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Te taetae ni Kiribati

The language of Kiribati

Grammar Handbook

 

Lesson 3

INTRANSITIVE SENTENCE ORDER

In most, if not all, of the world's languages, word order is one of the basic means for expressing the relationship between the parts of a sentence. Intransitive sentences are those in which there is no direct object of the verb. For example, this English sentence:

That man
1
  walks.
2

In this sentence, the subject phrase 'that man' comes first, followed by a form of the verb 'to walk'. A Kiribati sentence expressing the same idea is:

E
1'
  nakonako
2
  teuaarei.
1

In Kiribati, the subject phrase teuaarei 'that man' comes at the end of the sentence, after the verb nakonako 'to walk', but the verb is preceded by a subject pronoun e 'he, she, it' which "agrees" with the subject. In this case it is the third person singular form. Therefore, if you were to translate this sentence word for word into English, using the same order, it would come out:

He
1'
  walks
2
  that man.
1

English shows "agreement" between the verb and most third person singular subjects by adding an s to the end of the verb. (Many languages add small forms to verbs to show agreement with subject person and number, but English only does so for the third person singular.) Kiribati does a similar job by putting a subject pronoun in front of the verb. A different pronoun is used for each person and number. (see lesson on subject pronouns.)

I
I
  nakonako
walk
  ngai.
(me)

Ko
you
  nakonako
walk
  ngkoe.
(you)

In connected discourse, once the subject has been mentioned it is no longer necessary to repeat it in following sentences:

E nakonako teuaarei. E turatura.

This is the same as in English, where the pronoun replaces the noun subject which has already been mentioned:

That man is walking. He is limping.

You may notice that while the English uses a form of the verb "to be" (is), in Kiribati there is no verb "to be".

E
she
      kangare
      (be) funny
      neierei.
      that woman
That woman is funny.

Position of additional material

When a sentence contains additional material, such as a phrase following a preposition (to, at, by, with...), the usual position for the subject phrase is still at the end of the sentence:

E
he
      nakonako
      walk
      nakon te titooa
      to the store
      teuaarei.
      that man
That man is walking to the store.

While there is some variation in the position of these prepositional phrases in the speech of many i-Kiribati, you will not go wrong in keeping the subject in this position.

However, when the additional material is a form of time adverb, (today, now, sometimes, this morning...), it generally comes at the end of the sentence, after the subject:

E
he
      na
      will
      nakonako
      walk
      nakon te titooa
      to the store
      teuaarei
      that man
      ningaabong.
      tomorrow
That man will walk to the store tomorrow.

E
he
      turatura
      limp
      teuaarei
      that man
      n te bong aei.
      today
That man is limping today.

As in the case of the prepositional phrases, you will encounter some variation in the position of time adverbs in the normal speech of most i-Kiribati. You will find however, that keeping the time adverb in final position will virtually always be acceptable and understood.

Exercises

A. Rearrange the following groups of words into good Gilbertese sentences

1.   Baie
Baie
matuu
sleep
e
he
2.   I
I
ngai
me
nakonako
walk
3.   ataei
children
a
they
takaakaro
play
4.   nako
go
n te titooa
to the store
I
I
5.   matuu
sleep
ti
we
ngaira
us
6.   aiine
women
wareware
read
a
they
7.   neierei
that woman
uaua
swim
e
she
8.   a
they
tebotebo
wash
naakekei
those men
9.   roko
come
aomata
people
a
they
10.   te unimm'aane
the old man
motirawa
rest
e
he
11.   aoraki
sick
e
she
tinau
my mother
12.   ngai
me
mm'akuri
work
I
I
13.   ataei
children
reirei
study
a
they
14.   a
they
am'arake
eat
unimm'aane
old men
15.   te karau
rain
e
it
b'aka
fall
16.   neierei
woman
e
she
tangitang
cry
17.   roko
come
a
they
mm'aane
men
18.   Tiaon
John
e
he
am'arake
eat
19.   ngaira
us
koroboki
write
ti
we
20.   natiu
my child
e
he
mooi
drink

B. Reform the above sentences without the subject nouns, as if they had already been mentioned.

C. Add the prepositional phrases following each sentence in their proper position:

1.   E
he
roko
come
tamau
my father
+ mai Bairiki
from Bairiki
2.   A
they
tebotebo
bathe
aiine
women
+ inanon te nei
in the pond
3.   E
he
nakonako
walk
Tiaon
John
+ nakon te titooa
to the store
4.   E
she
roko
come
Meeri
Mary
+ man te auti
from the house
5.   A
they
reirei
study
ataei
children
+ man te boki
from the book
6.   E
he
toka
ride
Taom
Tom
+ iaon te waa
on the canoe
7.   E
she
am'arake
eat
Meeri
Mary
+ inanon te auti
in the house
8.   A
they
takaakaro
play
ataei
children
+ irarikin te kawai
next to the road
9.   Ti
We
roko
come
ngaira
us
+ man te titooa
from the store
10.   A
they
tekateka
sit
aomata
people
+ iaon te waa
on the canoe
11.   E
he
takaakaro
play
Tim
Jim
+ irarikin taari
next to the sea
12.   E
she
roko
come
neiei
this woman
+ mai Betio
from Betio
13.   A
they
nako
go
ataei
children
+ im'aain tawanou
before noon
14.   A
they
nakonako
walk
nakekei
those people
+ i nuukan te kawai
in the middle of the road
15.   A
they
tei
stand
ataei
children
+ i matan te mataroa
in front of the door
16.   Ti
we
tekateka
sit
ngaira
us
+ inanon te auti
in the house
17.   Ko
you
takaakaro
play
ngkoe
you
+ irarikin te titooa
next to the store
18.   Kam
You
nakonako
go
ngkamii
you
+ nakon te kaawa
to the village
19.   E
he
tebotebo
wash
Tiaon
John
+ irarikin te auti
next to the house
20.   Ti
we
am'arake
eat
ngaira
us
+ inanon te auti
in the house

D. Choose an appropriate time adverb from the list and insert it into its proper place in the sentence:

n te bong aei
today
ngkoananoa
yesterday
ningaabong
tomorrow

 1.  E roko te kaibuke
it comes the ship
 2.  Ti na nako Betio
we will go to Betio
 3.  A a tia n oki aomata
they already return people
 4.  E tabe n akawa te mm'aane
he busy fishing the man
 5.  E a tia n roko raou
he already come my friend
 6.  A kabooa te kariki
they buy the bread
 7.  N na nooriko
I will see you
 8.  E na b'aka te karau
it will fall the rain
 9.  A konaa n tiku ikai raom
they can stay here your friends
10.  E nangi roko te waa
it about to come the canoe
11.  A tabe n takaakaro aiine
they busy play women
12.  A na reirei
they will study
13.  I nooriko i Bairiki
I see you in Bairiki
14.  E na nako n te titooa Reete
he will go to the store Reete
15.  E mate Bauro
he dead Bauro
16.  E anganai kanau tinau
she give me my food my mother
17.  Ti na taninga ngaira
we will wait us
18.  Kam tebotebo i taari
you bathe in the sea
19.  E a tia ni kabooa te raiti
he already buy the rice
20.  Ko na nako
you will go

Written Exercise

E. Rearrange the following sets of words into good Gilbertese sentences:

1. e te titooa nakonako Tiaon nakon
2. te nii e te auti iaon b'aka
3. e ngkoananoa te kaibuke a tia n roko
4. aiine tabe e ngkai ni mm'akuri te
5. man roko Meeri e te auti
6. e te waanikiba roko na ningaabong
7. ti n te bong aei nako na
8. ngkoe takaakaro irarikin ko te kawai
9. kam i taari a tia n tebotebo
10. aomata a inanon tekateka te auti
 
Answers to written exercise


Kiribati page

© 1979, 2003 Stephen Trussel, ACTION / Peace Corps, The Experiment in International Living. The Experiment in International Living, Inc., prepared this handbook for the U. S. Government under ACTION Contract number 78-043-1037. The reproduction of any part of this handbook other than for such purposes as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, or other "fair use" is subject to the prior written permission of ACTION.