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Achiyitqan noun structure
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how the nouns do the thing
This public article was written by severy, and last updated on 3 Feb 2019, 08:30.

[comments] Menu 1. Introduction 2. Articles 3. Prepositions 4. Adjectives & Roots 5. Case & number 6. Determiners 7. Examples of complex nouns

As Achiyitqan is a polysynthetic language, a lot of information can get stacked onto one little noun root. Besides the direct declension of the noun (case, number, etc), most adjectives, prepositions and determiners are also cliticized to the root. The morphemes must always take the same order, which is as follows:

article - preposition - adjective - ROOT - case & number - determiner

The case & number declensions are subdivided by animacy (animate, moderate and inanimate) and by class (S, N, and I type). The animacy distinctions are generally semantic while the class distinctions must simply be memorized. (More on this in the case & number section below.)

The barest noun has a root and a case/number marker, with the following exceptions:
  • The unmarked noun form: singular S-class animate object
  • Objects incorporated into verbs
  • Singular indirect objects with prepositions


The definite affix ka- is always the very first component, where present. There is no indefinite article.

Ka- can appear as simply k- if it would otherwise create a triple-long /a/, for example, ka+aapó → kaapó 'the frog'. This rule does not apply if /á/ is involved, for example, ka-áaɥk → kaáaɥk 'the excess.'

If it is attached directly to the root, and the root begins with /t/, it replaces the initial /t/, as in ka+tée → kée 'the sky' and ka+tuh → kuh 'the fish.' This does not occur if a preposition or adjective also appears on the noun, e.g. ka+mime+tuh → kamimetuh, *mimekuh 'the cute fish.' It does not occur with adjectives or prepositions that begin with /t/ either: ka+tsoo+ɥíun → katsooɥíun, *ksooɥíun 'the furious person.'


Prepositions in Achiyitqan follow the definite affix. Prepositions cannot stack, and cannot attach to anything but a noun. There are some prepositions with have a similar-looking verbal particle counterpart, but most do not.

DATto, atin
tai-on, at
bi-over, aboveat
ali-in, inside, intoon, during
aa-under, below, downka+aa→kawa
keɥ-by, near, against, next to, alongside
'ta-before, in front of, ahead, forward
sál-beyond, past
'o-to, towardsfrom
he-from, away, off of, out of, outside of
dea-at every, from one to the next
ŋat-across, oppositeending
nuŋe*following, after, next
daco-about, topic

*nuŋe is not an affixed preposition, but a free-floating adposition, and the only one (currently) present in the language.

[top]Adjectives & Roots

Attributive adjectives are usually tacked directly onto the noun root. (Predicative adjectives behave identically to verbs; see the article on verb formation.)

Most adjectives have their own roots but many are derived from other parts of speech with the addition of an adjectivizing morpheme (ADJZ), such as -ɂes 'has quality' and -tta, the past participle. (Even as attributives, adjectives are still often 'zero-derived' from verbs; but not, likely, from nouns.)

Multiple adjectives can be strung onto the same noun if they have an 'and' sense. For example, ka-ɂott-kiin-gól 'the big red dog.' However, or-sense attributive adjectives take the following pattern: ɂott-elem ka-kiin-gól (big or.PN the-red-dog) 'the big or red dog.'

The noun root itself usually is simply a root, however, again, it can be derived with nominalizing (NMZ) morphemes. There are quite a broad variety of these; the most common are -qo and -yo, the generic inanimate and moderate (see below) nominalizers respectively. Since glides delete after other consonants, the moderate nominalizer often simply appears as -o, as in kaplaq+yo → kaplaqo 'combination.'

[top]Case & number

Achiyitqan nouns inflect for number (SG/PL) and case (NOM/ACC/DAT/GEN). There are several inflection paradigms depending on the class and animacy of the noun.

Both class and animacy are inherent, fixed, and do not change. However, animacy is easier to tell - usually - because it has a semantic component.

Animate nouns are generally things which can move about of their own volition. This group includes people, deities, and most animals, as well as a few other phenomena, like nim 'day.' At the opposite end of the animacy scale are the inanimate nouns, which are typically completely sedentary - rocks, buildings, tools, etc.

The middle animacy class, called the moderate nouns, includes a number of things which fall between the two extremes: things which move (but not of their own volition), such as fluids; some 'lesser' animals, like insects, and other small creatures that tend to move in large groups (rodents, fish); and most abstract concepts.

The nonsemantic classes are S, N, and I-type nouns. These are not marked overtly on the noun but must be memorized (with the exception that N-type nouns tend to end in nasals); they are named based on the singular accusative forms of the affixes. The vast majority of nouns (more than 80%) fall into the S-class, with approximately 15% in the N-class and only 5% or so in the I-class. Inanimate nouns can only fall into S- and N- class, and moderate and animate nouns can fall into any of the three. N- and I- class nouns tend to be high-frequency and/or culturally important words; they show old and mostly-defunct morphology which was once language-wide, but are slowly merging into the newer S-class.

The derivations are as follows:


* can also appear as -ne
** can also appear as -na

There is a lot of syncretism in the dative and genitive cases, and often between the various classes and animacies.


The final portion of the noun are the determiners -- excluding, of course, the definite article, which is initial. The determiners include demonstratives and possessives. None of these determiners can co-occur with any other determiner or the definite article.

The demonstratives have only a two-way distinction, proximal/non-proximal, -dia and -co respectively. Both are definite.

The possessive determiners are divided similarly to the pronouns.


* can also appear as -ip
** can also appear as -i

[top]Examples of complex nouns

PLPlural (number)
more than one/few
.ACCAccusative (case)
TRANS direct object; patient

'about the deep sea molluscs'

-SGSingular (number)
one countable entity
.ACCAccusative (case)
TRANS direct object; patient
1First person (person)
speaker, signer, etc; I
.SGSingular (number)
one countable entity
.POSSPossessive (case)
owns, has

'onto my yellow horse'

kaóɥatoogo'awa kauumka
-PLPlural (number)
more than one/few
.NOMNominative (case)
TRANS subject, INTR argument
-SGSingular (number)
one countable entity
.GENGenitive (case)

'the old mammoths of the north'
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