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Old Tupi (Tubinambá) for Beginners

Old Tupi (Tupinambá) is a now extinct Tupian language which was spoken by the native Tupi people of Brazil. In the early colonial period, Tupi was used as the primary language throughout Brazil, but it was later suppressed almost to extinction.

The first accounts of the Old Tupi language date back to around the early 16th century. Nearly all colonists coming to Brazil would learn the Tupinambá as a means of communicating with both the Indians and with other early colonists who had adopted the language.

Many of the words still used in Brazil today are Tupi in origin, and Many of the geographic names in Brazil are of Tupi origin.

Part One - The Basics

Lesson 1: Pronunciation, Observations on Allophones

Pronunciation

 Vowels
 Letter Sampa IPA Equivalence
 A a  [ a ]  [ a ]  as a in Spanish "da"
 E e  [ E ]  [ ɛ ]  as e in English "bell"
 I i  [ i ]  [ i ]  as ee in English "seed"
 O o  [ O ]  [ ɔ ]  as o in English "hot"
 U u  [ u ]  [ u ]  as oo in English "moo"
 Y y  [ 1 ] or [ 1G ]  [ ɨ ]  same sound represented by Polish 'y'.

All the vowels above can also be nasalized in Tupi.

 Consonants
 Letter Sampa IPA Equivalence
 '  [?]
 B b  [ B ]  [ β ]  as b in Spanish "cabo"
 Î î  [ j ] or [Z]  [ j ] or [ ʒ ]  as y in English "yet"; as s in English "pleasure"
 K k  [ k ]  [ k ]  as k in English "kill"
 M m  [ m ] or [m_b]  [ m ]  as m in English "man"; as m in Spanish "hambre"
 N n  [ n ] or [n_d]  [ n ]  as n in English "no"
 nh  [ ñ ]  [ ɲ ]  as ny in English "canyon"
 ng  [ N ]  [ ŋ ]  as ng in English "singer"
 P p  [ p ]  [ p ]  as p in English "pen"
 R r  [ 4 ]  [ ɾ ]  as tt in English "better"
 S s  [ s ]  [ s ]  as s in English "see"
 T t  [ t ]  [ t ]  as t in English "two"
 Û û  [ w ] or [g_w]  [ w ]  as w in English "we"; as ou in French "oui"
 X x  [ S ]  [ ʃ ]  as sh in English "she"

Observations on allophones

1) /m/ and /n/ are realized as [m_b] and [n_d], respectively, when it is followed by a stressed syllable without any other nasal.

temi'u can be pronounced tembi'u
ma'e > mba'e
kam+'y > kamby (and not Kamy)
nhan+ara > nahndara (and not nhanara)

2) In stressed word-initial position, /m/ and /n/ are realized as [m_b] and [n_d] respectively, if and only if there is not any other nasal after them in the word.

3) /m/ and /n/ always nasalize the vowel which comes before them.

Just as Portuguese

4) î and nh are basically allophones; î is realized as [ñ] when another nasal is present in the word and in word-initial position as [Z] if and only if no other nasal is present in the word.

aîybõ read as aiybõ
anhybõ read as anhybõ
îetyka read as either ietyka or Zetyka
yara can be pronounced ygara
yasaba > ygasaba

5) û is realized as [g_w] in word-initial position; all other cases it is realized as [w]

ûyrá can be pronounce gûyrá

6) When a syllable ending in y is followed by a vowel-initial syllable, [1] changes into [1G].

On Stress

☛ All words, ending in a) consonant, b) semi-vowel and c) vowel (i, u, y) or d) any nasal vowel, have the last syllable stressed.

Karu – Agûapyk Karu – Agûapyk

☛ a word maintains its stress when unstressed affixes (suffixes and enclitics, unstressed post-positions) are added.

Morubixabape (-pe is an enclitic)

☛ the vowel just after a glottal stop is always stressed.

Poti'a

☛ an acute accent mark is used mainly for last-syllable-stressed words and for stressed monosyllabic words which end in a, e, o. In a few cases, however, a distinctive accent mark will be used.

îu, ky, mon (accents are actually written here)

Ou (he comes) has a distinctive accent mark (he is coming)

Exercises

Exercise A: Read aloud:
1) îakaré
2) syk
3) peró
4) ygara
5) tendy
6) nhe’eng
7) pytá
8) abá
9) ygarusu
10) gûyratinga
11) moti’a
12) paka
13) ybyrá
14) kûá
15) ybytyra


Lesson 2: The Portuguese Settlers Arrive

Text

The Portuguese Settlers arrive

Peró oîepotar. Peróetá ‘y kûápe osó.
The Portuguese men arrived. Many Portuguese men went to the river shore.

Abá ‘y kûápe oîkó. Peróetá ygarusu pupé opytá.
The natives were at the river shore. Many Portuguese men stayed inside the ships.

Peró ygara suí osem. Aba osyk. Aba peró supé onhe’eng.
The Portuguese men left the boat. The natives came closer. The natives talk to the Portuguese men.

Abáetá osykyîé.
The natives are afraid.

They ask the Portuguese:
Abápe endé? Mamõpe ereîkobé?
Who are you? Where do you live?


Vocabulary

 Abá  native (Indians), man, human being
 Kûá  bay, shore
 ‘y kûá  river shore
 Peró  Portuguese (people)
 ‘y  river, water
 ygara  boat
 ygarusu  ship (lit. big boat)
 îepotara  to arrive (via river or sea)
 ikó  to be
 ikobé  to live
 nhe’enga  to speak/talk
 pytá  to stay
 sema  to leave, to come
 só  to go
 syka  to come closer, to arrive
 sykyîé  to be afraid of
 abápe  who?
 endé  you
 etá  many
 mamõpe  where?
 -pe  in, at, towards (locative)
 supé  to (dative)
 suí  from (or cause)
 pupé  inside of, in

Next lesson I will explain the grammar behind the text


Lesson 3: The Portuguese Settlers Arrive - Part 2

Grammar Focus

1) Peró oîepotar.
The Portuguese men arrived.
(Portuguese men + 3rdpl-arrive)

Tupi has two distinct classes of verbs. The ones in the first lesson text belong to the 1st Class. To be a first-class verb means that it bears flexion (both for number and person). Tupi verbs express no tense whatsoever, and then it is through context that tense is attributed.

a) îepotara – to arrive

 îepotara – to arrive
 ixé a-îepotar  I arrive, -ed
 endé ere-îepotar  you arrive, -ed
 a’e o-îepotar  he arrives, -ed (lit. that one arrives, -ed)
 oré oro-îepotar  we arrive, -ed (exclusive)
 îandé îa-îepotar  we arrive, -ed (inclusive)
 pe’e~ pe-îepotar  you arrive, -ed
 a’e o-îepotar  they arrive, -ed (lit. those ones arrive, -ed)

As you can see, the flexion marking is placed on left rather then on the right side of the radical of the verb and the infinitive suffix is dropped (in case it bears any). Also, it is not necessary to write the personal pronouns; once the verbs fully inform what person that flexion belongs to.

Every noun and every verb infinitive always end in a vowel. If the verb has a radical which ends in consonant, the infinitive gets an –a ending.

e.g.:

 só  to go  infinitive/radical:
 syka  to arrive  infinitive/radical: syka/syk
 nhe’enga  to speak  infinitive/radical: nhe’enga/nhe’eng
 sema  to leave  infinitive/radical: sema/sem

Verb infinitives are always nouns, in Tupi, as well.

e.g.:
sema = to leave, the departure

b) exclusive vs. Inclusive ‘We’

If we say, in Tupi, to a group of natives ‘We came from Portugal’, we must use the Exclusive ‘we’, for the natives didn’t come from Portugal, this way they are not included in the ‘we’ I am using. If we rather say ‘We will die someday’ to this same group of natives, everybody is included for everybody will die eventually, so we use the Inclusive ‘we’.

2) Peróetá ‘y kûápe osó.
Many Portuguese men went to the river shore.
(Portuguese-many + river shore-locative + 3rdpl-go)

a) Tupi has no plural marking, this way, the suffix ‘etá’, meaning ‘many’ is attached to the word.

Peró + etá = peróetá
Portuguese + many = ‘portugueses’/many Portuguese men

b) Adjectives are usually placed before the noun they modify if they function as genitives.

‘y kûá = river + shore --> shore of the river / river’s shore

c) Attributive Adjectives (which give qualities to nouns) make compounds with the words they act upon and they are also invariable in number. It is also important to remember that this sort of composition must always end in a vowel, so we add an ‘-a’ if the last word of the compound ends in consonant.

Beautiful = porang
Woman/women = kunhã
Beautiful woman/women = kunhãporanga (lit. woman/women beautiful)

Good = katu
Man/men = abá
Good man/men = abákatu (lit. man/men good)

d) The locative particle ‘-pe’ is placed after the target of the movement. ‘-pe’ is attached to the target noun because it is an unstressed post-position.

Ixé São Paulope asó – I go/wet to São Paulo (lit. I São Paulo-to go/went)

☛ So far, we have seen two sentences and that’s enough as a sample of Tupi syntax. As you can see, the usual word order is SOV (Subject-Object-Verb), just like Japanese!

3) Abá ‘y kûápe oîkó.
The natives are at the river shore.
(Natives + river shore-at + 3rdpl-be)

a) The locative particle ‘-pe’ can also convey the place where something/someone is located. The particle is placed after the place where s/t or s/o is.

Ixé São Paulope aîkó – I am/was in São Paulo (lit. I São Paulo-in am/was)

b) In order to make pronunciation smoother, ‘ikó’ (to be) turns into ‘îkó’ so that it makes a glide sound (diphthong) when the verb is conjugated. This usually happens, i > î, when an unstressed ‘i’ is followed by another vowel.

4) Peróetá ygarusu pupé opytá.
Many Portuguese men stayed inside the ships.
(Portuguese-many + ship + inside + 3rdpl-stay)

a) There’s an interior locative ‘pupé’, which is used to state that something or someone is inside a place. This particle goes right after the place where s/t or s/o is and before the verb of the sentence.

Ixé oka pupé aîkó – I am/was in/inside the house (lit. I house inside am/was)

5) Peró ygara suí osem.
The Portuguese men left the boat.
(Portuguese + boat + from + 3rdpl-leave)

a) In order to express where something or someone comes from, Tupi uses a particle ‘suí’ after the place from where s/t or s/o comes from.

Ixé São Paulo suí osem – I come/came from São Paulo (lit I São Paulo from come)

6) Abá osyk.
The natives came closer.
(Natives + 3rdpl-come closer)

7) Abá peró supé onhe’eng.
The natives talk to the Portuguese.
(Natives + Portuguese + to(dative) + 3rdpl-talk)

a) As said before, in order to express to whom someone is talking, the nhe’enga (to speak/talk) verb requires a post-positional complement ‘supé’.

Ixé abá supé anhe’eng – I speak/spoke to the man (lit. I man to speak/spoke)

8) Abáetá osykyîé.
The natives are afraid.
(Natives-many + 3rdpl-be afraid)

9) Abápe endé?
Who are you?
(Who + you)

a) As you can see, there’s no ‘to be’ verb in Tupi, in the sense as ‘to exist’. This way, if I want to say something like ‘I am a man’ I say, in Tupi:

Ixé Thiago – I am Thiago (lit. I Thiago)
Kurumi~ Pedro – The boy is Pedro (lit. Boy Pedro)

b) There’s no definite or indefinite article in Tupi

The native(s) stay at the river shore – Abá ‘y kûápe opytá
Some native(s) stay at the river shore - Abá ‘y kûápe opytá

10) Mamõpe ereîkobé?
Where do you live?
(Where + 2ndsg-live)

a) So far, we make interrogatives using the questions words ‘who’ and ‘where. Note the fact that both words have the ‘-pe’ particle, which shall not be confused with the ‘-pe’ locative particle.


Vocabulary

 îakaré  crocodile
 ararakûara  parrot’s burrow (city name)
 paketá  many agouti (city name)
 siri  crab

Exercises

Exercise A: Conjugate the verbs below and translate:
1) kurukato mumble
2) gûatáto walk
3) gûapykato sit down
4) pererekato walk by fits and starts
5) nhanato run
6) kerato sleep
7) karuto eat

Exercise B: Translate into Tupi:
1) I stay in Rio.
2) I live in Paris.
3) I leave the river shore.
4) We (inclusive) stay at home.
5) We (exclusive) sleep inside the ship.
6) The natives talk to Maria.
7) Where do you live? I live in Montreal.
8) The men go to the boat. They are afraid.
9) He goes to the boy’s river.
10) Who are they? He is Pedro, she is Cecile.
11) A Portuguese talk to many natives.
12) We left the shore. We go to Carl's house.
13) Who is at the seashore? The Portuguese men are at the seashore, inside their ships.

Exercise C: Answer the sentences following the pattern given and translate them.:

- Mamõpe ereîkobé? (‘Ygûasu)
- Aîkobé ‘Ygûasupe.
Translation: Where do you live? (Great River Shore)
I live in the Great River Shore (‘ygûasu)

- Abápe osó tatu ‘ype? (Pedro)
- Pedro osó tatu ‘ype.
Translation: Who goes to the armadillo river? (Pedro)
Pedro goes to the armadillo river

1) Mamõpe erepytá? (îakaré ‘y)
2) Mamõpe peîkobé? (Tokyo)
3) Mamõpe eresó? (Hanover)
4) Mamõpe ereîkó? (Ararakûara)
5) Abápe opytá São Paulope? (Maria)
6) Abápe osem ygarusu suí? (peró)
7) Abápe opytá ‘y kûápe? (paketá)
8) Abápe oîkobé Coloradope? (abáetá)
9) Mamõpe pepytá? (siri ‘y)
10) Abápe osykyîé? (Maria)

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1)
kuruka - to mumble
ixé akuruk - I mumble, -ed
endé erekuruk - you mumble, -ed (singular)
a'e okuruk - he mumbles, -ed
oré orokuruk - we mumble, -ed (exclusive)
îandé îakuruk - we mumble, -ed (inclusive)
pe'ẽ pekuruk - you mumble, -ed (plural)
a'e okuruk - they mumble, -ed

2)
gûatá - to walk
ixé agûatá - I walk, -ed
endé eregûatá - you walk, -ed (singular)
a'e ogûatá - he walks, -ed
oré orogûatá - we walk, -ed (exclusive)
îandé îagûatá - we walk, -ed (inclusive)
pe'ẽ pegûatá - you walk, -ed (plural)
a'e ogûatá - they walk, -ed

3)
gûapyka - to sit down
ixé agûapyk - I sit down, sat down
endé eregûapyk - you sit down, sat down (singular)
a'e ogûapyk - he sits down, sat down
oré orogûapyk - we sit down, sat down (exclusive)
îandé îagûapyk - we sit down, sat down (inclusive)
pe'ẽ pegûapyk - you sit down, sat down (plural)
a'e ogûapyk - they sit down, sat down

4)
perereka - to walk by fits and starts
ixé apererek - I walk by fits and starts, -ed by fits and starts
endé erepererek - you walk by fits and starts, -ed by fits and starts (singular)
a'e opererek - he walks by fits and starts, -ed by fits and starts
oré oropererek - we walk by fits and starts, -ed by fits and starts (exclusive)
îandé îapererek - we walk by fits and starts, -ed by fits and starts (inclusive)
pe'ẽ pepererek - you walk by fits and starts, -ed by fits and starts (plural)
a'e opererek - they walk by fits and starts, -ed by fits and starts

5)
nhana - to run
ixé anhan - I run, ran
endé erenhan - you run, ran (singular)
a'e onhan - he runs, ran
oré oronhan - we run, ran (exclusive)
îandé îanhan - we run, ran (inclusive)
pe'ẽ penhan - you run, ran (plural)
a'e onhan - they run, ran

6)
kera - to sleep
ixé aker - I sleep, slept
endé ereker - you sleep, slept (singular)
a'e oker - he sleeps, slept
oré oroker - we sleep, slept (exclusive)
îandé îaker - we sleep, slept (inclusive)
pe'ẽ peker - you sleep, slept (plural)
a'e oker - they sleep, slept

7)
karu - to eat
ixé akaru - I eat, ate
endé erekaru - you eat, ate (singular)
a'e okaru - he eats, ate
oré orokaru - we eat, ate (exclusive)
îandé îakaru - we eat, ate (inclusive)
pe'ẽ pekaru - you eat, ate (plural)
a'e okaru - they eat, ate

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Riope apytá.
2) Parispe aîkobé.
3) 'Y kûá suí asem.
4) Okape îapytá.
5) Ygarusu pupé oroker.
6) Abáetá Maria supé onhe'eng. / Abá Maria supé onhe'eng.
7) Mamõpe ereîkobé? Montrealpe aîkobé.
8) Abá ygarape osó. Osykyîé.
9) Kurumĩ 'ype osó.
10) Abápe a'e? A'e Pedro, a'e Cecile.
11) Peró abáetá supé onhe'eng.
12) Kûá suí îasem. Carl okape îasó. / Kûá suí orosem. Carl okape orosó.
13) Abápe 'y kûápe oîkó? Peróetá 'y kûápe oîkó, ygarusu pupé oîkó.

Solution of Exercise C:
1) Where do you stay? - I stay on the Crocodile River.
2) Where do you live? - We live in Tokyo.
3) Where do you go? - I go to Hanover.
4) Where are you? - I'm at Parrot's Burrow.
5) Who stays at São Paulo? - Maria does.
6) Who leaves the ships? - The Portuguese do.
7) Who stays on the river shore? - The agoutis do.
8) Who lives in Colorado? - The natives do. / The men do.
9) Where do you stay? - I stay on the Crab River.
10) Who's afraid? - Maria is.


Lesson 4: On the Ship

Text 2

On the ship

The natives' chief talks to a Portuguese who has just left the ship:

- Kó abá tupinikyîa. Ixé morubixaba. Abápe endé?
- These natives are Tupi. I am the chief. Who are you?

Aîpó peró onhemokyriri~. Abá nhe'enga oîkóéeté.
That Portuguese shuts up. The natives' language is very different

Abá, a'e riré, peró ygarusupe osó. Morubixaba abé akûeî karaíba iru~namo osó.
The natives, later on, go to the ship of the Portuguese. The chief also goes with those white men.

Aîpó abá ygarusup okaru. Abá ygarusupe oker.
Those natives eat at the ship. The natives sleep on the ship.

Oîebyr a'e riré.
They come back later on.

Grammar Focus

1) - Kó abá tupinikyîa. Ixé morubixaba. Abápe endé?
- These natives are Tupi. I am the chief. Who are you?

a) -> this demonstrative is used when something is NEAR and is VISIBLE from the person who is speaking.
eg. Kó uru = this bowl

b) just to remember that in Tupi there is no verb corresponding to 'to be', so we get: Kó abá tupinikyîa = These natives (are) Tupi; and also Ixé morubixaba = I (am) the chief.

2)- Aîpó peró onhemokyriri~. Abá nhe'enga oîkóéeté.
That Portuguese shuts up. The natives' language is very different

a) AÎPÓ -> this demonstrative is used when something is FAR and OUT OF SIGHT from the person who is speaking.
eg. Aîpó kunhã = that woman

b) ikóéeté means, 'to be very different', it is just the composition of 'ikó + é' and eté is the adverb meaning 'a lot, very', note that it is used just after the verb, in the sentence.

3)- Abá, a'e riré, peró ygarusupe osó. Morubixaba abé akûeî karaíba iru~namo osó.
The natives, later on, go to the ship of the Portuguese. The chief also goes with those white men.

a) a'e riré -> remember that a'e mean 'that one' BUT they also work as a demonstrative which refers to what has been said before; when we put it together with riré then we get after that or 'after what has just been said'...

b) abé = also, too

c) a-kûeî = those (earlier mentioned), this demonstrative is the conbination of -a which refers to something said before in the sentence and kûeî which is a demonstrative which refers to things or people that ae FAR but still VISIBLE.

d) karaíba = white man/men

e) iru~namo = with (companion of)

4)- Aîpó abá ygarusupe okaru. Abá ygarusupe oker.
Those natives eat at the ship. The natives sleep on the ship.

a) karu = to eat

b) ker = to sleep

5)- Oîebyr a'e riré.
They come back later on.

a) îebyra = to come back

b) a'e rire = later on, after all that, which has been said


Lesson 5: Personal Pronouns, Adjectives, Demonstratives

Personal Pronouns

Tupi has, of course, two classes of personal pronouns:

 1st Class:
 ixé  I
 endé  you
 a'e  he (that one)
 oré  we (excl)
 îandé  we (incl)
 pe'~e  you
 a'e  they (those ones)
 asé  we (univeral), equivalent to French 'on'
 2nd Class:
 xe  I
 nde or ne  you
 i  he, she
 oré  we (excl)
 îandé  we (incl)
 pe  you
 i  they

How to use the two classes?

☛ Use 2nd Class pronouns with Adjectives... note that 'i' (he, she) is only used herein.

 xe porang  I (am) cute
 nde porang  you (are) cute
 nde katu  you (are) good
 i katu  they (are) good
    and so on...

☛ Both classes can be used with nouns, except the 3rd person singular 'i', which in subject position can only be used with adjectives. They can be written after or before nouns.

 xe morubixaba  I (am) the chief
 Ixé morubixaba  I (am) the chief
 Morubixaba ixé  I (am) the chief
 (if this pronouns does not precede any other word in the sentence, ixé is preferred)
 endé peró  you (are) Portuguese
 nde peró  you (are) Portuguese
 peró endé  you (are) Portuguese

a'e abá - he is a native
NEVER: i abá, because 'abá' is a noun and 'i' is only used with adjectives.

ASÉ is used as the same as the indefinite French 'on' or Portuguese 'a gente' or even '-se' as in 'Come-se be na sua casa'.

When we say 'We will die eventually', Asé must be used, for asé refers back to all humankind. Asé requires a 3rd person verb form.

Asé oîkobé, asé omanõ = we (all, including 'he, you and I) live, we die.

Asé okarueté São Paulope = We eat very well in São Paulo

Adjectives

Adjectives can be attributive and predicative

Attributive
'y-pyranga = red river

Predicative
'y i pyrang = the river (is) red (lit. the river, it (is) red

What's the difference between the two?
Attributives are directly associated with the noun they modify and predicatives are associated via a linking verb. In Tupi, as said before, there's no 'to be' verb, so we attach an -a after the adjective.

☛ If the subject is a noun, the predicative adjective must have the 'i' pronoun coming before it, which is a 'pleonastic' subject (reinforcement subject).

Kunhã i katu = the woman, she (is) kind
Kunhã i porang = the woman, she (is) cute

☛ When the adjective is attributive, the -a suffix is attached to the end of the verb IF it ends in consonant.

Demonstratives

Tupi distinguishes demonstratives concerning proximity and visibility.

Demonstratives which has an initial 'a' convey things that are not visible.

a) 'ã kurum~i = this boy (near and invisible)
'ãng itá = this stone (near and invisible) - before vowels 'ã becomes 'ãng

b) kó pirá = this fish (near and visible)

c) ebokûeî pirá = this fish (near and visible) --> 'ebo' is used to say that the object is near and visible to the person to whom you are talking to

d) kûeî kunhã = that woman (far and visible)

e) akûeî kurum~i = that boy (far and invisible)

f) aîpó kunhã = that woman (far and invisible)

Demonstratives can be either adjective-like (follow nouns) or noun-like (function as nouns)...

☛ when they are noun-like: they usually get an -a attached in its end or even the -ba'e suffix. The ones ending in vowels may appear without any suffix when functioning as nouns...

e.g.
Kó kunhã osó, akûeîa opytá - This woman goes, that one stays.

Mba'epe aîpó? - What's that?

* Note that both underlined words function as nouns...

- Kó peró oker, kûeîba'e okaru - This Portuguese man sleeps, that one eats.

- Kóba'e tatu - This is an armandillo

-Ã morubixaba onhe'eng, kûeîa onhemokyrir~i - This chief speaks, that one shuts up.

-Abápe aîpó? - Who is this?

Demonstratives starting with an a- or ebo- are also used to make reference to what has already been said in the sentence.

Kurum~i onhan. Aîpó kurum~i, a'e riré, oker - the boys runs. This boy, afterwards, sleeps.


End Of Part One

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