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A preverb is an element found at the left edge of a verb in Mi'gmaq that modifies the meaning of the root and any other preverbs to the right of it. Some of the meanings that are expressed in Mi'gmaq using preverbs are expressed in other languages such as English as adverbs (e.g. jaqal- "quickly, energetically"), prepositions (e.g. toqjuw- "up"), modal verbs (e.g. getu- "want (to)"), prefixes (e.g. minu- "re-"), other verbs (e.g. poqju- "begin (to)"), and other expressions (e.g. etl- "in the process of, be __ing"), although not all elements that belong to one of these categories in English are expressed as preverbs in Mi'gmaq, such as igtug "at, near (location)," which is found after nouns, not before verbs. Delisle and Metallic (1976) suggest that there are several hundred preverbs: some examples are below.

  1. poqju-wissugwa-t-m-ap     
    'I started cooking it '
  1. newti-wissugwa-t-m-ap   
    'I cooked it alone '
  1. getu-  poqju-  mamuni-     espi-   inn-ui-      sit   
    want-  start-  high,very-  level-  people-lang  -3sg  
    's/he wants to start to speak the people's language (Mi'gmaq) at a very high level'
    (sample context: said of an enthusiastic student of Mi'gmaq)


[edit] What Can Preverbs Attach To?

Preverbs are found only when attached to another verb. There are two kinds of verbs in this context: independent verbs, which can occur without a preverb, and dependent verbs, which must have some preverb attached to them.

[edit] Independent Verbs

Independent verbs, such as wissugwa- "cook", can be found by themselves or with a preverb.

  1. wissugwa-t-m-ap   
    'I cooked it'
  1. etl-wissugwa-t-m-ap       
    'I was cooking it'
  1. me'si-wissugwa-t-m-ap        
    'I had difficulty cooking it'
  1. ala-wissugwa-t-m-ap      
    'I cooked it in any direction'

[edit] Dependent Verbs

Dependent verbs, like -lugwe- "work, do", -enmi- "laugh", and - "cry" can only be found with a preverb (they don't sound right without one). For example:

  1. *lugwe-t  
    's/he works'
  1. e-lugwe-t   
    's/he works'
  1. etl-lugwe-t       
    's/he is working'

[edit] Unattached Preverbs?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether something that looks like it might be a preverb is really attaching to the verb or whether it's actually just a modifier that goes before the verb but is not attached to it. One way of telling this is that people who are fluent speakers and writers often seem to write preverbs without a space before the rest of the verb, while modifiers will have a space. However, individual speakers may have different preferences here, so another good way of figuring this out is seeing where it's possible to place mu "not".

Mu "not" is always found before the verb that it negates. It can go between a modifier and a verb, as in the first example below, but it cannot go between a preverb and a verb, as in the second example.

  1. esteti  mu   wissugwa-t-m-u-ap       
    maybe   not  cook-inan-1sg-neg-past  
    'I might not cook it'
  1. *nata-mu-wissugwa-t-m-u-ap        
    '(intended) I couldn't cook it (don't know how).'
  1. mu  nata-wissugwa-t-m-u-ap           
    'I couldn't cook it (don't know how).'

From this we can see that esteti "maybe" is a modifier instead of a preverb, but nata- "" is a true preverb. Preverbs will always be written here with a hyphen (-) to indicate that they are attached to a root, while modifiers like esteti will be written without one because they are not attached.

Sometimes mu "not" can appear either before the modifier or between it and the verb, as we can see in the examples below with amujpa "have to".

  1. amujpa   wissugwa-t-m-ap  cook-inan-1sg-past  
    'I had to cook it'
  1. mu   amujpa   wissugwa-t-m-u-ap       
    not  cook-inan-1sg-neg-past  
    'I didn't have to cook it'
  1. amujpa   mu   wissugwa-t-m-u-ap    not  cook-inan-1sg-neg-past  
    'I had to not cook it'

These expressions will not be considered preverbs either. Although this other group of modifiers is not quite the topic of this article, a list of some non-preverb modifiers can be found after the list of preverbs, since they are often confused with each other.

[edit] Several Preverbs at Once

It is quite common to have several preverbs all attached to the same verb stem. However, not all combinations of preverbs sound natural. It's not quite clear yet exactly what makes certain combinations okay and others not okay, but below are some general guidelines.

[edit] Slots

One way of showing which orders of preverbs are grammatical is to classify them by their common positions into groups or "slots". The table below is a preliminary attempt to do this.

Category aspect1 mode aspect2 duration? manner quantity direction, state
Sample preverb etl-, gi's-, i- getu-, me'si-, gisi-, nata- poqji-, gaqi minu-, siew- gimi-, jaqal-, gesigew-, gaqisg- newti-, aqat-, toqi- al-, wel-
Gloss process, already, used to want, fail, can (able), can (know how) start, finish again/re-, continuous secretively, quickly, loudly, often alone, half, two around, good

We can use the template as a guide for combining preverbs if we know what their positions are. For example, let's say we have the three preverbs etl- "in the process of" (position 7), poqju- "start" (position 5), and newti- "alone" (position 2), plus the verb wissugwatman "I cook them." We know that the verb is going to be the furthest to the right (position 0). We then add preverbs to it in order from the lowest position to the highest, so that the highest number preverb is leftmost one, and the lowest number is the rightmost, just before the verb. This correct ordering is shown in the example below, with the preverb positions indicated for clarity.

  1. etl-poqju-newti-wissugwatman               
    'I am in the process of beginning to cook them by myself'

Other orders of these preverbs, such as those below, are not possible:

  1. *newti-poqju-etl-wissugwatman              
    'I am in the process of beginning to cook them by myself'
  1. *poqju-newti-etl-wissugwatman              
    'I am in the process of beginning to cook them by myself'

However, these slots should be viewed as general guidelines, not as hard-and-fast rules, because there are also exceptions to them.

[edit] Several Orders

A few examples of when two preverbs can occur in either order are shown below. Sometimes this has an effect on the meaning, and sometimes it doesn't. For example, the first pair has quite a different meaning when the order is switched.

  1. me'si-poqji-lugwe-t  
    's/he has difficulty starting to work'
  1. poqji-me'si-lugwe-t  
    's/he is starting to have difficulty working'

In the second pair of examples, there is a partial meaning difference.

  1. gimi-newti-lugwe-t       
    's/he is working alone secretly OR it's secret that it's alone that s/he's working'
  1. newti-gimi-lugwe-t       
    's/he is working secretly alone (NOT it's secret that it's alone that s/he's working)'

And in this pair of examples, it is difficult to find any difference in meaning.

  1. gaqisg-gi's-nemi-'g      
    'I often see her/him already, I often had seen her/him'
  1. gi's-gaqisg-nemi-'g      
    'I already see her/him often, I had seen her/him often'

[edit] Big (but incomplete!) List of Preverbs

The following is a list of all the preverbs found to date.

PreverbPreverb glossCategoryPositionExampleExample gloss
pem- by direction 1 pem-iet "s/he goes by"
enm- away, home direction 1 enm-iet "s/he goes away/home"
wej((i)qua)- towards direction 1 wejuw-et "s/he goes towards..."
el- to (away) direction 1 el-iet "s/he goes to..."
al- around, any direction direction 1 al-a'si-t "s/he wanders around"
apaj-/apij- back (return) direction 1 apij-a'si-t "s/he comes back"
gigtoqw- around, encircle direction 1 gigtoqw-a'si-t "s/he goes around..."
toqjuw- up (e.g. stairs) direction 1 toqjuw-a'si-t "s/he goes up (e.g. stairs)"
(e)jig'l- to a different spot direction 1 ejig'l-a'si-t "s/he moves to a different spot"
menj- up (from reclining position) direction 1 menj-a'si-t "s/he gets up (e.g. out of bed)"
asaqom- across (to Campbellton) direction 1 asaqom-a'si-t "s/he is going across, to Campbellton"
ugtejg- back of (house, classroom) direction 1 ugtejg-a'si-t "I am going to the back"
matam- to end (e.g. of driveway) direction 1 matam-a'si "I go to the end (of the road/driveway)"
pesg- into (road) direction 1 pesg-a'si "I pull into the driveway"
utan- to town direction 1 utan-a'si "I go to town"
wanu- to the cove direction 1 wann-a'si "I go towards the cove"
jaqal- quickly, energetically manner 3 jaqal-e'g "s/he is fast"
awan- awkward, unskilled manner? state? 1 awan-e'g "s/he is awkward"
etl- in the process of aspect1 7 etl-wissugwatm-apn "I was in the process of cooking them (inan)"
wel- good/fine state 1 wel-e'g "s/he is good/fine"
poqju- begin, start (to) aspect2 5 poqju-wissugwatm-apn "I began to cook them (inan)"
getu- want mode 6 getu-wissugwatm-apn "I wanted to cook them (inan)"
minu- again (re-) quantity? 4 minu-wissugwatm-apn "I re-cooked them (inan)"
siew- continue quantity? 4 siew-wissugwatm-apn "I continued cooking them (inan)"
amujpa- have to mode 6 amujpa-wissugwatm-apn "I had to cook them (inan)"
etugjel- might, maybe mode 6 etugjel-wissugwatm-apn "I might have cooked them (inan)"
gaqi- finish aspect2 5 gaqi-wissugwatm-apn "I finished cooking them (inan)"
gisi- can, be able to mode 6 gisi-wissugwatm-apn "I was able to cook them (inan)"
nata- skilled (at), knowledgeable mode 6 nata-wissugwatm-apn "I was skilled at cooking them (inan)"
amal- in a disorganized/awkward fashion state? (1?) amal-g-at "s/he dances (walks awkwardly)"
mal- lazy state? (1?) mal-eig "s/he is lazy"
tel- condition/state state? (1?) tel-iaq, tel-eig "it happened, it is true," "s/he has a condition, is in a mood, is pregnant"
gesigew- loudly, quickly and loudly manner 3 gesigew-wissugwatm-apn "I cooked them (inan) loudly"
mili- (?) many, a lot mode 6 mili-t-asi-t "s/he has a lot of thoughts, is stressed"
nuji- skilled at mode 6 nuji-wissugwatm-apn "I was skilled at cooking them (inan)"
lnu- (of the) people (i.e. Mi'gmaq) state? 1 lnu-amal-g-at" "s/he danced a traditional dance"
inn-ui- (alternate form of lnu-) Native/peoples' (language) incorporated noun? state? 1 innui-si-t "s/he speaks the language of the people (Mi'gmaq)"
aqat- half quantity 2 aqati'si "I speak half Mi'gmaq half English"
gaqisg- frequently manner (3) gaqisg-wissugwatm-apn "I cooked them (inan) frequently"
teg- intentionally? manner? (3?) teg-tes-g-at "s/he kicks (something anim)"
me- more (?), non-volitional? state? quantity (1? 2?) me-tes-g-m "I am hitting (something)"
metu- difficult mode? 3 metuw-eig "it is difficult to come by, find"
wenju- French (person), foolish state? (1?) wenjuw-et "s/he acts foolishly"
wenju-wi French (language) state? 1 wenju-wi-si-t "s/he speaks French"
alman-uwi German (language) state? 1 alman-uwi-si-t" "s/he speaks German"
gimi- secretively, surreptitiously manner 3
newti- one, one one's own, alone quantity 2 newti-al-a'si-t "s/he wanders around alone"
toqi- the two of them quantity 2 toqi-al-a'si-jig they two wander around together
mesi- difficult, difficulty mode 5
melgi- hard (physical) state? (1?)
i- used to time? aspect? state? 7 i-wissugwatm-apn pisgit-l "I used to cook cookies"

[edit] Things that look like preverbs but aren't

PreverbPreverb glossCategoryPositionExampleExample gloss
gi's- by then, already time 8 gi's-wissugwatm-apn "I already cooked them"
sangew- slowly, calmly, deliberately, carefully time 8 sangew-e'g "s/he is slow, calm"
esteti- always time 8 esteti-wissugwatm-apn "I always cooked them (inan)"
app- again (high scope) time 8 app-wissugwatm-apn "I cooked them (inan) again"
assma- be about to time 8 assma-wissugwatm-apn "I was about to cook them (inan)"
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