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Tïjonïk 40 Nujolom, nuq’ab’ (My head, my hand): Nouns (According to Possession)


In K’iche’ some nouns change their form when possessed. Here is an overview what can happen when nouns are possessed in K’iche’.


Pascual goes over the parts of the body:

In the following short video, Nela goes over some of the parts of the body, possessed in the first person:

In the following video, Mareike asks some of the students if one of their body parts hurts:

  1. Nouns with no change when possessed.

Most nouns, simple and derived, do not change form when possessed:

book nuwuj my book
mat apop your mat
elote, corn cob waj my elote (fresh ear of corn)
  1. Nouns that show change in vowel length when possessed.
    In dialects in K’iche’ that show phonemic vowel length, the short last vowel of the noun will change into a long vowel when possessed. This is not represented in written K’iche’ in our class (in the following table, long vowels are in bold).
beans nukinaq’ my beans
money upwaq her money
cow iwakax your cow (you all)
fish ukar his/her fish
dog atz’i your dog
rock kabaj their rock


  1. Nouns that drop a suffix when possessed (-aj)
    Most K’iche’ words for parts of the body drop the suffix –aj  when possessed.
 -ij                            back
aqanaj                 leg, foot
iwaqan your (pl) leg
q’ab’aj                 arm, hand
nuq’ab’ my arm, my hand
uwi’ q’ab’aj        fingers
uwi’ nuq’ab’  his/her fingers
qulaj                    neck
kiqul  their neck
jolomaj                head
nujolom  my head
tza’maj               nose
utza’m  his/her/its nose
xkinaj                 ear
qaxkin  our ear
chi’aj                   mouth
nuchi’  my mouth
xik’                      wing
uxik’ his/her/its wing
wi’aj                    hair
 awi’  your hair
wachaj               face
 nuwach  my face
b’aq’wachaj       eye
 kib’aq’wach their eye
pamaj                   stomach
 pam la  your stomach (formal)
k’u’xaj                  chest, center
nuk’u’x  my chest
palajaj                  face
 apalaj  your face
ch’ekaj                 knee
 nuch’ek  my knee
ch’u’kaj                 elbow
 nuch’u’k  my elbow
ware’aj   teeth; edge (of knife)
nuware’  my teeth
rij his back

Plural of complex body parts + possession

le uwi’ q’ab’aj finger
le uwi’ taq q’ab’aj fingers
le uwi’ le nuq’ab’ my finger
le uwi’ taq le nuq’ab’ my fingers
K’ax le uwi’ taq le nuq’ab’ My fingers hurt.

Non-body parts that drop –aj suffix when possessed

q’u’aj blanket nuq’u’ (also: nuk’ul) my blanket
b’i’aj  name nub’i’ my name
makaj  sin; fault amak your sin; your fault
k’asaj  debt nuk’as my debt
sokaj  nest; bed kisok their bed
ch’akataj  cushion; pillow nuch’akat  my pillow

Kinship terms that drop a suffix when possessed: The unpossessed form is used when talking about those kinds relationship as an absolute, without indicating a relationship in particular.

achajilom husband (pl.: e achajilom) wachajil my husband
ixoqilom wife (pl.: e ixoqilom) wixoqil my wife
alk’walaxel (-ab’) child (within a family) walk’ual my child (pl: e walk’ual)
ji’axel (-ab’) son-in-law nuji’ my son-in-law
chaq’ixel (-ab’) younger siblings (same sex) nuchaq’ mi younger sibling
k’ajoloxel child (of father) nuk’ajol my son (of father)
ula’xel guest, visitor wula’ my guest
alb’atz (-ib’) daughter-in-law walib’ my daughter –in-law
Qajawixel, k’ajoloxel, uxlab’ixel  Father, Son, and Holy Sprit

“Inalienable possession” (Add suffix –Vl)
 Inalienable possession indicates an intrinsic relationship with the possessor; or it describes a quality of the possessor; the suffix indicates that the noun is now inalienable:   These nouns indicate a close relationship with the possessor nouns. The same suffix also serves to derive abstract nouns.

ib’och’ veins rib’och’il his veins/ veins belonging to her
sib’ smoke usib’el le q’aq’ the smoke of the fire
kik’ blood nuk’ik’el my blood/ the blood belonging to me
ajaw lord rajawal the lord of/over
b’aq bone nub’aqil my body
utz  + wachaj  good + face rutzil wachaj a greeting
che’ + -ij tree + back uch’e’el wij  my spinal column

Nouns that are always possessed. These nouns usually appear only as a possessed noun:

-xaq leaf/leaves uxaq che’ tree leaves
-a’ foot wa’ my foot
-ij back, shell, skin rij  its shell, skin, back
-je’ tail uje’ koj lion’s tail
-al child of mother ral le al We’l We’l’s child
-achalal sibling (pl: e –achalal) e wachalal my sibligins
-achi’l friend (pl.: e –achi’l) e qachi’il our friends

A few K’iche’ nouns have a distinct (suppletive) form when they are possessed.

ja a house (building)  r-o’ch his/her/its house
q’u’aj blanket nuq’u’/nuk’ul  my blanket

Possessed compound nouns: u-NOUN+ NOUN
There are numerous compound words in K’iche’ made up of two nouns, a possessed noun followed by the possessor noun. When these compound nouns are possessed the possessive pronoun is added to the second element:

uchi’ ja door (lit. the house’s mouth) uchi’ wo’ch my door
uwi’ ja  roof (lit. the house’s hair) uwi’ awo’ch  your roof
uxaq wuj page(s) (lit. the book’s leaves) uxaq nuwuj  the page(s) of my book

Note: remember that -o’ch is used for possessed “house”, also in a compound noun

upa ja   family  upa wo’ch  my family

Possessed compound noun: attribute (+a) + noun

Kem + tz’ib’ kematz’ib’ nukematz’ib’ (neologism) my computer
Nim + q’ij nimaq’ij unimaq’ij its feast day; party
Saq + po’t saqapo’t asaqapo’t  your white huipil

Possessed compound noun : noun + noun (couplet)
In couplets, one concept is expressed by two ideas, both of which contribute to the understanding of the whole. This rhetoric device is very common in Mayan languages, especially in ceremonial or more formal speech. When a couplet appears in a possessed context, both elements will be possessed:

Ati’t “grandmother” + mam “grandfather ancestors, forefathers qati’t qamam our ancestors, forefathers
Nan “mother” + tat “father parents qanan qatat  our parents
 Il “sin” + mak “fault  trespasses qil qamak our trespasses



With a partner, practice the parts of the body, both possessed and unpossessed, and ask each other if they hurt.

For extra practice on body parts, both possessed and unpossessed, you may watch the following video again: