Verbs are used to describe actions, activities, or events. They are the central component of a sentence in Mi'gmaq and are made up of many different pieces of information. They contain enough information that they can represent a complete sentence, and are often the only element in a sentence. Some examples of English verbs include: am, seeing, happen, and gave. Some examples of Mi'gmaq verbs are eig 's/he is there, exists', amalgan 'you dance', and nemitu 'I see it'. Note that English verbs cannot form a sentence by themselves, while Mi'gmaq verbs can.
There are several characteristics that are found in both nouns and verbs, including Animacy, Obviation and Person and number marking, which are discussed in their respective articles. In general, a Mi'gmaq verb may contain the following elements, of which the ones in parentheses are optional.
|(preverb)||stem||verb class||(negation)||person and number||(tense)||3rdPL/obviative)|
An example of each of these portions is shown below. The remainder of this article will discuss each of these portions.
|'begin'||'think'||I (1) > her/him(3)||PAST|
|preverb||stem||person & number||tense|
|'I began to think about her/him'|
For more detail, see Preverbs
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. Some examples of preverbs are found below.
's/he is beginning to cook it '
's/he cooks it alone (slot 2)'
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)
For more detail, see Verb stems
Verbs in Mi'gmaq can describe events, comparable to verbs such as in English, and the qualities of nouns, comparable to adjectives in English. Verbs that describe events include nem- 'see' and gelus- 'speak' and verbs that describe nouns include maqtaw- 'black' and ewe'g'- 'loose'.
But verb roots cannot stand on their own. They minimally need to show information about the subject, and if relevant, the object.
Transitivity refers to how many people, things, or groups need to be involved in the action of the verb. If the verb only has a subject, we call it intransitive, and if it has both a subject and an object, we call it transitive.
Transitivity interacts with Animacy to form a 4 way classification of verbs: intransitive verbs with an animate subject [VAI], intransitive verbs with an inanimate subject [VII], transitive verbs with an animate subject and object [VTA], and transitive verbs with an animate subject and an inanimate object [VTI], each of which has their own page.
For more detail, see Negation
Affirmative sentences can be can be negated with the addition of a negative particle directly before the verb, usually mu. Verbs that are followed by this negative particle must have negative marking, -w or -u. We can see this contrast in the table below, where mu teluis-ig 'her/his name is...' is negated with the addition of the negative particle "mu" and the "-w" negative marker. In addition, the we can see the negated form of mu is ma when negating a sentence the future tense.
|tense||teluis- 'name'||gloss||negated form||gloss|
|present||teluis-it||'her/his name is...'||mu teluis-iwg||'her/his name isn't...'|
|future||tluis-itew||'her/his name will be...'||ma tluis-iwg||'her/his name will not be...'|
Person & number
This section is a description of how person and number are marked on verbs. For a description of what these categories are and how they function in general in Mi'gmaq, see Person and number
Person and number marking on the verb indicates characteristics of its subject and its object, if it has one. These markings change their appearance depending on what the final is.
For more detail, see Tense
A sentence can refer to a time period which is the same or different from the time when it was spoken. This is called tense and this is often marked on verbs as an ending (suffix). In Mi'gmaq, verbs can be expressed in present, past, and future. Aspect marking is similar to tense, i.e. imperfective, but is usually done with preverbs; for more detail see Aspect. Generally, present is the default and not marked. Past is often marked with -p, as shown in below, but this is not always the case. This -p(n) is also argued to mark evidentiality as well [come in Jenny!]. Future tense is often marked with a vowel reduction in the verb stem, as shown below.
|present||teluis-it||'her/his name is...'|
|past||teluis-iss/-i(s)p||'her/his name was...'|
|future||tluis-itew||'her/his name will be...'|
(Third Plural Marker)
This section describes how the obviative is marked on the verb. For more detail on what the obviative is in general, see Obviation.
Also known as Mode. For more detail, see Mood
'Mode describes the speaker's attitude toward a situation, including the speaker's belief in its reality, or likelihood.' (Payne, 1997; 244) In each class, there are a variety of different mode's which can be expressed. Most can be expressed in different tenses and in the affirmative or the negative. Below is a table, based on Pacifique's grammar (as translated in Lesson 10 in Hewson & Francis (1990), although ), that summarizes these observations using the first conjugation of VAI (intransitive verb with animate subject) with third person subject agreement.