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Tïjonïk 33 Are le nunan xb’anowik (My mother made it)
Antipassive II


In K’iche’ the position in front of the verb is reserved to indicate “special attention” or “emphasis”, also called Focus or Topic. The default word order in K’iche’ is VS for intransitive phrases and VOA for transitive phrases, all nominal arguments follow the verb. However, all parts of the phrase may be moved in front of the verb to put some emphasis on this particular part.

Depending on what kind of emphasis is wanted by the speaker, and depending on which part of the phrase is moved in front of the verb, other changes may take place in the phrase.

Topic describes “what the conversation/text/discourse is about”. In K’iche’ the object or subject/agent of a phrase may be moved in front of the verb when done so to allow for a smooth continuation of Topic. No other changes to the verb or phrase are required.

Focus describes information that may be new or contrary to the presumed knowledge. When the Agent of a transitive phrase is focused and moved in front of the verb, the verb has to change into focus antipassive voice (APII). Objects (always from a transitive phrase) may be moved in front of the verb without triggering any other change in verb morphology.


Nela and Silveria talk about who made Nela’s hupil:



While the Absolutive Antipassive  (aka Antipassive I) is used primarily in contexts in which the object is demoted or phased out, the Focus Antipassive (Antipassove II) is used when the Agent (or subject of a transitive clause) is focused. Agent Focus here means that in the text or discourse, special attention is shifted to the Agent or subject of a transitive clause. Other parts of the phrase may be focused as well, but when it affects the Agent of a transitive clause, the verb in K’iche’ has to signal this through a different morphology.

In the following English phrase the Agent (in bold) is in a contrastive focus; notice the “it is …., who…” construction, which can often, but not always, be employed to translate these types of phrases.

It was Thomas who called me yesterday.

K’iche’ grammar reflects this focus by special verb morphology and by changing default word order:

(1) The verb has to be put into focus- antipassive voice

(2) The focused part of speech moves in front of the verb and is often preceded by are (default word order for transitive clauses is VOA).

Are le Max xinch’aben iwir.



Derived transitives (non-CVC): the antipassive II is the same as the absolutive antipassive : -Vn-(ik) 

Root transitives (CVC):
the antipassive II is formed by the suffix –ow(ik),
except for CuC roots, where the suffix is –uw(ik):

tij  > tijow k’ot  > k’otow k’ut  > k’utuw

Root transitive (CV’)
If a root transitive ends in a glottal stop (su’), the antipassive stem is C-V’w.
The vowel changes according to the rules above:
Ca,e, o’  -> -o’w;
Cu’ -> -u’w;
Please note that Ci’ roots change to –Cyo’w

su’   >     su’w to wipe
to’    >     to’w to help
sa’    >     so’w to dry (before… the fire/the sun)
ya’    >     yo’w (yo’w becomes yo’ at the end of a phrase) to give
ti’      >     tyo’w  to bite (dogs)

Use of the Focus Antipassive (APII)
The antipassive II is used for the following:

  1. Contrastive focus on the agent (it was Max who…)
  2. Negation of the agent (It wasn’t Max who)
  3. Question of the agent (Who was the one who did this?)
  4. in relative clauses (agent) (the man who did this)
  5. When the agent noun phrase involves incorporation

To focus an Agent, the noun phrase is pulled out and put in front of the verb. The word order for the Focus Antipassive is AVO.

For the Focus Antipassive, one of the participants, A or O, must be third person (singular or plural), or lal/alaq.

If both of A and O are non-third person/lal/alaq, active voice is used instead


In xatinch’ayo.
It was me who hit you


Treatment of objects in Antipassive II
In contrast to the Absolutive Antipassive, where (underlying objects) can only appear as an oblique phrase (with ch-E-e(ch)), the Focus Antipassive allows a direct object in the phrase.

However, the antipassive is morphologically intransitive, therefore has only one (1) slot for a pronoun, and marked only with the SET B pronouns. How to solve the problem to have two arguments, agent and object, but only one slot to fill?

In the focus antipassive  (AP II) the absolutive pronoun (Set B)  agrees with whichever noun is higher in the “animacy hierarchy”:

1st, 2nd > 3rd  plural  > 3rd sing  (with 2nd person formal behaving like 3rd sing)

In xinch’ayow le achi.
It was me who hit the man

Are ri achi xinch’ayowik.
It was the man who hit me

For non-CVC or derived transitive verbs, the focus antipassive looks exactly the same as the absolutive antipassive: -Vn (ik).

Kinuloq’oj le nutat.
My father loves me (active)

Le nutat kaloq’on chwe.
My father loves me (absolutive antipassive/API)

Are le nutat kinloq’onik.
It is my father who loves me (focus antipassive)

Xinaxib’ij pa b’e.
You scared me on the road (active)

At xinxib’in pa b’e.
It was you who scared me on the road

It was stated above that the focus antipassive may only be used if one of the A or O noun-phrases is a third person. This rule applies when marking agreement with prefixes. Since the 2nd person formal is not marked with a prefix it counts as a third person. Agent focus verbs may be marked with two non-third persons, if one of them is 2nd person formal.

Xinto’ la.
You helped me/I helped you (active).

Lal xinto’wik.
It was you (formal) who helped me

In xinto’w la                It was me who helped you (formal)

A’re xeto’w alaq.
They helped you (formal)

K’AK’A TAQ TZIJVocabulary
kem(o) (vtr) to weave (tejer)
loq'(o) (vtr) to buy
k’ayij (vtr) to sell
b’atz thread
k’ol (=sib’alaj) very
 ch’abej chik coloquial: talk later! (talk to you later)

Fill in the blank spaces on the chart with the appropriate phrases.

Kutz’ib’aj jun wuj ri a Max Max wrote a book.
Are ri a Max katz’ib’an jun wuj
Xuchup ri q’aq’ ri jab’ The rain put out the fire
It was the rain that put out the fire
Xinaxib’ij pa b’e You scared me on the road
It was you who scared me on the road
Xujuti’ ri kumatz The snake bit us
Are ri kumatz xujtyo’wik
Ri kumatz xtyo’n chqech
 Xujuxib’ij ri koj  The lion scared us
 It was the lion that scared us
Xixkilaq’apuj ri ixoqib’ The women hugged you
A’re ri ixoqib’ xixlaq’apunik
 The women hugged you all