The Kāmviri Verbal System

The following is an abstract of a paper given at the 3rd Himalayan Languages Symposium, University of California at Santa Barbara, on 18 July 1997. The symposium was supported with funds from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

An Overview of The Kāmviri Verbal System


Richard F. Strand

In the language of the Kom and Kshto tribes of eastern Nuristān, the root morpheme of a verbal form triggers the depiction of a force interacting with changing objects in a listener's cognitive image. A changing patient object is affected by the force, which may emanate from within the patient or externally from a changing agent object. If the verbal root depicts motion, the patient's destination and origin in the image are implied, along with an optional direction of motion.

Following a root may be a remote agency suffix (-ov) that depicts an agent acting on the objects depicted by the verbal root; the suffix may be iterated, each iteration depicting a further agent acting on the depicted objects. A root by itself or with remote agency suffixes is a verbal base .

An aspect/mode suffix may follow a verbal base to form a participle. Archetypical mode (-la) indicates that the change is archetypical, confined to the speaker's imagination. Progressive aspect (-na) depicts a change in progress. Retrospective aspect (-i and others) depicts a change from a retrospective perspective, placing the subject focus on the patient in its resultant state; otherwise, the subject focus is on the source of the force, the patient for intransitive verbs or the agent for transitive verbs. Participles referring to feminine singular objects require a following feminine suffix -i. Archetypical and retrospective participles may occur appositionally before nouns; progressive participles occur only finitely.

A verbal base or participle is finite if it occurs after a specification of the objects to which it refers. Additionally, a finite form includes a subject-reference suffix when the object in subject focus is the speaker, listener, or plural. To indicate changes that the speaker personally has perceived or conjectured, an attestational suffix -o follows a finite nonfeminine participle, before any subject-reference suffix. Finite verbal bases depict changes in an immediate mode that includes immediate actions and commands.

Participles may be compounded with forms of the verb ās'a- 'is' to depict a change's temporal distance from the time of speaking. Closely bound compounds depict temporally distal changes, traditionally labelled as perfect, imperfect, and resultative; phrasal compounds depict changes that have extended to the time of speaking or that emanate from current plans.

Retrospective and archetypical participles may be phrasally compounded with retrospective forms of 'bu- 'become; happen' to indicate various types of supposition.

Other nonfinite forms built with suffixes to the verbal base or retrospective participle depict precedential change (-ti), concomitant change (-m), time before change ([ret. part.]-o˜u), impulsive change (-ik), objectified change (, -˜_sta), location of change (_to˜), change as destination (), and object in change (-uk).

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First posted 29 Dec. 1997      Last modified 29 Dec. 1997

Copyright © 1997 by Richard F. Strand