Conclusion: Describing Koasati’s Semantic Alignment System Part 1

In my last blog post describing my time in Louisiana, I tentatively posited that Koasati’s semantic alignment system was based on control based on immediate impressions from my fieldwork.  After more careful and rigorous examination of the data that I gathered, I can more confidently state that my first impression seems to have been correct.  In this blog post, I will describe in more specific detail how verbal alignment in Koasati works.

As I mentioned in previous blog posts, Koasati has three sets of affixes that can be used to mark the subject of a verb: the /-l/ set, the /cha-/ set, and the /am-/ set.  Other Muskogean languages also have this three-way distinction, and in the literature, they are usually referred to as Type I, Type II, and Type III agreement respectfully, so that is how I will continue to refer to them here.

Type I: The /-l/ Affixes

The first and most common set of affixes used in subject marking is Type I agreement.  In the first person singular (i.e. the “I” form), Type I agreement is shown through the suffix /-l/ (or /-li/, if another suffix is added after it) on the verb stem; other persons and numbers have more irregular forms for this type of agreement, so I will only use the first person singular form.

Type I affixes are used for subject agreement in almost all transitive verbs (i.e. verbs that take an object, like “to hit” and “to carry”), as well as in most active (i.e. describing events, not states) intransitive verbs.  Here are a few examples of verbs that take Type I agreement, with the suffix /-l/ in bold:

(1) Type I agreement in active verbs

Nahol              “I do”

Ilal                   “I arrive”

Bataplil            “I hit”

Choopal           “I buy”

Waikal             “I fly”

Naathiikal        “I say”

Talwal             “I sing”

Achoolil          “I sew”

Haalol              “I hear”

Hiichal             “I see”

Ohompal         “I eat”

Type I agreement is also used in a number of stative verbs, or verbs that describe ongoing states as opposed to actions.  In English, many of these would translate as adjectives:

(2) Type I agreement in stative verbs

Yaalon aatalihchi                     “I live here”

Ballakalis                                 “I was lying down”

Hatchalilis                               “I was standing”

Chokkoolilis                            “I was sitting”

Hopakiichilis                           “I was far away”

Ayakhathilis                            “I was close”

Ittahobalis                                “I was prepared”


Type II: The /cha-/ Prefixes

Type II agreement contains the /cha-/ (or, if the verb begins with /a/ or /o/, /ach-/) set of prefixes whose forms are described in the chart below:

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Singular Cha- Chi-
Plural Ko- Hachi-

Type II agreement is used to indicate agreement with the direct objects of most transitive verbs, as in the following examples:

(3) Type II agreement for direct objects

Chabataplit                             “He hit me

Chataklaalis                            “He annoyed me

Chihiichal                               “I see you

Chihaalol                                “I hear you

Achibatapkal                           “I bump into you

Achifankalit                            “I met up with you

Kowaachih                              “Wait for us” (Kimball 1991, p. 128)

Man hacihiichallaho                “I will see you all again” (Kimball 1991, p. 128)

However, in addition to being used to indicate agreement with the direct objects of most transitive verbs, Type II agreement can also be used to indicate the subjects of certain intransitive verbs.  The majority of these are stative verbs.  Here are some examples of these types of verbs that take the /cha-/ set of prefixes to indicate their subjects:

(4) Type II agreement for subjects of stative verbs

Chayhopkat                “I was surprised”

Chahoopat                  “I was sick”

Chakoboksihchi         “I’m short”

Chalohkat                   “I was tired”

Chalahokbas               “I was restless”

Chanihas                    “I was fat”

Chanoksiipat              “I was mad”

Achoofaayas               “I was shy”

Chapalatkas                “I was upset”

Achachoobat               “I was old”

Chasnaahot                 “I was rich”

Chabassis                   “I was weak”

Chasopatkat                “I was clean”

Chataklahchas            “I was busy”

Chapoltoklos              “I was twenty (years old)”

Chathakchas               “I was homesick”

Moreover, the /cha-/ prefixes are also used in a number of intransitive active verbs to indicate subject agreement.  Here are some examples of this class of verbs:

(5) Type II agreement for subjects of intransitive active verbs

Chatam                       “I fall”

Chabololotl                 “I’m trembling”

Challit                         “I died”

Achatiniikat                 “I got sunburn”

Chabihommas            “I blushed”

Achoowillit                 “I drowned”

Chanakaathat              “I got lost”

Chanokhayool            “I’m drooling”

Chanokchaak              “I’m choking”

Stachombitiikat           “I got stuck”

Chathakhaanis            “I bled”

There are also a number of transitive verbs whose subjects take Type II agreement; in these, the object usually takes Type III agreement, which I will describe later on.  Most of the verbs of this type describe a mental state or emotion as opposed to a physical action.  Here are some examples of this class of verbs:

(6) Type II agreement for subjects of transitive active verbs

Chasobaiko                “I don’t know”

Chinchayim                “I believe you”

Chinchamathatl           “I’m afraid of you”

Chinchapalat               “I’m mad at you”

Chinchathakch            “I miss you”

Stachoofaayas             “I’m ashamed of it”

Schinchahaawaal        “I pity you”

Schimachayokp          “I like you”


Type III:  The /am-/ Prefixes

Type III agreement contains the /am-/ set of prefixes whose forms are listed in the chart below:

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Singular Am- Chim- Im-
Plural Kom- Hachim-


Type III prefixes are most commonly used to indicate agreement with the indirect object (e.g. “to me” in “she gave the book to me”) or benefactive (e.g. “for me” in “he baked a cake for me”) of the verb:

(7) Type III agreement for indirect objects

Stamil                                     “Bring it to me” (Kimball 1991, p. 131)

Ostamath                                “Go and pour it for me” (Kimball 1991, p. 131)

Chimachoolit                          “She sewed it for you” (Kimball 1991, p. 131)

Thatho konkoybohlit              “He stole some fish from us” (Kimball 1991, p. 131)

Moreover, the /am-/ prefixes are used to agree with the direct objects of certain verbs.  Some of these verbs use Type II agreement to indicate the subject:

(8) Type III agreement for direct objects

Chinchayim                            “I believe you

Chinchathakch                        “I miss you

Schimachayokp                      “I like you

Chihaalollaho                          “I will obey you

Schimahaalahl                         “He amuses you

There are also a relatively limited number of verbs that take Type III agreement to index the subject.  Most of these are intransitive stative verbs, but a handful are active:

(9) Type III agreement for subjects

Amanihtas                               “I was young”

Amayiihos                              “I was bored”

Amayoobas                             “I was lucky”

Afailit                                      “I got well”

Ampohtoolit                            “I was late”

Stammatat                               “I messed up”

Amponnat                               “I learned”

Annakath                                “I lost it”

Annaa                                     “I have it”


To be continued in Part II, where I get into the semantic distinctions between where and why different agreement markers are used for subjects in different contexts.

Kimball, G. (1991). Koasati grammar. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.