The Chuvash noun; gender; plural.
The Chuvash Noun
A Chuvash noun or nominal may be used in different functions, that is, at the same time belong to several subclasses, as adjective, adverb, and so on. Let us begin by learning some Chuvash nominals, which, like all illustrative vocabulary items, the student should memorize and review as necessary.
As one can see, these few words include many kinds of objects, persons, animals, things. In fact, just because nominals denote persons or places does not place them in any special subclass, for instance
ujăx moon, Moon
Ivan Ivan, John
Later, we shall find it convenient to put into subclasses such collections of forms as pronominals (epĕ, I; esĕ, you, etc.), kam who, mĕn what; numerals, adjectives, and others. Although all these are essentially nominals, they have small differences which set them apart from nouns of the sort above.
Unlike some European languages, Chuvash does not assign a real or arbitrary gender to its nominals (including pronouns, adjectives, etc.). All such words exist in one unvarying form, a fact which makes the learning of Chuvash easier.
The only gender possessed by the word is that inherent in its meaning, if it denotes a specific kind of male or female being. No particular changes or endings are required because of the gender of any word in the sentence. Thus the question of gender is really nonexistent.
If it is necessary to denote a male being as opposed to a female being, morphemes like aşa "male" or ama "female" are added, for animals, and for humans, words like ar "man" or hĕr "girl".
ar man, male arăm woman
aşa sysna boar ama sysna sow
aşa hur gander ama hur goose
văkăr bull ĕne cow
yvăl acha son, "boy-child"
xĕracha daughter, "girl-child"
arşin (< ar + şyn) man, male person
patsha king, czar
xĕrarăm patsha queen, princess ("lady-king")
Terms of relationship have inherent gender, as do some animal names.
atte father anne mother
pichche brother akka sister
In contrast to some other languages in which there are a number of ways to form the plural, and which cannot be predicted but must be learned, Chuvash has only one way to form the plural, which is good for all nominals at all times and places. What is more, the plural is little used in those places where the student might expect. Chuvash once had many plural forms, and a discussion of them may be found elsewhere (0. Pritsak, “Tschuwassische Pluralsuffixe,“ Studia Altaica, Wiesbaden, 1957, pp. 137-155).
The singular number in Chuvash means not only one item from that class, it also means the entire class of that item. The plural is used only for denoting a collection of individual items from the class. Chuvash never expresses the plural in general statements (as “Children are a joy; flowers are beautiful; applies are good to eat,“ etc.). The sense for the plural is highly developed in English and European languages, so that we feel that to say “ten man, three mouse, two door“ is quite impossible, and only in a few expressions of measure do we find “a two-man raft, a ten-foot pole, a Live mile trip.“ In Chuvash, however, the plural is never, or at least rarely, used after a numeral, or quantity word hence:
şirĕm sĕtel twenty table twenty tables
numaj şyn many man many a man, many people
pilĕk pürt five house five houses
The presence of the number or quantity word is sufficient to indicate plurality to a Chuvash speaker.
The plural in Chuvash is mostly used to indicate the presence of a number of items in the class of things denoted by the word involved, but not the entire class itself. The plural morpheme in Chuvash is /-sem/, and it is added directly to the preceding morpheme.
ulmisem ‘their different apples‘ (actually a
possessive here, but the prin ciple is unchanged),
that is, those apples which each person has in
his or her hand just now, but not apples in general
vută firewood, kindling
vuttisem the pieces of firewood, taken as individual objects,
not as a whole (also possessive)
şem"jisem the members of one‘s family
pürt house, hut
pürtsem houses, a number of individual houses somewhere,
but not houses as a class
shuhăshsem thoughts (on different subjects)
Ivanovsem the Ivanoffs, members of the Ivanoff family
kahalsem the lazybones‘ and his family (folktales)
As in English and some other languages, some Chuvash words do not have logical plurals (the so-called ‘mass nouns,‘ like water, milk, love), or are but rarely used in plural form.
shyvsem waters (of the earth), rivers and lakes
In Russian, a few words of foreign origin ending in a vowel do not take any declensional endings. When these words occur as loanwords into Chuvash, however, they become subject to Chuvash plurals and endings.
pal"to overcoat pal"tosem overcoats
kenguru kangaroo kengurusem kangaroos
Two features, which both anticipate later discussion, will be briefly mentioned here. As mentioned, nearly all inflectional morphemes in Chuvash have two forms, one used with front vowels /e, ĕ‚ i, ü/ and one used with back vowels /a, ă‚ i, y, u/. This pervades the entire Chuvash language, and is also characteristic of other Altaic languages as well. The Chuvash plural morpheme /-sem/ does not observe this difference in the formal written language. The spoken dialects (especially of the northern region) do employ [sam] with back vowel words, and [sem] with front vowel words.
The plural morpheme in Chuvash is placed after any other preceding suffixes, as possessive morphemes (to be learned later), whereas in all other Turkic languages, the plural morpheme follows the root morpheme, and then any possessive or other morphemes are added.