Tepa derivation

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There are several productive word formation processes in Tepa. What they all have in common is that they take an existing base and create a new root. In some cases, the category of the base will change; examples are processes which derive nominal roots from verbal bases. In others, the category will not change, but a new root is formed of the same category, such as process which derives causative, benefactive, or applicative verb roots from existing verbal bases.

Nominal Derivation (>N)

In this section I will discuss various ways that a nominal root can be derived from an existing base.


To derive an agentive noun from a verb in Tepa, the infix -am- is placed immediately before the first vowel of the verbal base. If the base is vowel-initial, -am- will appear as a prefix:

tɨpa [tɨβa] ‘speak’; tamɨpa [tamɨβa] ‘speaker’

utu [uðu] ‘sing’; amutu [amuðu] ‘singer’.

The result is a nominal root, which can be inflected for number and possession as described in Tepa nouns.

To derive a patient noun (a noun whose referent undergoes the action described by the verb) the same infix -am- is used with the l-grade of the verb:

tɨlpa [tɨlba] ‘speak:L’; tamɨlpa [tamɨlba] ‘addressee’.


Infixing -un- immediately before the first vowel of a verbal base derives a nominal root denoting the instrument with which the action of the verb is carried out. Again, for vowel-initial verbs, the infix will appear as a prefix. Examples are given below.

tika [tiɣa] ‘count’; tunika [tuniɣa] ‘counter, pebble’

pai [pai] ‘dig’; punaya [punaya] ‘tool for digging, shovel’

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns can be formed from Tepa verbs in two ways: 1) zero derivation, and 2) -sui suffixation.

Zero Derivation

This is the most usual method of forming nouns from verbs. The verb base is simply inflected as a noun; stative verbs are nominalized in this way to describe a person or thing which has the property expressed by the verb stem:

ŋaha [ŋaha] ‘be big’; ‘one who is big’

sati [saži] ‘be full’; ‘one who is full’

tɨpa [tɨβa] ‘speak’; ‘speech’

talɨka [tarɨɣa] ‘hunt’; ‘activity of hunting’

-sui suffixation

The suffix -sui is attached to the verb base; this is used mostly to denote abstract properties from stative verbs which can be inflected as nouns. Some examples are given below:

ŋaha [ŋaha] ‘be big’; ŋahasui [ŋahasui] ‘largeness’

naa [naa] ‘be good’; naasui [naasui] ‘goodness, virtue’

Nouns formed in this way are always bound in phase.


The suffix -tti is attached to nouns to indicate smallness or affection. The final vowel palatalizes the geminate tt and is almost always voiceless:

su [suu] ‘dog’; sutti [suttši̥] ‘little dog’

pɨnku [pɨŋgu] ‘antelope; pɨnkutti [pɨŋguttši̥] ‘little antelope’

Words which end in a nasal drop the nasal when -tti is suffixed:

pɨn [pɨ̃ɨ̃] ‘child; pɨtti [pɨttši̥] ‘small child’

Additionally, some words have developed independent meanings through the addition of the diminutive suffix. These include:

intitti [iñǰittši̥] ‘groundhog (inti ‘badger’)’

nɨtti [nɨttši̥] ‘pupil (nɨ- ‘person’)’

putti [puttši̥] ‘scrub oak (pu ‘oak’)’

Verbal Derivation (>V)

In this section I will discuss various ways that a verb root can be derived from an existing base.


The causative/benefactive/applicative construction has the effect of adding an argument to a predicate. For the causative, this means adding another agent; this additional agent is called the “causee” since it is the argument which is compelled or persuaded to carry out the action of the predicate. For the benefactive it means adding an indirect object--someone or something on whose behalf the action is performed. For the applicative, this also means adding an indirect object, usually an instrument by means of which an action is performed. In all three cases, the morphological process is the same; ŋa"- is prefixed to the verb base. If the verb base begins with a consonant, the consonant is obligatorily geminated (this gemination is reflected in the orthography). This creates a transitive predicate from an intransitive, and a ditransitive predicate from a transitive. When inflecting the derived transitive, the added argument is treated as a direct object and the argument prefixes are used as they would be for an underived transitive or ditransitive:


lɨ- ŋa"- lupa
2>1- CBA- run

‘You made me run.’


0- ŋa"- tupa yɨɨ tiwi
3>3’- CBA- fall egg bird

‘The bird made the egg fall.’

However, for the ditransitives, not all of the arguments can be encoded by means of argument prefixes; only the agent of the predicate and the (ultimately) affected argument are considered. This means that for a causative construction, the only arguments encoded in the prefix are the causer and the patient; the causee is expressed as an object following the verb.


lɨ- ŋa"- kawɨ suu
2>1- CBA- bite dog

‘You made the dog bite me.’

When the object is a pronoun, it is attached to the verb as a pronominal clitic. Examples of causative/benefactive/applicative are given below:


ku- ŋa"- kaku =ma yɨɨ
2>3- CBA- break =1 egg

‘You broke the egg for me.’


wa- ŋa"- kuu kɨn
1>3- CBA- hit stone

‘I hit him with a stone.’


wa- ŋa"- uŋɨ
1>3- CBA- be.red

‘I turned it red.’ (lit: caused it to be red)

“Have” and “Become”

Adding the suffix -pa to a noun X creates a verb meaning ‘have X’; the resulting verb is intransitive and is inflected as such. Examples include:


wa- kɨn -pa
1- stone -HAVE

‘I have a stone.’


0- tawitu -pa
3- horn -HAVE

‘S/he has a horn.’

Adding the suffix -na to a noun X creates an intransitive predicate meaning ‘become X’; this prefix can also be attached to stative verb roots. Some examples are:


0- anki -na
3- fish -BEC

‘S/he became a fish.’


wa- aiti -na
1- mother -BEC

‘I became a mother.’


0- uŋɨ -na
3- be.red -BEC

‘It became red.’

In addition to normal inflection, “have” and “become” verbs can also undergo causativization; such a derivation implies an unwillingness on the part of the argument of the original predicate (where this is semantically sensible):


lɨ- ŋa"- tawitu -pa
2>1- CBA- horn -HAVE

‘You gave me a horn (but I didn’t want it).’


wa- ŋa"- anki -na nɨŋaa
1>3- CBA- fish -BEC woman:B

‘I turned the woman into a fish (against her will).’


Verb + Noun Compounds (Incorporation)

By far the most common type of compounding in Tepa is V+N compounding, also known as incorporation. In Tepa incorporation, the direct object of a verb is attached to the right edge of the verb. This attachment is evidenced by the phonology; lenition will operate on the initial consonant of an incorporated noun, but not on the initial consonant of a noun which simply follows the verb as an object. The incorporated object often has the semantic force of a generic noun, and the valency of the resulting complex verb is reduced by one. This means that a ditransitive verb with an incorporated noun becomes a transitive verb, and that a transitive verb becomes intransitive. Some examples are given below:


wa- naki + tuku
1- eat + meat

‘I eat meat.’ (= ‘I am a meat-eater.’)


wa- naki tuku
1>3- eat meat

‘I eat (some) meat.’


lɨ- wɨwii + ŋasɨ
2>1- smear:B + grease

‘You smeared me with grease.’


ku- wɨwii =ma -kan ŋasɨ
2>3- smear:B =1 -on grease

‘You smeared grease on me.’

Sentences with -pa ‘have’ and -na ‘become’ are treated as if the suffix were itself a verb, and the noun to which it is suffixed an incorporated object which leaves behind any modificational material:


0- tina -pa ɨ= 0- hati suu
3- tooth -HAVE SS= 3- sharp dog

‘The dog has sharp teeth.’

tina-pa [ɨ=hati _] suu

Noun + Noun Compounds

Less common than incorporation is the compounding of two nouns; some examples are given below:


pɨɨ + paku
skin + tree



hanima + sɨi
pueblo + bee



tɨɨ + pɨnti
foot + leather


Less Productive Morphology

In addition to the productive derivational morphology described above, there are also examples of morphological elements which are not as productive, or which have a more limited range of application. In this section I discuss several affixes and combining forms.

Various Affixes

In this section, I discuss several affixes which have a very limited range of application. They can’t really be said to be productive, but they are rather transparent in meaning once they have been isolated.

in- ‘berry’

The prefix in- appears in many words for kinds of berries. In most cases, removing the prefix isolates a root to which the suffix -sɨ ‘fruit-bearing plant’ can be added to indicate the plant itself.

intamɨi [indamɨi] ‘huckleberry’ (root: tamɨi-)

intɨipi [indɨiβi] ‘chokecherry’ (root: tɨipi-)

intipɨ [indžiβɨ] ‘squawberry’ (root: tipɨ)

iŋŋɨi [iŋŋɨi] ‘currant’ (root: ŋɨi)

-ma ‘male’ and -ŋa ‘female’

There are two gender suffixes, -ma ‘male’ and -ŋa ‘female’; they are used to indicate male or female persons. In the case of ‘grizzly bear’, the etymological source is a predicate root with the male suffix; in spite of the suffix, nɨima can refer to female as well as male grizzly bears.

nɨima [nɨima] ‘grizzly bear (root nɨi ‘old’)’

nɨma [nɨma] ‘husband (combining form nɨ- ‘person’)’

tɨma [tɨma] ‘cousin--FaSiSo, MoBrSo (combining form tɨ- ‘cross cousin’)’

nɨŋa [nɨŋa] ‘wife (combining form nɨ- ‘person’)’

tɨŋa [tɨŋa] ‘cousin--FaSiDa, MoBrDa (combining form tɨ- ‘cross cousin’)’

-ppi ‘buzzing animal’

The suffix -ppi is a rather unusual suffix. It seems to have the meaning ‘small buzzing animal or insect’, but removing this suffix yields no independent roots, except in the case of tiwippi, tippi ‘hummingbird’. These words are inflected as CV monosyllabic roots, as if the -ppi suffix were absent (see the section on the inflection of monosyllabic roots for details).

huppi [huppi] ‘gnat’

lauppi [lauppi] ‘yellowjacket’

pippi [pippi] ‘fly’

ŋɨppi [ŋɨppi] ‘mosquito’

sappi [sappi] ‘cicada’

tiwippi [tšiwippi], tippi [tšippi] ‘hummingbird’ (root: tiwi, combining form ti- ‘bird’)

-sɨ ‘fruit-bearing plant’

The suffix -sɨ is attached to roots to form the name of plants bearing fruit. Most of these roots also take the prefix in- ‘berry’. Some examples are:

ŋɨisɨ [ŋɨisɨ] ‘currant bush’

siunpisɨ [šiumbisɨ] ‘serviceberry bush’

tamɨisɨ [tamɨisɨ] ‘huckleberry bush’

tɨipisɨ [tɨiβisɨ] ‘chokecherry bush’

tipɨsɨ [tšiβɨsɨ] ‘squawberry bush’

-ta ‘tree’

The suffix -ta is found on many words which name kinds of trees. The roots formed by removing -ta are not usually independent roots; the root for ‘oak’, however, is also found with the diminutive suffix -tti; the combined form means ‘scrub oak’.

kɨita [kɨiða] ‘locust’

kuita [kuiða] ‘aspen’

kusuta [kusuða] ‘pinyon pine’

mɨsita [mɨšiða] ‘greasewood’

puta [puða] ‘oak’

sɨhɨta [sɨhɨða] ‘willow’

sɨŋuta [sɨŋuða] ‘cedar’

uita [uiða] ‘fir’

upita [uβiða] ‘mesquite’

wɨsita [wɨšiða] ‘cottonwood’

Combining Forms

In this section I describe shortened forms of roots which are frequently used in compounds. I call these combining forms after similar forms in the Numic languages.

nɨ- ‘person’

The combining form nɨ- refers to persons in the following words:

nɨma [nɨma] ‘husband’

nɨqa [nɨŋa] ‘wife’

nɨtti [nɨttši̥] ‘pupil’

It is a common metaphorical extension to refer to the pupil of the eye as a small person; hence the lexicalized meaning of nɨ- ‘person’ + -tti ‘diminutive’. I have been unable to locate a Tepa root from which nɨ- might have been derived. The usual word for ‘person’ is tua, which bears no phonological resemblance to the combining form nɨ-.

ti- ‘bird’

The combining form ti- is rather transparently derived from tiwi ‘bird’. It is found in the following words:

tiken [tšiɣɨ̃ɨ̃] ‘grouse’ (root: kɨn ‘rock’)

tikusu [tšiɣusu] ‘pinyon jay’ (root: kusu ‘pinyon’)

tilupa [tširuβa] ‘roadrunner’ (root: lupa ‘run’)

tippi [tšippi] ‘hummingbird’ (combining form: -ppi ‘small buzzing animal or insect’)

tipukan [tšiβuɣãã] ‘sage hen’ (root: pukan ‘sage’)

tiutu [tšiuðu] ‘meadowlark’ (unknown root: utu)


  1. Introduction to Tepa
  2. Tepa Phonology
  3. Inflectional Morphology of Nouns
  4. Inflectional Morphology of Verbs
  5. Some Word Formation
  6. Particles
  7. Syntax
  8. Annotated Texts