Maká language

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Maká
Maká
Pronunciation maˈka
Native to Paraguay
Region Presidente Hayes Department, Asunción
Native speakers
1,500  (2000)[1]
Matacoan
  • Maká
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mca
Glottolog maca1260[2]
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Maká is a Matacoan language spoken in Paraguay by the Maká people. Its 1,500 speakers live primarily in Presidente Hayes Department near the Río Negro, as well as in and around Asunción.

Phonology[edit]

Consonant phonemes of Maká[3]
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal/Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p t ts k q ʔ
Ejective tsʼ
Fricative f ɬ s x χ h
Approximant w l j

Velar consonants alternate with palatal consonants before /e/ and sometimes before /a/. Examples include /keɬejkup/ ~ [ceɬejkup] "autumn" and /exeʔ/ ~ [eçeʔ] "stork". The palatal approximant /j/ alternates with the palatal fricative /ç/ before /i/, as in /inanjiʔ/ ~ [inançiʔ].

Vowel phonemes of Maká
Front Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Syllables in Maká may be of types V, VC, CV, CCV, and CCVC. When a consonant cluster appears at the beginning of a syllable, the second consonant must be /x/, /h/, /w/, or /y/.

Morphology[edit]

Nouns[edit]

Gender[edit]

Maká has two genders—masculine and feminine. The demonstratives reflect the gender of a noun (Gerzenstein 1995:153:

Masculine nouns Feminine nouns
na’ sehe’ ne' naxkax
dem:masc land dem:fem tree
‘this land’ 'this tree'
na' nunax ne' nunax
dem:masc dog dem:fem dog
‘this (male) dog' ‘this (female) dog'

In the plural the gender distinction is neutralized, and the plural demonstrative is the same as the feminine singular:

ne’ sehe-l these land-pl ‘these lands’

ne’ naxkak-wi these tree-pl ‘these trees’

Number[edit]

Maká nouns inflect for plurality. There are several distinct plural endings: -l, -wi, Vts, and -Vy. All plants take the -wi plural, but otherwise the choice seems to be unpredictable (Gerzenstein 1995:150):

singular plural gloss
sehe sehe-l land(s)
naxkax naxkax-wi tree(s)
tenuk tenuk-its cat(s)

Case[edit]

Maká does not have any overt case marking on nouns. Consider the following sentence, where neither the subject nor object shows any case (Gerzenstein 1995:139):

Ne’ efu Ø-tux ka’ sehets.
dem:f woman A3-eat indef:m fish
‘The woman eats fish.’

Agreement with the possessor[edit]

Nouns agree with their possessor in person (Gerzenstein 1995:148):

y-exi’ Ø-exi’ ł-exi’ in-exi’
1s-mouth 2-mouth 3-mouth 1plur:incl-mouth
‘my mouth’ 'your mouth' 'his/her/their mouth' 'our (inclusive) mouth'

Verbs[edit]

Agreement with subject and object[edit]

Verbs agree with their subject and object in a rather complex system. Gerzenstein (1995) identifies five conjugation classes for intransitive verbs. The following two examples show intransitive verbs from conjugation classes 1 and 3.

tremble (conjugation class 3) dance (conjugation class 1)
1 tsi-kawelik 'I tremble' hoy-otoy 'I dance'
2 łan-kawelik 'you tremble' ł-otoy 'you dance'
3 yi-kawelik 'he/she trembles' t-otoy 'he/she dances'
1pl inclusive xiyi-kawelik 'we (inclusive) tremble' xit-otoy 'we (inclusive) dance'

Transitive verbs belong to a different conjugation class, Conjugation 6. The following forms show a transitive verb with a 3rd person object:

love (conjugation class 6)
hi-su'un 'I love (him/her)'
łi-su'un 'you love (him/her)'
yi-su'un 'he/she loves (him/her)'
xite-su'un 'we (inclusive) love (him/her)'

If the object of the transitive verb is 1st or 2nd person, then certain combinations of subject and object are shown by a portmanteau morpheme.

love (conjugation class 6) subject/object combination
k'e-su'un 'I love you' 1SUBJ›2OBJ
tsi-su'un 'he/she loves me' 3SUBJ›1OBJ
ne-su'un 'he/she loves you' 3SUBJ›2OBJ

Other combinations involve an object agreement marker which may either precede or follow the subject marker (Gerzenstein 1995:94-101):

łe-ts-ikfex
2:subj-1sg:obj-bite
'you bite me'
xi-yi-łin
1pl(incl):obj-3-save
'he/she saves us (inclusive)'

Applicatives[edit]

Verbs in Maká have a series of suffixes called 'postpositions' in Gerzenstein (1995), which have the effect of introducing new oblique objects into the sentence.

The following examples show the applicative suffixes -ex 'instrumental ('with')' and -m 'benefactive ('for')'

Ne’ efu ni-xele-ex ke’ ute na’ nunax.
dem:f woman A3-throw-with indef:masc rock dem:m dog
‘The woman threw a rock at the dog.’
H-osxey-i-m na’ sehets na’ k’utsaX
A1-grill-P3-for dem:m fish dem:m old:man
‘I grill fish for the old man.’

Syntax[edit]

Noun phrases[edit]

In noun phrases, the possessor precedes the possessed noun (Gerzenstein 1995:155):

e-li-ts łe-xiła’
2-child-pl 3-head
'your children’s head'

Noun phrases show the order (Demonstrative) (Numeral) (Adjective) N (Gerzenstein 1995:154):

Ne’ efu t-aqhay-ets ne’ ikwetxuł fo’ tiptip-its
dem:fem woman S3-buy-toward dem:plur four white horse=pl
’The woman bought four white horses.’

Sentences[edit]

Affirmative[edit]

The basic word order for a transitive clause in Maká is subject–verb–object, as seen in the following example (Gerzenstein 1995:138)

Ne’ efu ni-xele-ex ke’ ute na’ nunax.
dem:f woman A3-throw-with indef:masc rock dem:m dog
‘The woman threw a rock at the dog.’

For intransitive clauses, the basic order is verb-subject (Gerzenstein 1995:106):

Wapi ne' efu.
rest dem:f woman
'The woman rests'

Interrogative[edit]

In yes-no questions, the usual subject–verb–object order changes to verb-subject-object following an initial particle /me/ (Gerzenstein 1995:136):

Me y-eqfemet-en na' k’utsaX na' xukhew?
q A3-injure-caus dem:m old:man dem:m man
‘Did the old man injure the man?’

Sentences with wh-questions show an sentence-initial question word. Maká has a very small inventory of question words, with only three members: łek 'who, what', pan 'which, where, how many', and inhats'ek 'why'. The following example shows an interrogative sentence with an initial question word (Gerzenstein 1995:178:

Łek pa' tux na' xukhew?
what dem:m eat dem:m old:man
‘What did the old man eat?’

Works cited[edit]

  1. ^ Maká at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Maca". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Gerzenstein, Ana (1995). Lengua Maká. Estudio descriptivo. Archivo de Lenguas Indoamericanas (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires. ISBN 950-29-0176-2.