Applicatives and Suppletion in Hiaki

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This study investigates the interaction of applicative constructions and suppletion in Hiaki and proposes a new hypothesis about their relationship.

An applicative adds a new direct object to the sentence. The easiest way to understand this concept is with an example. In the sentence, “I baked a cake”, “I” is the subject, “baked” is the verb, and “a cake” is the direct object. In English, a second direct object could be added by saying “I baked my son a cake” where “my son” is the new direct object.

An applicative is a suffix added to a verb when a new direct object is added. In Hiaki, the suffix added to the verb is -ria. In English, if the suffix –ria were used, then the example above would be “I bakedria my son a cake.”


Here is an example of a Hiaki sentence with and without an applicative suffix:

Without an applicative:
Juan Peotau nookak.
Juan Pete-to spoke
“Juan spoke to Pete”.

With an applicative:
Juan Fernandata Peotau nokriak.
Juan Fernanda-acc Pete-to spoke-ria-pfv
“Juan spoke to Pete for Fernanda.”


Suppletion is a different concept, but it still deals with the way verbs look in a sentence. A verb that displays suppletion is one that changes its pronunciation dramatically when used in different tenses or contexts. In English, one of the more common suppletive verbs is “go” which becomes “went” in the past tense.

In Hiaki, suppletion occurs in some verbs depending on whether they refer to multiple subjects or not. For example, the verb meaning “to run” in the singular sense is vuite, as in Juan vuite, “John is running”. When the subject is plural, however, it becomes tenne, as in Ume uusim tenne, “The children are running”.

The original hypothesis was about the relationship between applicatives and suppletion in Hiaki. It was discovered that intransitive verbs like vuite/tenne, which undergo suppletion, cannot take an applicative (-ria). In contrast, intransitive verbs like bwiika, “sing”, which do not undergo suppletion, can take the applicative suffix. The paper proposes that suppletive intransitive verbs are special in that their subjects are located in a different place in the sentence structure than the subjects of non-suppletive verbs, which is why these verbs cannot have an applicative added to them.