma- mâ- mü- mu-
1st Pers. Dual Subj. Ø Ø Ø mo- mâw- mu- mu-
1st Pers. Plu. Subj. Ø Ø Ø me- mây- mü- mü-
2nd Pers. Subj. ka- kÿ- ki- Ø kâ- ku- ku-
3rd Pers. Subj. (n)â- (n)ÿ- (n)i- (n)a- (n)u-

Class III Verbs

Class III Verbs 1st Pers. Sing. Obj. 1st Pers. Dual Obj. 1st Pers. Plu. Obj. 2nd Pers. Obj. 3rd Pers. Obj. Passive Reflexive
1st Pers. Sing. Subj. Ø Ø Ø ka- (n)â- mü- mu-
1st Pers. Dual Subj. Ø Ø Ø kÿ- mâw- mu- mu-
1st Pers. Plu. Subj. Ø Ø Ø ki- (n)i- mü- mü-
2nd Pers. Subj. ma- mo- me- Ø (n)a- ku- ku-
3rd Pers. Subj. mâ- (n)ÿ- mây- kâ- (n)u-

Class IV Verbs

Class IV Verbs 1st Pers. Sing. Obj. 1st Pers. Dual Obj. 1st Pers. Plu. Obj. 2nd Pers. Obj. 3rd Pers. Obj. No Obj. / Passive Reflexive
1st Pers. Sing. Subj. Ø Ø Ø mo- mâw- mü- mu-
1st Pers. Dual Subj. Ø Ø Ø mo- mâw- mu- mu-
1st Pers. Plu. Subj. Ø Ø Ø me- mây- mü- mü-
2nd Pers. Subj. ko- kÿ- kÿ- Ø kâw- ku- ku-
3rd Pers. Subj. lâw- lÿ- lÿ- lo- lu-

An Argumentative Interlude

In Epiq, there are two prefixes than can change the argument structure of a verb. These are the passive and causative prefixes. The passive prefix deletes the agent argument of a verb and promotes the patient argument to the subject position. The causative prefix, on the other hand, adds an argument: It adds a causer. The causer causes the subject to do whatever the subject does. These prefixes come in between the person/number agreement prefixes and the TMAS prefixes which I'm going to get to in a minute. The passive prefix is li- and the causative prefix is sa-. These prefixes don't pop up that often, and when they do, they usually serve a derivational function. Nevertheless, I present them because they're there.

Tense, Mood, Aspect and Their Lover

Way back when, I thought I was going to be real cool and copy the Georgian screeve system for Epiq. This was when I thought that "screeve" was just a name for a different type of TMA marking. In actuality, this is just a word that describes Georgian TMA marking, which reuses the same affixes over and over again, their meanings changing depending on a variety of factors. In other words, I had no idea what I was talking about. The result is that Epiq has a rather ordinary (or perhaps "orderly" is a better word...?) TMA system. As it turns out, though, I'm quite happy with the result, even though it's a lot closer to some Amerind systems I've seen than Georgian.

In Epiq, each verb takes four prefixes: one for tense; one for mood; one for aspect; and one for status. (It's more than possible that only the words "tense" and "aspect" are used appropriate in this context.) These prefixes combine to form a super TMAS prefix (phonetically and psychologically—not morphologically [if that word can still apply...]) which very neatly pinpoints the event in question in time and space. The TMAS prefixes are summarized in the table below:

Tense Mood Aspect Status
Future Inchoative Irrealis Primary Evidential
p- i- l- yâ-
Present Active Imperfect Secondary Evidential
t- â- s- wâ-
Past Causative Perfect Nonevidential
k- u- n- o-

Now for some explanation. The tense column should be fairly uncontroversial. Each tense denotes a period of time only. And, as with each column, only one tense prefix may be used at a time.

The mood column needs some explaining. The active mood is fairly straightforward, though it is used in more cases than in English (e.g., the common way to form the passive is to use the passive prefix accompanied by the active mood—an apparent paradox, but not in Epiq). The other two moods are a bit more specialized. The inchoative mood can best be thought of as nearly equivalent to the phrase "to come to" in English. So, "I came to eat a hot dog" or "I came to be happy" would both be sentences that would require the inchoative mood in Epiq. The final mood is the causative. It differs from the other causative prefix primarily in how it affects the meaning of the verb. Here're some examples:

  1. Active Mood: sâla = "to die", e.g., Pwani ukânyâsâla, "The polar bear died" (where "polar bear" is in the nominative case).

  2. Causative Mood: Pwani mükunyâsâla, "I made the polar bear die" (where "polar bear" is in the dative case).

  3. Active Mood with Sa-: sâsâla = "to kill", e.g., Pwani müsâkânyâsâla, "I killed the polar bear" (where "polar bear" is in the dative case).

  4. Causative Mood with Sa-: Nâmpü pwani kâ müsâkunyâsâla, "I made the man kill the polar bear" (where both "polar bear" and "the man" are in the dative case. In this sentence, "the man" is in the dative case because he's the direct object of the verb. "The polar bear", as a demoted object, is postposed by , which [in this case] assigns the dative case to its object. Since "the polar bear" is grammatically an oblique phrase, it comes before the verb and after the main arguments of the sentence [of which the grammatical indirect object, "the man", is one]).

Moving on to the aspect column, the perfect is used with any action that has been completed. Thus, in Epiq, the difference between "I ate a cucumber" and "I was eating a cucumber" is merely a difference in aspect (they're both in the past tense). The latter aspect is the imperfect. The last aspect is the irrealis, which is used for uncertain or hypothetical actions. Thus, the difference between "I will eat three cucumbers" and "I would eat three cucumbers" is merely a difference in aspect (both are in the future tense: The first takes the active; the second the irrealis).

The final column will be nothing new to Quechua speakers. [Note: If you follow that link they'll tell you that Quechua is "a perfectly regular language". Ha!] The purpose of the prefixes in this column is to incorporate (to borrow a term from the Quechua page) the "veracity of knowledge" with respect to the statement. So, let's say that I walk into the living room and see a caribou eating my fruit. I might say to my friend, "Hey! Keči nopumâ tâšâxâni!" (i.e., "A caribou's eating my fruit!") I can use the yâ- prefix because I witnessed that saucy caribou eating my fruit with my own eyes (yes, that's right: He used my eyes as utencils!).

Now let's say my friend wants to tell his friend of my misfortune. He'd be forced to say, "Hey, you'll never believe what's happening: Keči Tefitił nopwâ tâswâxâni!" (i.e., "A caribou's eating Dave's fruit [or so I've been told]!"). My friend would have to use wâ- because he himself hasn't witnessed what he's talking about, but he heard it from someone who did.

Now if my friend's friend wanted to relate this event, he'd have to use the nonevidential. Why? Because he's reporting what someone heard someone else say. That's just too far removed from the actual event to be able to make any claims as to its veracity.

Just because one uses the nonevidential form of the verb doesn't mean that the information must be false, though. After all, history teachers relate information to their students that they couldn't possibly have witnessed. In fact, neither could those that they got the information from have witnessed, let's say, the battle of Sekigahara. That doesn't mean it didn't happen. This is simply a grammatical marker that indicates the information that the speaker relates is neither first- nor second-hand information. It, in fact, makes no claims about the "veracity of knowledge". For example, if I wanted to say in Epiq, "I witnessed the battle of Sekigahara", I would, for grammatical reasons, have to use the primary evidential. Obviously, this would be a lie, but using the nonevidential wouldn't make it any truer. In fact, it would simply render the sentence absurd: "I witnessed with my own eyes the battle of Sekigahara, but I neither witnessed it, nor heard about it from someone who did."

Optional Suffixes

The following sections will be devoted to the suffixes which come between the verbal root and the class vowel. These suffixes are meant to further specify the action being described. (Well, and there's also a question marker.) They fall into four groups: Degree markers; truth value markers; attitudinal markers; and the question marker. I'll discuss each group in this order, since that's the order in which they can be added to a verb.

Degree Suffixes

Degree suffixes further specify the time frame of an action. For example, if you say "I ate", then you know that the action is eating, it happened in the past, and it's over now. However, you can look at certain snippets of that action with other verbs (in English), so that you can get, "I started eating", "I stopped eating", "I paused eating (stopped for a moment)", "I kept eating", etc. Suffixes do the work of such verbs in Epiq. Here's a list of these suffixes, which are added directly after the verbal root:

Degree Suffixes Form Use
Iterative -uf Extended actions; intense actions; repetitive actions.
Diminutive -it Slight actions; half-completed actions (e.g., "He ate a little/part of it").
Continual -ân Ongoing action (e.g., "He kept eating and eating...").
Habitual -âsp Habitual actions (e.g., "He ate every morning").
Aorist -iłt Actions that are always true (e.g., "Humans eat").
Inceptive -ax Denotes the beginning/inception of an action.
Interuptive -asm Denotes the temporary cessation of an action.
Cessive -unq Denotes the completion of an action.

Truth Value Suffixes

After the degree suffixes come the optional truth value suffixes. There are only two: A negative truth value suffix and a positive truth value suffix. The negative should be nothing new. The negative truth value suffix -ol is simply used to negate a statement. So if you want to say "I don't see a caribou", you simply say "I see a caribou" with the negative suffix -ol appended to the verb.

The positive truth value suffix -us is analagous to English "do" in a sentence like, "I do want ice cream!" That is, it focuses on the truth of an assertion when the speaker expects the listener not to believe what s/he's saying. Unlike English "do", however, this suffix can't be used in the negative (e.g., "I don't like onions!"). Also, the positive truth value suffix has a slightly different status than English "do". The suffix -us accompanies most verbs in the past tense. Further, the suffix is mandatory when a past tense verb is accompanied by the nonevidential status suffix.

Here's a very small table which summarizees the truth value suffixes:

Truth Value Suffixes Form
Positive -us
Negative -ol

Attitudinal Suffixes

Finally (well, almost finally) come suffixes which allow the speaker to express his/her attitude towards what s/he's saying. Below is a table of the suffixes and an example of how they're used:

Attitudinal Suffixes Form Example Usage
Optative -yas "I hope to pet the caribou."
Negative Optative -yasł "I hope not to pet the caribou." (Note: Can be used with -ol suffix.)
Incredulative -inx "He pet the caribou?!"
Felicitive -âst "I pet the caribou! Yay!"
Infelicitive -ułf "I pet the caribou! Ick!"
Volitive -âłs "I want to pet the caribou."
Involitive -âll "I don't want to pet the caribou." (Note: Can be used with -ol suffix.)

The Question Suffix

Epiq has a single suffix for questions, and it is -âq. It comes before the class vowel, but after everything else. When the question suffix is attached to a verb in a normal, declarative sentence, the sentence becomes a yes/no question. (Note: The nonevidential suffix is used for genuine yes/no questions; the primary or secondary evidential is used for rhetorical questions.)

When the question suffix is attached to sentences with a WH-word in it, the result is a WH-question. The question suffix is mandatory for sentences with a WH-word in them. [Note: While one generally uses the nonevidential in WH-questions, either the primary or secondary evidential can be used to let the speaker know who's asking (e.g., if you ask a question because you want to know the answer, you use the primary; if you're asking because your friend wants to know the answer but is too chicken to ask, you use the secondary evidential). This usage is optional.]

Modal Prefixes

Rounding out the "what goes in the verb" list are the modal prefixes of Epiq. These prefixes are added directly to the front of the verb stem (so, before the passive and causative prefixes). Modal prefixes change the flavor of the verb ever so slightly. Sometimes the change is predictable (i.e., it changes the verb exactly how it's supposed to); other times it creates a new verb. Here are a list of the prefixes:

Modal Prefixes Form Example Usage
Abilitive nki- "I can pet the caribou."
Permissive mpu- "I'm allowed to pet the caribou."
Obligative stu- "I must pet the caribou."
Successive - "I managed to pet the caribou."
Completive sqâ- "I finished petting the caribou."
Reciprocal łku- "The caribou and I hugged (each other)."
Reversive ssu- "I deshoed the caribou."

Caribous have shoes like horses, right? Anyway, each of the prefixes above ends in a vowel. If any of these prefixes is added to a verb that begins with a vowel, an n is inserted to break up the voweliness. [Note: The completive differs from the cessive in that when the completive is used, it indicates that the desired goal was attained. The cessive makes no such claim.]

Some Derivational Concerns

As it says way up at the top, Epiq verbs come in four classes. Each of these four classes has a class vowel associated with it. This provides for some simple derivation if one wants to switch from one class to another. For example, the verb kofa means "to hide", as in "Tommy hid". But what about if you want to hide something? No problem. Simply change the Class 1 verb to a Class 2 verb by changing the final a to an i, giving you kofi, "to hide something".

This method of derivation works for some, but not all, verbs. Sometimes changing the class vowel of a verb will give you a totally unrelated verbs, such as the following pair: taka, "to run"; taki, "to cover". In such cases a different strategy must be employed to derive one verb from another. For example, what if wanted a stative verb "to be covered" (i.e., not the action of being covered, which would be the passive of taki, but the state of being covered up)? In such cases, there are a series of derivational circumfixes that produce new verbs from already existing verbs. Most often the relationship between the old and new verb is transparent, but sometimes the result is a whole new verb.

Anyway, taking our example, to get the stative "to be covered" from taki, you add the Class 1 circumfix la- -a to get latakya, "to be covered, to be obscured". That's all there is to it. Here's a list of the class changing circumfixes:

Class Changing Circumfixes Form
To Class 1 la(n)- -(n)a
To Class 2 ši(n)- -(n)i
To Class 3 (from Class 1) (n)- -â*
To Class 3 (from Others) (n)- -(n)â
To Class 4 ku(n)- -(n)u

In the forms above, the n's in parentheses are simply meant to indicate that an n is inserted whenever two vowels abut because of affixation. However, in the asterisked form, no such insertion occurs, because in that form and that form alone the final â replaces the class vowel (which will be an a).

Lastly, the epenthetical n's are used only when necessary. So, referring back to our example, when the Class 1 circumfix la- -a was added to taki, the result was latakya, not *latakina. This is because -ya is a perfectly acceptable way to end a word, and it's far more preferable to create a diphthong than a new syllable.


That's about it for this verbs section, but it's not the whole story by far. For more, go to the section on specifiers, which is where Epiq does most of its kumajuma.

Back to Epiq Main

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