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Lesson 4: Verbs

A Nahuatl verb takes a prefix showing the subject, even if the subject is also expressed by a noun or pronoun.

Subject Prefixes for Verbs
n(i)- = I t(i)- -h = we
t(i)- = you (s) am-/an- -h = you (p)
- = s/he - h = they
x(i)- = you (imperative)x(i)- -h = you (imperative);

Exercises

All the verbs in this lesson are in the present tense, and are all translated here with the simplest available English present form, such as "I sing" rather than "I am singing" or "I do sing." There are some other affixes to show verb forms other than the present. We will worry about them later, since in this lesson we are concerned only with the subject prefixes.

Examples

 


cuïca = sing

ti.cuïca
ti.cuïca.h
cuïca.h
ti.cuïca.h
ancuïcah
cuïca
cuïca.h
ticuïcah

 


ahci = arrive

n.ahci
t.ahci.h
am.ahcih
ahci
tahci
nahci
ahcih

 


päqui = to be happy

päqui
ti.päqui.h
ampäquih
tipäqui
päquih

 


ixmähui = to be afraid

am.ixmähui.h
nixmähui
tixmähuih
ixmähui

 


ayac (plural: -queh) = to be no-one, to be absent

t.ayac
am.ayaqu.eh
ayaqueh
nayac

When a verb prefix is added to a noun root, it means "to be." (Because the third-person verb prefix is null, there is no way except context to know whether the noun stands alone or is a sentence.) The final -h drops off in the plural verb forms after any plural-marking suffix on the noun. (In the following exercises this deletion is shown using strikeout type for the deleted extra -h.)

 


tlacatl = person < tlacah

ni.tlaca.tl
tlaca.tl
tlaca.tl
ti.tlaca.tl
an.tlaca.h(.h)
tlaca.tl
titlacah(h)
tlacah(h)

 


nantli = mother

nantli
ninantli
ti.nan.tin(.h)
ti.to.nan
antonanhuän(h)
ni.nantli
ti.nantli
titonan

 


töchtli = rabbit < tötöchtin

ni.töchtli
am.tötöch.tin
am.ï.tötöch.huän
ti.ï.töch*
nimotoch
timotötöchhuän(h)
tötöchtin
töchtli
*-Note: t(i) followed by i should logically become simply ti, but in fact both i's apparently remained and merged together to make a single long vowel: ï.

 


pilli = child < pïpiltin

ni.pilli
ni.mo.pil
am.pïpiltin(.h)
am.ï.pïpil.huän(.h)
ti.mo.pïpil.huän(.h)
t.amo.pïpil.huän(.h)

 


pilli = lord, noble, nobleman < pïpiltin
possessed: pillö (often used with honorific and diminutive suffix -tzin.tli)

Note: Both nobility and childhood are conveyed with the suffix -tzin. Tzin is more often honorific than diminutive, but it works both ways. Pilli originally referred to a child, but the the notion of a "noble child" as a term for nobility led to a double meaning. When referring to nobles, pilli is usually male. Noble women were called cihuäpilli. The possessed form pillö seems limited to the sense of a nobleman, not a child.
ni.pilli
ti.pïpil.tin
ti.pïpil.tzin.tin
mopillö
annopïpilhuän
annopïpiltzinhuän
tipiltzintli
tinopiltzin

 

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Challenge: In the last example (forms of pilli), where should the dots be placed to show the parts of the last four items?

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