Dene

Grammar Guide

Part A: The Simple Sentence

1. The Intransitive Sentence
Possibly the simplest grammatical construction in Denes¶øiné and one that is similar to English is the subject-predicate construction, using a noun and a verb. This can be illustrated by the following sentences:

deneyu nádher 'the man is staying'
tßékui nádher 'the woman is staying'
tßékui shétü 'the woman is eating'

These are similar to English because the words occur in the same order as English, first the noun, then the verb. They are different from English because there is no article which means 'a' or 'the' in these sentences, or anywhere in the Denes¶øiné language.

From the above sentences we note that nádher 'stay' and shénetü 'eat' are verbs, but there are some words that are not verbs in English, but are used as verbs and adjectives in Denes¶øiné.

deneyu nez¶ 'the man is good'
tßékwi nedátth 'the woman is heavy'

Both nez¶ 'good' and nedátth 'heavy' are verbs, as will be seen later in the grammar when we learn how to change subject pronouns.

When a verb in Denes¶øiné occurs without a noun, it is understood that the subject is 'he, she, it', even though there is nothing to indicate this.

e. g.

nádher 'he (she or it) is staying'
nedátth 'he (she or it) is heavy'

The sentence deneyu ndher 'the man is staying' is an assertion or statement or fact. Sometimes it is necessary to change this sentence to make a question. In English we change the order of the sentence and raise our voices; e.g., ‘Is the man staying?’ In Denes¶øiné we just add the word húsä (sometimes just ¿ú) to the sentence. húsä by itself means 'Is it so?' When added to a sentence, the sentence becomes a question.

deneyu nádher húsä? 'Is the man staying?'
tsékwi shétü húsä? 'Is the woman eating?'
nedátth húsä? 'Is it heavy?'


The above illustrations are all simple questions. We may also ask specific questions such as 'what? where? who? when?' etc. , by adding words with these meanings to the beginning of the sentence, and the word ha?á at the end. is sometimes omitted.

Edläghp hegha ha¿ä? 'Who is going?'
Edláhúæe nádher ha¿á? 'Where is he staying?'

Sometimes it is necessary to change a sentence to deny the assertion, that is, to make it negative. In English we do this by putting the word 'not' before the verb, e.g. , 'The man is not staying'. In Denes¶øiné, we add the word ‘híle’ to the sentence.

deneyu nádher híle 'The man is not staying'
Jú nedátth híle 'Joe is not heavy '
Shétü híle 'He is not eating'

Denes¶øiné have words for 'yes' and 'no' as we do in English.

¿ph nádher 'Yes, he is staying '
¿üleh, nedátth híle 'No, he is not heavy'

Denes¶øiné answer positive questions the same as we do in English.

nádher húsä 'Is he staying ?'
¿ph, nádher' 'Yes, he is staying
¿üleh nedátth híle? 'No, he is not heavy?'

Denes¶øiné do not answer negative questions the same as we do in English.

‘Nezñ híle ¿á húsä?’ 'Is it not good?'
‘¿ph, nezñ híle’ 'Yes, it is not good'
or
‘shétü híle ¿á húsä?' 'Is he not eating?'
‘¿üleh, shétü’ 'No, he is eating'

 
Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre