Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grammar 6: The Aorist Tense :: Sedi Nyanata

In the last post we briefly mentioned Sedi Nyanata ( the Aorist Tense)*.

This post is going to be all about the Aorist Tense ( you don't have to memorize the Igbo name) so hang tight.

The Aorist Tense, despite being the simplest and most basic of all the Igbo tenses, is a very tricky thing to define.

The easiest way to explain it is to compare it to another language.

Let us compare Igbo tenses with the following languages - English and Japanese.

English  has three main tenses - Present, Past, and Future

This is very familiar. I buy, I bought, and I will buy.

Japanese on the other hand has only TWO main tenses - Past and Not-the-Past (or Non-Past)

Past - Inu deshita ( It was a dog )

Not-the-Past - Inu desu (It is a dog ... or it will be a dog )

In other words, anything you say in Japanese, that is not expressly in past tense, could be happening now, or some time in the future.

So, how is this related to Igbo?


Igbo is just like Japanese. It has only TWO main tenses.

The only difference between Igbo and Japanese is that, while Japanese is divided into Past and Not-the-Past, Igbo is divided into Future and Not-the-Future.

Future - O ga bu nkita ( It will be a dog)

Not-the-Future - O bu nkita (It is a dog .... or it was a dog )

This means that anything you say in Igbo that is not expressly in the Future could be happening now, or it may have happened yesterday or at some other time in the past.

This tense group that I've been referring to as "Not-the-Future" is what is called The Aorist Tense.

The Aorist Tense is a special tense in which whatever you are saying could be happening presently or it could have happened in the past.

* - [ Sedi = Tense; Nya na Ta = Yesterday and Today ]

Syntax 1: Putting It All Together

Now that we've talked a little about verbs and nouns and pronouns, you need to know how to stitch all those elements together to form a coherent sentence!

To make things simple, this first syntax lesson will deal only with how to make sentences in the Aorist Tense.

We haven't discussed the Aorist Tense yet, (we will in the next post!) but all you need to know for now is that it is the most common tense used in Igbo and it is the easiest of all the tenses.

Now on to sentence making.

The general sentence structure in Igbo is S-P-P-V-S-O-A

Don't be scared.

This stands for:-

Subject - Particle - Prefix- Verb ( root ) - Suffix - Object - Auxiliary

The key above shows you the general order in which all these elements should go when making a sentence in Igbo.

Let's try it!

Subject Particle Prefix Verb Root Suffix Object Auxiliary
Listen   Emeka na e nye kwa fa enye
This table above is an example of an sentence that contains all these elements.

However, as you go from tense to tense, you will see that some of these grammatical elements will be dropped (or added) depending on what tense you are using or what you are trying to say.

Now that you have an idea of the main structure of an Igbo sentence, let's look at the table again as it should appear for the Aorist Tense.

Subject Particle Prefix Verb Root Suffix Object Auxiliary
Listen   Emeka nye fa
Aorist sentence

Notice the difference?

As mentioned before, the Aorist Tense is the simplest tense (and most common) in Igbo so its sentence structure is very basic.

In this sentence, there is no Particle, no Prefix, no Suffix, and no Auxiliary.

It's just Subject, Verb (root), and Object.

Emeka (the subject), gave/gives (the verb), them (the object).

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

That's all there is to it.

To make your first basic sentence, just put in a subject (the party performing the action), a verb (the action being performed), and an object (the party receiving the action or upon whom the action is being performed).

Since we already have a list of nouns, pronouns, verbs and other vocabulary, let's try and make some simple Aorist Tense sentences using the formula we've learned above.

Subject Particle Prefix Verb Root Suffix Object Auxiliary
Listen   Anyi
Listen   Nwaanyi
Listen   Madu
Listen   Unu
Listen   Nkechi
Listen   Fa

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Grammar 5 : Personal Pronouns Part 1 - Subject and Object Pronouns

Pronouns are some of the most commonly encountered elements in most languages.

Personal pronouns stand in for people when you don't know their names, don't want to mention names too often, or are simply trying to gossip about people but can't get away from them quickly enough.

In some languages, you don't use personal pronouns a whole lot (e.g. Japanese .... although, "you" is used a lot, but other pronouns not so much)

Igbo isn't like those languages. Igbo LOVES its pronouns and the personal variety are no exception.

So, without further ado, let's look at the first set of pronouns that every successful Igbo learner needs to know.

Subject Pronouns

These are the pronouns that indicate who is performing the action.

Here they are below:

English Igbo
I M (when the next word begins with B, M,P, or F )
N (for all other words)
You (singular) I (pronounced "eeee")
He / She / It O (pronounced "o" as in Hot)
We Anyi
You (plural) Unu
They Fa

Object Pronouns

These are the pronouns that indicate who is receiving the action.

Here they are below:

English Igbo
Me M (Pronounced like Mmm )
You (singular) Gi (sometimes "I" if you want to sound really casual)
He / She / It Ya
Us Anyi
You (plural) Unu
They Fa

And now you know...

In the next lesson I'll explain how to put all the things we've learned so far together into your first complete sentence!