Nouns are divided into two main categories: animate and inanimate. Animate nouns include those referring to animals and certain natural objects; inanimate nouns include those referring to plants. These categories affect what pronoun is used to refer back to the noun, and what suffixes the noun gets. In particular, inanimate nouns are not marked for number and have no distinction between nominative and accusative cases, and they use the pronoun qan. There is no agreement marking for gender on adjectives or verbs.
Animate nouns are further divided into masculine and feminine. If a noun refers to a human or animal who is known to be male or female, then it can use masculine or feminine gender respectively; nouns referring to a single specific human known to be male or female always use the gender corresponding to the person's gender. Otherwise, the gender listed in the lexicon is used, or, if the noun refers to a human, the default gender is feminine. Gender affects what pronouns are used (na for masculine, sa/li/mey for feminine) and what ending the noun gets in the accusative case (-ne for masculine, -li for feminine).
For instance, yanli (cat, feminine) is always correct regardless of the cat's gender, and yanne (cat, masculine) can be used for tomcats; ninkalne (donkey, masculine) is always correct, and ninkalli can be used for a female donkey; qlanne (sun, masculine) is always correct and qlanli (sun, feminine) is always incorrect (because the sun can't be female); tsokoli (human, feminine) can be used for women, girls, people of unknown gender, and nonspecific people, but never for specific people known to be men or boys.
Plural nouns do not distinguish between masculine and feminine.
Animate nouns distinguish between singular (one thing) and plural (more than one). Plurality is indicated by the suffix -me.
Animate pronouns distinguish between singular (one thing), dual (two things), and plural (more than two). Pronouns indicate duality with the suffix -te. First and second person pronouns indicate plurality by reduplicating the pronoun; for third person, a separate pronoun me is used instead.
Nouns mark for whether they refer to something the listener is assumed to already know (definite; English the) or to something new (indefinite; English a/an). Nouns are definite by default; the -s suffix can be added (after the plural suffix, if there is one). Indefinite nouns do not distinguish between nominative and accusative case.
Nouns have three main cases: nominative, accusative, and genitive. The nominative case is used for the subject of an intransitive sentence, or the agent of a transitive sentence, and has no suffix. The accusative case is used for the patient of a transitive sentence, and also the recipient of a ditransitive sentence. It's not marked on indefinite nouns or inanimate nouns; on definite animate nouns, it's marked with sa for feminine, -ne for masculine, and -ti for plural (the latter is identical to the genitive suffix).
The genitive case is used for expressing a wide variety of relationships between nouns, and is marked with -i (or -y after a vowel, or -'i after i or y, or -ti after the suffix -me). It can be used for possession, body parts, and relationships, like English 's or of:
It can be used for talking about the person who owns something, like English with
the man with the house; the man who owns this house
It can be used to indicate that a person or thing has a particular property (which is often used in place of adjectives):
It can be used to distinguish different people with the same name by naming someone they're associated with:
T'oki's friend/girlfriend/wife/sister/mother/daughter/coworker Petipe
the Adam from the Bible (as opposed to other Adams)
Mario from Super Mario Bros. (as opposed to other Marios)
|Singular animate||Definite||∅||-li♀, -ne♂||-i|
The nominative singular pronouns are qo (first person/I), ti (second person/you), na (third person masculine/he), sa (third person feminine/she), qan (third person inanimate/it). Suffixes are similar to nouns, but with some differences and irregularities: