A Grammar of Yami

6 Structure of Verbal Clauses
 6.1 Constructions with auxiliary verbs

  Auxiliary Verbs in sentence initial position attract second-order pronominal and adverbial clitics. The main verb is dependent (or in the subjunctive form, Tables 6-7) following the closely bound auxiliary verbs, whereas it is in the indicative form following the less closely bound auxiliary verbs. Auxiliary verbs can be connected with the following main verbs either with or without the LINKER a .


6.1.1 Closely-bound auxiliary verbs


Yami auxiliary verbs include to (or tada , todey ) ‘then, suddenly, continuously, impossible' and ji ‘negation or emphatic'. These auxiliary verbs are closely bound to the following main verbs and hence cause obligatory inflection of the main verbs. The inflection is guided by the so-called N- morphophonemics, as illustrated in Table 6. The beginning Coronal segments /s/, /t/, /c/ of the main verb are changed to /n/, while the Labial /p/ and the Dorsal segment /k/ and vowels are changed to /m/ and /ng/, respectively.


Table 6: N-morphophonemics after auxiliary verbs to and ji

Stem beginning with


Change to

[+alveolar] and [+palatal]

/s/, /t/, and /c/







/ng/= [ Ç ]


/i/, /a/, and /o/

/ng/= [ Ç ] + vowel


Tables 6.1 and 6.2 provide examples of dynamic intransitive verbs and stative verbs, respectively, to illustrate the N- morphophonemics of the main verbs following the auxiliary verbs. Detailed verbal classificiation will be discussed in 6.3.1 and 6.3.2.


Table 6.1: Examples of inflections of dynamic intransitive verbs

Feature of the intial segement


Inflected form after to or ji


salap ‘ fly '



ciwciw ‘ scare away, chase '



panta ‘ give '



kan ‘ eat '



isan ‘ stay overnight '



ai ‘ come '



oli ‘ go home, return '


Table 6.2: Examples of inflections of stative verbs

Stative verbs

Inflected form after to or ji

ma-cimoy ‘rain'


má-miying ‘laugh'


ma-téneng ‘intelligent'


ma-viay ‘alive'



6.1.1 .1 Clauses with full noun complements, headed by auxiliary verbs without a ligature

The word order of the full noun complements is the same as that in single verb constructions. The verb inflection of the main verb nalap (< salap ) ‘fly' in (49) follows N-morphophonemics.

(49) to nálap rana o tazokok.

AUX SUB.fly already NOM bird.name

‘Then the tazokok bird flew away.' Clauses with pronominal complements, headed by auxiliary verbs without a ligature

The enclitic pronominal complement follows the first verb of the sentence, i.e., the auxiliary verbs. In (50), the Genitive Agent na ‘by him' immediately follows the auxilairy verb to ‘continuously'.

(50) to na níta yaken a.


‘He keeps looking at me.' With an intransitive ‘main' verb

The Nominative enclitic pronominal complement usually occurs after the auxiliary verbs, as in (51)-(52). But the Agent can be raised to the front of the sentence, following the Agent initial word order (Section 5.4), as in (53).

(51) to ka rana ng-ísan do vahay namen.

AUX 2.S.NOM already AF.SUB-sleep.over LOC house 1.P.GEN.EXCL

‘You might as well sleep over at our house.'

(52) ji ka mi-yakan so among,

NEG 2.S.NOM AF-side.dish OBL fish

ta m-ingen o velek mo.

because SV-hurt NOM stomach 2.S.GEN

‘Don't eat fish as a side dish because your stomach will hurt.'

(53) ko ji maka-itkeh.

1.S.NOM NEG AF.able-sleep

‘I can't sleep.' With a transitive ‘main' verb

  Transitive verbs following the auxiliary verbs to or ji (Table 7) have a different verb inflectional pattern than intransitive verbs (Table 6). The - en, -an, and i- affixes are changed to -a, -i, and -an , respectively.


Table 7: Verb inflections of transitive verbs

Corresponding “Focus”

Transitive Affixes

Inflectional Affixes











  Tables 7.1 and 7.2 provide examples to illustrate the inflectional forms for transitive verbs and stative verbs functioning as transitive verbs. The detailed discussion of verb classification is postponed until Sections 6.3.1 and 6.3.2.


Table 7.1: Inflections of transitive verbs after to or ji

Feature of the initial segemnt

Transitive verbs

Inflected form after to or ji


singkad-an ‘ see clearly '



a-spang-a ‘ meet '



i-toro ‘ give '



cita-en ‘ look at '

n-ita (=n-ita-a)


a-pno-en ‘ fill '



i-kelaw ‘ surprise '



itkeh ‘ sleep '



amizing-en ‘ listen to '



onot-an ‘ follow '



Table 7.2: Inflections of stative verbs functioning as transitive verbs after to or ji

Stative verbs functioning as transitive verbs

Inflected form after to or ji

ma-cita ‘ see '

a-cita (=a-cita-a)

ma-sinmo ‘ come across '


ma-kala ‘ find '

a-kala (=a-kala-a)

ka-liman-an ‘ kill '


ka-teneng-an ‘ know '



In (54) and (56), the enclitic Agent follows the initial auxiliary verbs. In the two yes-no questions in (55) and (57), the Agent is raised to the front to indicate immediacy or recency of the event.

(54) to mo rana noró-an jiaken

AUX 2.S.GEN already SUB.give-SUB.IF 1.S.LOC

o vonong ni Kaka.

NOM share GEN older.sibling

‘Just give to me my brother's share.'

(55) mo rana to ngolí-i?

2.S.GEN already AUX SUB.go.home-SUB.LF

‘You already came back home? Why did you already come back home?'

(56) ji mo ngala-a yaken,

NEG 2.S.GEN SUB.look.for-SUB.PF 1.S.NOM

ta ko m-angay Jimowrod.

because 1.S.NOM AF-go PLN

‘Don't look for me because I'm going to Jimowrod.'

(57) mo ji ngiop-i so asoy?

2.S.GEN NEG SUB.drink-SUB.LF OBL soup

‘You don't want to drink soup? Why don't you drink soup?' Deictics as auxiliary verbs

  The deictic ya ‘this' can occur in the sentence initial position as an auxiliary verb to serve one of two functions: (1) It indicates the proximity of time and location of the action in relation to the interlocutor; (2) It serves as the background marker in narrative discourse, providing descriptive background of the story. The main verb following ya does not undergo any verbal inflection, as in (58~60). Enclitic pronouns and monosyllabic adverbs na and pa are ordered after ya . Disyllabic adverb rana ‘already' is ordered after monosyllabic pronouns, as in (60).

(58) ya m-ai rana o kois nio.

AUX AF-come already NOM pig 2.P.GEN

‘Your (pl.) pig has come.'

(59) mo Ina, ya ko ni-maka-hap so panganpen.

2.S.GEN Mother AUX 1.S.NOM PA-AF.able-take OBL fox

‘Mother, I caught a fox.'

(60) ya ko ma-omang rana no viniay.

AUX 1.S.NOM PF.able-bored already GEN meat

‘I am sick and tired of meat.' Constructions with sequences of auxiliary verbs

  Ya is ordered in front of ji or to in constructions with sequences of auxiliary verbs, as shown in (61) and (62).

(61) ya ji ngian do sahad ori a.

AUX AUX SUB.exist LOC inside that PAR

‘He is definitely inside.'

(62) ya to mipá-kdeng o cimoy.

AUX AUX gradually-heavy NOM rain

‘The rain is becoming heavier.'


6.1.2 Less-closely-bound auxiliary verbs

  The verbs, such as oyod ‘truly', ala ‘maybe', or apia ‘permitted', can occur in sentence initial position, functioning as auxiliary verbs. But these less-closely-bound auxiliary verbs are connected with the following main verbs with the linker a .

(63) oyod a ji ko a-viay ya

truly LIN NEG 1.S.NOM SUB.able-alive this

‘Am I really not be able to survive?'

(64) ala ma-ka-doa a kawan ko do ilaod.

maybe SV-VF-two LIN year 1.S.NOM LOC Taiwan

‘I might stay in Taiwan for two years.'

note:The word final vowel /a/ of ala is merged with the linker a .