“Verbing weirds the language”

The phrase ‘verbing weirds the language’ comes from a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon – and was something of a favorite with on of the linguistics profs at UO (of course).  The point of the joke was how English can take a word that is usually a noun (person, place, thing) and turn it into a verb (action, state of being) or vice versa.

Some languages don’t allow much of that grammatical category switching, and others are wide open.  Hanis seems to be kind of open – there are word roots, and from there one can add on nominal suffixes, like the general nominal -s, or stick on a general verbal suffix -t/ts and voila, verb.  Get that in words like pol, shell (either of egg or shellfish) and then add verbal -t – get polt, which can mean to shell an egg or a clam.

Looks like words that are usually adverbs (words that describe the verb, in English usually end in -ly=slowly, quickly, quietly, loudly, etc) can take on verbal affixes to and be kinda verb-y.

I got on this cuz I found another unfamiliar phrase in St Clair:  halâ´qa qaiêxEhâm, going up gradually (in a story where a spruce tree is caused to grow magically).  Well halâqa I recognized as the verb halq– to climb up.  The 2nd word, which St Clair noted as ‘gradually’ I did not quite recognize, but it bugged me.  His –hâm is probably –xom, progressive suffix (-ing).  Thought a bit.  DUH gradually is synonym for slowly – which is qeilch.  I figured qeilch was the root of St Clair’s mystery word – adverbs in Hanis often end in -ch (although not all of them do) and are often prefixed with an x- which is kind of an equivalent of English’s -ly.

For example:  guus lau xqeilch witlwiiyatl = She twisted everything slowly.

Once qeilch gets treated as a verb:  tsuu giikwa qaqalchuu – so a-little he-began-slowing.  The qa– and –uu denote ‘began to do X’, with qeil- (here appearing as qal- because Hanis likes to match up vowels, so vowels wobble around in their sounds expressed) is treated as a verb, to slow down.

Looks like that is going on with St Clair although where the -l went I don’t know.  Maybe he misheard qeil– for qaiê, and the xE in the middle…I am not sure.  Probably reduplication – Hanis LOVES to take either a whole syllable, or half a one (front or back) and repeat it.  This is usually done with verbs to help emphasize something being done over and over again, or something that went on for a looooooooong time.  Hanis is playful that way.

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About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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One Response to “Verbing weirds the language”

  1. Pingback: More on ‘verbing weirds the language’ « Shichils's Blog

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