Thursday, March 19, 2009


'DA', 'DO', 'DU' are among the sounds most often heard in Tanii conversation. The reason is, those ‘words’ or particles have two very important grammatical functions which, however should not be confused.

1. Da, du, do as copular verbs or existential verbs

Linguists prefer to call them as copulas, and have noted their presence in many languages. The Tanii copulas “do”, “du”, “da”, in this regard, behave very much like the copula “da” of Japanese language, and occur similarly at the end of the clause or sentence.

San ude ho do.

There is a table in the house (lit. ‘a table lies in the house’)

In the above sentence the copular verb do stands as a single grammatical word, roughly equivalent to the verb "to be". It cannot be seen as a suffixation of the preceding word. The three copulas da, do and du inform about the position, or posture, of the subject.

- da => standing position/posture. Si subu da : Here is a mithun.

- do => lying position/posture. Si tabu sohe do. Here is a snake.

- du => sitting position/posture : Aki hii intosi du. A dog is sitting there.

Note: elements of landscape (forest, mountain, river, ….), houses, buildings, furniture and objects in general are conceptualised as being in a lying posture, whereas plants, esp. those having a straight stem or trunk (bamboos, canes, maize, etc.) are regarded as being in a sitting posture.

Intosi putu puro puye do. There is/lies one big mountain.

Bachin more ho ahi du. Bachin is a fruit that grows in the wild.

The common negative form of the three copular verbs is nyima.

Mo kii aki nyima. He has no dog.

As others verbs, the copular verbs da, do, and du combine with various suffixes inflecting them. Among those are:

Alyin apin diidu doku (do+ku). It's dinner time.

Yo nyima pa apin adin doye (do+ye). there was no meat, only rice was available.

Sii inso dane (da+ne). The cow was here/ There was a cow here.

Sipun ngo ano renge la dato (da+to). These days I have been feeling very tired.

No no ho date he ? (da+te). Where have you been ?

Yani kapyo lala la denki dota (do+ta). Yani is beautiful and sincere too.

Liihi do nii, subu so datii do (da+tii). There are footprints, so (I guess) there was a mithun here.

The past tense of the negative form is nyimane or nyimatii.

Bilo anyan ho siisi ka niti diiro-yasi si, Tanii lemba ho nyimatii.

In olden days there were no modern medicines in Tanii villages.

Other derivations are possible:

Sanii-sanko nyima koda miyu sanko nyikinma.

Without trees there could not be a place for humans to live.

In all cases, these derivated forms of da, do, du should be separated from the nouns, adverbs, prepositions or particles that precede.

2. DO, du as verbal suffixes

The existential verbs da, do, du, must be distinguished from their homophons appearing as verbal suffixations. For, among the many verbal suffixes used in Tanii language to inflect the verb, -do and -du are also found. As they too almost always occur in the last position, the possibility that these suffixes derive historically from the corresponding existential verbs cannot be ruled out. However, today they do not constitute grammatical words, in that they cannot stand alone but are dependent of a root verb that precedes. They are, in fact, part of the “conjugated” (or inflected) form of the verb, often occuring in combination with other suffixes.

Aba yayi lyodo. Daddy is tearing the outer skin of the bamboo.

That -do and -du are verbal suffixes here - and not copular verbs, is demonstrated by the fact that they also inflect the copular verbs themselves:

Subu hii more sansu ho dadu. Mithuns live in forests (in general).

Mo niido kii Ziro ho dudu ? How long has she been living in Ziro for ?

Anyan yanhe ho piilo barne dodu ? How many months are there in a year ? (general statement)

There are also semantic differences : -do and -du as verbal suffixes do not inform about the position of the subject (standing, sitting, lying), but specify the tense, mood or aspect of the verb.

- do :

o marker of the present tense or the present continuous.

No ludo. You are talking/speaking.

o Marker of the proximal past.

Obin ludo mo ami riibitalyi la. Obin said that he would buy a cat.

- du :

o marker of present tense, esp. the present continuous, first pers. sing.

Ngo adu. I'm coming.

o habitual present (used as a general statement to suggest things that occur in the present but not necessarily happening right now).

Dula lo aki randu. One ties dogs with ropes.

To summarize, when writing Tanii it is important that we do not confuse these two sets of words:

- Copular verbs da, do and du should stand alone, separated from the word that precedes:

Nehe baji do ? What time is it ?

Mokii oho hinhe du. She has three children.

- On the contrary, verbal suffixes -do and -du, because of their dependent nature, should be written attached to the verb root or to the adjective root. Here, only the root altogether with its suffix has the status of a grammatical word:

No ludo. You are talking/speaking.