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Tïjonïk 15 Kinpatz wib’ (I get ready)
Transitive Verbs


In Lesson 10 we discussed intransitive verbs. In this lesson we will study transitive verbs, which differ from intransitives in that they have not only a subject but also an object marker.


In this video, al Mariy tells us about what she does in a normal day. Can you tell the difference between the transitive and intrasitive verbs she uses?


The morphology of K’iche’ transitive verbs is a bit more complicated than that of transitive verbs in both English and Spanish. As in Spanish and English, transitive verbs in K’iche’ are marked for the subject. But unlike Spanish and English, in K’iche’ they are marked for the object too. This means that verbs carry morphemes indexing both subject and object. Linguists call the former ergative markers (set A) and the latter absolutive markers (set B). The following examples are consonant initial verbs. We will study vowel-initial verbs later.

Ex. 1

Xinusik’ij le ali.
X-in-u-sik’ij     le   ali
C-1sA-3sE-call the girl
The girl called me

Abbreviations: C = Completive, 1s = First person singular, 3s = Third person singular.
A = Absolutive, E = Ergative.

In example 1, the absolutive marker /-in-/ denotes the object “me” and the ergative marker /-u-/ the subject “she”. Note that both subject and object are marked on the verb itself. Ergative markers are known as “set A” and absolutive markers as “set B”. The prefix /x-/ is the completive marker, as you know, and the verbal root is /sik’ij/.

Ex. 2

Kintelej le qasi’.
k-0-in-telej le qasi’
I-3sA-1sE-carry the our-firewood
I carry on my shoulders the firewood for us.

Abbreviations: I = Incompletive

In Ex. 2 the prefix /k-/ is the incompletive marker (see unit 10); Ø (zero) marks the third person singular object “firewood”; /in/ marks the speaker and /-telej/ is the verbal root.

The following table is a preliminary summary of the morphology of K’iche’ transitive verbs:

Tense/Aspect Object (Set B) Subject (Set A) Root
k(a) – (incompletive) -in- (1st person sing) -in- (1st person singular) -sik’ij (to call) Ex. 1
-at- (2nd person sing) -a- (2nd person singular)
x- (completive) -Ø- (3rd person sing) -u- (3rd person singular)
-oj- (1st person plural) -qa- (1st person plural)  -telej (to carry) Ex. 2
Note: The weak
/a/ in ka- disappears
when the roots start with a vowel
-ix- (2nd person plural) -i- (2nd person plural)
-e- (3rd person plural) -ki- (3rd person plural)


Kinds of transitive verbs

According to their morphology, K’iche’ has two kinds of transitive verbs:

1) Root Transitives: The root has the form CVC where C is a consonant and V is a vowel. In phrase-final position they take a phrase-final marker, which is usually the root vowel.

Ex. 3
Al Xwa’n:       

La xaloq’ jun alej?
la x-0-a-loq’ jun a-lej
Q C-3sA-2sE-buy one your-tortilla
Did you buy yourself a tortilla?

A Ku’:             

Je’e, xinloq’o.
je’ x-0-in-loq’-o
yes C-3sA-1sE-buy-PF
Yes, I did.

Abbreviations:Q = Interrogative particle, 3s = Third person singular, PF = Phrase final marker.

In Ex. 3, when the verb appears in phrase final position, it takes the phrase final marker /-o/, which echoes the root vowel in /loq’/ “buy”.


2) Derived Transitives: They attach the suffix /-Vj/ (where V = vowel) after the verb root and do not take phrase final markers.

Ex. 4
Al Mariy:        

La xinuch’ab’ej le anan miyer?
La x-0-in-u-ch’ab’ej le a-nan miyer
Q C-1sA-3sE-talk the your-mother earlier
Did your mom talk to me earlier?

Al Ska’:           

No’, inin xatinch’abej.
No’ in-in x-at-in-ch’ab’ej
No 1sA-1sA C-2sA-1sE-talk
No, it was I who talked to you.

In Ex. 4 the derived transitive/ch’ab’ej/ “talk” does not take a phrase-final marker, unlike /-loq’/ in Ex. 3.

Third person plural object: When the third person plural object marker /-e/ co-occurs with the first person subject marker /-in-/ the [i] deletes and [-e] fuses with [n].


Ex. 6

Kench’ab’ej le ak’alab’.
k-e-in-ch’ab’ej le ak’alab’
I-3pA-1sE-talk the children
I talk to the children


Vowel-initial verbs. For verbs that begin with a vowel, different set A subject markers are used.

Ex. 6
Na xwil ta le xot pa nuk’b’al q’aq’.
na x-Ø-w-il  ta le xot pa nuk’b’al q’aq’
N1 C-3sA-1sE-see N2  comal loc kitchen.
I didn’t see the comal in the kitchen.

In Ex. 6 instead of /-in/ the first person singular marker is /-w/.

Ex. 7
Xatriye’j le a Tun pa le b’e.
x-at-r-iye’j           pa le b’e.
C-2sA-3sE-wait ten   loc art road
Antonio waited for you on the road

In Ex. 7, Instead of /-u/ the third person singular marker is /-r/.

Tense/Aspect Object (Set B) Subject (Set A) Root
k(a) – (incompletive) -in- (1st person sing) -inw- (1st person singular) -il(0) (to call) Ex. 1
-at- (2nd person sing) -aw- (2nd person singular)
x- (completive) -Ø- (3rd person sing) -r- (3rd person singular)
-oj- (1st person plural) -q- (1st person plural)  -iyej (to wait) Ex. 2
Note: The weak
/a/ in ka- disappears
when the roots start with a vowel
-ix- (2nd person plural) -iw- (2nd person plural)
-e- (3rd person plural) -k- (3rd person plural)

Reverential address: Reverential address using transitive verbs is a bit complex. Instead of the second person subject markers /-a-/ and /-i-/, none is used and the particles la (singular) or alaq (plural) are added after the verb.

Ex. 8

Xinsik’ij la
x-in-Ø-sik’ij la
C-1sA-Ø-call 2sAR
You (sing.) called me (Rev.)

In Ex. 8 instead of the second person singular subject marker /-a-/ the particle la indexes both the addressee and reverence towards him/her. Note that a zero morpheme replaces the set A marker /-a-/.


Ex. 9

Xinsik’ij alaq
x-in-Ø-sik’ij alaq
C-1sA-Ø-call 2pAR
You all called me (Rev.)

In Ex. 9 a zero appears in the position of /-i-/, the second person plural subject marker, and the particle alaq follows the verb.

Ex. 10

Xesik’ij la
x-e-Ø-sik’ij la
C-3pA-Ø-call 2pAR
You called them (Rev.).

Likewise, in Ex. 10 the subject is denoted by the particle la while the third person plural object is /-e-/.

Note: When the addressee is also the verbal object, reverential address cannot be performed in the active voice. A passive or an antipassive construction are required. We will study them in future units.

Ex. 11

Kakitzukuj alaq (*)
Ka-ki-tzuku-j alaq
INC-3pE-look for-AV 2pA Formal
They look for you all (Formal).

Ex. 11 is NOT grammatical in K’iche’. Since the verbal object is also the sentential addressee, reverential address requires a passive or antipassive construction, which we will learn about soon.

K’AK’A TAQ TZIJVocabulary
patan Mayan ceremony
k’ache’laj forest
ne’ baby
we girlfriend/boyfriend
ch’aweb’al telephone
k’olb’al pwaq bank
kape coffee
kej horse
eqaj (vtr) to carry on one’s back
tzaq(o) (vtr) to fall
ch’ab’ej (vtr) to talk to someone
elaq’aj (vtr) to steal
oq’ej (vtr) to cry over something
taq(o) (vtr) to send
esaj (vtr) to take out
tij(o) (vtr) to eat, to drink
b’isoj (vtr) to miss someone
riq(o) (vtr) to find, to run into.
loq'(o) (vtr) to buy
k’ayij (vtr) to sell
to'(o) (vtr) to help
tzukuj (vtr) to look for something
chajij (vtr) to take care
loq’oj (vtr) to love

Translate the following sentences into English:

  1. K’i le uloq’oj le nunan.
  2. Xinwil le patan.
  3. Xqerej le qasi’ pa k’ache’laj
  4. Kareqaj  le une’ le nan.
  5. Xtzaq le ne’ pa ja.
  6. Kinch’ab’ej le we pa ch’aweb’al.
  7. We kelaq’aj la le ulew, kab’e la pa che’.
  8. Xinwoq’ej le nutz’i’ aretaq xkamik.
  9. Xtaq b’i le ala pa le utinamit.
  10. La xesaj la le rajil pa le k’olb’al pwaq?

Translate the following sentences to English:

  1. I found a boyfriend in Nahualá.
  2. Manuela wants a new güipil.
  3. I miss you a lot.
  4. I love my family.
  5. We drink the coffee.
  6. We help my father.
  7. We look for a name for the baby.
  8. I found your friend on the road.
  9. We sold tortillas in the market.
  10. They take care of our horses.