Verbs in Otoe-Missouria are complex and express a great amount of precision and detail. This page will introduce a few basic ideas on how these verbs work and will link to other pages with more detailed information. The idea is that learners can use the grammar learned here with the information found in the dictionary to build the words that they want to say.
Like in English, Otoe-Missouria can express ideas using pronouns (I, you, we, they, etc.) like “I walk” or “they run”. This is done primarily through verb conjugations. This is where prefixes and suffixes are attached to verbs to adjust the meaning so the speaker can express exactly what they want. The prefixes and suffixes used here are not stand-alone words and must be attached to a verb. There are stand-alone pronouns but they will not be covered here.
Like in English, Otoe-Missouria has both transitive and intransitive verbs. Transitive verbs have an object and intransitive verbs do not. For example, “I walk” is intransitive whereas “I love you” has an object (you) which means it is transitive. Pronoun prefixes and suffixes and added to verb roots to express who the subject(s) and object(s) are. It is highly recommended that you gain a good understanding of how intransitive verbs work before moving on to transitive verbs because transitive verbs have another layer of affixes that need to be used to express the object.
Otoe-Missouria expresses some things differently than in English. For example, in English, only singular (1) and plural (2 or more) are used. Otoe-Missouria uses singular, plural and even dual (2) in some cases. Another is the idea of definite and indefinite. What is that exactly? We use it in English as the difference between “a book” (any book…indefinite) and “the book” (a specific book…definite). In the realm of Otoe-Missouria verb conjugations, the idea of definite or indefinite is applied when expressing “they”. “They” is definite when the context of the conversation has identified who “they” are. For example, “Bob and Ted are running.” In that sentence, “they” (Bob and Ted) are specific individuals which means they are definite. Another example is, “The protesters ran in the street.” Here the protesters are an unspecified “they” so they are indefinite.
It should be noted that there is some conflicting information about the use of the suffixes -wi and -nye to indicate “they”. Some sources indicate that instead of definite and indefinite, the suffix -wi means they-dual whereas the suffix -nye means they-plural. For example, the blue and yellow language books published in the 1970s indicate this. It is possible that linguists analyzing Otoe-Missouria saw examples of the suffix -wi being used in the context of they-definite but assigned it the definition of they-dual because the examples given just happened to include two subjects. This is most likely because it is easier to use they-definite with a smaller number of subjects.
Linguistic definitions on what exactly a verb root (or stem) is often differ. One of the most common definitions is that it is a word that has no affixes attached to it. For our purposes, we will use the idea of verb root as a base term that determines how it is conjugated. We do this because many Otoe-Missouria verbs are made or adjusted by the use of various prefixes. When these prefixes are used, they can determine how a verb is conjugated. For example:
nawaxe – break (by means of the foot)
ruwaxe – break (by means of the hand)
Each of these terms are using the prefixes na- (by means of the foot) and ru- (by means of the hand) but both express the idea of breaking. Even though these terms technically have prefixes, for our purposes we will consider each a “root” and it is these roots that determine how they are conjugated. For example, the first one would follow our standard verb conjugation pattern whereas the second would follow one of the “R” verb conjugation patterns (see more on verb conjugations here).
The first thing to understand in Otoe-Missouria is that the root of a verb is not simply a verb the way it is viewed in English. For example, the English word “walk” conveys an idea (walking) but does not say who is walking. The best Otoe-Missouria translation for the English idea of “walk” would be “manyi” which is the root of the word. However “manyi” does not simply mean “walk” in Otoe-Missouria. It is saying “he/she/it walks”. This means that “manyi” is actually a mini-phrase that can be used to express “he walks” or “she walks”. The thing to take away from this is that every verb in Otoe-Missouria works this way. So if you see a word list that gives translations for run, jump, climb, love, etc., they are actually mini-phrases that say he/she/it runs, he/she/it jumps, he/she/it climbs, he/she/it loves him/her/it, etc. It is very important that this is understood. Here is an example using “manyi” (walk):
Manyi ke. (male speaker)
Manyi ki. (female speaker)
Translation: He (or she) walks OR He (or she) is walking.
This same rule applies to verbs that have an object (transitive verbs). A verb like “ada” (see) is also a mini-phrase that says “he/she/it sees him/her/it”. In Otoe-Missouria, transitive and intransitive verbs work the same way where the verb root always refers to he, she, or it regardless if it is the subject or the object.
This brings up another issue. Verbs in the third-person singular form (he, she, or it) are gender neutral. This means that the above sentences of “Manyi ke/Manyi ki” can be saying he is walking, she is walking, or it is walking. The gender is specified by other means in the conversation. For example, “The woman is standing over there.” That sentence specifically expresses “woman” which tells the listener that the gender of the subject is a “she”.
A speaker will take this root form of the verb and add the appropriate pieces to it to express “I walk” or “we walk”. The rules on how to do this mean that the different verb types need to be explained. The type of verb determines which set of rules are used to conjugate that verb.
MORE ON VERBS
Click the links below to see more detailed information on verbs in Otoe-Missouria.
Transitive Verb Conjugations
Multiple Verbs to Express an Idea
Present (you run, they walk, etc.)
Imperfect (he was sitting, they were walking, etc.)
Perfect (I have made, you have done, etc.)
Pluperfect (they had arrived, I had worked, etc.)
Future (I will read, we shall go, etc.)
Imperfect Future (I was going to do it, they were about to stop, etc.)
Indicative (facts – “It is cold.”)
Subjunctive (possibility – “If it rains, I will wear a coat.”)
Potential (probability – “Perhaps I will go to the store.”, “I might swim later.”)
Optative (wish or hope – “May you have a good day.”, “Let’s go.”)
Imperative (command – “Don’t do that!”)
Infinitive (indefinite action – “I want to go.”)