A Course in Rawàng Ata: 2.2


Counters and Number

Certain nouns are mass nouns – they refer to substances, not to individuals. These nouns cannot be inflected to show number. However, they can be modified by certain words known as counters, which can in turn be inflected for number.

Which counter is used depends on the mass noun in question – any deviation from the set counter is poetic and not standard usage (though poets may indeed mix counters freely, or even invent new ones).

soal ayati

a handful of grain

soalònga ayati

this single handful of grain

wuy siwàk

a scoop of mud

wuywuy siwàk

these scoops of mud

rāsyang yohok

a surge of anger

rarāsyang yohok

these surges of anger

rārarasyang yohok

an overwhelming flood of anger

However, it is not only mass nouns that require counters. All animate nouns also require counters if a number inflexion is to be applied. However, animates relating to people often have a wider range of counters available.

datta wohola kokoama kòmaya

the sailor strikes all of this coven of women [group of like-minded women who plan things together]

datta wohola yimiyìmina kòmaya

the sailor strikes all of this gaggle of women [group of women assembled for gossip or to spectate]

Note: this demonstrates that some counters are pluralised through an archaic method of whole-word reduplication. This must be learnt.

More importantly: case is marked on the counter, NOT on the noun itself, which is placed in the ergative, no matter its role in the sentence.

Collective Number

A small number of animates nouns by default refer to groups, rather than to individuals. Mostly, these are words for pairs of body parts (ears, eyes, hands, etc) or for social sets (brothers, friends, etc). In these cases, to refer to an individual, the singular must be used.

datta wohola yaiòngma lutà

the sailor strikes the testicle

datta ruaya tanòngma sōma [NB sandhi: n+m=m, lengthening the preceding vowel]

the sailor rubs the ear repeatedly [lit. ‘polishes’ – polishing the ear is a gesture indicating deliberation]



First, a note about verbs. Until now, verbs have been cited with a final –a in all cases; however, properly speaking this is an affix, and not part of the root. Therefore, from now on, verbs will be cited in stem form, with a final hyphen to which this affix may be added. Although the use of this affix will not be described until later, one reason for this change in notation will be made clear in the following chapter.

Some of the semantics of the following verbs may seem strange. This will partly become clearer in the following chapter, as these verbs are all ‘native passives’, and may seem inverted to English speakers.

tì- = to see

This verb is simple enough in meaning, except to mention that it is strictly a verb of sight: it does not bear the various extended and metaphorical  meanings it may have in other languages. However, one small extension is that it may be used to mean ‘acknowledge’, in the sense of noticing the existence of. To ignore the presence of a person by claiming not to see them is amongst the highest of insults – save that it is common for monks to refuse to acknowledge the existence of anyone with whom they have no business. The subject is seen, the object sees.

nūng– = to love, to cherish

Many ‘emotions’ are spoken of in Rawàng Ata through verbs. This verb refers to a ‘direct’ (ie within a social group – see previous vocabulary section for more), positive emotion; specifically, it is the love of a parent for a child, a spouse for a spouse, a person for their country, and a country for its allies. It is literally ‘constructive’, in that it is associated with a desire to help change or improve a thing or its situation. It is irreflexive, which is to say that if X ‘loves’ Y in this way, this does not suggest that Y loves X in the same way. It is not usually used for sexual or romantic love, although within a marriage group it may (indeed should) be part of the ‘love’ between two people. The subject is loved, the object loves.

mayajd- = to surround

This is not the verb for a group moving to surround something – rather, it is the verb for ‘inanimate’ surrounding, as walls surround a person in a room, or as the sea surrounds an island. It is not used for an actual boundary and the area it bounds – walls do not ‘surround’ a room itself (they ‘define’ or ‘limit’ it), only things in the room. Animate things can ‘surround’ in this sense, but not by moving to surround a thing – the thing must enter into the surrounding without any action by the surrounder(s). The subject surrounds, the object is surrounded.

faràkk- = to coat, to colour

The subject of this verb is NOT one who colours or coats, but rather the coating thing – a colour may ‘coat’ an object, as may a paint, or an oil, or dust. Extendedly, an individual or group may ‘coat’ another individual, in which case the latter individual bears allegiance to the former. This too may be seen as an emotion verb. The subject coats, the object is coated.


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