Native grammarians divide the vocabulary into four main classes: (1) nouns and pronouns, (2) verbs, (3) numerals, and (4) particles. This page deals with nouns; pronouns are on the next page.


There are two classes of nouns, animate and neuter. Animates include, of course, all living things, human and animal-- generally speaking, all visible things capable of conscious movement. Also classed as animate are personal names, heavenly bodies (the sun, the moons, planets and stars), the sea, the soul, the spirits of Nature, and a few terms for violent weather conditions. Animate nouns are gender-free; there are gendered forms of the demonstratives and words for male or female, which are used if a noun must be specified as to gender (and there are a few specific terms for the male and female of some animal species). Neuters include, essentially, everything else.

There are (1) basic-stem nouns (e.g. karun 'ruler, "duke"') and (2) derived and compound nouns (aposi 'ship' < fosi 'to sail', kandumbra 'doctor' < tumbra 'to heal', surakuça 'volcano' < surañ 'mountain' + huça 'fire').


Kash nouns are often not specified for definiteness. Thus, kaceva can mean 'a traveler, the traveler' depending on context. In conversation or narrative, forms of iya are usually used to refer to a previously mentioned noun, e.g. yarata kaceva....kaceva ya yaporisa 'A traveler arrived....The (that) traveler was tired.' Non-human and inanimate nouns can also be made definite by adding the 3rd pers. possessive suffix -ni, which, depending on context, can be translated as either 'his/her/its' or simply 'the'. For example, in a discussion of lopa's, one might say ...lopani yaçangi 'his (or, the-- some specific) lopa is sick'; or, orambani (atel) me yarundiris 'the darkness (of the room) frightens me'-- contrast the more general añoramba me yarundiris 'darkness frightens me ~I'm afraid of the dark'. More on this usage in the Syntax.

There is a "definite article" of sorts, e, used mainly with place names, titles and epithets, and abstract or general concepts:

- kanak 'claw' : e kanak 'name of a large peninsula, and province, of Yanatros Island'
- karun '"duke"' : e karun 'the (specific) duke; his office' (as we say "the President", "the Queen")
- kundri 'truth' : e kundri 'Truth', as an abstract or philosophical concept
- rinda 'music' : e rinda 'Music', as an art-form, or in the abstract-- cf. malisam rinda(ni) 'I like the music (I'm hearing now)' vs. malisam e rinda 'I like music'
- çakrum 'to destroy' : e acakrum 'The Destruction'-- the nuclear war of about 1000 years ago

The article e is sometimes used with the personal names of famous people (but is otherwise considered somewhat high-flown and affected): e usala refers to the Queen Usala who organized the peace conference after The Destruction. Compare our usages "The Donald" or "La Callas".

All nouns are inflected through four cases-- nominate, genitive, dative, accusative-- and two numbers-- singular and plural. Most of the suffixed case endings are the same for both animate and neuter: singular nominative, unmarked; genitive -i, dative -e. But animate accusative is -n, while neuter acc. is unmarked (same as nom.), and the plural markers differ. Examples:

Animate, vowel-final (lopa, an animal species) and consonant-final (karun 'ruler, "duke"')

  singular plural   singular plural
Nominative lopa lopala   karun karunila
Genitive lopayi lopali   karuni karunili
Dative lopaye lopale   karune karunile
Accusative lopan lopalan   karunun karunilan

Note (1) the elision of the plural's i- in vowel stems, and of its -a before the gen./dat. ending, and (2) the epenthetic echo-vowel in the acc. sing. of consonant stems-- a repeat of the final syllable's vowel (thus, the acc. of minjer 'deputy, agent' would be minjeren). A few nouns have irregular accusatives: kaç 'person': kaçin, and kaçut 'man': kaçun.

Neuter, vowel-final (nimu 'pot') and consonant-final (kanak 'claw', aves 'flower')

  singular plural   singular plural   singular plural
{ nimu nimuç   kanak kanakaç   aves aveç
Genitive nimuwi nimuçi   kanaki kanakaçi   avesi aveçi
Dative nimuwe nimuçe   kanake kanakaçe   avese aveçe

Here note (1) identity of nom. and acc. in both numbers, (2) simple replacement of final -s with in the plural, (3) echo-vowel in the plural of other consonant stems, to avoid a cluster, and, in the case of nasal-final words, to block sandhi in the gen./dat. (i.e. fekrim 'a dagger': fekrimiçi, fekrimiçe-- not *fekrici, fekrice as would otherwise occur).

The use of the cases is discussed further in the Syntax section.

Derived nouns

Two prefixes-- añ- and kañ- (sandhi applies)-- form nouns from verbal bases.

Prefix añ- forms abstracts and nomina patientis; there is some latitude in the semantics, but basically these mean "thing which is, or does, (verb)" or sometimes passive "thing which is (verbed)". Examples:

- halap 'pure' > akalap 'purity; virginity'
- kocañ 'to chat, converse' > akocañ 'conversation'
- çivar 'to teach' > acivar 'lesson'
- nolit 'to read' > andolit 'literacy'; reduplicated nonolit > andonolit 'literature'
- vele 'to give' > amele 'gift'
- unjuk 'to grow' > a˝unjuk 'growth, increase'
- toço 'to bake' > andoço 'baked goods; also, a type of bread'

It is also used to derive nouns (often collectives) from other noun bases:

- singap 'archer's bow' > atingap 'archery'
- apis 'root' > añapis 'root system'
- omer 'a law, statute' > añomer 'the law, the legal system'
- ange 'tree' > añange 'forest'

A variant form a˝a- is used nowadays to form abstracts:

- suya 'sister' > añasuya 'sisterhood (in the feminist sense); a women's club/organization'
- kratita 'to dictate, command (pejorative)' > añakratita 'dictatorship, tyranny'
- hoca 'to break apart, undo' > (irregular) añakoca (cetre) 'divorce' (cf. regular akoca 'part, component')

Somewhat colloquially, verbal nouns can be formed by adding a possessive suffix to the verb base (this usage will be dealt with much more fully in the Syntax section):

- oramba 'dark' > orambani '(the) darkness (of...)'
- yama 'to run' > yamami 'my running', yamani 'his running'
- pila 'to think' > pilami 'my thought is..., I think...'

A number of "instrument nouns" (or in some cases, "a specific instance of...") are found with an old, no longer productive prefix e(˝)- which in some cases has been reduced to y-:

- cami 'sweet' > ecami 'candy'
- amir 'to freeze' > eyamir ~yamir ~yami 'ice'
- yukat 'to turn over, flip' > eyukat 'spatula'
- uri 'to write' > yuri 'letter' (i.e. of the alphabet, as yuriká 'the letter k')
- yurun 'place' > eyurun 'toilet, restroom'

Prefix kañ forms agent nouns, "person who does (verb)":

- hengut 'to lie' > kakengut 'liar'
- çivar 'to teach' > kacivar 'teacher'
- saren 'to lead, guide' > kataren 'leader'
- lama 'to share, participate in' > kandama '(business) partner'

If the sense "human agent" does not fit with the semantics, there can be change of meaning:

- kamon 'be born' > kangamon 'midwife'
- tola 'to smell s.t.' > kandola 'the nose' (humorous)
- narak 'loud' > kandarak 'loudspeaker'

A few agent nouns unpredictably use an old prefix ke- (ultimately related to kaš 'person'):

- rinda 'music' > kerinda 'musician'
- prale 'market stall; street kiosk' > keprale 'owner/vendor in such a stall'

Compound nouns and reduplication

Compounding is much used in Kash, the most common way of forming new words. They may consist of noun + noun, noun + verb or adjective, sometimes verb + noun, and the order of elements is almost always head noun + modifier. There are also many phrasal compounds of the same structure, e.g. a˝akroca cetre 'divorce' cited above; but true compounds are modified phonologically to form a single word, and the rules for this are somewhat complicated (and not always regular). Basically, given two disyllabic bases, one option is simple juxtaposition, but pronounced and written as one word. Sandhi applies, if possible-- e.g. niyon 'arm' + kure 'low, underneath' > niyongure 'the forearm'. A more frequent option involves deleting the final vowel (or consonant, if present, or both) of the first member, with sandhi or some irregular modification of the remaining medial consonant, + the second element-- a final form of three syllables seems to be preferred. Thus, the usual combining form of yurun 'place' is yur- or (before a vowel) yundr-, of frequent occurrence. Also frequent are compounds with pun- < puna 'house' (building/place where s.t. takes place), -rak < raka 'big' and -mik ~-mbik < mimik 'small'; sawu 'water' has the special form su-. A few examples:

- pinaro 'clock' < pinal 'to count' + aro 'hour'
- epikalap 'prime number' < epinal 'number' + kalap 'pure'
- neçimak 'nasal mucus, snot' < neyak 'excrement' + imak 'nose'
- yarombik 'pond' < yaro 'lake' + mimik ~-mbik 'small'
- yutroçin 'bathing place' < yurun 'place' + toçin 'to bathe'-- especially in less developed areas, refers to an outdoor place. Modern urban dwellers still use the word, or else atetroçin 'bathing room' (usually separate from the toilet) < atel 'room'. (In compounds, -l can be treated as n or r.)
- hayaros 'dawn' < haya 'light' + aros 'east'; in reduced form hayaros also probably in çuçaros 'dew' < çuçap 'damp'
- suwaves 'perfume, cologne' < sawu ~su- 'water' + aves 'flower'

Reduplication is somewhat rare in the nominal system (though not in the verbal system). The reduplication is usually partial-- i.e. the first consonant and vowel of the base; or, more rarely, full-- the entire word is repeated. The general meaning is "a specific instance of..." or "a special type of...." Some examples:

- kakarun 'king/queen-- the supreme ruler of a country or region' < karun '"duke"-- ruler of a subsidiary region'
- kikinji 'slavery' < kinji 'slave'
- tutungar 'a club or association' < tungar 'clan'

Pejoratives and honorifics

Two prefixes, not widely used, give a pejorative or honorific sense to a word. The pejorative is kra- (kar- before vowels and usually k/h)-- akrañoni 'trial, temptation' (añ- nominal) < krañoni 'to tempt' < ñoni 'to try, test'. The honorific is pra- ~par-, which theoretically can be attached to any noun or verb in the proper context and is much used in prayers; in ordinary usage it is seen mainly in pratiça 'the wild, unevolved species related to the Kash' < tiça 'cousin' and in (e) parahambesa 'The Creator (of the universe and of all things, in Kash belief)' < par + ahan 'create' + mesa 'one, first'. There is also a negative prefix tra- ~tar- roughly equivalent to Engl. un-, but it is used mainly with verbs.

There are also two suffixes that give a diminutive/affectionate or diminutive/pejorative sense. The former is -ci, and can mean 'little, sweet, cute, dear' etc. and is most often used between very close friends, or when speaking to or about children. The pejorative is -çu, more widely usable, which can mean "ugly, nasty, stupid, icky' etc. (little is also implied). As suffixes, they do not shift stress. If the noun has a case suffix, the diminutive follows-- erékici 'of dear Erek'. In a few cases, these suffixes have become part of a base: pinaci 'wristwatch' < pinaro 'clock' + -ci, and ukuçu 'mush, porridge made from uku' (a rather bland food-grain similar to rice) and the case endings come after-- e.g. genitive pinaciyi, ukuçuwi.

Continued on next page (pronouns)...