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4. Tmaśareʔ by Jan Strasser

Texts | Grammar | Lexicon
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Cekaśę pahmąma natanǫʔ nene. Ćoʔnaleʔ kwe canę yecąmąkwa, polpayateʔ ca śeśi sacemąkse: "He! Ta cą cpopewecekaʔyayata! Nańępotahkiʔkmǫʔ oma nahaha taho mekćętwiʔćese. Mahńǫʔ lena kwińiyata. Ćiyeʔǫce cą nayaśitahmę!"

Aśę yeyapomiloʔwa yoʔpkahkwapǫmaʔma: "Wile ćeyaśęmę ćiyećessewi? Naʔińe kwiną menapćessehma. Cą peńehcaćesseʔi!"

"Ćińe? Noʔ poʔmi yeyaćkaćesseyeʔi? Ćińe koćaʔǫcǫńe. Śeśi ta cpeńeʔǫcmo: 'Ćiyeʔǫce cą nayaśitahmę!' Wiśi ćehanimęʔńesewi?"

"Śeśi cą nahanimęʔńese!" sacepǫkse aśęʔ, ca kwińǫ wekmahkaʔyaloʔkńǫ ośśaćehcaloʔkńǫʔma yahoʔ psanǫ mekwesaʔcoyakńǫ hą yaheʔ ćoʔnaloʔ ekmeno.

Yąkoʔ moʔ tatka ektahmomǫʔ oma, polpaćoʔnaloʔ ekmeneʔ canę śeśi sacepǫkse: "Kohpco... somoloʔtahwi?"
  Smooth English

The audacious he-goat

A beautiful woman was walking across a bridge. But suddenly a he-goat stopped her, and the audacious one said this:

"Oh! You are so very graceful and beautiful! With my seeing you, my eyes become filled with joy. You are magnificent like the moon. I wish to marry you!"

The woman heard these words and began to laugh: "Why do you want to marry me? You don't even know my name. Tell it to me!"

"Your name? Didn't you listen to my words? I have not asked for your name. I have told you this for your benefit: 'I wish to marry you!' What is your answer?"

"This is my answer!" said the woman, and with her knife, which was quick and sharp and life-killing, she cut off the head of the he-goat.

As it was falling into the grass near the river, suddenly the head of the audacious he-goat said: "That means... you agree?"

Click here for audio!




Tmaśareʔ is a highly synthetic, mostly head-final, morphologically ergative language. Most bound morphemes are more or less agglutinative, but this is obscured to some extent by various morphophonological alternations. The language uses both prefixes and suffixes, with the latter clearly predominating.


  • There are seven noun classes, which are cross-referenced on verbs and deictic pronouns.
  • Nouns inflect for three cases (absolutive, ergative, genitive).
  • Nominal plurals are formed with a reduplicative strategy that usually looks like an infixed copy of the first consonant. Plural forms that occur in the text are mentioned in the wordlist.
  • Tmaśareʔ distinguishes between alienable and inalienable possession. Alienably possessed nouns are simply preceded by their possessor, cast in the genitive, whereas inalienably possessed nouns obligatorily take a possessive prefix indicating the number and person of the possessor. Note that the possessor need not necessarily be present as an overt noun phrase.
  • Adjectives are not a seperate word class. Most adjectival concepts are expressed by attributive prefixes, which are added before the (possibly plural-marked) noun stem, but after any possessive prefixes. Nouns may take several adjectival prefixes at the same time.
  • Pronouns exhibit a proximate/obviative distinction in the 3rd person, which can help to keep track of several 3rd person arguments in a narrative.


  • The general order of morphemes within a verb is as follows:
    • 1: applicative prefix (optional)
    • 0: root
    • 1: derivational suffixes (optional)
    • 2: incorporated noun (optional)
    • 3: directional suffix (optional)
    • 4: causative (optional, not used in this text)
    • 5: evidentiality (mandatory in verbs not marked as interrogative or irrealis)
    • 6: ergative agreement (mandatory in transitive verbs)
    • 7: absolutive agreement (mandatory)
    • 8: aspect (optional)
    • 9: negation (optional)
    • 10: interrogative or irrealis (optional)
  • 3rd person arguments are tracked on the verb by noun class, but not by number. Ergative 3rd person arguments do not take noun class concord.
  • In verbs with an applicative prefix, the applicative object takes up the primary absolutive slot, replacing the subject/patient in this regard. However, if there is no agent, the verb will take "ergative" agreement referring to the demoted subject. If both arguments are 3rd person, absolutive noun class markers are used for both of them.
  • Some types of subclauses are built with nominalized verb forms, in which the subject (of intransitive verbs) or the agent (of transitive verbs) are not referenced by normal agreement suffixes, but instead by prefixes identical in form to those indicating inalienable possession (these prefixes go before any applicative prefixes). Evidentiality marking is optional in nominalized verbs.


  • Noun phrases are mostly head-final, with genitives, adpositional attributes, and relative clauses preceding the head noun.
  • Adpositional phrases are postpositional; they generally require their object to inflect for the genitive case.
  • The typical constituent order is Agent - (Recipient) - Patient - (Applicative) - Verb.
  • Adjuncts (postpositional phrases with adverbial function) usually appear in clause-final position, following the verb.
  • Any noun phrase or adjunct may be topic-fronted.
  • Noun phrases may also be right-dislocated to after the verb, especially if the remaining pre-verbal NP(s) is/are modified by a relative clause.
  • Pronouns in the absolutive or ergative case are often omitted (i.e. Tmaśareʔ is a pro-drop language).
  • Relative clauses are formed just like ordinary clauses, but they always feature an introductory pronoun agreeing in noun class and number with the relativized nominal. This pronoun may not be dropped.
  • Nominal and adjectivial predication is achieved by converting the predicate into a verb through a variety of derivational suffixes.
  • Adverbs and conjunctions are usually placed after the head of the first constituent in a clause (Wackernagel's position).
  • Nouns can be incorporated into the verb. This has the effect of backgrounding the incorporated noun, reducing the valency of the verb by one, and promoting the ergative argument to absolutive if no other absolutive argument is present. Inalienably possessed nouns lose their possessive prefixes when incorporated.




aśę n.I woman
ca cj and
cą adv indeed, really, by contrast
canę adv suddenly
cek- adj beautiful, attractive, pretty
cpo- adj comprehensive; (before another adjective) very
ćę- adj full
ćehca n.poss.I heart, soul, life
ćiye- want, wish, desire
ćoʔna n.II goat
ha (pl. haha) n.poss.V eye
hą cj then, next
hani respond, answer
he intj oh!
ińe n.poss.VII name
kahkwa- laugh
kmeno n.poss.II head
koća- ask
kohpco adv as a result, accordingly
kwe cj but, however
kwiną adv even, indeed
kwińi- shine, be impressive, be famous
kwińǫ pron obviative 3rd person pronoun (class III singular)
lena pp as, like, similar to
mahka- adj sharp(-edged)
mahńę n.VII moon
mena- know, understand
moʔ pp on, at, near
na pron 1st person singular pronoun
natanǫ n.III bridge
nene pp across, through
ńępo- observe, watch
oma pp with, as
ośśa- kill
paho- go, walk
peńe- say towards, tell, inform
pewe- adj delicate, graceful
polpa- adj loud, bold, audacious, prominent
pomi (pl. poʔmi) n.VII word, speech, utterance
psanǫ n.III knife
sace- say, speak
somo- confirm, approve, agree
śeśi pron demonstrative pronoun (class VII singular)
ta pron 2nd person singular pronoun
tahmo- fall
taho n.VII joy, fun, happiness
taka (pl. tatka) n.V grass
wek- adj quick, fast, agile
wesa- cut
wile pron why?
wiśi pron interrogative pronoun (class VII)
yaśi- hold, own, marry
yaho pron proximate 3rd person pronoun (class I singular)
yąki n.VII river
yata pron proximate 3rd person pronoun (class II singular)
yecą- stop, hold up, impede
yeya- hear
yeyaćka- listen to
yoʔpe- start, begin
=ʔma cj and, also (postclitic)


c- benefactive applicative
ć-, će- 2nd person singular possessor
e- 3rd person singular possessor
k- lative applicative
mek- instrumental applicative
na- 1st person singular possessor


-Ø absolutive case
-~- agreement: 1st person singular ergative nasalizes preceding vowel
-će agreement: 3rd person class V absolutive
-ćeh-, -ćes- agreement: 2nd person singular ergative
-eʔ, -ęʔ ergative case deletes preceding vowel
-hca- directional: orientation towards focus
-hma negative
-k- agreement: 3rd person ergative
-kiʔk- progressive
-la masculine nominalizer
-loʔ-, -loʔk- evidential: physical or situational evidence
-mą- evidential: hearsay
-mę verbal noun
-mo completive/perfect sometimes deletes preceding vowel
-ńǫ agreement: 3rd person class III absolutive
-oʔ, -ǫʔ genitive case deletes preceding vowel
-ǫńe negative completive/perfect deletes preceding vowel
-p-, -kwe- evidential: assumption or speculation
-pǫ- evidential: non-visual sensory perception
-se, -ce agreement: 3rd person class VII absolutive
-ta, -tah agreement: 2nd person singular absolutive
-twi- inchoative verbalizer ("become X")
-wa, -ma agreement: 3rd person class I absolutive becomes -ma after nasalized vowels
-wi interrogative
-ya evidential: visual perception
-yeʔi negative irrealis
-ʔco- directional: orientation away from focus
-ʔi irrealis
-ʔo-, -ʔ- evidential: direct participation
-ʔyV-, -ʔńV- stative verbalizer ("be X") V = copy of preceding vowel

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