Kabyle grammar

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Kabyle grammar is the grammar of the Kabyle language.

Nouns and adjectives[edit]

Gender[edit]

As an Afro-Asiatic language, Kabyle has only two genders, Masculine and Feminine. Like most Berber languages, masculine nouns and adjectives generally start with a vowel (a-, i-, u-), while the feminine nouns generally start with t- and end with a -t (there are some exceptions, however). Note that most feminine nouns are in fact feminized versions of masculine nouns.

Examples:

  • Aqcic "a boy", taqcict "a girl".
  • Amɣar "an old man", tamɣart "an old woman".
  • Argaz "a man", Tameṭṭut "a woman".
  • Izi "a fly", Tizit "mosquito".

Pluralization[edit]

Singular nouns generally start with an a-, and do no have a suffix. Plural nouns generally start with an i- and often have a suffix such as -en. There are three types of plural : external, Internal, mix:

  • External or "regular": consists in changing the initial vowel of the noun, and adding a suffix -n,
amɣar "an old man" → imɣaren "old men".
argaz → irgazen "men"
ul → ulawen "hearts"
  • Internal: involves only a change in the vowels within the word:
adrar → idurar "mountain"
amicic "a cat" → imcac "cats"
  • Mix: combines a change of vowels (within the word) with the suffix -n:
igenni "sky" → igenwan "skies".
izi → izan "fly"
aẓariẓuran "root"
afus → ifassen "hands"

Free and annexed state[edit]

As in all Berber languages, Kabyle has two types of states or cases of the noun, organized ergatively: one is unmarked, while the other serves as the subject of a transitive verb and the object of a preposition, among other contexts. The former is often called free state, the latter construct state. The construct state of the noun derives from the free state through one of the following rules:

The first involves a vowel alternation, whereby the vowel a become u :

amaziɣ → umaziɣ "Berber"
ameqqran → umeqqran "big"
adrar → udrar "mountain"

The second involves the loss of the initial vowel in the case of some feminine nouns (e is not considered to be a true vowel, it just makes the reading easier):

tamɣart → temɣart "women"
tamdint → temdint "town"
tamurt → tmurt "country"

The third involves the addition of a semi-vowel (w or y) word-initially:

asif → wasif "river"
aḍuwaḍu "wind"
iles → yiles "tongue"
uccen → wuccen "jackal"

Finally, some nouns do not change for free state:

taddart → taddart "village"
tuccent → tuccent "female jackal"

Depending on the role of the noun in the sentence, it takes either its free or annexed state:

  • Free: Yewwet aqcic. "He has beaten a boy". (Verb–object)
  • Annexed: Yewwet weqcic. "The boy has beaten". (Verb–subject)

After a preposition (at the exception of "ar" and "s"), all nouns take their annexed state:

  • Free state: Aman (water), Kas n waman (a glass of water).

Verbs[edit]

There are three tenses : the Preterite (past), intensive Aorist (present perfect, present continuous, past continuous) and the future (Ad+Aoriste). Unlike other Berber languages, the aorist alone is rarely used in Kabyle (In the other languages it is used to express the present).

  • "Weak verbs" have a preterite form that is the same as their aoriste. Examples of weak verbs that follow are conjugated at the first person of the singular:
Verb Preterite ad + aorist Intensive aorist
If (to outdo) ifeɣ ad ifeɣ ttifeɣ
Muqel (to observe) muqleɣ ad muqleɣ ttmuquleɣ
Krez (to plough) kerzeɣ ad kerzeɣ kerrzeɣ
  • "Strong verbs" or "irregular verbs":
Verb Preterite ad + aorist Intensive aorist
Aru (to write) uriɣ ad aruɣ ttaruɣ

Conjugation[edit]

Conjugation in Kabyle is done by adding suffixes (prefixes, postfixes or both). These suffixes are static and identical for all tenses (only the theme changes):

Person Singular Plural
1st — (e)ɣ n(e) —
2nd (m) t(e) — (e)ḍ t(e) — (e)m
2nd (f) t(e) — (e)ḍ t(e) — (e)mt
3rd (m) i/y(e) — — (e)n
3rd (f) t(e) — — (e)nt
  • Example: verb afeg (to fly) with its four themes : ufeg (preterite), ufig (negative preterite), afeg (aorist), ttafeg (intensive aorist).
Person Preterite Negative Preterite Ad+Aorist Intensive Aorist Imperative Intensive Imperative
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ufgeɣ nufeg ur ufigeɣ ur nufig ad afgeɣ ad nafeg ttafgeɣ nettafeg
2nd (m) tufgeḍ tufgem ur tufigeḍ ur tufigem ad tafgeḍ ad tefgem tettafgeḍ tettafgem afeg afget ttafeg ttafget
2nd (f) tufgeḍ tufgemt ur tufigeḍ ur tufigemt ad tafgeḍ ad tefgemt tettafgeḍ tettafgemt afeg afgemt ttafeg ttafgemt
3rd (m) yufeg ufgen ur yufig ur ufigen ad yafeg ad afgen yettafeg ttafgen
3rd (f) tufeg ufgent ur tufig ur ufigent ad tafeg ad afgent tettafeg ttafgent
Preterite Participle Aorist Participle Intensive Aorist Participle
Positive Negative Positive Negative
yufgen ur nufig ara yafgen yettafeg ur nettafeg

Verb framing[edit]

Kabyle is a satellite-framed based language, Kabyle verbs use two particles to show the path of motion:

  • d orients toward the speaker, and could be translated as "here".
  • n orients toward the interlocutor or toward a certain place, and could be translated as "there".

Examples:

  • « iruḥ-d » (he came), « iruḥ-n » (he went).
  • « awi-d aman» (bring the water), « awi-n aman » (carry away the water).

Negation[edit]

Kabyle usually expresses negation in two parts, with the particle ur attached to the verb, and one or more negative words that modify the verb or one of its arguments. For example, simple verbal negation is expressed by « ur » before the verb and the particle « ara » after the verb:

  • « Urareɣ » ("I played") → « Ur urareɣ ara » ("I did not play")

Other negative words (acemma...etc.) are used in combination with ur to express more complex types of negation.

Verb derivation[edit]

Verb derivation is done by adding affixes. There are three types of derivation forms : Causative, reflexive and Passive.

  • Causative: obtained by prefixing the verb with s- / sse- / ssu- :
ffeɣ "to go out" → ssuffeɣ "to make to go out"
kcem "to enter" → ssekcem "to make to enter, to introduce"
irid "to be washed" → ssired "to wash".
  • Reflexive: obtained by prefixing the verb with m- / my(e)- / myu-:
ẓer "to see" → mẓer "to see each other"
ṭṭef "to hold" → myuṭṭaf "to hold each other".
  • Passive: is obtained by prefixing the verb with ttu- / ttwa- / tt- / mm(e)- / n- / nn-:
krez "to plough" → ttwakrez "to be ploughed"
ečč "to eat" → mmečč "to be eaten".
  • Complex forms: obtained by combining two or more of the previous prefixes:
enɣ "to kill" → mmenɣ "to kill each other" → smenɣ "to make to kill each other"

Interestingly, two prefixes can cancel each other:

enz "to be sold" → zzenz "to sell" → ttuzenz "to be sold" (ttuzenz = enz !!).

Agent noun[edit]

Every verb has a corresponding agent noun. In English it could be translated into verb+er. It is obtained by prefixing the verb with « am- » or with « an- » if the first letter is b / f / m / w (there are exceptions however).

  • Examples:
ṭṭef "to hold" → anaṭṭaf "holder"
inig "to travel" → iminig "traveller"
eks "to graze" → ameksa "shepherd"

Action noun[edit]

Every verb has a corresponding action noun, which in English it could be translated into verb+ing:

ffer "to hide" → tuffra "hiding" (stem VI), « Tuffra n tidett ur telhi » — "Hiding the truth is bad".

There are 6 regular stems of forming action nouns, and the 7th is for quality verbs : (C for consonant, V for vowel)

Stem Verb Action noun
I cvcv acvcv
II c(c)vc(c) ac(c)vc(c)v
III c(c)ecc ac(c)ecci
IV (c)cac(c) a(c)cac(c)i
V c1c2ec3 accac
VI ccec tuccca
VII ic1c2vc3 tec1c2ec3
  • Examples:
ɣeẓẓ "to bite" → aɣẓaẓ
zdi "to be united" → azday
ini "to say" → timenna

Predicative particle "d"[edit]

The predicative particle "d" is an indispensable tool in speaking Kabyle, "d" is equivalent to both "it is + adjective" and "to be + adjective", but cannot be replaced by the verb "ili" (to be). It is always followed by a noun (free state).

Examples:

  • D taqcict, "it's a girl".
  • D nekk, "it's me".
  • Nekk d argaz, "I'm a man".
  • Idir d anelmad, "Idir is a student".
  • Idir yella d anelmad, "Idir was a student".

The predicative particle "d" should not be confused with the particle of coordination "d"; indeed, the latter is followed by a noun at its annexed state while the first is always followed by a noun at its free state.

Pronoun[edit]

Personal pronouns[edit]

Person Singular Plural
1st (m) nekk / nekkini nekni
1st (f) nekk / nekkini nekkenti
2nd (m) kečč / keččini kunwi / kenwi
2nd (f) kemm / kemmini kunnemti / kennemti
3rd (m) netta / nettan / nettani nutni / nitni
3rd (f) nettat nutenti / nitenti

Example : « Ula d nekk. » — "Me too."

Possessive pronouns[edit]

Person Singular Plural
1st (m) (i)w / inu nneɣ
1st (f) (i)w / inu nnteɣ
2nd (m) (i)k / inek nwen
2nd (f) (i)m / inem nkent
3rd (m) (i)s / ines nsen
3rd (f) (i)s / ines nsent

Example : « Axxam-nneɣ. » — "Our house." (House-our)

Pronouns of the verb[edit]

  • Direct object
Person Singular Plural
1st (m) (i)yi ɣ / (y)aɣ / naɣ / (y)anaɣ
1st (f) (i)yi ɣ / (y)aɣ / tnaɣ / (y)anteɣ
2nd (m) (i)k (i)ken
2nd (f) (i)kem (i)kent
3rd (m) (i)t (i)ten
3rd (f) (i)tt (i)tent

Example : « Yuɣ-it. » — "He bought it." (He.bought-it)

  • Indirect object
Person Singular Plural
Long form Short form Long form Short form
1st (m) (i)yi yi ɣ / (y)aɣ ɣ
1st (f) (i)yi yi ɣ / (y)aɣ ɣ
2nd (m) (y)ak k (y)awen wen
2nd (f) (y)am m (y)akent kent
3rd (m) (y)as s (y)asen sen
3rd (f) (y)as s (y)asent sent
  • Example : « Yenna-yas. » — "He said to him." (He.said-to.him)
  • Complex example (Mixing indirect and direct object) : « Yefka-yas-t. » — "He gave it to him." (He.gave-to.him-it)

Demonstratives[edit]

There are three demonstratives, near-deictic ('this, these'), far-deictic ('that, those') and absence:

  • Suffix: Used with a noun, example : « Axxam-agi» — "This house." (House-this).
Near-deictic Far-deictic Absence
Singular Plural Singular Plural
(y)a / (y)agi (y)agini (y)ihin / (y)ihinna (y)inna nni
  • Isolated : Used when we omit the subject we are speaking about : «Wagi yelha» — "This is nice." (This-is.nice)
Near-deictic Far-deictic Absence
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
masculine wa/ wagi/ wagini wi/ wigi/ wigini wihin / wihinna wihid / wihidak
widak-inna / wigad-inna
widak-ihin / wigad-ihin
win / winna wid / wid-nni
widak / widak-nni
wigad-nni
feminine ta / tagi / tagini ti / tigi / tigini tihin / tihinna tihid / tihidak
tidak-inna / tigad-inna
tidak-ihin / tigad-ihin
tin / tinna tid / tid-nni
tidak / tidak-nni
tigad-nni

Numerotation[edit]

Only the first two numbers are Berber; for higher numbers, Arabic is used. They are yiwen (f. yiwet) "one", sin (f. snat) "two". The noun being counted follows it in the genitive: sin n yirgazen "two men".

"First" and "last" are respectively amezwaru and aneggaru (regular adjectives). Other ordinals are formed with the prefix wis (f. tis): wis sin "second (m.)", tis tlata "third (f.)", etc.

Prepositions[edit]

Prepositions precede their objects: « i medden » "to the people", « si temdint » "from the town". All words preceded by a preposition (at the exception of « s » and « ar », "towards", "until" ) take their annexed state.

Some prepositions have two forms : one is used with pronominal suffixes and the other form is used in all other contexts.

Also some of these prepositions have a corresponding relative pronoun (or interrogative), example:

« i » "for/to" → « iwumi » "to whom"
« Tefka aksum i wemcic » "she gave meat to the cat" → « Amcic iwumi tefka aksum » "The cat to whom she gave meat"
Kabyle prepositions
Preposition With suffixes translation equivalent Corresponding Relative pronoun translation equivalent
d yid- / did- 'and, with, in the company of' (w)ukud / wi d 'with whom'
i 'for, to' (dative) iwumi / iwimi / imi / umi / mi 'to whom' (dative) / 'whose'
ɣer / ar 'to' (direction) iɣer / ɣer way / (s)aniɣer / (s)awier / ɣer 'to' (direction)
s 'to' (direction) sani 'to' (direction)
ɣur 'among' (w)uɣur / ɣur 'among'
ɣef / af / f fell- 'on; because of; about' iɣef / ɣef way / ɣef wadeg / ɣef 'on what'
deg / g / di 'in' ideg / deg way / deg waydeg / anda / deg 'where'
seg / si / g 'from' iseg / seg way / ansi 'from where'
s iss- / yiss- / yis- 'with, by means of, using' (instrumental) s ways / s wacu / s / iss / is 'with what' (instrumental)
ger gar- 'between'
n 'of'
nnig / sennig 'on top of'
ddaw / seddaw 'beneath, under'
ar 'until'
deffir 'behind'
zdat / zzat 'in front of'
am 'like, as'

Conjunctions[edit]

Conjunctions precede the verb: mi yiwweḍ "when he arrived", muqel ma yusa-d "see if he came".

Bibliography[edit]

  • Achab, R. : 1996 - La néologie lexicale berbère (1945–1995), Paris/Louvain, Editions Peeters, 1996.
  • Achab, R. : 1998 - Langue berbère. Introduction à la notation usuelle en caractères latins, Paris, Editions Hoggar.
  • F. Amazit-Hamidchi & M. Lounaci : Kabyle de poche, Assimil, France, ISBN 2-7005-0324-4
  • Dallet, Jean-Marie. 1982. Dictionnaire kabyle–français, parler des At Mangellet, Algérie. Études etholinguistiques Maghreb–Sahara 1, ser. eds. Salem Chaker, and Marceau Gast. Paris: Société d’études linguistiques et anthropologiques de France.
  • Hamid Hamouma. n.d. Manuel de grammaire berbère (kabyle). Paris: Edition Association de Culture Berbère.
  • Kamal Nait-Zerrad. Grammaire moderne du kabyle, tajerrumt tatrart n teqbaylit. Editions KARTHALA, 2001. ISBN 978-2-84586-172-5
  • Mammeri, M. : 1976 - Tajerrumt n tmaziɣt (tantala taqbaylit), Maspero, Paris.
  • Naït-Zerrad, K. : 1994 - Manuel de conjugaison kabyle (le verbe en berbère), L’Harmattan, Paris.
  • Naït-Zerrad, K. : 1995 - Grammaire du berbère contemporain, I - Morphologie, ENAG, Alger.
  • Salem Chaker. 1983. Un parler berbere d'Algerie (Kabyle): syntax. Provence: Université de Provence.
  • Tizi-Wwuccen. Méthode audio-visuelle de langue berbère (kabyle), Aix-en-Provence, Edisud, 1986.