It’s already April 2019. My oh my, how time flies! Time flies and my Marshallese adventure continues. I’m getting better and better – I know more, I understand more, I notice more. Every day I discover something new. And I must tell you that recently I have discovered quite a few interesting things.

Marshallese is nothing like English. English is simple. You want to say “I have …”, you say “I have …”. You want to say “I walk fast”, you say “I walk fast”. You put the subject first, the verb second, the object third, and you have your sentence. In Marshallese, it is not always so simple.

I’m not sure if you know (well, you probably don’t unless you speak Kajin Ṃajeḷ), but they use a lot of pronouns. No, not subject pronouns like “I”, “you”, “he”, etc., but possessive pronouns, that is “my”, “your”, “his” and so on. Which, if you are not used to it, may be slightly confusing to grasp. Thankfully, only in the beginning. After a short while, you start to understand, and it’s not as bad as it initially appeared.

So in Marshallese you will not say “I have …” but “There is my …”. You will not say “I walk fast” but “It is fast my walk”. You will not say “I am often sick” but “Often my sick”. What’s even more, you will not say “You are very sick” but “It big your sick”. You will not say “You saw me go” but “You (past) see my go”. Seems difficult, doesn’t it? It may seem difficult, but it’s really not! When you familiarize yourself with this “unusual” sentence structure, it will no longer feel foreign; it will feel (surprisingly) natural.

Unfortunately, not everything feels so natural. Another thing I have discovered are the question words. I know what you’re thinking right now: “What question words? You already know them!”. That’s true. I learnt them last year. But the list in lesson 19 wasn’t complete. I have just found out that in Marshallese there are three words for “how”: “ewi wāween”, “enret”, and “ālmen”. I do believe – I am not 100 per cent sure – they can be used interchangeably. Now, to make it even more complicated, you can use these words only if you mean “how” in the sense of “in what way?” or “by what means?”. If you mean “how” in the sense of “how is it?”, you must use “eṃṃan ke”. There is also a third option. If you mean “how” in the sense of “what’s it doing?”, “what’s it condition?”, then you use “ej et”. Putting it simply, you have to think a lot before you ask your question.

There are separate words for “how much” and “how long”, and there are two more words for “why”.

Why are there three different words for “why”? Can you please tell me? I knew “etke”. Now I also know “ta unin” and “jaaṃ”. My textbook says that the latter is used in a special way, but honestly, I can’t figure out what way this can be. The word must be put right after a subject pronoun – ok, I understand. But does it mean exactly the same as “etke” or “ta unin”? When should I use which? #confused

If you think that’s all I want to share with you, you are – my friend – very much mistaken. Because, the Marshallese language has four more “whys”! Those are: “ebajeet”, “bwe”, “bwe ta”, and “bwe et”. They always go by themselves (never with a sentence), and I assume they are synonyms.

I won’t lie, I was – maybe I still am – a bit shocked when I made those discoveries. So many words usually equals too many doubts. Perhaps I shouldn’t “panic” and just learn – take one step at a time. But I’m that kind of person who wants to know everything right away. I hate it when I can’t get all the answers right here, right now. Luckily for me, I have the person who I am certain will be able to help me. The person who always helps me. Tina, what would I do without you? #relieved #happy

2 thoughts on “MARSHALLESE 22.0: MY OH MY, WHY OH WHY

  1. I’ve often felt the same about many words I’ve learned in Japanese, haha. Good to know it’s that way in other languages–multiple words with shades of meaning. Keep it up. Cheers.


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