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Tïjonïk 15 Kinusik’ij le nunan (My mother calls me)
Transitive Verbs


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


In this video, al Mari’y 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 different 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 or agent. But unlike Spanish and English, in K’iche’ they are also marked for the object. This means that verbs carry morphemes referring to 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
Kinusik’ij le nunan.
K-in-u-sik’ij le nu-nan
K     –  in     –   u  –   sik’ij         le            nu  –  nan
Inc  –  1sB  – 3sA-   call         art.     1sPos  –  mamá
My mother calls me

Abbreviations: Inc = Incompletive Aspect; 1sB First Person Singular, Set B; 3sA = Third person singular, set A; 1sPoss = First person singular, possessive

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

Ex. 2
Xixqach’ab’ej iwir.
X-ix-qa-ch’ab’ej iwir.
X         –    ix      –  qa   –   ch’ab’ej    iwir
Comp. –  2pB  –  1pA  –   speak     yesterday
We spoke to you all yesterday.

Abbreviations: Comp. = Completive Aspect; 2pB = Second person plural, Set B; 1pA = First person plural, Set A.

In Ex. 2 the prefix /x-/ is the completive marker; /-ix-/  marks the second person plural object “you all”; /-qa-/ marks the subject, first person plural “we” and /-ch’ab’ej/ 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 sing.) -sik’ij (to call) Ex. 1
-at- (2nd person sing.) -a- (2nd person sing.)
x- (completive) -Ø- (3rd person sing.) -u- (3rd person sing.)
-oj- (1st person pl.) -qa- (1st person pl.)  -ch’ab’ej(to speak to) Ex. 2
Note: The weak
/a/ in ka- disappears
when the object pronoun starts 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 (C = consonant; V = vowel). In phrase-final position they take a phrase-final marker: /-u/ if the verbal root’s vowel is /u/ and /-o/ in all other cases.

Ex. 3
La xaloq’ jun alej?
la x-Ø-a-loq’ jun a-lej
la       x     –   Ø   –   a   –   loq’         jun       a  –   lej
Int. Comp.-3sB-2sA  –  to buy      a         2sPos-tortilla
Did you buy (yourself) a tortilla?

Abbreviations: Int = Interrogative particle; Comp. = Completive aspect; 3sB = Third person singular, Set B; 2sA =Second person singular, Set A; 2sPoss = Second person singular, Possessive.

Je’, xinloq’o.
je’ x-Ø-in-loq’-o
je’    x  –     Ø   –     in    – loq’    -o
yes Comp-  3sB- 1sA  –  buy-  PFM
Yes, I bought it.

Abbreviations: Comp. = Completive aspect; 3sB = Third person singular, Set B; 1sA = First person singular, Set A;  PFM = 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.”

Ej. 4
La xib’an le ichak?
La x-Ø-i-b’an le i-chak?
La  –      x     –     Ø   –    i    –  b’an    le          i      –   chak.
Int. – Comp.  – 3sB – 2pA – to do  art.  2pPoss  –  work.
Did you all do your work?

Je’ xqab’ano.
Je’ x-qa-b’an-o.
Yes     x    –   Ø  – qa – b’an   –  o.
Yes Comp-3sB-1sA- to do  –  PF.
Yes, we did it. 

Na xqab’an taj.
Na x-Ø-qa-b’an taj.
Na      x –   Ø   –  qa   – b’an    taj.
Neg1  x – 3sB – 1pA – to do Neg2.
No, we didn’t do it. 

Notice, in example 4, that when the verb is in phrase final position, it takes on a phrase final marker, /-o/ in this case. Also, Notice that because “chak” “work” is third person singular, the marker Ø (zero) occupies the place of the object.

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

Ex. 4
La xinutzukuj le tijoxel?
La x-in-u-tzukuj le tijoxel?
La       x     –    in  –   u   – tzukuj          le    tijoxel?
Int. Comp. – 1sB – 3sA  -to look for art.  student?
Did the student look for me?

Je’, xatutzukuj.
Je’, x-at-u-tzukuj.
Je’     x      –  at  –    u    –  tzukuj.
Yes, comp. – 2sB – 3sA-  to look for.
Yes, he/she looked for you. 

Na xatutzukuj taj.
Na x-at-u-tzukuj taj.
Na             x      –  at   –    u   –  tzukuj            taj.
Neg 1.   Comp. – 2sB –  3sA – to look for   Neg 2.
He/she did not look for you.

In Ex. 5 the derived transitive/tzukuj/ “talk” does not take a phrase-final marker, unlike /-loq’(o)/ in Ex. 4.

Third person plural object: When the third person plural object marker /-e/ 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’
k  –  e    –   in  – ch’ab’ej   le   ak’alab’
Inc.-3pB-1sA – to talk art. children.
I speak to the children. 


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

Ex. 6
Na xinwil ta le me’s pa ja.
na x-Ø-inw-il  ta le me’s pa ja.
Na            x    –   Ø  –  inw-il            ta       le  me’s   pa   ja
Neg1  comp. – 3sB – 1sA-see        Neg2  art.   cat   loc. house
I did not see the cat at the house.

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

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

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

Aspect Object (Set B) Subject (Set A) Root
k(a) – (incompletive) -in- (1st person sing.) -inw- (1st person sing.) -il(o) (to see) Ex. 6
-at- (2nd person sing.) -aw- (2nd person sing.)
x- (completive) -Ø- (3rd person sing.) -r- (3rd person sing.)
-oj- (1st person pl.) -q- (1st person pl.)  -iyej (to wait) Ex. 7
Note: The weak
/a/ in ka- disappears
when the object pronoun starts with a vowel
-ix- (2nd person pl.) -iw- (2nd person pl.)
-e- (3rd person pl.) -k- (3rd person pl.)

Reverential address: In reverential or formal address, as we saw before with intransitive verbs, the particles la (singular) or alaq (plural) are added after the verb.

Ex. 8
Xinsik’ij la
x-in-Ø-sik’ij la
x    –  in  – Ø – sik’ij    la
Comp.-1sB-Ø-call 2sAF
You (formal) called me.

Abbreviation: 2sA(F) = Second person singular, Set A formal.

In Ex. 8 the marker la indexes both the subject and reverence/formality towards him/her. Note that a zero morpheme Ø replaces the set A marker within the verb, since in formal constructions, the marker comes after the verb.

Ex. 9

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

Abbreviation: 2sA(F) = Second person plural, Set A (formal).

In Ex. 9 a zero appears in the position of the subject marker, and the particle alaq follows the verb.

Ex. 10
Xesik’ij la
x    –   e    –  Ø – sik’ij       la
Comp.- 3pB – Ø – call  2sA(F) 
You (formal) called them.

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-tzukuj alaq
Ka –  Ø   –  ki  –   tzukuj         alaq
Inc.-  Ø  – 3sA – look for  2pA(F)
They are look for you all (formal).

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

K’AK’A TAQ TZIJVocabulary
patan Mayan ceremony
k’ache’laj forest
che’ tree, jail
ne’ baby
we girlfriend/boyfriend
ch’aweb’al telephone
k’olb’al pwaq bank
kape coffee
kej horse
b’an(o) (vtr) to do
eqaj (vtr) to carry on one’s back
tzaq(o) (vtr) to drop, 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
ta (to)* (vtr)  oír, escuchar
tzukuj (vtr) to look for something
chajij (vtr) to take care of
loq’oj (vtr) to love

Translate the following sentences into English:

  1. Xinwil le patan.
  2. Kareqaj  le une’ le nan.
  3. Kinch’ab’ej le we pa ch’aweb’al.
  4. We kelaq’aj la le ulew, kab’e la pa che’.
  5. Xinwoq’ej le nutz’i’ aretaq xkamik.
  6. La xesaj la le rajil pa le k’olb’al pwaq?
  7. Xqab’an le qachak pa le tijob’al.

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 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.