In this lesson, we will learn about plural forms to reference to multiple objects or people. Plural marking in K’iche’ is a bit complicated compared with English and Spanish. It is required only in nouns and pronouns referencing human beings. With non-human, animate referents such as animals and plants, it’s optional and generally reserved for emphasis. It’s used rarely with inanimate objects.
On Thursdays and Sundays, the center of Nahualá is dominated by the market. Listen to Juan Manuel’s description of what you can find in Nahualá during market days:
Pa wa’ we jun wachb’al ri’ kojkowinik kaqilo le k’ayb’al chi’ pa Nawalja’. E k’i le ajk’ayib’: E k’o le ajk’ay taq pix, e k’o le ajk’ay taq ichaj, e k’o le ajk’ay taq kaqa q’oq’, e k’o le ajk’ay taq atz’yaq, e k’o le ajk’ay taq xajab’. Kaqilo chuqe’ cher e k’o ixoqib’, e k’o achijab’, e k’o ak’alab’, e k’o k’ajolab’ cher are la’ e loq’omanelab’. Pa le k’ay’b’al e k’i le ajchakib’ ma k’i taq uwach le k’ayij. Aretaq katani’ le k’ayb’al, le ajchakib’ kakik’ol le kik’ay pa taq le nimaq taq ja wokotal chunaqaj le uk’u’x tinamit. K’a te k’u ri’, le e tz’i’ kakimajij wa’katem pa le k’ayb’al che utzukuxik kiwa pa taq le k’olb’al mes. K’a te keb’ek aretaq kajosq’itaj le k’ayb’al.
In this photograph we see the Nahualá market. There are many salespeople: There are tomato vendors; there are watermelon vendors; there are clothes vendors; there are shoe sellers. We can also see that among salespeople there are women, men, children and young people. At the market there are many workers because there are many kinds of goods being sold. When the market closes down, workers put away their merchandise in big houses built near the center of town. Afterwards, dogs start walking around the market, looking for food in the trash. They don’t leave until the whole market is clean.
Plural nouns are marked with the suffix –Vb’, where V = Vowel. If the last vowel of the noun is –i or –e, the plural suffix is –ab’:
Note that a’re “they” is the plural of are “he/she”. When appearing as predicates of third person subjects, plural nouns require an agreement proclitic e as in e tijoxelab’ “students” in Ex. 2.
If the last vowel of the noun is –a, -o, -u, the plural suffix is –ib’:
The third person plural agreement proclitic beginning in a vowel is a glottal stop inserted after the first vowel as in a’jchakib’ as in Ex. 4.
There are some exceptions to the vowel rule above. In almost of all of them, however, the meanings of the plural form are somewhat different from the singular:
Adjectives do not have plural forms except the following (the plural suffix is -aq)
When the adjective is acting as sentence predicate, number agreement is required: A glottal stop is inserted after the a in –aq. Compare Ex. 16 and Ex. 17 and 18 below.
PLURAL PROCLITIC ‘TAQ’
Plural nouns are optionally marked with the proclitic taq. In addition to plurality taq also denotes distributive and/or diminutive qualities: it is distributive when it looks at “many” in terms of individual components, rather than as one set composed of a plurality of members; it is diminutive when it adds a sense of affection or deprecation to the expression. The latter are mirrored in Spanish, for example, by –ito/a as in mujercita. In the proclitic taq plurality is inseparable from the distributive or diminutive qualities.
Syntactically, taq has two preferred collocations:
a) Between the article (le) and the noun: It conveys a diminutive quality in addition to plurality.
The noun imul “rabbit” in Ex. 20 is not overtly marked for plurality. As we will see in future lessons, in this case number agreement on the verb marks the subject as plural.
In Ex. 21 diminutive qualities are unlikely unless additional contextual information brings them to the fore. The context helps disambiguate the relevant semantics of taq.
b) In existential and stative sentences: When the predicate is a plural noun phrase taq replaces the article. In this case, the semantics of taq are exclusively plural. The reader should be aware that in K’iche’ predicates precede subjects unlike Spanish or English, for example, where sentential subjects generally precede predicates.
In Ex. 22 the predicate saq “white” precedes the subject taq le ja “The houses”.
When referencing animate nouns the agreement marker e before the predicate is preferred as in Ex. 25. It is less likely to occur with plants as in Ex. 24, which are typified as less animate than animals. Number agreement may be the sole plural marker in some cases, however, where plural marking on nouns is absent as in Ex. 26.
In Ex. 26 the proclitic e is the sole plural marker as the proclitic taq does not appear preceding the subject le tz’i’ “the dogs”.
In Ex. 27 the glotal stop agreement proclitic following the first vowel on the predicate utz is the sole plural marker as well.
In Ex. 28 both the predicate nima’q and the subject altomab’ bear plural markers. Nima’q in particular is triply marked: First, the plural suffix –aq, and second the plural proclitic e preceding nima’q as well as the glottal stop before the q in –aq (see above). Multiple plural marking is not uncommon in K’iche’.
The agreement proclitic e precedes wal “my kids”. Note the plural marking on the pronoun a’re “they”.
Note the agreement proclitics (e and glottal stop) on both plural nouns in the predicate etijoxelab’ and in the subject le a’chijab’.
In contrast to Ex. 31, the subject achijab’ does not show an agreement proclitic in Ex. 32.
In existential sentences the agreement proclitic e optionally precedes the existential k’o as in Ex. 34. The cardinal number kajib’ “four” marks the subject as plural. Possessed nouns such as as uk’ajol “his children” are not pluralized even when referencing human beings.
Finally, there is an additional plural proclitic with a diminutive, affective connotation: staq, as in Ex. 36 below. Do not confuse with taq, which is a distributive/diminutive as well (Ex. 37).
Transform the following sentences into plural. Then translate them into English:
- E k’o le ajk’ay taq prut pa le k’ayb’al.
- Kab’in le tz’i’ pa le b’e.
- K’o jun nimaja pa le uk’u’x tinamit.
- Xinch’aw ruk le ajk’ay taq atzyaq.
- La k’o le awuj? Je’, k’o nuwuj.
- Ajk’ay pix le wachi’il.
- K’o jun achi pa le k’ayb’al.