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Suffixes and Other Word Endings

Suffixes and postbases are word particles added to noun or verb stems to create a new word or a new form of a word. Postbases are types of suffixes but are treated separately in Alutiiq (See Postbases lesson). There are three reasons to add endings to words in Alutiiq.

  1. To make the subject and verb of a sentence agree in mood and in number.
  2. To add to, or change the meaning of verbs and nouns.
  3. To make sentences into a question, add emphasis, or make exclamations through the addition of an enclitic. (Unlike postbases & suffixes, which become part of the word they attach to, enclitics are added to the end of words with a hyphen mark.)

When we speak of suffixes in Alutiiq we are usually referring to the word-final endings that make the verb and noun agree in mood and number.

Suffixes: Making Sentences Agree in Mood and Number

In an Alutiiq sentence, the noun or subject of a sentence must agree with the verb. In other words, the verb’s suffix will reference the number (1, 2, or 3+) and type of the subject (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person). These endings are different for past, present, and future tense, as well as for transitive and intransitive verbs and different moods (See Verb Stems lesson). Command sentences are one mood, while simple fact statements, questions, and other types are in different moods.

This all sounds complicated, and it is! But the method you use to add these suffixes to words is the same across all of moods and time frames. Once you learn the process you are well on your way to being able to figure out proper sentence creation.

First, you strip the noun or verb to its stem, then you add the suffix according to its joining type, and the type of sentence you are writing. Native speakers are accustomed to adding these endings from childhood, and can do so without the aid of a chart or lengthy analysis.

Here are some examples of sentences using the same root word, but with different suffixes:

akiq money (root: akir-)
Akingq'rtuten-qaa? Do you have money?
Akingq’rtua I have money.
Akiitua. I have no money.
Akilgugua. I have lots of money.
Akinka naama? Where's my money?
Ikna akilguuq. That one has lots of money.
Akinka taiski. Give me my money.

Notice in the first example, Akingq'rtuten-qaa?, the subject you (ellpet) is not named in the Alutiiq sentence. Although technically one word, with an enclitic, Akingq'rtuten-qaa? Has 4 identifiable parts: Akir- (money) + -ngq'rte (have) + tuten (you) + -qaa (yes/no). If the speaker was talking to a large group of people, he or she would say Akingq'rtuci-qaa? "Do you all have money?" The +ci ending means the speaker is referring to “you all.”

nangarlluni the movement "to stand up" (root: nangarte-)
nangarngaluni the position "to be standing" (root: nangarnga-)
Nangarngauq. He/she/it is standing.
Nangarngaut.  They all are standing.
Nangarten!    You stand up! (to one person)
Nangarci!    You all stand! (to 3 or more people)
Nangartuci.      You all stood up (just now).
Nangarngaunga.    I am standing.
Nanagarngauten.  You are standing.
Nangarnan’tua. I am not standing.
Iqallut nangartanitut. Fish never stand.

Let's look at one of these sentences in detail: Nangarten! (You stand up!). If the subject is you (singular) and the verb root ends in te-, the suffix should be +n. So, the root for "to stand up," nangarte- plus the ending +n equals the command Nangarten! "You stand up!" 

The endings for verbs are very complex and complicated, and there are always exceptions to the rules. Though charts and rules will help in discovering the patterns of verb endings for various sentences, they will not help you learn Alutiiq. People learn all languages from the experience of speaking, not from charts. Working with a speaker and practicing with many words over time will help you familiarize yourself with multitude of verb suffixes which make our language unique.