Adjectival surprises

Just over 100 years ago, a man named Henry Hull St Clair came to Florence to work with Jim Buchanan, Tom Hollis and George Barney to get some Coos vocabulary and stories.  Barney provided a couple of hundred Milluk words, but nothing else.  Jim Buchanan told several stories to St. Clair which a few years later Frachtenberg published alongside his own work in Coos Texts.  However, St Clair also wrote down a lot of little word exercises with Buchanan.  And it is handy, as it helps show how the Hanis language worked.

Such as, adjectives.  Now you might be thinking, BORING.  Almost as painful as that whole diagramming sentences in high school.  But it is not that bad.  Really.  I think.

So, in English, our nouns (Remember School House Rock:  person, place or thing) don’t change much.  If it is plural, or showing possession, stick an -s on the end.  But English adjectives don’t change – the word ‘red’ stays ‘red’ if we are talking about one red thing or a hundred red things.  You never see *100 reds things.  Spanish is different – adjectives are supposed to match their noun in number AND gender case, so you get una casa roja, muchas casas rojas, un carro rojo and so on and so forth (stick with me here, we’re getting there).

OK, so in Hanis, usually adjectives and nouns don’t change like that.  House is yixewox, which is the same word whether or not one is speaking of one house (yixei yixewox) or ten houses (tlopqanii yixewox).  Now usually, adjectives – the descriptive terms for nouns – don’t change either in Hanis.  Usually.  But there can be exceptions, which I found in St. Clair’s work.  Here are some examples:

He estis kyuutan hlkwile = some red horses

he=the, an, estis =some (implying several rather than few; estis also means a crowd)kyuutan=horse; hlkwile= red-many

Normally red is hlkwilt.  It has a few other forms – hlkwilaiyam meaning dark red and hlkwiliit for blazing-red, hot; because the root is hlkwil- to burn.  But hlkwile was a form for red I had not seen before.

His next sample:

He estis kyuutan q’leye = some black horses

q’le’es is the usual word for black; but here we have q’leye.  Another form I’d not seen for ‘black’ before.  So, I went digging thru Frachtenberg’s Grammar.  Turns out, there is a suffix –iiye or –eye that can indicate plurality of an adjective.  So, it looks like this was an instance where – eye was added to the roots for red and black to imply many rather than few or one red horse or black horse.  However, this suffix does not appear all the time on adjectives modifying plural nouns (or nouns that are supposed to be plural, since normally Hanis nouns don’t note that*).  But it is an option that a Hanis speaker can use to emphasize the plurality of something when he or she wants to.

*I say normally, because there are a handful of nouns that completely change depending on whether the thing is singular or plural; such as ala (1 child) or hiime (more than one child); huu’mis (one woman); huumeke (women).


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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