Guarani and Warlpiri/Contrastive Grammar

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Grammatical Differences

  • Note that the phrases below are not directly from natural text or our corpus. Instead, we constructed them from substituting words based on our knowledge from online dictionaries and grammar descriptions, so we think they are reliable constructions.

Tense Marking

One difference we noticed between Guarani and Warlpiri is in how tense marking is handled. In Warlpiri, an auxiliary is used to mark tense and a verb suffix is added, whereas in Guarani, only verb suffixes are used to mark tense.

  • An example of this distinction is shown below:
    • In Guarani: "Mitã okaru" mitã<n><sg>
    • In Warlpiri: "Kurdu ka ngarni"
    • In English: "A child eats (is eating)"

Number Marking

Guarani and Warlpiri handle number marking differently. Warlpiri makes the distinction between singular, dual, and plural. Warlpiri uses a suffix on the nominal and a suffix on the auxiliary to mark the number. Guarani only makes the distinction between singular and plural, and uses a suffix on the nominal to mark this.

  • An example of this distinction is shown below:
    • In Guarani: "Mokoĩ mitãnguera okaru"
    • In Warlpiri: "Kurdu-jarra ka-pala ngarni"
    • In English: "Two children eat (are eating)"

Verb Negation

Guarani and Warlpiri handle negation in different ways. Warlpiri negates a sentence by using a negative auxiliary (kulaka), while Guarani uses a circumfix on the vowel to negate it.

An example of this distinction is shown below:

  • In Guarani: "mitã ndopuraheiri"
  • In Warlpiri: "Kurdu kulaka yunparni."
  • In English: "A child is not singing"

Subject/Object of Transitive Verbs

Guarani and Warlpiri mark the sujects/objects of transitive verbs in different ways. Warlpiri is an ergative-asbolutive language. In Warlpiri, nouns can be in the absolutive, dative, ergative, allative, comitative, elative, or locative case, and when the verb is transitive, the subject of the verb takes the ending "-ngku" or "-rlu" to mark ergativity. The object of the verb has no suffix. Guarani is an active-stative language. In Guarani, nouns can be marked as objects, ablative, locative, and comitative (generally marked with suffixes). Subjects and inanimate objects are not marked. An example of this distinction is shown below:

  • In Guarani: "Jagua ojuka mbarakajape."
  • In Warlpiri: "Jarntungku pakarni minija."
  • In English: "The dog kills (strikes) the cat."


In Warlpiri, to say that something is "like" a certain noun, one attaches the suffix "-piya" to the noun to which it is being compared. This puts the noun in the derivation case that means a simile is being created (as signified by the <like> tag). In Guarani ...

  • In Guarani: "Hi'áva mandyjúicha"
  • In Warlpiri: "marnilpa katarni-piya"
  • In English: "cotton-like hair"

gug-wbp tests

(from Guarani to Warlpiri)

  • (gug) mitã okaru → (wbp) kurdu ka ngarni
    (gug) mitã<n><sg> karu<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp> → (wbp) kurdu<n><sg><abs> ka<vaux><pres><subj3sg> ngarni<v><tv><pres>
    English: "A child eats (is eating)"
  • (gug) mokoĩ mitãnguera okaru → (wbp) kurdu-jarra ka-pala ngarni
    (gug) mokoĩ<num> mitã<n><pl> karu<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp> → (wbp) kurdu<n><du><abs> ka<vaux><pres><subj3du> ngarni<v><tv><pres>
    English: "Two children eat (are eating)"
  • (gug) mitã ndopuraheiri → (wbp) kurdu kulaka yunparni
    (gug) mitã<n><sg> purahei<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp><neg> → (wbp) kurdu<n><sg><abs> ka<vaux><neg><subj3sg> yunparni<v><tv><pres>
    English: "A child is not singing"
  • (gug) jagua ojuka mbarakajape → (wbp) jarntungku pakarni minija
    (gug) jagua<n><sg> juka<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp> mbarakaja<n><sg><obj> → (wbp) jarntu<n><sg><erg> pakarni<v><tv><pres> minija<n><sg><abs>
    English: "The dog kills (strikes) the cat."
  • (gug) hi'áva mandyjúicha → (wbp) marnilpa katarni-piya
    (gug) hi'áva<n><sg> mandyjú<n><sg><sim> → (wbp) marnilpa<n><sg><abs> katarni<n><sg><sim>
    English: "cotton-like hair"

wbp-gug tests

(from Warlpiri to Guarani)

  • (wbp) kurdu ka ngarni → (gug) mitã okaru
    (wbp) kurdu<n><sg><abs> ka<vaux><pres><subj3sg> ngarni<v><tv><pres> → (gug) mitã<n><sg> karu<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp>
    English: "A child eats (is eating)"
  • (wbp) kurdu-jarra ka-pala ngarni → (gug) mokoĩ mitãnguera okaru
    (wbp) kurdu<n><du><abs> ka<vaux><pres><subj3du> ngarni<v><tv><pres> → (gug) mokoĩ<num> mitã<n><pl> karu<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp>
    English: "Two children eat (are eating)"
  • (wbp) kurdu kulaka yunparni → (gug) mitã ndopuraheiri
    (wbp) kurdu<n><sg><abs> ka<vaux><neg><subj3sg> yunparni<v><tv><pres> → (gug) mitã<n><sg> purahei<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp><neg>
    English: "A child is not singing"
  • (wbp) jarntungku pakarni minija → (gug) jagua ojuka mbarakajape
    (wbp) jarntu<n><sg><erg> pakarni<v><tv><pres> minija<n><sg><abs> → (gug) jagua<n><sg> juka<v><tv><ar><pres><p3><sp> mbarakaja<n><sg><obj>
    English: "The dog kills (strikes) the cat."
  • (wbp) marnilpa katarni-piya → (gug) hi'áva mandyjúicha
    (wbp) marnilpa<n><sg><abs> katarni<n><sg><sim> → (gug) hi'áva<n><sg> mandyjú<n><sg><sim>
    English: "cotton-like hair"