Zach Cann

Zach Cann

sent out by Grace Bible Church to plant churches among the Ndo people

Just today I figured out how certain commands are formed in the nDo language. Follow along as I explain the journey of discovery.

In the early days, I learned how to form commands. I think it was Cassidy who first discovered that the base root of the verb is also the command form (similar to English). So for example, the base word of the verb “to throw” is “rango.” On it’s own, this verb means: “Throw it!”

Shortly after that, we learned that some verbs take direct objects in different ways. Some take direct objects as a prefix, some as a suffix, and others as a noun. Let me give you an example of each (direct object in bold):

as a prefix: Nurote. – It hits me.
N (me) – uro (to hit) – te (3rd person singular present tense)

as a suffix: Nekonerete – He calls me.
Neko (to call) – nere (me) – te (3rd person singluar present tense)

as a noun: Ngundo no rangote – He throws me.
Ngundo (he) + no (me) + rango (to throw) – te (3rd person singluar present tense)

The root of some verbs, like the one in the title, end with a nasalized vowel (samakang) which affects the suffix. Normally, -kere is added to suffix-receiving-verbs to indicate a 2nd person direct object (you), but this changes into a strong g sound because of the nasalized vowel. So we end up with “samakanggere” instead of “samakangkere.” Then the tense ending is added, which also reflects the subject. The ending “-weyanggo” is future tense and 3rd person plural. And if we want to make the verb a question, we can add the suffix “-pe” to the end. After putting all the endings together, we end up with the lengthy word, samakanggereweyanggope, which means: “Are they going to help you?”

After about one year in the village, we started noticing that verbs took on different forms when in the middle of a sentence. Verbs ended in the suffix “-ro” if listed in a series of actions completed by the same subject. Consider this short story:

Parene tokote tumoro, sero, punggeyoro, pungge rimiro, yendemo arero, kutimo rero, qa narong.

Translation: My wife harvested sweet potato, took them, put them in her string bag, put the bag on her head, came up to the village, put it in our house, cooked them, and ate them.

So in nDo, the only verb that is conjugated with person and tense in this instance is the final one.

We also found that sometimes medial verbs ended with the suffix “-ini,” which we came to learn meant that the next verb would have a different subject. So we could change the example above just slightly to add new actors to the story.

Parene tokote tumoro, sero, punggeyoro, pungge rimiro, yendemo arereo, kutimo rini, simongomboyaqa ne yangguring.

Translation (with notes in brackets): My wife harvested sweet potato, took them, put them in her string bag, put the bag on her head, came up to the village, put it in our house [subject is going to change], and with her children [they] cooked [the sweet potatoes] and ate them.

Then we learned that commands have their own endings to indicate a change in subject. Commands take on the suffix “-ka.”

Umbuka kutimo oro. (You) come down and let’s go to our house.

And that brings me to today’s discovery. Today I was talking with my friend Bobby, who used the following phrase: “Keto Autuko yukaqu yimitoka, ingoni.”

I understood all the words, but not the order. Keto means “you.” Anutuko yukaqu is an expression which means “God’s talk.” Yimiroka is a command meaning “you tell them.” Of course, the suffix -ka indicates a change in subject. But then comes the puzzling word: ingoni. This is the verb “to hear” or “to understand,” but with a switch subject ending. Normally, sentences do not end with -ni.

So, I do what I normally do with new vocabulary. I ask them to say the same thing in the trade language: “Do yete? Nu yuka wore kowe nimito. (what did you say? Tell me again in melanesian pidgin.)” And after talking through it for a while, I came to realize that he was expressing the purpose behind the command. He was saying: “Tell them God’s talk SO THAT they will hear it/understand it.”

So now I know. Command + -ka followed by a verb + -ni indicates the purpose of the commanded action.

Get every new post on the Cann’s blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

© All Rights Reserved | Canns of Clay