Iọkwe Pāpode! [Hello February!]. How quickly you have arrived! This second month of the year means that my revision period has officially ended. The time has come to start learning new material. And what better way to do it than with a set – or even two – of pronouns?
I have to say that I entered this new year with great enthusiasm, fresh energy, and fierce determination to improve my Marshallese skills. My eagerness for studying has intensified even more since mid-January, which may have something to do with the fact that in the last four weeks I’ve noticed I’m really getting better and better. Quite honestly, it has been a rather unexpected discovery, but one I am certainly very happy about.
So with this new verve, on the 5th of February I sat down at my desk and made notes from Peter Rudiak-Gould’s textbook. Lessons 12 and 13. Topic: object and emphatic pronouns.
At first glance the pronouns seem easy. At second glance… they still seem easy! Wonderful! I absolutely adore the simplicity of Marshallese grammar. But of course, I know perfectly well that it is simple in theory, not so much in practice.
Anyway, getting back to our pronouns. They are a joy to learn. All you have to do is memorize thirteen (I counted) words – pronouns – and a few grammar rules. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is literally what we call a child’s play.
I managed to learn both sets of pronouns in less than 30 minutes. Most of the pronouns in the two groups are identical, which is just great. The object pronouns are probably slightly easier to comprehend, as they are used in the exact same way as their English equivalents. So for example, if you want to say “I love you.” in Kajin Ṃajeḷ, you say “Ij iọkwe eok.” (not “Ij iọkwe kwō”). By the way, Valentine’s Day was four days ago, so you may still surprise (and impress!) your loved one with this Marshallese declaration of love.
The emphatic pronouns require a little more time and attention, mostly because you have to remember when to use them. I understand the three rules; the fourth one remains a bit of a mystery to me. Let me explain.
Rule no 1. The emphatic pronouns must be used after anything other than a verb. When he is coming to you, he is coming “ñan kwe”, not “ñan eok”.
Rule no 2. The emphatic pronouns can be used directly before a noun, if you want to say “I am (a noun)”. This means that “Ij rūkaki.” equals “Ña rūkaki.”.
Rule no 3. Those emphatic pronouns that are different from the subject pronouns can be put in front of the subject pronoun to add a little more emphasis to the sentence. So if I understand this properly, “Iṃōṇōṇō.” means “I’m happy.” and “Ña iṃōṇōṇō.” something like “I’m really happy.”
That was quite easy, right? But the rule no 4… The rule no 4 is a bit muddy. It says: “If you are referring to someone outside of a sentence, you use the emphatic pronouns.” Yeah… Actually, were it not for the example the author provided in the textbook, I would have never guessed what he had in mind. I’m still not sure if my thinking is on the right track here, but I assume Peter Rudiak-Gould was referring to subject questions, which begin with “who”. Again, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
So that’s all when it comes to the object and emphatic pronouns in theory. Practice will surely be more of a challenge. It always is. Making short statements like “I love you.” or “They hate us.” is not a problem. But using the pronouns in complex sentences, in longer writing, or in speech won’t be such a breeze. I already know that and am well-prepared to do loads of exercises, which in my case consists in making up my own sentences (Could somebody please create a Marshallese workbook?). I may even start today. Yes, I will definitely start today. When you’re learning a foreign language, you can’t afford to waste your time. Otherwise you’ll be learning forever. And I, my friends, don’t have “forever”. There are many more Pacific languages waiting for me! (for me = ñan ña, right?)