Verbs: vüxade

Overview: what is a verb?

Verb-affixes varies to a much higher degree according to the shape of the root: especially whether it ends in a vowel or not, and whether the vowel is fronted (e i y) or not (a o u). Therefore, more prototypes are used: the default being closed final syllable, but also proptotypes showing the fronted open final syllable and backed open final syllable is used when these differ.

Closest to the stem are the prefixes and the suffixes that change and adjust the meaning of the verb more directly, like the intensity markers and the mood suffix-complex.

The mood and modality of a verb, if not indicative, is shown by frontwords, a prefix or a suffix-complex close to the root.

Furthermore, though it is good form to keep to the active voice, there is something akin to a passive. It makes the subject irrelevant so that it may be dropped, but doesn't change the case of the object in any way. There is also suffixes to mark reflexivity, reciprocality and several forms of causativity.

Then follows what Taruven grammarians refer to as comment-words, vülar. These show how the speaker know something, the source, and how certain the speaker is that the information is correct.

A transitive verb's object (and marked as such) can be incorporated into the verb. In many cases, such a merge is the only way to express something, these fixed incorporations are known as verb-noun constructions (or vncs) and are listed in a dictionary like any other word.

Finally, a verb might optionally be marked for aspect and tense , in that order. The default tense is present (or generic) and the unmarked aspect of most verbs is the continuous.

Structure of a verb

FRONTWORD (..) PREFIX - verb stem - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8


  1. intensity
  2. mood
  3. voice
  4. narrator's comment
  5. evidence/source
  6. certainty
  7. aspect
  8. tense


vren imperative
oah hortative
jil jussive
    1. vren ševa
      Get going! Go!
    2. oah ševa
      Let's go! Come along! Time to go!
    3. jil ševa
      Let them go!

See Frontwords for more examples.


negation (NEG) ë-
imperative (IMP) va-
passive (PAS) y-
same subject (SS) le-

The prefixes have little in common apart from being prefixes, though the prefixes closest to the verb all replace a standalone subject.

    1. ëševa
      I'm not going
    2. vaševa
      Get going! Go!
      1. yševa
        Somebody is going, there's going happening (and it is irrelevant who the somobody is)
      2. ykrura jehanaþ
        Somebody killed John (it's not important/unknown who did it)
      1. ševa gaìnes. zigh brenaþ.
        I go to the city. I buy a car.
      2. jehan ševa gaìnes. zigh brenaþ.
        John goes to the city. I buy a car.
      3. ū ševa gaìnes. lezigh brenaþ.
        Youi go to the city. Youi buy a car.
      4. jehan ševa gaìnes. lezigh brenaþ.
        Johni goes to the city. She/Hei buys a car.
      5. yševa gaìnes. lezigh brenaþ.
        Somebodyi goes to the city. Theyi buy a car.

As can be seen from d) above, the same-subject prefix is used to avoid repeating a pronoun, or avoid using pronouns altogether.

The negation-prefix negates the verb and not the prefix to its right if any:

    1. ëvaševa
      Don't go!
    2. ëyševa
      Somebody isn't going
    3. jehan ševa gaìnes. ëlezigh brenaþ.
      Johni goes to the city. She/Hei doesn't buy a car.

ëy is sometimes written when spelled out.

1. degree/intensity

=e attenuative, negative comparative
=a intensive, positive comparative
    1. hranne
      slightly damage
    2. hranna
      completely smash

2. mood: vüxavun

ability, capability (can, able) =lann
willingness (want) =šeŋŋ
obligative (ought to, should) =(e)lleŋ
allowability/permissive (may) =(i)nnim
commissive (swear, promise, vow) =(a)rrun
necessitive (must, need) =(i)rram
hypercommissive (swear to death) =itarrūn
counterfactual/irrealis (would have) =(y)skīn
optative (wish, hope) =(h)ūš
    1. sā xarrun
      sā xarrun
      sā xa =rrun
      1s do -SWEAR
      I swear to do it, I promise I'll do it
    2. ū xalannelleŋ
      ū  xalannelleŋ
      ū  xa =lann  =lleŋ
      2s do -ABLE  -OUGHT
      you ought to be able to do it, you ought to do it and you're able to do it
    3. firies yševaaš ū štharram vaeraþ
      firies       yševaaš         ū  štharram   vaeraþ
      firi   -es   y-  ševa -aš    ū  štha -rram vaer     -aþ
      forest -CSUB 3s- go   -CCAUS 2s pass -NECC mountain -PAT
      in order to get the forest you must cross the mountain

Notice that the subject of a verb and the subject of the mood is always the same. Hence, you cannot use the mood-markers in sentences like example b) just below but need to paraphrase like in example c).

    1. ū mahašeŋŋ
      ū  mahašeŋŋ
      ū  maha =šeŋŋ
      2s play -WANT
      You want to play
    2. *ū mahašeŋŋ ī
      ū  mahašeŋŋ   ī
      ū  maha =šeŋŋ ī
      2s play -WANT 3s
      You want him/her/it to play
    3. ūel hūš ī maha
      ūel     hūš       ī  maha
      ū  -el  hūš       ī  maha
      2s -EXP want.that 3s play
      You want him/her/it to play

3. voice and valence

Taruven verbs come in two subclasses: simple and complemented. We'll look at simple verbs first.

Simple verbs

As is the case with Wolof (Shopen 1985, p. 315), the simple verbs have a certain basic valency (no, one or two objects) but this need not be explicit in the clause, see example 7.

    1. sïkra famm
      sïkra famm
      sïkra famm
      plum  fall
      The/a plum falls/is falling
      1. ī aìre fōaþ
        ī  aìre  fōaþ
        ī  aìre  fō  -aþ
        2s empty cup -PAT
        He/she empties/is emptying the cup
      2. ī aìre
        ī  aìre
        ī  aìre
        2s empty
        He/she empties/is emptying (something)
      1. ī īið sïonnaþ
        ī  rī   īið     sïonnaþ
        ī  rī   ī  -ið  sïonn -aþ
        2s give 2s -BEN thing -PAT
        he/she gives him/her the thing
      2. ī sïonnaþ
        ī  rī   sïonnaþ
        ī  rī   sïonn -aþ
        2s give thing -PAT
        he/she gives (someone) the thing
      3. ī īið
        ī  rī   īið
        ī  rī   ī  -ið
        2s give 2s -BEN
        he/she gives him/her (the thing)
      4. ī
        ī  rī
        ī  rī
        2s give
        he/she gives (someone something)

However, any action can be done on behalf of or for the benefit of someone or due to something, that is: adding a benefactive-marked or instrumental-marked noun phrase as in example 8, without any change in the verb, as long as there isn't already a benefactive or instrumental noun phrase in the clause.

    1. sïkra famm sïufyonn
      sïkra famm sïufyonn
      sïkra famm sïufy -onn
      plum  fall knife -INS
      The/a plum falls/is falling due to the knife
      1. ī aìre fōaþ ūið
        ī  aìre  fōaþ ūið
        ī  aìre  fō  -aþ  ū  -ið
        3s empty cup -PAT 2s -BEN
        He/she empties/is emptying the cup
      2. ī aìre ūið
        ī  aìre  ūið
        ī  aìre  ū  -ið
        3s empty 2s -BEN
        He/she empties/is emptying (something) for someone

Complemented verbs

Complemented verbs do at minimum have one argument that is either a phrase marked with benefactive, or a clause (CSUB stands for subject of a complemented verb.) These then are transitive complemented verbs.

    1. ūel ār ōið
      ūel      ār    ōið
      ū  -el   ār    ō    -ið
      2s -CSUB think moon -BEN
      you think about the moon
    2. ūel ār Jehan sahalann
      ūel      ār    Jehan sahalann
      ū  -el   ār    Jehan saha  =lann
      2s -CSUB think Jehan dance -able
      you think that Jehan can dance

It is risky but possible to drop the explicit argument of a complemented verb, since it might be interpreted as gobbling up the following clause, if any.

  1. ūel ār
    ūel      ār
    ū  -el   ār
    2s -CSUB think
    you are thinking

Since the action of the complemented verb can also be for someone or due to something, they can carry an extra argument, but it must be on the same side of the verb as the subject since the complemented verb and its subject together works as an axis-word:

    1. īvenið ūel ār ōið
      īvenið          ūel      ār    ōið
      ī  -ven    -ið  ū  -el   ār    ō    -ið
      3s -pretty -BEN 2s -CSUB think moon -BEN
      the pretty one is making you think about the moon
    2. ōið ūel ār īvenið
      ōið       ūel      ār    īvenið
      ō    -ið  ū  -el   ār    ī  -ven    -ið
      moon -BEN 2s -CSUB think 3s -pretty -BEN 
      the moon is making you think about the pretty one

There are also ditransitive complemented verbs:

  1. sāið ūel areìn sō thallaa yéllaaþ
    sāið    ūel      areìn   sō thallaa     yéllaaþ
    sā -ið  ū  -el   areìn   sō thalla =a   yélla -aþ
    1s -BEN 2s -CSUB suggest 1p wash   =INT house -PAT
    you suggested to me that we wash the house very thoroughly

There are also the so-called weird complemented verbs, though some scholars also consider ditransitive complemented verbs to be weird:

      1. ūìð yéllaaþ sāel sker ryvunìð
        ūìð     yéllaaþ    sāel     sker ryvunìð
        ū  -ìð  yélla -aþ  sā -el   sker ry   -vun    -ìð
        2s -BEN house -PAT 1s -CSUB bet  that -little -BEN
        I bet you a house on the little one
      2. ūìð yéllaaþ sāel sker ryvun fammaìš
        ūìð     yéllaaþ    sāel     sker ryvun        fammaìš
        ū  -ìð  yélla -aþ  sā -el   sker ry   -vun    famm -aìš
        2s -BEN house -PAT 1s -CSUB bet  that -little fall -first
        I bet you a house that the little one is the first to fall
    1. garel faìre ū a sā
      garel          faìre ū  aið      sā
      gar      -el   faìre ū  a   -ið  sā
      strength -CSUB equal 2s and -BEN 1s 
      You and I are equally strong.

faìre and egie to differ/be different must have a plural argument.

Changing valency

    1. fin gunuge īaþ
      fin gunuge      īaþ
      fin gunu  -ge   ī  -aþ
      3p  stand -CAUS 3s -PAT
      They make him/her stand up
    2. īel gunu letšah
      īel      gunuaš       letšah
      ī -el    gunu -aš     le- tšah
      3s -CSUB stand -CCAUS SS- see
      he/she stands up in order to see
    3. areìnta sō thalla yéllaaþ
      areìnta       sō thalla yéllaaþ
      areìn   -ta   sō thalla yélla -aþ
      suggest -CPAS 3p wash   house -PAT
      it was suggested that we wash the house
    4. ī thallahux
      ī  thallahux
      ī  thalla -hux
      3s wash   -RFL
      he/she washes him/herself
    5. šael teìtša
      šael     teìtša
      ša -el   teì  -tša
      1d -CSUB love -RCP
      We love eachother
    6. suì ëkrutša aò lekruskīnkeì
      suì ëkrutša        aò       lekruskīnkeì
      suì ë-   kru  -tša aò       le- kru  -skīn -keì
      1q  NEG- kill -RCP and.then SS- kill -IRR  -other
      We do not kill our own, but we do kill others
causative, intransitive -> transitive -ge
causative, intransitive -> ditransitive -geke
causative, makes complemented verb from regular verb -aš
detransitivizer -ek
complemented passive (removes the -el-marked constituent) -ta
reflexive -hux
reciprocal -tša
other -keì

-ge+-ek = -gek
-geke+-ek = -grek
-aš+-ta = -atta
-aš+-hux = -aìšyx
-aš+-tša = -atša

4. narrator's comment

-(j)ī(p), -(j)irī mirativity, surprise, unexpectedness
-(v)ē(x), -(v)eghē mirativity, negative surprise, unexpectedness
-(h)al(a) relief, positive reaction
-(h)on(o) regret, negative reaction

5. evidentiality/source: vüvyšalar

Source-marking is optional and most often occurs in 2nd or 3rd person and together with past tense. It is especially rare in the future tense and the irrealis mood.

-tše firsthand, witnessed/sensed
-s,eò rumor/hearsay

-tše is sometimes used in 1st person to underline and emphasize that something actually took place.

  1. xatšera
    xa -tše       -ra
    do -firsthand -PAST
    I/we really did do it!

-tše in the irrealis strengthens the irrealis and is most often used to mark a gedankenexperiment.

    1. ī kruskīntše gavaþ
      ī  kruskīntše                gavaþ
      ī  kru  -skīn     -tše       gav -aþ
      2s kill -irrealis -firsthand dog -PAT
      (I'm not claiming that he/she did/would but) let's pretend, for the sake of argument, that he/she kills the dog.
    2. oah xaskīntše mirrōru sïdales
      oah  xaskīntše               mirrōru      sïdales
      oah  xa -skīn     -tše       mirrō -ru    sïdal     -es
      HORT do -irrealis -firsthand cat   -LOC.g container -LOC
      (I'm not claiming that this is the case anywhere but) imagine a cat in a box.

6. certainty: vüskeralar

-(e)geár certainly, definitely
-(a)naỳ probably
-(i)skeìr possibly/maybe
-(a)tream unlikely
-(i)ŋgyév impossible

7. aspect

inceptive (begin) -eì
resumptive (continue after pause) -tul
cessative (end, unplanned) -tax
completive (end, cannot be continued) -ydh
pausative (take a break) -(i)jir
semelfactive/simulfactive -vadh
iterative/repetition, many times -(v)onn
iterative/repetition, a few times -(v)oje
repetition, none -(v)oál
repetition, specific <number> of times -(v)o<cardinal number>
perfective/punctual -(i)ŋir
habitual -seþ
distributive -reì
accidental -aìbh
intentional -mo

Simulfactive or semelfactive

A simulfactive event is one that does not repeat, while a semelfactive is a single iteration of an event that repeats. In Taruven, this is used to show that something that was supposed to repeat happened only once, see a) below, to zoom in on one of the repetitions, see b), to emphasize that something was done only once, as in c) or that something that could be done all at once was done one after the other, as in d). The exact meaning depends both on the verb and its context.

    1. xavadra
      xa -vadh -ra
      do -once -PAST
      I/we only did it once
    2. fōmvadra hrannhux hsāaþ
      fōmvadra                   hrannhux    hsāaþ
      fōm            -vadh -ra   hrann -hux  hsā -aþ
      parachute-jump -once -PAST break -self leg -PAT
      Once when I/we parachuted I/we broke my/our leg
    3. šthavadra o famm
      šthavadra         o  famm
      štha  -vadh -ra   o  famm
      cross -once -PAST it fall  
      I/we crossed it just once and it fell down
    4. ī issegevadh žynaþen
      ī  issege -vadh žynaþen
      ī  issege -vadh žyn  -aþ  -en
      2s close  -once door -PAT -PL
      He/she closed the doors one by one


An iterative event is one that repeats, seen as a whole. The iterative in Taruven is a clue to how the aspect-markers were first joined to the verb. Some noun or stative *o meaning repetition was at one time incorporated into the verb, where it has stayed. The forms with v are used after a vowel.

The examples are ordered from least marked to most marked, so while -onn is quite frequent, -o<number> is generally only found in recipes and texts of a technical or scientfic nature, and bad poetry using end-rhymes. -oál is mostly used to emphasize that something won't happen at all and thus usually only occur together with the negation-marker or in the counterfactual mood. The latter has the worn form -(y)skul.

    1. xavonn
      xa -vonn
      do -repeat.many
      I/we repeat it many times
    2. xavoje
      xa -voje
      do -repeat.few
      I/we repeat it just a few times
    3. ëxavoál
      ë-   xa -voál
      NEG- do -repeat.none
      I/we aren't doing it even once
    4. xavokaìr
      xa -vo     kaìr
      do -repeat 4
      I/we do it exactly four times

8. tense: vütar

-ra past
Ø present/generic/universal/undefined
-su future

The /s/ of the future marker assimilates to a preceding sibilant:

    1. eššu
      ešš       -su
      turn.left -FUT
      I/we will turn/go left
    2. fiaxxu
      fiax  -su
      board -FUT
      I/we will board
    3. vriššu
      vriš -su
      ask  -FUT
      I/we will ask
    4. tšērassu
      tšēras   -su
      colonize -FUT
      I/we will colonize
    5. řasu
      ř          -su
      turn.right -FUT
      I/we will turn/go right

As the last example above shows the /s/ is protected from the usual assimilation to ř by an epenthetic /a/.


Shopen 1985
Language typology and syntactic description III, 1st. edition: Grammatical categories and the lexicon.