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Tïjonïk 34 Ri ixjut (The worm)
Demonstrative Articles


The indefinite article in K’iche’ jun is equivalent to English “a”, but can also be used for “one”

Definite articles: K’iche’ uses three definite articles we, le or ri. They correspond somewhat to English “this”, “that” and “the”. Which one is chosen depends mainly on physical or imagined closeness to the speaker and visibility of object spoken about.

In addition  ri/le/we articles do not only refer to physical closeness, but can also refer to temporal distance: ri indicates things in the past, or not yet done; le refers to things recently done, with relevance to the present; we refers to things just done, going on right now.

It is important to remember that the use of these demonstratives is a matter of personal perspective, and not necessarily something absolute.  A speaker can indicate emotional closeness to an event through the use of a specific demonstrative article.

“Default article”: The default article in Nahuala is “le”.


The following is a story about a worm and its transformation:


Let’s take a look at the use of demonstrative articles:

WE is used for objects that are very close to speaker, you could touch it.


Utz we nutz’i’.
The (my) dog (right here next to me) is good.


We achi xusipaj chwe jun p’ot.
This man gave me a huipil as a present

LE is used for objects that are not so close, but visible to speaker


Utz le nutz’i’.
The (my) dog (in my field of vision) is good.

RI is used for objects that are not visible to the speaker. In stories ri often refers to items already  known, or things that were introduced earlier. In other K’iche’ varieties ri seems to be the default article, whereas Nahualá seems to prefer le.


utz ri nutz’i’.
This (my) dog (not in my field of vision) is good


These ri/le/we articles also serve as relative pronouns

we  who, which (right here next to me, or just done)


We achi we…
This man, who..


Utz we nutz’i’ we xisipaj chwe.
This dog here, that you gave me, is very good


Utz we achi we xinkunanik.
This is the good man who cured me

le  who, which (there, visible, or recently done)


Le achi le…
The man who…


Utz le nutz’i’ le xisipaj chwe.
Good is the dog that you gave me.


Utz le achi le xinkunanik.
The man who cured me is good.


Xpe le achi le xinkunaj iwir.
The man whom I cured yesterday came


La xpe le achi le xinkunan iwir?
Did the man who cured me come yesterday?

ri  who, which (not in my field of vision; not present to the speaker; not yet done, or done in the past)


Ri achi ri…
The man who…


Utz ri nutz’i’ ri xisipaj chwe.
The dog that you all gave me is good.

Although it is possible to pair one type of article with different relative pronouns, some combinations are preferred:

(Article) we is almost always matched up with we (relative pronoun)


We achi we xusipaj chwe jun po’t xkamik.
The man who gave me a huipil died.

A default combination is le followed by ri


Le wuj ri xasipaj chwe sib’alaj utz kinwilo.
I really like the book that you gave me.


Ri + wi: locative relative pronoun (where)
Ri (relative pronoun) together with wi results in a locative relative pronoun with the meaning “Where:


Le nimatijob’al ri kak’ut wi ri qach’ab’al, sib’alaj naj k’o wi.
The school where I teach is very far.


Jas(a) can combine with  we/le/ri  to introduce subordinate object clauses:


Chitatab’ej jas we kimb’ij.
Listen to that which (right now) I say.


Chitatab’ej jas le kimb’ij.
Listen to which (here and now) I say


Chitatab’ej jasa ri kimb’ij.
Listen to what I say.


Chinimaj jas we kimb’ij chiwe.
Obey what I am saying right here to you!


K’AK’A TAQ TZIJVocabulary
nimaj (vtr) to obey; heed
chakuj (vit) to work
kam(ik) to die
kej horse
ak’al child

Translate the following phrases to English:

  1. Xkam ri kitat le ak’alab’ ojer.
  2. Utz we ak’al, kinunimaj.
  3. K’ax le xb’ij la che le achi.
  4. La maja kape ri itat pa juyub’?
  5. Ojer katin ri ixoq pa ja’ ronojel q’ij.
  6. Kamik kechakun pa tinamit le winaq le xek’ayin le kej chwe.
  7. Ri ixoq ri xixkunanik, sib’alaj kixuloq’oj.
  8. Kaqajat’ij le tz’i’ ri xkamisan ri jun me’s.
  9. Xul le achi ri xch’ab’en la kab’ijir.
  10. Kunimaj le ak’al jas ri kab’ix che rumal ri utat.
  11. Na utz ta we kinchakuj
  12. Kaq’i’taj le utat le ak’al che le kub’ij re ralk’wal.

Translate the following phrases to K’iche’. Choose an article or relative pronoun which seems appropriate (there is not necessarily one correct answer):

  1. This man cured me a long time ago
  2. This is the man who cured me
  3. The man who spoke to you yesterday will come today in the afternoon.
  4. The horse, which you sold to me, is sick now.
  5. The children obeyed that which their father said to them.
  6. That boy who left the day before yesterday works here.
  7. The father of my wife died a long time ago.
  8. Has your older brother still not arrived from town?
  9. It is necessary that the man who gave me this horse go with us to the court house.
  10. The child is sick again whom you cured a long time ago.
  11. Did you listen to what the teacher said?
  12. Tell me what the mayor said (just now).