Who Can Be Mentioned in a Sentence?

Mitla Ruina

Languages have ‘rules’ about the number of nouns that can be mentioned in a sentence. Some verbs may have one noun, some may have two or even three. Five Chinantec verbs for ‘slap’ differ in this way.


jnáng12 dsa2 ‘he slaps (someone)’

jnáng12 ‘slap someone’ may only have a subject; the person being slapped cannot be named in the sentence with this verb.


jnah12 dsa2 hma2 ‘he slaps into a tree’

jnáh12 ‘slap into something’ may have two nouns, a ‘subject’ and a ‘location’. The subject gets slapped into something.


jnáng2 dsa2 gog1 ‘he slaps my hand’

jnáng2 ‘slap something’ can have two nouns, a ‘subject’ and an ‘object’. The object is a ‘thing’, not an animal or person.


jnó2 dsa2 tsih2 ‘he slaps a child’

jnó2 ‘slap someone’ can have two nouns, a ‘subject’ and an ‘object’. The object is an animal or a person.


jnóh2 dsa2 gug2 quieg1 ‘he slaps me with his hand’s

jnóh2 ‘slap something with something’ may have three nouns, a ‘subject’, an ‘object’, and and ‘instrument’.