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Word Classes

  1. Nouns n
  2. Verbs v
  3. Adverbs adv
  4. Pronouns prn
    1. Personal pronouns pers
    2. Demonstratives dem
  5. "Particles" / clitics

Would be good to have an example of each of these using the morphTest template, per the instructions -JNW

  • Extremely prductive "clitics" that can be attached to various word classes
  • No prepositions or postpositions?, conjunctions, or adjectives
  • Highly developed sysytem of converbs (> 20 forms)
  • Qualitative verbs replace adjectives
  • Nouns can be used attributively


  • SOV
  • Attribute precedes nouns


  • Verbs not marked for person or number except imperative and some converbs
  • Almost exclusively suffixing
  • Plural is optional in the indicative verb
  • Two tenses (non-future and future) (-дь indicative -иы future)
  • Causative verbs marked with suffix (-ку -ху -гу -ғу)
  • Resultative verbs
  • Reflexive pronouns

There are two types of complexes in Nivkh: bound and free.

Bound Complexes undergo consonant alterations:

  • Direct object + predicate
  • Attribute + head word

Free Complexes do not undergo consonant alterations:

  • Subject + predicate
  • Adverbial + predicate
  • Adverbial + attribute


  • Intransitive verbs start with voiceless aspirated or aspirated stops.
  • Transitive verbs start with voiced or voiceless fricatives which undergo alternations.
  • Nouns can start with stops or fricatives but only undergo alternation when they start with a stop.


Tag prn

The first and second person singular and reflexive pronouns lose the final vowel when prefixed unless the word has two initial consonants.

  • ни<prn><pers><p1><sg> ↔ ни
  • чи<prn><pers><p2><sg> ↔ чи
  • иф<prn><pers><p3><sg> ↔ иф
  • ньыӈ<prn><pers><p1><pl><excl> ↔ ньыӈ
  • мер<prn><pers><p1><pl><incl> ↔ мер
  • меги<prn><pers><p1><du><incl> ↔ меги
  • чыӈ<prn><pers><p2><pl> ↔ чыӈ
  • имӈ<prn><pers><p3><pl> ↔ имӈ
  • пʼи<prn><ref> ↔ пʼи

Possesive Pronouns

Formed with the noun ны, meaning 'thing'.

  • ни<prn><pers><p1><sg><pos> ↔ нины 'mine'

Nominal Morphology


case name ~meaning tag possible forms ӄан "dog" ӈа "animal"
nominative subject <nom> ӄан<n> ↔ ӄан ӈа<n> ↔ ӈа
agentive various subjects (51) <age> аӽ, ӽ
dative/additive "to, for" <dat> тоӽ, доӽ, роӽ, рӽ ӄан<n><dat> ↔ ӄандоӽ ӈа<n><dat> ↔ ӈарӽ
instrumental "with" <ins> кир, гир, хир, ғир
locative "at, in, on" <loc> уйн, йн, н ӄан<n><loc> ↔ ӄануйн ӈа<n><loc> ↔ ӈайн
ablative "in, out of, along, since, from" <abl> ух, х ӄан<n><abl> ↔ ӄанух ӈа<n><abl> ↔ ӈах
terminative "for, up to, as long as, as far as" <term> тʼыкы, р̌ыкы, тʼӽа, р̌ʼӽа, рӷа, тоӻо, роӻо, доӻо
comparative "than [x], compared to [x]" <comp> ык, к
vocative direct address <voc> а, ː ӄан<n><voc> ↔ ӄана ӈа<n><voc> ↔ ӈаа


Tag pl

Plural markers on nouns is the same as on verbs. You add the suffix -ку/-ху/-гу/-ғу. Plural markers are optional on nouns and verbs.

  • умгу<n><pl> ↔ умгугу 'women'
  • нивх<n><pl> ↔ нивғгу 'people'
  • ытык<n><pl> ↔ ытыкху 'parents' (from 'father')
  • пʼи<prn><ref>+оола<n><pl><ins> ↔ пʼоолагукир 'with his (own) children'

It would be good to have a few more examples of this, especially its combination with case.

Another productive way to express plurality is by reduplication of an attribute.

  • пила<v><iv><redup>+эри<n> ↔ пилапилаэри 'big rivers' (from пила 'to be big' and эри 'river')

I don't understand this. Is the word for "big" a verb? Also, if the form is one word, there should be no spaces around the '+' in the analysis. If this is productive (how productive?), add another example.

Reduplication of noun stem expresses a plural distributive meaning.


Examples for the noun "knife" тяӄо

  • ни<prn><pers><p1><sg>+тяӄо<n> ↔ ньзаӄо
  • чи<prn><pers><p2><sg>+тяӄо<n> ↔ чʼсаӄо
  • иф<prn><pers><p3><sg>+тяӄо<n> ↔ идяӄо
  • пʼи<prn><ref>+тяӄо<n> ↔ пʼсаӄо

Again, no spaces around '+'. Also, you don't want to consider this possessive morphology? (That's fine—I just want to make sure you've considered that possibility.)

Polar Questions

Yes/no questions can be formed by adding -ла to the thing in question.

  • Рум<n><np><qst> ↔ Румла

'Is it Rum (name)?'

It seems to me there's a null copula in this particular example. Can the particle come after anything (verbs, adjs, nouns, etc.)? Also, I would set off the interrogative particle with a +, and maybe use a tag like <qst> or <mod>. So maybe ___ is one way of thinking about it (filling in for __).

Verbal Morphology

There is a copula мудь (present) with regular future муныдь, and possibly past мубар. It is unclear what conditions its use: it is not used or mentioned in the grammar, but it exists in the Russian–Nivkh dictionary and appears several times in the bible texts.


Some agree with the subject of the clause, but not with their own subject. Others have no agreement.

Narrative converbs cvb_nar indicate action simultaneous with that of the finite predicate, or a completed action whose result is present at the time of the main action ( (2nd/3rd singular) / (1st singular and all plural)).

  • пʼры<v><iv><cvb_nar><p3><sg> ↔ пʼрыр '(he/she/it) having come...'
  • пʼры<v><iv><cvb_nar><p1><sg> ↔ пʼрыт '(I) having come...'
  • пʼры<v><iv><cvb_nar><p3><pl> ↔ пʼрыт '(they) having come...'

Anterior/simultaenous converbs cvb_ant indicate that an action occurs during or immediately after the conclusion of another. This converb has no personal agreement.

  • пʼры<v><iv><cvb_ant> ↔ пʼрыӈан 'Upon coming... / When (someone) came...'

There are other types of converbs that we haven't detailed hereinabove.

Object-Verb Agreement

Examples for the verb "beat" за

  • ни<prn><pers><p1><sg>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ ньзадь
  • чи<prn><pers><p2><sg>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ чʼсадь
  • за<v><tv><ind> ↔ задь
  • пʼи<prn><ref>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ пʼсадь
  • ньыӈ<prn><pers><p1><pl><excl>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ ньыӈдядь
  • чыӈ<prn><pers><p2><pl>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ чыӈдядь
  • имӈ<prn><pers><p3><pl>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ имӈдядь

No spaces around '+'. If this is agreement, does that mean you can have a separate pronoun as well? If so, I would treat these as agreement tags, not cliticised pronouns.

Alternate forms

Rarely a third person singular object is marked with i- rather than Ø-.

  • иф<prn><p3><sg>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ изадь
  • иф<prn><p3><sg>+аньма<v><cvb_ant> ↔ яньмаӈан 'looked at it'

So sometimes you get a cliticised pronoun and sometimes you don't. I might just allow for both иф<prn><p3><sg>+за<v><tv><ind> ↔ изадь and за<v><tv><ind> ↔ задь, or if you go the other route, allow two analyses for за<v><tv><ind><p3><sg>.


The suffix -роӽ /-тоӽ /-доӽ is added to lexical verbs to form an infinitive (non-finite form used with at least five auxiliaries to various effects). For example, with the auxiliary verb ӄʼау ("be absent" when used as a lexical verb), the lexical verb is negated.

  • пʼры<v><iv><inf> ↔ пʼрыдоӽ 'to come / coming' (like a gerund)

with ӄʼаудь means 'did/does not come'

  • пʼры<v><iv><fut><inf> ↔ пʼрыныдоӽ 'to come / coming' (like a gerund)

with ӄʼаудь means 'will not come'

  • му<v><iv><inf> ↔ мудоӽ 'to die / dying' (like a gerund)

with ӿумдь means '(is) about to die' / '(is) on its way to death'

Would be good to have a couple more examples here.


When there is no interrogative word in the question, the suffix -ло/-л is added. The former sounds more polite. The latter has an unceremonious coloring.

  • пʼры<v><iv><itg><frm> ↔ пʼрыло
  • пʼры<v><iv><itg><infrm> ↔ пʼрыл

'Did (I/you/he/they) come?'

how is this different from the polar questions thing above?

Adverbial Morphology

Adverbs can be derived from practically any qualitative verb by adding the suffix -гу plus -р with a second or third person singular subject or -т with a first person singular or any plural subject.

  • ур<adv><p3><sg> ↔ ургур

'(he does __) well'

  • ур<adv><p1><sg> ↔ ургут

'(I do ___) well'

Comparison is marked on an adverb by a suffix -ё. "Absolute superlatives" (e.g. "very tall") are marked by reduplication of the stem; the agreement suffix only occurs after the reduplication.

  • еӻ<adv><p3><sg> ↔ еӻгур


  • еӻ<comp><adv><p3><sg> ↔ еӻёгур

'more quickly'

  • еӻ<adv><p3><sg><sup> ↔ еӻгуеӻгур

'very quickly'

I think for this you'd want to use <sup> with the normal adverb tag.


Tag: post Postpositions can be divided into two classes: denominal/declinable and deverbal/undeclinable.


These postpositions are best interpreted as nouns in an attributive complex (first noun acts as attribute to the "postposition", which is the head noun.).

  • тыф<n>+ми<n>+ама<v><ind> ↔ тывмиамадь

'Looked inside the house'

  • ваӄа<n>+ми<n><loc> ↔ ваӄамин

'Into the box'

  • тыф<n>+ми<n> ↔ тывми

'The inside of the house.'


Nouns with deverbal postpositions cannot be used in direct object position.

  • иф<prn><p3><sg>+увудоӽ<post> ↔ ювудоӽ

'Instead of him/her'

  • иф<prn><p3><sg>+ордоӽ<post> ↔ ёрдоӽ

'Towards him/her'

Cardinal Numerals

Numerals classify nouns into 27 classes. Numerals 6-9 are the same for all classes.

Some numerals with meaning 'two':

  • мен<num><cl1> ↔ мен
  • мен<num><cl2> ↔ мор
  • мен<num><cl3> ↔ меӄр
  • мен<num><cl4> ↔ мевсӄ
  • мен<num><cl5> ↔ мим
  • мен<num><cl6> ↔ мер
  • мен<num><cl7> ↔ мевор
  • мен<num><cl8> ↔ мерах
  • мен<num><cl9> ↔ мик

Numeral Classes

  • cl1 : human
  • cl2 : animal
  • cl3 : generic
  • cl4 : pairs
  • cl5 : boats
  • cl6 : bunches of dried fish
  • cl7 : long
  • cl8 : thin and flat
  • cl9 : small and round

Since this is an inflectional difference (regardless of whether or not there's a morphological relationship between the forms), I would use a single lemma for all of these forms. Also, it would be better to name or number the classes, like <cl1>, etc., or at very worst with abbreviations, like <cl_hum>. And _ is the only punctuation that's truly okay inside tag names.


There are four main types of nominalisation: predicate-actant nmz_pred, subject nmz_subj, adverbial nmz_adv, locative nmz_loc.

Use _ instead of . or - in tag names. Cases like <loc> should be separate tages. I'm also wondering whether <subj> and the like should be part of the tag or a new tag, or if you need .adv if you have term.

Predicate-actant nominalisation (suffix -дь/-ть)

1) Action Nominal Construction

Subject Position
  • ӿуӈрыдь<prn>+во<v><tv><ind> ↔ ӿуӈрыдьводь

'took a thing like this'

  • ӿуӈрыдь<prn>+во<v><tv><nmz_pred> ↔ ӿуӈрыдьводь

'(the) taking (of) a thing like this'

Direct Object Position
  • питғы<n>+даю<v><tv><ind> ↔ питғыдаюдь

'wrote a letter'

  • питғы<n>+даю<v><tv><nmz_pred> ↔ питғыдаюдь

'(the) writing (of) a letter'

In direct object position, the subject of the nominalised verb is marked with reflexive possession.

2) Substitutional

  • чека<v><iv><ind><pl> ↔ чекадьғу

'are strong'

  • чека<v><iv><pl><nmz_pred> ↔ чекадьғу

'the strong ones' / 'the ones that are strong'

3) "Full" substantivisation

Denotes the result or state as opposed to the action of the verb.

  • чола<v><iv><ind> ↔ чоладь

'is poor'

  • пʼи<prn><ref>+чола<v><iv><nmz_pred> ↔ пʼсоладь

'his (own) poverty'

Their distinctive feature is prefixation of personal pronouns used as attributes.

Subject nominalisation (suffix -к)

Functionally close to the substitional predicate-actant nominals. Can be used in all syntactic positions.

  • сета<n>+ғе<v><tv><ind> ↔ сетағедь

'bought sugar'

  • сета<n>+ғе<v><tv><fut><nmz_subj> ↔ сетағенык

'the one who will buy sugar'

Adverbial nominalisation (zero marking)

No overt marking. Not used in the nominative case. Only used with case markings and/or postpositions or the adverbial suffix -скир.

  • пʼры<v><iv><fut><ind> ↔ пʼрыныдь

'will come'

  • пʼры<v><iv><fut><nmz_adv><term> ↔ пʼрынытʼыкы

'until (I will) come'

Locative nominalisation (suffix -ф/-в)

Highly productive. Nouns in -ф/-в derive from practically any verb. Can be used in same way as adverbial nominal above.

True locative construction

  • иф<prn><pers><p3><sg><v><tv><ind> ↔ юдь

'(something) set it'

  • иф<prn><pers><p3><sg><v><tv><nmz_loc> ↔ юф

'the place where (something) set it'

Adverbial construction

  • пʼры<v><iv><fut><nmz_loc><term> ↔ пʼрыныфтʼыкы

'until (I will) come'