Modalis Case: The Indefinite Object


The modalis case plays many roles in the Iñupiat language. This is one of them.

In your intransitive sentence, often times you will need what is called an indefinite object. But what is an indefinite object?

First, an object of a sentence is the noun that is receiving the action of the verb, such as the word ‘pancake’ in the following sentence. 

Marshall is eating a pancake.

An indefinite object refers to a non-specific object in an intransitive sentence. Take a look at the word ‘pancake’ in the following examples.

Marshall is eating a pancake. ‹—- indefinite

Marshall is eating the pancake ‹—- definite

An indefinite object, in Iñupiat, is always a part of an intransitive sentence rather than a transitive sentence. And an Iñupiat indefinite object takes the modalis case, which is a specific ending (similar to a postbase) ÷mik.

Marshall niġiruq siḷaavyaŋmik.

Remember that word order is flexible in Iñupiat. The word order depends on what you want to emphasize in your sentence.

Marshall siḷaavyaŋmik niġiruq.

Niġiruq siḷaavyaŋmik Marshall.

Niġiruq Marshall siḷaavyaŋmik.

Siḷaavyaŋmik niġiruq Marshall.

Siḷaavyaŋmik Marshall niġiruq.

Assimilation with ÷mik

If you need a refresher on assimilation, click here.

÷mik is the ending for the modalis case. This site is using the same assimilation symbols as the North Slope Iñupiaq Grammar. Remember that the ÷ means that “the postbase deletes stem-final weak q but not Q, k, or n.” Here are examples of assimilation for ÷mik, depending on the noun ending. For instance if a noun ends in:

vowel, n or ñ

Just add. For nouns ending in -n or -ñ, either add or convert -n to -ti and -ñ to -si and add.

qavlu                     qavlumik an eyebrow

puya                      puyamik a piece of dirt or grime

avillaitqan            avillaitqanmik or avillaitqatimik a friend

akiñ                       akiñmik or akisimik a pillow

weak consonant

Add, deleting weak q. Middle consonant may be geminated.

aġnaq                   aġnamik a woman

qaqasaŋŋuaq     qaqasaŋŋuamik a computer

qayaq                   qayamik or qayyamik a kayak

qimmIq                qimmimik a dog

strong consonant:

Add, retain the strong consonant and assimilate. For the purpose of this lesson, strong q’s will be marked as Q. 

uyaġak                  uyaġaŋmik a rock

kamik                    kamiŋmik a boot

AiviQ                     aiviġmik a walrus

Dual and Plural Nouns

Remember that all dual nouns end in -k. Remember that all k’s are strong. Strong I’s cause palatalization. When assimilating dual nouns with the modalis case, add ÷nik.

qaqasannuak       qaqasaŋŋuaŋnik (two) computers

uyaqqak                uyaqqaŋnik (two) rocks

aivvak                    aivvaŋnik (two) walruses

qimmIk                 qimmiŋñik (two) dogs

Remember that absolutive plurals end in either -t or -ch. For modalis plurals, add ÷nik to the singular form of the noun. Strong consonants are retained and assimilated.

qaqasaŋŋuaq         qaqsaŋŋuanik computers

uyaġak                     uyaġaŋnik rocks

aiviQ                        aiviġnik walruses

qimmIq                   qimmiñik dogs