Thursday, August 7, 2008

The imperative mood in Tanii

Understanding the grammar of an oral language such as Tanii is an essential step in order to preserve it in a accurate written form. In this post I have tried my best to introduce one basic point of Tanii grammar in a clear, though non-academic way. This point - the imperative mood - has already been addressed by scholars, both Taniis and non-Taniis: two "Apatani grammars" have been published (Abraham, 1985, Takhe, 1994), and one linguist (Shingo, 2003) deals with Apatani imperative in one chapter of his PhD thesis. The problem is that...the three authors often disagree. So I decided to enquire by myself with NPR and a couple of Tanii friends. Below are the results of our preliminary conversations. But the discussion is still open, and if as a Tanii speaker you find that any correction or addition should be made, please feel free to drop your comment. In particular there may be some dialectical variations of which I am unaware.

The imperative is a mood which is used to express commands, requests or prohibitions. The Tanii imperative is formed by adding a suffix to a verb root.

1. Command
  • a) The most common imperative suffix in Tanii is -to.
No barito !
Stand up !

Diipyokunii atan so linto !
Those who have taken their meals, come here !

  • b) To express politeness, the adverb iche (a little) is added before the verb.
Iche tanto !
Please drink !
  • c) When the speaker commands the addressee to move away from the speaker (for eg. to go and do something), -nge or -he are used instead of -to.
Inka ball mi tunge !
Go and kick that ball !

Harnge !
Run (away) !

  • According to linguist Shingo Imai (2003: 121), -nge is attached to verbal roots having one syllable, whereas -he is attached to verbal roots having 2 or more syllables.

Sukun hokii yasi hange !
(Go and) fetch water from the well !

Dunge !
(Go and) sit there !

Barihe !

Go [there] and stand up !

Gaihe !
(Go and) sing !

The use of -to vs -nge/-he depends on the motion of the adressee in relation to the speaker : -to is used when the addressee's position remains unchanged (1), or when the addressee is moving towards the speaker (2). -Nge or -he is used when the adressee is moving away from the speaker (3).
Note that the distinction between -to and -nge only applies to the motion of the addressee, not to the motion of an object. For example , if one wants to tell someone : "Throw this ball there !", one will have to use the imperative in -to, not in-nge. For in this case only the ball -not the addressee- is moving away from the speaker.

Siika ball mi inso ripato !
Throw this ball there !
  • d) Immediate imperative is formed by adding the suffix -ku (perfective aspect marker) to the imperative form.
Diito !

Diitoku !
Eat right now !
  • e) When the command affects or benefits to the speaker, the verbal root is suffixed by -pe instead of -to.

  • Mo mi tasan soye mi bito !
    Give one necklace to him !

    Ngii mi tasan soye mi bipe !
    Give me one necklace !
  • Abraham (1985 : 102) argues that if the speaker (or the place of action) is remote from the addressee, -yupe is used in place of -pe. Our own data does not confirm this. At least in Bulla speech, to request someone to give something located in a place remote from the speaker (or to send it) is expressed by adding the suffixes -tula, -tupe, or -liipe to the verb root.
bitula/bitupe/biliipe !
give/send [it to me] !

2. Prohibition
  • Negative imperative, or prohibitive mood, is formed by adding -yo to the verb root :
Diiyo !
Don't eat !
  • It's often followed by the particle -ka, which functions here as an emphatic marker.
Luyoka !
Don't speak !
3. Request
  • Suggesting an action to be done collectivley alongwith the addressee is formed with the suffix -sa :
Ngunu ka Ziro mi kapyodopa busa !
Let us keep our Ziro beautiful !

4. Permission
  • It's a little more complicated matter here. The permissive imperative (used to signal permission) is formed :
    • a) When the permission is given to the addressee, with the suffix -ngetiika. The negative form is -lakema.
    • No lungetiika
      You can speak (you are allowed to speak)

      No lulakema
      You cannot speak (you are not permitted to speak)
    • b) When the permission is given to a third person, with the suffix -kenento (or -kenanto or -kiinento depending on the dialect spoken). The negative form is obtained by replacing -to with -yo (=> -kenenyo)

    • Mo mi lukenento
      Let him speak
    • Mo mi lukenenyo
      Don't let him speak
    • c) When the permission is sought for the speaker, -pe takes the place of -to, => -kenempe (the transformation of n into m before p letter corresponds to the actual pronounciation which is nasalized before m, b, p letters, as in English).

    • Ngii mi (iche) inkenempe
    • (Please) let me go
    • - Abraham, P. T., 1985, Apatani grammar, Mysore, Central Institute of Indian Languages.
    • - Takhe K., 1994, The Apatani Grammar, Itanagar, Frontier Publisher & Distributor.
    • - Shingo I., 2003, Spatial deixis, PhD thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the State University of New York for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Linguistics
    • PB


popisarmi said...

Hi pb,
Good Morning,
Excellent job again, wish to have a copy of your works on 'Save Tanii'if possible. A comment from my side;
'GAIHE' meaning 'GO AND SING' usually used in day today conversions but may not be the origin apatani word for the same. The word 'GA' might have been a influx into apatani language from Hindi or Assamese(GAANA GAHO,GAAN GABI)The origin Apatani word for song is 'BIISI'and should have been 'BIISI-TO,BIISI-YE,or BIISI SIIKA-TO.'Day today use of Apatani dialect has been so diluted with mixer of so many words from HINGLISH by the newer generation.It might have become a passion for some and ignorance for some others. Lets SAVE TANII and LETS SAVE TANII AGUN.
Regards n Best wishes.

PB said...

Hi Popisarmi,
Thanks for your kind words. And yes, more of our collective work on Tanii language is to be released on the web soon. I do agree with your comment, these 2 examples BARIHE and GAIHE were quoted from Shingo Imai’s thesis. He himself acknowledges that his informants were young or middle-aged Taniis living or studying in Delhi, so possibly they were more familiar with GAI than with BIISI. In our effort to document Tanii language with NPR we are always careful to refer firstly to genuine Tanii words. GAI seems to be a borrowed word from Assamese or Hindi, to which various Tanii suffixes are attached, hence forming words which are neither purely Hindi nor Tanii… Same thing apparently with JAR (thousand) which is also suffixed and used for counting in place of LALYAN. Of course, borrowing from neighbouring or infuential languages is a normal process in any language, and when there is no equivalent in Tanii it is quite ok to resort to Hindi, Assamese or English to enrich the language. As a French speaker myself I know the impressive number of English words that derive from old French or Latin. But what we can do, perhaps, is to encourage the use of Tanii words over their Hindi or English counterparts when the former are simply forgotten by ignorance or neglect.

NPR said...

Hi Popisarmi,
Niika armyan Popisarmi itself means the INTELECTUAL person.Its nice to read your comment here.

As you guys (i.e. yourself and PB) have already discussed about "Gai he", although "Biisi-to" is the original TANII word but, in our day to day life -we the younger generation Taniis are more comfortable with GAI-TO. In my perception, whenever I hear any people saying "BIISI" it sounds-singing some TANII folklore. These days,even older people are more comfortable with word "Gana-gai" than saying "BIISI-SITO".Thanks to the AIR (All India Radio) for still using this word "BIISI" for Song in TANII.

Keep visiting and leaving the comments here in our blog.


popisarmi said...

Hi npr,
Thanks, not exactly intellectual, but interested in knowing about our own roots.pb and you are doing a great service to that end. Keep it up!

NPR said...

Hiira pakiilyi PAYAARO PACHO!!!
PB ngiinyi, ngiinyi ka level best jami try miika siido. No la yasiyalow chikan hendir nii abang atan hii eche ngunu mi lenda kakin doko daya ano aya kendo. Hope you two gonna enlight us towards the right path for preservation of our rich tradition, culture and language.