-ti verber

M Launey mlauney at wanadoo.fr
Wed Sep 24 21:10:09 UTC 2014

Estimados listeros y colegas

First of all, note that what follows holds for Classical Nahuatl only, since my knowledge of modern dialects is somewhat scarce and superficial.

To say that –ti « occurs not infrequently » is an understatement. Actually, the list of intransitive –ti verbs that occur in the corpus could amount to tens and maybe hundreds of items. I bet –ti is the most productive verbal suffix (more than –tia), and that it can be added to nearly every noun stem (except maybe proper nouns) ; and even to quite a few adverbs. See : Cuix timōztlatizquê, tihuīptlatizquê ? « Will we live until tomorrow or the day after ? », i.e. « Will we survive ? » ; Ye teōtlac-ti « It’s getting late » etc. (it seems to me that –tia could not appear in such contexts, at least I can’t remember seeing it in the corpus).

The most common translation of -ti is indeed « be » or « act like », « behave like », or sometimes « become », but I suggest it could better be viewed in a more abstract sense, like : introducing tense-aspect to a notion that by itself is aspectually neutral, or stable. For instance, ‘(Ca) tēuc-tli’ means « he is a lord » (and nothing is said about how this status is acquired, lost or exerted, while ‘(Ca) tēuc-ti’ is something like « his being a lord/the fact that he is a lord is not just a timeless property, but is realized in some segment of time by actions (he acts like…, he fulfills…) or evolution, or modification, or coming to realization (he becomes…) ». This abstract meaning allows for more atypical cases like tequiti « act in such a way that the tequitl exists » or mōztlati « be able to make tomorrow exist just by living so far ». I feel my English is a bit clumsy to express that.

By the way : nān-ti does not mean « have a mother », but « act like a mother » (tinānti, titàti is « you act like a mother and a father », i. e. you take care of s.o., you protect.

By the way again : semantically, verbs in –tia are not causatives of verbs of –ti. For instance, Ti-tēuc-ti means « You rule, you act as a lord » or « you become a lord », but e.g. ni-mitz-tēuc-tia does not mean « I make a lord of you », but « I give you a lord », « I establish a political power for you ». There is a ditransitive use of these verbs, e.g. ni-mitz-no-teuc-tia « I take you as my lord », « I give myself a lord with you » (pardon the clumsiness again).

This is interesting, because it gives us some hints about the complex derivational processes in Nahuatl morphology. For obvious reasons, everyone will say (and so will I) that in a form like ni-mitz-tla-cua-ltia we have the causative of cua (ti-tla-cua « you eat » > ni-mitz-tla-cua-ltia « I make you eat »). But let us see that otherwise. Deverbal « object nouns » in /tla-…-l-li/ like tla-cua-l-li « food, something that is eaten » can be formed very freely on transitive verb stems, so that we could analyze the causative as ni-mitz-tla-cua-l-tia « I give you food (tla-cua-l-li)", which brings us back to the ni-mitz-tēuc-tia example above.

Of course, there are objections to that, since the parallel is only partial. I have chosen an example that « works », and not all causatives can be interpreted in the same way. Moreover, I have chosen an example with the indefinite object –tla-, but you can have a definite object (which in this case will be « absorbed » by the other object, e.g. ni-mitz-cua-l-tia inin nacatl « I give you this meat to eat ». Nevertheless, there is a striking morphological construction, which against shows us that Nahuatl is a highly sophisticated language.

(Well, the more I see languages, the more I think all of them are sophisticated, but I have a special fondness for Nahuatl)


Michel Launey

> Message du 24/09/14 15:13
> De : "Campbell,  R. Joe" 
> A : "John Sullivan" 
> Copie à : "list nahuatl discussion" 
> Objet : [Nahuat-l] -ti verber
> Hey John and Listeros,
> Due to my bad bookkeeping, I can't find the statement about one of the "-ti"
> verbers, the 'have' one, not the 'be, become' one. Nevertheless, even in this
> vacuum, I wanted to present a reminder that the intransitive "-ti" occurs not
> infrequently without the transitivizing causative suffix "-a".
> If the list contains errors, I would appreciate having it pointed out.
> Joe

> tequitl tequiti to work

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