ISSN : 2231-4989

The Morphology of Khasi Verbs and their Semantics-Saralin A. Lyngdoh

Abstract: This paper presents the morphology of certain types of verbs in Khasi that are analysed from the perspectives of their meanings. The semantics of light verbs and the semantics of the different copulas in Khasi are described extensively to show that they have a semantic impact on the syntactic structure of Khasi.

 

Introduction:

Khasi as a Mon-Khmer language belonging to the Austro-Asiatic family has been first found mentioned in Grierson (1904). Nagaraja (1985) claims that the Khasis are supposed to have migrated from the South-East of Asia. Their culture, ethnicity and language show close affinity with other Austro-Asiatic branches found in South-East Asia. Khasi society is a matrilineal society. The lineage comes from the mother and the maternal uncle plays an important role in family matters. in the recent classification made by Diffloth (2005), the Khasis are being classified under the name of ‘Khasian’, a branch of the Khasi-Khmuic of the Austro-Asiatic family.

 

Root or stem verbs take bound or related morphemes that either retain class distinction or change the grammatical category of the words.

1. Nominalizer + verb

jiN- yap

Nomz-die

‘Death’

2. Agentive + verb

nN- khrN

Nomz-beg

‘Beggar’

 

3. The morphology compound verbs

The importance of bringing into the discussion the discussion of compound verb morphology in this unit is to show that Khasi allows verb concatenation or compound verbs only to a limited extent. Not more than two verbs can be incorporated together. If in a sequence there occur three verbs, two will always function as main verbs while the one associated with either of the main verb, is a light verb. The light verb in the following sentence is associated to the second main verb.

(50) u

pha/

pön

sum

3sm

ask (V)

cause (v)

bathe (V)

‘He ordered to be bathed’ (He asked someone to bathe him)

1.2.7.4. The Semantics of light verbs

This unit discusses the types of light verbs and their semantics based on the morphology of verbs shown in unit.3 above. This unit is divided into two sub-units. Sub-unit 4.1 focuses on light verbs that indicate verbal activities that are done out of personal desire (technically volitional) and sub-unit.4.2 focuses on those that are done out of (i) an external force or (ii) an inner force which cannot be controlled (both are technically non- volitional).

4.1. Volitional

(a) Activities that are done willingly out of self desire or self will.

(b) Activities done willingly as favours for others without anyone’s demand.

 

Category of verbs indicating volitional actions:

 

(51) EC

Na-sait

jaiø

pro

1s- wash

cloth

‘I wash cloths’

(52) EC

Na-pin-sait

jaiø

ya-u-jn

pro

1s- caus-wash

cloth

Dat-3sm-john

‘I wash cloths for John’ (volitional)

4.2. Non-Volitional

(a) Activities done because of an internal force that arises out of a natural or biological need; such that they become controllable for a short duration and beyond that duration, uncontrollable.

(b) Activities performed due to an external pressure exerted by other individual(s) and not out of self-desire.

Category of verbs indicating non-volitional actions:

Group A: sam is semantically closer to the meaning of ‘urge’ in English. sam is prefixed only to verbs that indicate actions that are results of force or pressure.

(53) sam- rkhE

NV- laugh

‘Urge to laugh’

(54) sam-mut

NV-nose

‘Feel like smiling’

(55) sam-o/(in case of children) / sam-Sabar (formal)/ sam-painkhana (informal)/ sam-

eit (highly informal)

‘Urge to defecate’

(56) sam pi ( formal)/ sam - Sabar( highly formal)/ sam - juN (informal)

‘Urge to urinate’

(57) sam - thia/

‘Sleepy’

(58) sam - jirhia/

‘Urge to sneeze’

(59) sam - prE

‘Urge to vomit’

(60) sam - sinria/

‘Urge to sneeze’

Group B: The light verb used here is the same as the light verb in the example in (46) above. It also has the same meaning as causative. However, in the following example the causation is an unwilling activity of one of the participants.

(61) u

pön

sum

3sm

caus

bathe

‘He bathes someone by force ’

(62) u

pön

iap

ya-u-ksew

3sm

caus

die

Acc-3sm-dog

‘He killed the dog’

(63) u

-pön

-ya-sn/

ya-ki

3sm

cause

VC-join

Acc-3p

‘He joins them together’

(64) u

-pön

bam-pisa

3sm

caus

eat-money

‘He bribed someone’

Group C: The verb pha/ ‘ask’ or ‘send’ in Khasi is a light verb. It also carries the meaning of causation.

(65) u

pha/

- sum

ya-u-bill

3sm

ask

bathe

Acc-3sm-bill

‘He asks Bill to take a bath’

When a noun is incorporated to a verb it behaves like a verb and the other verbs associated to the incorporated noun become light verb. In (60) below, the noun yEw ‘market’ gets incorporated into the already existing complex verb making both verbs light verbs.

(66) u

- pha/

-lEit

- yEw

ya-u-bill

3sm

Send

go

market

Acc-3sm-bill

‘He sends Bill marketing’

5. Copulas and their constructions

For many years till date, school grammar has always translated the English word is into three words:

(i) lN

(ii) dn

(iii) dEi

These three items, though being translated as is in English, and occur in position of is in English equivalent sentences, are found to be distinct in their semantic interpretation. Moreover, substitution by either is completely impermissible. They each seem to have been grammaticalized or derived from other words.

5.1. l  N

(i) The closer English translation is ‘be’ or ‘become’

(ii) It becomes a Noun when a Nominalizer morpheme is prefixed to it for example:

jiN- lN

Nomz-be

‘Character’

(iii) It can also take a Causative prefix:

pön- lN

caus-be

‘Organise/ make/ form’

(iv) It also functions as a main verb for example:

(67) ka- mitiN

ka-la-lN

3sf- meeting

3sf-Perf- start

‘The meeting has happened (started)’

(68) ka- mitiN

ka-la-lN

minnin

3sf- meeting

3sf-Perf- happen

yesterday

‘The meeting was held yesterday’

The following sentences are indicative of the fact that lN is a copula which is derived in some sense from other words:

(69) u-

lN

nN-hikai

3sm

be

Agent-teach

‘He is (a) teacher’

(70) u-

lN

u-nN-ia-lEh-phutbl

ba-paunam

bha

3sm

be

3sm-Agent-VC-do-football

rel.pro-famous

very

‘He is a very famous football player’

(71) u-

lN

piyn

3sm

be

peon

‘He is (a) peon’

 

l  N seems to indicate a character that has become of a person, or a state of being that has been acquired by an individual.

(72) u-

lN

phisar

Ãm

dEi

piyn

3sm

be

officer

Neg

right

peon

‘He is an officer not a peon’

(73) u-

lN

phisar

ba

dn

burm

3sm

be

officer

rel.pro

have

respect

‘He is an officer who is respectable’/ ‘He is a respectable officer’

(74) u-

lN

dktr

3sm

be

doctor

‘He is (a) doctor (by profession or he has become a doctor)’

(75) u

la-lN

dktr

minta

3sm

Perf-be

doctor

now

‘He has become a doctor now’

(76) u-

lN

u-ba

jEmnud

3sm

be

3sm-rel.pro

gentle

‘He is a gentle person’ (by personal character)

(77) u-

lN

u-ba

sniEw

bha

3sm

be

3sm-rel.pro

bad

very

‘He is a very bad person’ (by personal character)

In the following sentences, lN describes the nature or character of a person (but as an assumption or a nature that a person shows but that he may or may not possess it).

(78) u-

lN

u-ba

jEmnud

ha-khmat

jN-Na

3sm

be

3sm-rel.pro

gentle

Loc-eyes

Poss-1s

‘He is a gentle person in my eyes’

 

5.2. d  n

(i) It is derived from the verb dn ‘have/possess’ as in:

(79) u-

dn

ka-yiN

kaba-hE/

3sm

have

3sf-house

3sf-rel.pro-big

‘He has a big house’

(ii) It has an existential meaning in subjectless sentences. Khasi has no expletives.

(80) la- dn

u-wEi

u-si/em

Perf-be

3sm-one

3sm-king

‘There was a king’/’There existed a king’

(81) dn

u-briEw

ha-kpEr

be

3sm-man

Loc-garden

‘There (exists) is a man in the garden’

(82) u- dn

ha-yiN

3sm-be

Loc-home

‘He is at home’ (He is present at home)

(83) u-nE

u-jiNthuN

u-dn

ha-man-ki-jaka

3sm-Dem

3sm-plant

3sm-be

Loc-every-3p-place

‘This plant exists everywhere’

5.3. d E i

(i). It expresses modality of necessity.

(ii). It is derived from a word which has the lexical meaning ‘right’ opposite to ‘wrong’

For instance: dEi ‘right/correct’ vs. Ãm- dE i “not right/not correct’

(84) ka-jubab

ka-lN

ka-ba

dEi

3sf-answer

3sf-be

3sf-rel.pro

right

‘The answer is right’

(85) ka-jubab

ka-lN

ka-ba-m

dEi

3sf-answer

3sf-be

3sf-rel.pro-Neg

right

‘The answer is not right’

The sentences below show dEi as a copula

(86) u-

dEi

u-nNhikai

Ãm

u-khinna/

3sm

be

3sm-teacher

Neg

3sm-student

‘He is a teacher not a student’

(87) u-m

dEi

u-nNhikai

3sm-Neg

be

3sm-teacher


‘He is not a teacher’

(88) u-

dEi

u-nNhikai

ba

la-timmEn

3sm

be

3sm-teacher

rel.pro

Perf-old

‘He is a teacher who has grown old’

The following sentences show that the different copulas above have different semantic interpretations.

(89) EC

u-lN

dktr

pro

3sm-be

doctor

‘He is (became) a doctor’ (acquired doctorship)

(90) EC

u-dEi

u-dktr

pro

3sm-be

3sm-doctor

‘He is a doctor’ (Without doubt he is a doctor, not a teacher...)

(91)

u-dn

u-dktr

 

3sm-be

3s-doctor

‘There is a doctor’ (associated with English expletive construction)

(92) EC

u-dn

ha-yiN

pro

3sm-be

Loc-home

‘He is at home’

The following sentences show that the absence or presence of copula is syntactic. Sentence (93) contains an adjective. However, the adjective here functions like a verb. Sentence (94) is a predicative adjectival phrase and (95) is an adjectival phrase that behaves as a relative clause. The syntactic structure of adjectival phrases is discussed in detail in Chapter 5. Both (94) and (95) show adjectival clauses as relative clauses.

(93) u-jn

u-bha

3sm-john

3sm-good

‘John is good’

(94) u-jn

u-lN

u-ba-bha

3sm-john

3sm-be

3sm-rel.pro.good

‘John is a good person’

(95) u-jn

u-ba-bha

3sm-john

3sm-rel.pro.good

‘John (who) is good’

6. Adjectives as Verbs

Adjectives are found to function as verbs as (89) above indicate. In the phrases where it functions as a verb, it can be interpreted as a process rather than a quality. Moreover, like verbs, adjectives too take agreement markers, tense as well as negative particles. The following sentences illustrate this analyses. The closest meaning of these sentences are kept in parenthesis since they cannot be literary translated to English.

(96) Na

-jrN

ki-kjat

1s

tall/long

3p-leg

(My legs are being long)

(97) Na

-sniEw

ki-khmat

1s

bad

3p-eye

(My eyes are being bad)

Compare (96) and (97) above with the adjectival phrases in (98) and (99) below. (100) and (101) show that adjectives take tense as well as negative particle respectively.

(98) ki-kjat

jN-Na

ki-jrN

3p-leg

Poss-1s

3p-long

‘My legs are long’

(99) ki-khmat

jN-Na

ki-sniEw

3p-leg

Poss-1s

3p-long

‘My eyes are bad’

(100) ki-kjat

jN-Na

ki-n-jrN

3p-leg

Poss-1s

3p-fut-long

‘My legs will be long’

(101) ki-khmat

jN-Na

ki-m-sniEw

3p-leg

Poss-1s

3p-Neg-long

‘My eyes are not bad’

Khasi is rich in subject agreement markers. All nouns in the subject position whether definite or indefinite take agreement markers. The same morphemes that are prefixes attached to subject nouns and verbs for concordance between subjects and verbs function as strong pronominals in object positions, if they stand alone without being associated or attached to any noun. Compare (102) and (103) below:

(102) EC

Na-iyet

ya

u

pro

1s-love

Acc

3sm

‘I love him’

(103) EC

Na-iyet

ya

u-jn

pro

1s-love

Acc

3sm-john

‘I love John’

Conclusion:.

Khasi is highly a mono-syllabic language with more or less no morphological structure at all. Each word functions as an independent morpheme However, series of words concatenated together in a phrase is found to be productive. For instance, verb complex or compound verb structure is present in Khasi. If the compound verb has two members, one functions as the main verb, the other as a light verb. If the compound verb is a three member complex, two function as main verbs and one as light verb. Light verbs in a two-member compound are pre-main verbs, and in the three-member complex, the light verb occurs in between the two main verbs. These occurrences are syntactically defined. Moreover, the semantics of light verbs show that they can be lexically meaningful independently. Adjective functioning as verbs, is a common phenomenon in some Indian languages. Khasi transforms adjectives into verbs and assigns to them the meaning of ‘process’.

References

Acharya, S. K. 1971. Languages of the Khasi. Mainstream. 19-36.

Bareh, H. 1979. A Short History of Khasi Literatute. Scorpio Press.

Diffloth.G. F. 2005. Austro-Asiatic Languages. In Britannica Online Encyclopedia.

Grierson, G. A. 1904. Linguistic Survey of India. Volume 2. Calcutta Government Printing Office. Calcutta.

Henderson, E, J. A. 1976b. Vestiges of Morphology in Modern Standard Khasi. In Jenner. et. al. (eds). 477-522.

Lyngdoh, S.A. (2012). Empty Categories in Khasi. Unpublished Ph D Thesis. Delhi University, Delhi

Nagaraja, K. S. 1985. Khasi: A Descriptive Analysis. Deccan College Post-Graduate Research Institute. Poona.

Nagaraja, K. S. 1993. Khasi Dialects: A Typological Consideration. Mon-Khmer Studies xxiii: 1-10.

Nagaraja, K. S. 1995. Agreement in Khasi and Munda Languages. Deccan College Post-graduate and Research Institute. Pune.

Roberts, H. 1891. A Grammar of the Khasi Language. London: Kegan Paul. Trench, Tru_bner and co.

Shangpliang. J. S. 1987. Khasi Pronouns in the Written and Spoken Language. In H.W. Sten (ed). Khasi Studies 1: 54.

War, B. 1986. The Passive Construction in Khasi. In P. N. Dutta Burwa (ed). Languages of the North East India


Dr. Saralin A. Lyngdoh is Assistant Professor at Linguistics Department, NEHU. E-mail ID: saralyngdoh@gmail.com

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