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Onondaga
Onǫda’gegá’, Onoñda’gegá’
Spoken in Canada, United States
Region Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, and central New York
Total speakers 65-115
Language family Iroquoian
  • Northern Iroquoian
    • Proto-Lake Iroquoian
      • Iroquois Proper
        • Onondaga
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 iro
ISO 639-3 ono

Onondaga Nation Language (Onoñdaʔgegáʔ nigaweñoʔdeñʔ (IPA /onũdaʔgegáʔ niɡawẽnoʔdẽʔ/), "Onondaga is our language") is the language of the Onondaga First Nation, one of the original five constituent tribes of the League of the Iroquois (Hodenosaunee).

This language is spoken in the United States and Canada, primarily on the reservation in central New York state, and near Brantford, Ontario.

Contents

Phonology

This table shows the (consonant) phonemes that are found in Onondaga.

Consonant phonemes
Alveolar Postalveolar
/ Palatal
Velar Glottal
Plosives t k ʔ
Affricate
Fricatives s h
Resonants n y w

The two plosives, /t/, /k/ are allophonically voiced to [d] and [ɡ] before vowels and resonants and are spelled <d> and <g> in this case. There is considerable palatalization and affrication in the language.

Onondaga has five oral vowels, /i e o æ a/ (/æ/ is sometimes represented with <ä>), and two nasal vowels, /ẽ/ and /ũ/. The nasal vowels, following the Iroquoianist tradition, are spelled with ogoneks in the scholarly literature and in Ontario (<ę> and <ǫ> or <ų>). In New York, they are represented with a following <ñ> (<eñ> and <oñ>). Vowels can be both short and long. When vowel length derives from the now lost consonant *r, it is phonemic. Vowel length is written with a following colon, <:> or raised dot <·>.

Morphology

Onondaga is a polysynthetic language, exhibiting a great deal of inflectional and derivational morphology on the verbal forms (including noun incorporation). Nominal forms have less morphology. Additionally, there are particles, which are monomorphemic.

Verbal Morphology

Onondaga verbs can be divided into three main classes, according to their aspectual properties (discussed below). These are the active verbs, motion verbs, and stative verbs. We must distinguish between tense and aspect. Tense refers to when the event takes place, either in the past, the present or the future. Aspect refers to the event itself, such as whether it is finished or ongoing or occurs repeatedly. There are four aspects in Onondaga. The first is the habitual aspect (HAB). This aspect is used to refer to an event that takes place repeatedly or on an on-going basis. The second is the punctual aspect (PUNC) (also known as perfective aspect). This aspect refers to an entire event in its completeness. When used in the past tense, the event is described as “over and done-with.” It cannot describe an event that is interrupted or incomplete. The third aspect is the stative (STAT) (also known as imperfective) refers to an event that is ongoing or incomplete or, if it occurs in the past tense, that has some bearing on the present. Finally, there is the purposive aspect (PURP), which refers to imminent action, and usually implies intent or volition on the part of the subject. Active verbs can appear with any of the first three aspects. Motion verbs can ap-pear with any of all four aspects. Stative verbs can only appear with the stative aspect.

Verbal Template

A typical Onondaga verb consists of several morphemes (components). The following chart outlines the order of the morphemes. Obligatory morphemes appear in boldface, and optional morphemes are in standard font. Note that some of the “optional” morphemes are obligatory with certain verb roots. The obligatory morphemes, however, must appear on each and every single verb.

pre-pronominal prefixes pronominal prefixes reflexive or semireflexive incorporated noun verb root derivational suffixes aspect suffix expanded aspect suffix

Each of the following sections outlines the shapes that these morphemes can take.

Pre-pronominal Prefixes

Modal Pre-pronominal Prefixes

The prepronominal prefixes express a variety of concepts and ideas. The first concept we cover is modality, which expresses the degree of urgency, certainty or likelihood of the event. There are three modal prefixes in Onondaga. The modal prefixes only appear with the punctual aspect. They also appear if there is a modalizer suffix. The first of these is commonly called the future modal prefix (FUT). This prefix expresses events that have not yet taken place at the time the speaker is talking. The second is the factual modal prefix (FACT). This prefix indicates that the speaker knows the event happened for a fact. It typically has a past tense reading (since we are normally only sure about events that happened in the past). The third is optative modal prefix (OPT). This prefix expresses the idea that the event should or ought to take place. It is also used to express untrue events or events that might have taken place, but have not. Here are some examples.

    (36)    a.  ęhayę́:twaʔ
            ę-  ha-     yętw-   aʔ
            FUT-    3.SG.M.AG-  plant-  PUNC
            ‘He will plant it.’
        b.  waʔhayę́:twaʔ
            waʔ-    ha-     yę:tw-  aʔ
            FACT-   3.SG.M.AG-  plant-  PUNC
            ‘He planted it.’
        c.  ahayę́:twaʔ
            a-  ha-     yę:tw-  aʔ
            OPT-    3.SG.M.AG-  plant-  PUNC
            ‘He might plant it.’

The following chart lists forms of the three modal prepronominal prefixes and indicates when to use which form.

Mood Pre-pronominal Prefix When used Example
factual (FACT) waʔ default waʔhayę́:twaʔ

waʔ-ha-yę:tw-aʔ
FACT-he-plant-PUNC
‘He planted it.’

weʔ any 2nd person or 1st person inclusive (except 2.SG.AG) weʔdniyę́:twaʔ

weʔ-dni-yę:tw-aʔ
FACT-1.DU.INCL.AG-plant-PUNC
‘You and I planted it.’

ǫ optionally replaces sequence waʔwa ǫgyę́:twaʔ

waʔ-wak-yę:tw-aʔ
FACT-1.SG.PAT-plant-PUNC
‘It planted me.’ (ex, a monster)

future (FUT) ę does not change ęhayę́:twaʔ

ę-ha-yę:tw-aʔ
FUT-he-plant-PUNC
‘He will plant it.’

optative a / a: default (/a-/ and /a:-/ are in free variation) ahayę́:twaʔ

a-ha-yę:tw-aʔ
OPT-he-plant-PUNC
‘He might plant it.’

ae any 2nd person or 1st person inclusive (except 2.SG.AG) aedniyę́:twaʔ

ae-dni-yę:tw-aʔ
OPT-1.DU.INCL.AG-plant-PUNC
‘You and I might plant it.’

optionally replaces sequence /awa/ aǫgyę́:twaʔ

a-wak-yę:tw-aʔ
OPT-1.SG.PAT-plant-PUNC
‘It might plant me.’ (ex, a monster)

Non-modal Pre-pronominal Prefixes

In addition to the modal prefixes, there is also a set of prefixes that express a variety of concepts, some of which do not have a clearly distinct meaning, rather their meaning varies de-pending on context. The list of these includes repetitive, cislocative, dualic, translocative, parti-tive, coincident, contrastive, and negative.

Repetitive

The repetitive morpheme adds the meaning of doing something again or repeating some-thing. The basic form of the repetitive morpheme is /s-/. Here are some examples. Example ‎(37) has the prepronominal prefix /sa-/, which is a combination of both repetitive and factual mood. Example ‎(38) has the propronominal prefix /ęs-/, which is a combination of repetitive and future. These contrast with example ‎(39), which does not have the repetitive morpheme.

    (37)    sahayę́:twaʔ
        sa– ha– yętw–   aʔ
        REP.FACT-   3.SG.M- plant-PUNC
        ‘He planted it again.’                      
    (38)    ęshayę́:twaʔ
        ęs– ha– yętw–   aʔ
        REP.FUT-    3.SG.M- plant-  PUNC            
        ‘He will plant it again.’                           
    (39)    waʔhayę́:twaʔ
        waʔ–    ha– yętw–   aʔ
        FACT-   3.SG.M- plant-  PUNC                            
        ‘He planted it.’
Cislocative

The cislocative (CLOC) morpheme is used to indicate movement toward the speaker. It can also mean that a particular event is pinpointed back in time. In some cases, the meaning of the cislocative is unpredictable. Some of these are listed below. There are two forms of the cislocative.

/t-/ default
/di-/ used with any 2nd person or 1st person inclusive, except 2.SG.AG

Translocative

The translocative (TLOC) morpheme is used to indicate movement away from the speaker. The form of the translocative is /he-/

Dualic

The dualic (DUC) does not have a specific meaning. The form of the dualic is /de-/, but changes when it appears in combination with other prepronominal prefixes. Whenever it appears with a verb stem, it changes the meaning in unpredictable ways. Usually, however, there is some notion of there being two of something or of some reciprocal activity such as trading. Also, some verb roots must appear with the dualic prepronominal prefix. In examples ‎(41) and ‎(42), the dualic prefix is obligatory. In example ‎(43), the dualic prefix adds the meaning of becoming two pieces.

    (41)    deyǫshę́thwas 
        de- yǫ- ashęthw-as  
        DUC-    3.SG.F- cry-    HAB                         
         ‘She is crying.’                           
    (42)    dehahahíyaʔks 
        de- ha- ahah-   iyaʔk-  s   
        DUC-    3.SG.M- road-   cross-  HAB 
        ‘He crosses a road.’    
    (43)    dehá:yaʔks 
        de- ha- yaʔk-   s   
        DUC-    3.SG.M- break-  HAB 
        ‘He breaks it into two.’
    (44)    há:yaʔks 
        ha- yaʔk-   s   
        3.SG.M- break-  HAB 
        ‘He breaks it off.’ 

Pronominal Prefixes

There are three series of pronominal prefixes in Onondaga. There is a transitive series, used with transitive verbs. Intransitive verbs use either the agent series or the patient series. The choice between the latter two is often complex, as we will see. The phonological shape of the pronominal prefix depends on the identity of the following sound. This gives rise to several series of pronominal prefixes, which are labelled according to the following segment. These include the c-series (for pronominal prefixes which precede a consonant), the a-series (for pronominal prefixes which precede /a/), the e-series, ę-series, o-series, ǫ-series, and i-series. Finally, the pronominal prefixes inflect for person, number and gender. We discuss each of these in turn.

Onondaga distinguishes three persons: first (I or we), second (you) and third (he, she, it or they). The first person can be either exclusive (EXCL), which excludes the listener, or inclusive (INCL), which includes the listener.

Here, when John says we, it does not include the person he’s talking to. In other words, Mary doesn’t get to go to the movies. This use of we is called the first person exclusive. English does not make a distinction between inclusive and exclusive we, but Onondaga does. Consider the following two words. The pronominal prefix /dn-/ indicates a first person dual inclusive subject, and the pronominal prefix /agn-/ indicates a first person dual exclusive subject.

    (45)    weʔdnek
        weʔ–    dn–     ek– Ø                       
        FACT-   1.DU.INCL-  eat-    PUNC                        
        ‘We two (you and I) ate it.’    
    (46)    waʔagnek
        waʔ–    agn–        ek– Ø   
        FACT-   1.DU.EXCL-  eat-    PUNC        
        ‘We two (someone else and I) ate it.’

Three numbers are also distinguished in Onondaga: singular (for one entity, SG), dual (for two entities, DU), and plural (for three or more entities, PL). In the glosses, ‘singular’ is marked with SG, ‘dual’ is marked with DU, and ‘plural’ is marked with PL.

    (47)    waʔsek
        waʔ–    s–  ek– Ø   
        FACT-   2.SG-   eat-    PUNC        
        ‘You (sing.) ate it.’   
    (48)    weʔsnek
        weʔ–    sn– ek– Ø                       
        FACT-   2.DU-   eat-    PUNC                        
        ‘You two ate it.’                   
    (49)    weʔswek
        weʔ–    sw– ek– Ø   
        FACT-   2.PL-   eat-    PUNC    
        ‘You all ate it.’

Additionally, Onondaga distinguishes three genders, which are realized in the third person, only. The first is masculine (M), which is used to refer to male humans and certain animals, either alone or in a group. The second is feminine (F). This is used to refer to female humans and certain animals, or some unknown person. It is sometimes called the feminine-indefinite. For groups of people that contain both men and women, the masculine is used. The third is neuter (N), which is used to refer to most animals and inanimate objects. In older texts, the neuter is used to refer to human females in certain circumstances, although this usage is no longer com-mon. See Abrams (2006: 17) for more discussion. (Abbott, 1984 also discusses two feminine genders in Oneida.) Here are some examples.

    (50)    a.  waʔek
            waʔ-    e-  k-  Ø
            FACT-   3.SG.F- eat-    PUNC
            ‘She ate it.’ OR ‘Someone ate it.’
        b.  waʔwek
            waʔ-    we- k-  Ø 
            FACT-   3.SG.N- eat-    PUNC
            ‘Something/it ate it.’
        c.  waʔhek
            waʔ-    he- k-  Ø
            FACT-   3.SG.M- eat-    PUNC
            ‘Something/it ate it.’

Finally, we observe that there are two series of prefixes for intransitive verbs, the agent series (AG) and the patient series (PAT). As a general rule, verbs which involve active, purposeful movement or activity on the part of the subject are conjugated with the agent series. Verbs which involve involuntary action or states are conjugated with the patient series. There are so many ex-ceptions to this generalization, however, that one has to simply learn for each intransitive verb whether it takes the agent or the patient series. There is an additional rule for the intransitive verbs that take the agent series. When these verbs appear with stative aspect, they use the patient series rather than the agent series. This rule does not have any exceptions.

There are six classes of conjugations, which depend on the initial sound of the following morpheme (i.e., the first sound of the verb root or of the incorporated noun if there is one).

C-Stem

The following chart lists the pronominal prefixes for stems that begin with a consonant. Note that (y) or (w) in brackets disappears when preceded by a pre-pronominal prefix.

Intransitive, Agent-series

1st person exclusive 1st person inclusive 2nd person 3rd person
singular k- N/A s- ha- (MASC); (y)e- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)agni- dni- sni- hni- (MASC); gni- (FEM)
plural (y)agwa- dwa- swa- hadi- (MASC); gǫdi- (FEM)

Intransitive, Patient-series

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular (w)ak- sa- ho- (MASC); ((y)a)go- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)ǫgni- sni- hodi- (MASC); (y)odi- (FEM)
plural (y)ǫgwa- swa-

Transitive Series

Patient (to right)
Agent (below)
1.SG 1.DU 1.PL 2.SG 2.DU 2.PL 3.NEUT 3.SG.MASC 3.FEM/INDEF.SG 3.FEM.DU/PL 3.MASC.DU/PL
1.SG gǫ- gni- gwa- he- khe-
1.DU.EXCL gni- gni- gwa- shagni- (y)akhni-
1.PL.EXCL gwa- gwa- gwa- shagwa-
1.DU.INCL shedni- (y)ethi-
1.PL.INCL shedwa-
2.SG sk- sgni- sgwa- hes- she-
2.DU sgni- sgni- sgwa- shesni- (y)etchi-
2.PL sgwa- sgwa- sgwa- sheswa-
3.SG.MASC hak- shǫgni- shǫgwa- hya- shesni- sheswa- hǫwa- shago-
3.SG.FEM/INDEF (y)ǫk- (y)ǫkhi- (y)esa- (y)etchi- gǫwa- hǫwa- (y)ǫdat- gǫwadi- hǫwadi-
3.DU/PL.FEM ((y)a)godi-
3.DU.PL.MASC hǫk- shagodi-
A-Stem

The following chart lists the pronominal prefixes for stems that begin with a consonant. Note that (y) or (w) in brackets disappears when preceded by a pre-pronominal prefix.

Intransitive, Agent-series

1st person exclusive 1st person inclusive 2nd person 3rd person
singular g- N/A (h)s- hǫhR- (MASC); yǫw- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)agy- dy- jy- hy- (MASC); gy- (FEM)
plural (y)agw- dw- sw- hǫw- (MASC); gǫw- (FEM)

Intransitive, Patient-series

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular (w)ag- s- how- (MASC); ((y)a)gow- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)ǫgy- jy- hon- (MASC); (y)on- (FEM)
plural (y)ǫgw- sw-

Transitive Series

Patient (to right)
Agent (below)
1.SG 1.DU 1.PL 2.SG 2.DU 2.PL 3.NEUT 3.SG.MASC 3.FEM/INDEF.SG 3.FEM.DU/PL 3.MASC.DU/PL
1.SG gǫy- gy- gw- hey- khey-
1.DU.EXCL gy- gy- gw- shagy- (y)akhiy-
1.PL.EXCL gw- gw- gw- shagw-
1.DU.INCL shedy- (y)ethy-
1.PL.INCL shedwa-
2.SG sg- sgy- sgw- hes- shey-
2.DU sgy- sgy- sgw- shejy- (y)etchiy-
2.PL sgw- sgw- sgw- shesw-
3.SG.MASC hag- shǫgy- shǫgw- hy- (s)hejy- (s)hesw- hǫw- shagow-
3.SG.FEM/INDEF (y)ǫg- (y)ǫkhiy- (y)es- (y)etchiy- gǫw- hǫw- (y)ǫdad- gǫwan- hǫwadiy-
3.DU/PL.FEM ((y)a)godiy-
3.DU.PL.MASC hǫg- shagodi-
E-Stem

The following chart lists the pronominal prefixes for stems that begin with a consonant. Note that (y) or (w) in brackets disappears when preceded by a pre-pronominal prefix.

Intransitive, Agent-series

1st person exclusive 1st person inclusive 2nd person 3rd person
singular g- N/A (h)s- h- (MASC); yagǫ(y)- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)agn- dn- sn- hn- (MASC); gn- (FEM)
plural (y)agw- dw- sw- hęn- (MASC); gǫn- (FEM)

Intransitive, Patient-series

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular (w)ag- s- haw- (MASC); ((y)a)gaw- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)ǫgn- sn- hon- (MASC); (y)on- (FEM)
plural (y)ǫgw- sw-

Transitive Series

Patient (to right)
Agent (below)
1.SG 1.DU 1.PL 2.SG 2.DU 2.PL 3.NEUT 3.SG.MASC 3.FEM/INDEF.SG 3.FEM.DU/PL 3.MASC.DU/PL
1.SG gǫy- gn- gw- hey- khey-
1.DU.EXCL gn- gn- gw- shagn- (y)akhiy-
1.PL.EXCL gw- gw- gw- shagw-
1.DU.INCL shedn- (y)ethy-
1.PL.INCL shedwa-
2.SG sg- sgn- sgw- hes- shey-
2.DU sgn- sgn- sgw- shejy- (y)etchiy-
2.PL sgw- sgw- sgw- shesw-
3.SG.MASC hag- shǫgn- shǫgw- hy- (s)hesn- (s)hesw- hǫw- shagaw-
3.SG.FEM/INDEF (y)ǫg- (y)ǫkhiy- (y)es- (y)etchiy- gǫw- hǫw- (y)ǫdad- gǫwan- hǫwadiy-
3.DU/PL.FEM ((y)a)godiy-
3.DU/PL.MASC hǫg- shagodi-
Ę-Stem

The following chart lists the pronominal prefixes for stems that begin with /ę/. Note that (y) or (w) in brackets disappears when preceded by a pre-pronominal prefix.

Intransitive, Agent-series

1st person exclusive 1st person inclusive 2nd person 3rd person
singular g- N/A (h)s- hǫhR- (MASC); yǫw/yag- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)agy- dy- jy- hy- (MASC); gy- (FEM)
plural (y)agw- dw- sw- hǫw- (MASC); gǫn- (FEM)

Intransitive, Patient-series

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular (w)ag- s- how- (MASC); ((y)a)gow- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)ǫgy- jy- hon- (MASC); (y)on- (FEM)
plural (y)ǫgw- sw-

Transitive Series

Patient (to right)
Agent (below)
1.SG 1.DU 1.PL 2.SG 2.DU 2.PL 3.NEUT 3.SG.MASC 3.FEM/INDEF.SG 3.FEM.DU/PL 3.MASC.DU/PL
1.SG gǫy- gy- gw- hey- khey-
1.DU.EXCL gy- gy- gw- shagy- (y)akhiy-
1.PL.EXCL gw- gw- gw- shagw-
1.DU.INCL shedy- (y)ethy-
1.PL.INCL shedwa-
2.SG sg- sgy- sgw- hes- shey-
2.DU sgy- sgy- sgw- shejy- (y)etchiy-
2.PL sgw- sgw- sgw- shesw-
3.SG.MASC hag- shǫgy- shǫgw- hy- (s)hejy- (s)hesw- hǫw- shagow-
3.SG.FEM/INDEF (y)ǫg- (y)ǫkhiy- (y)es- (y)etchiy- gǫw- hǫw- (y)ǫdad- gǫwan- hǫwadiy-
3.DU/PL.FEM ((y)a)godiy-
3.DU.PL.MASC hǫg- shagodi-
O-Stem

The following chart lists the pronominal prefixes for stems that begin with a consonant. Note that (y) or (w) in brackets disappears when preceded by a pre-pronominal prefix.

Intransitive, Agent-series

1st person exclusive 1st person inclusive 2nd person 3rd person
singular g- N/A (h)s- hǫhR- (MASC); yǫw- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)agy- dy- jy- hy- (MASC); gy- (FEM)
plural (y)agw- dw- sw- hǫw- (MASC); gǫw- (FEM)

Intransitive, Patient-series

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular (w)ag- s- how- (MASC); ((y)a)gow- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)ǫgy- jy- hon- (MASC); (y)on- (FEM)
plural (y)ǫgw- sw-

Transitive Series

Patient (to right)
Agent (below)
1.SG 1.DU 1.PL 2.SG 2.DU 2.PL 3.NEUT 3.SG.MASC 3.FEM/INDEF.SG 3.FEM.DU/PL 3.MASC.DU/PL
1.SG gǫy- gy- gw- hey- khey-
1.DU.EXCL gy- gy- gw- shagn- (y)akhiy-
1.PL.EXCL gw- gw- gw- shagy-
1.DU.INCL shedn- (y)ethiy-
1.PL.INCL shedy-
2.SG sg- sgn- sgy- hes- shey-
2.DU sgn- sgn- sgy- shesn- (y)etchiy-
2.PL sgy- sgy- sgy- shejy-
3.SG.MASC hag- shǫgn- shǫgy- hyay- (s)hesn- (s)hejy- hǫy- shaga-
3.SG.FEM/INDEF (y)ǫg- (y)ǫkhiy- (y)es- (y)etchiy- gǫw- hǫw- (y)ǫdad- gǫwan- hǫwadiy-
3.DU/PL.FEM ((y)a)godiy-
3.DU.PL.MASC hǫg- shagodi-
Ǫ-Stem

The following chart lists the pronominal prefixes for stems that begin with a consonant. Note that (y) or (w) in brackets disappears when preceded by a pre-pronominal prefix.

Intransitive, Agent-series

1st person exclusive 1st person inclusive 2nd person 3rd person
singular g- N/A (h)s- hǫhR- (MASC); yǫw- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)agy- dy- jy- hy- (MASC); gy- (FEM)
plural (y)agw- dw- sw- hǫw- (MASC); gǫw- (FEM)

Intransitive, Patient-series

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular (w)ag- s- how- (MASC); ((y)a)gow- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)ǫgy- jy- hon- (MASC); (y)on- (FEM)
plural (y)ǫgw- sw-

Transitive Series

Patient (to right)
Agent (below)
1.SG 1.DU 1.PL 2.SG 2.DU 2.PL 3.NEUT 3.SG.MASC 3.FEM/INDEF.SG 3.FEM.DU/PL 3.MASC.DU/PL
1.SG gǫy- gy- gw- hey- khey-
1.DU.EXCL gy- gy- gw- shagy- (y)akhiy-
1.PL.EXCL gw- gw- gw- shagw-
1.DU.INCL shedy- (y)ethy-
1.PL.INCL shedwa-
2.SG sg- sgy- sgw- hes- shey-
2.DU sgy- sgy- sgw- shejy- (y)etchiy-
2.PL sgw- sgw- sgw- shesw-
3.SG.MASC hag- shǫgy- shǫgw- hy- (s)hejy- (s)hesw- hǫw- shagow-
3.SG.FEM/INDEF (y)ǫg- (y)ǫkhiy- (y)es- (y)etchiy- gǫw- hǫw- (y)ǫdad- gǫwan- hǫwadiy-
3.DU/PL.FEM ((y)a)godiy-
3.DU.PL.MASC hǫg- shagodi-
I-Stem

The following chart lists the pronominal prefixes for stems that begin with a consonant. Note that (y) or (w) in brackets disappears when preceded by a pre-pronominal prefix.

Intransitive, Agent-series

1st person exclusive 1st person inclusive 2nd person 3rd person
singular g- N/A (h)s- hǫhR- (MASC); yǫw- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)agy- dy- jy- hy- (MASC); gy- (FEM)
plural (y)agw- dw- sw- hǫw- (MASC); gǫw- (FEM)

Intransitive, Patient-series

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular (w)ag- s- how- (MASC); ((y)a)gow- (FEM, INDEF or NEUT)
dual (y)ǫgy- jy- hon- (MASC); (y)on- (FEM)
plural (y)ǫgw- sw-

Transitive Series

Patient (to right)
Agent (below)
1.SG 1.DU 1.PL 2.SG 2.DU 2.PL 3.NEUT 3.SG.MASC 3.FEM/INDEF.SG 3.FEM.DU/PL 3.MASC.DU/PL
1.SG gǫy- gy- gw- hey- khey-
1.DU.EXCL gy- gy- gw- shagy- (y)akhiy-
1.PL.EXCL gw- gw- gw- shagw-
1.DU.INCL shedy- (y)ethy-
1.PL.INCL shedwa-
2.SG sg- sgy- sgw- hes- shey-
2.DU sgy- sgy- sgw- shejy- (y)etchiy-
2.PL sgw- sgw- sgw- shesw-
3.SG.MASC hag- shǫgy- shǫgw- hy- (s)hejy- (s)hesw- hǫw- shagow-
3.SG.FEM/INDEF (y)ǫg- (y)ǫkhiy- (y)es- (y)etchiy- gǫw- hǫw- (y)ǫdad- gǫwan- hǫwadiy-
3.DU/PL.FEM ((y)a)godiy-
3.DU.PL.MASC hǫg- shagodi-
waʔdyųdetgwęʔdaʔné·ga·ʔ
waʔ-d-yų-adet-gwęʔd-ʔnega·-aʔ
factual.mode-change.of.state-she-self-belly-burst-at.one.point.in.time
"she blabbed, she revealed a secret" [literally, 'she burst her belly']

The constituent morphemes are separated by hyphens in the second line of the example. Each one is translated, as closely as possible, in the third line. It is important to understand that none of the component morphemes is a separate word, since they cannot be uttered, or understood, in isolation.

A second way in which linguists classify the morphology of languages is in terms of how the morphemes of a word combine. This distinction is between languages that are fusional and languages that are agglutinative. Fusion occurs in two ways: a single morpheme may have two or more functions (or meanings) in a given word, or contiguous morphemes may affect each other's shape in such a way that it is difficult to segment the word into morphemes. A language is agglutinative if the morphemes composing a word each carries its own meaning and can be easily segmented from its neighbor. Onondaga is fusional (in the second sense of that term). Fusion is especially prevalent at the boundary between prefixes and the stem. Here certain phonological processes take place which change the shapes of one or both contiguous morphemes. For example:

gędé·ih
ga-idę·-ih
neuter.agent.prefix-help.out-stative.aspect
"it is helping."

Languages are also classified in terms of the preeminent morphological processes they manifest. In Onondaga the two major morphological processes are prefixing, and suffixing. Prefixes and suffixes are bound morphemes, that is, they are morphemes that cannot occur in isolation. Onondaga verbs must, minimally, begin in a pronominal prefix and inflect for aspect. For example:

hayę́thwas
ha-yę́thw-as
third.person.singular.masculine.agent-plant-habitual.aspect
"he plants"

Nouns must, minimally, begin in a nominal prefix and end in a noun suffix. For example:

ganáʔjyaʔ
ga-naʔjy-aʔ
neuter.agent-pail-noun.suffix
"pail"

Noun Incorporation

Noun incorporation is a process of compounding in which two stems, a noun and a verb stem, are combined into a new stem that is inflected with verbal morphology and that functions as a verb. Nouns occupying the semantic roles, or thematic relations, of patient, theme, factitive theme, location, goal, path, or instrument are eligible for incorporation. Of these, it is nouns designating semantic patients and themes that are most frequently incorporated. Semantic agents, causers, and beneficiaries are not eligible for incorporation.

The first example shows that the nominal root -nęh- "corn" has been incorporated into the verbal complex forming a single word. The second example shows the noun /onęhaʔ/ ('corn') as a separate word and preceded by the particle neʔ, a particle which marks a following word or phrase as a nominal.

waʔhanęhayę́thwaʔ
waʔ-ha-nęh-yęthw-aʔ
factual.mode-he-corn-plant-punctual.aspect
'he planted corn' [literally, 'he corn-planted'].
waʔhayę́thwaʔ neʔ onę́haʔ
waʔ-ha-yęthw-aʔ neʔ o-nęh-aʔ
factual.mode-he-plant-punctual.aspect nominal.particle it-corn-noun.suffix
'he planted (the) corn'

Noun incorporation is a highly productive process in Onondaga. However, its productivity is an attribute of individual nouns and verbs. Every noun and every verb is lexically marked in terms of its incorporation characteristics. Some nouns incorporate frequently, that is, they can combine with many different verbs, others almost never. Among the verbs that can incorporate—and some do not incorporate at all—there is a continuum of productivity. At their most productive, verbs can incorporate one of any number of nouns, in fact, some verbs can only occur together with an incorporated noun. Verbs at their most unproductive, can incorporate only a single noun. Between these extremes are additional types: verbs that can incorporate only a restricted set of nouns; verb and noun combinations that are highly idiomatic—these often denote conventionalized activities (e.g., English 'he information-gathered)—so that separating the noun, though interpretable, is perceived as inappropriate.

The use of noun incorporation is governed by various discourse factors. It is often used as a way of backgrounding information.

Word Order

Word order is typically free in Onondaga (though see question formation below). It depends on various discourse factors.

Question Formation

Wh-questions begin with the interrogative word:

gaę nų́ tganųhsá·yęʔ
gaę nų́ t-ga-nųhs-yę-ʔ
where place here-it-house-be.lying-stative.aspet
"Where is the house?"
wadę́ʔ nihsa·dyé·haʔ
wadę́ʔ ni-hs-adyé·-haʔ
what thus-you-do-habitual.aspect
"What are you doing?"

Yes-no questions are formed by appending the question-particle to the questioned item:

Sędáʔwih khę́h.
sa-idáʔw-ih khę́h.
you-be.asleep-stative.aspect question.particle
"Are you asleep?"

See also

References

Abrams, Percy. 2006. Onondaga Pronominal Prefixes, Department of Linguistics, State University of New York at Buffalo: Ph. D. Dissertation.

Chafe, Wallace L. 1970. A Semantically Based Sketch of Onondaga. Indiana University Publications in Anthropology and Linguistics. Memoir 25 of the International Journal of American Linguistics.

Michelson, Karin. 1988. A Comparative Study of Lake-Iroquoian Accent. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Woodbury, Hanni. 1975a. Onondaga Noun Incorporation: Some Notes on the Interdependence of Syntax and Semantics. International Journal of American Linguistics 41 (1):10-20.

Woodbury, Hanni. 1975b. Noun Incorporation in Onondaga, Department of Linguistics, Yale University: Ph. D. Dissertation.

Woodbury, Hanni. 2002. Onondaga-English/English-Onondaga Dictionary. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

External links


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