Grammar Notes


1. Parts of Speech

1.1 Nouns

Nouns are of three types: (1) simple, (2) derived, and (3) complex. (1) Simple nouns are affixed or affixable roots which are only inflected for diminutive aspect. e.g., batu "stone," kura' "horse," bāy-bāy "small house." (2) Derived nouns consist of a root and a derivative affix, e.g., ka-datung (nominalizer - to arrive) "arrival". (3) Complex nouns are nominalized transforms of verbs and as such have verbal inflection, e.g., piyag-bunu'-an "place where a battle was fought."

1.2 Relators

Relators signal the grammatical relationships between verbs and their associated nominal phrases, e.g., sin "non-topic actor," in "topic," ha "oblique."

Binī (sin) tau (in) sapi' (ha) bagay niya
buy (non-topic act.) man (topic) cow (oblique) friend his
"The man bought the cow from his friend."

Relators also signal relationships such as possession, coordination and subordination.

possession: sin

bay (sin) tau dayahan
house (poss.) man rich
"house of the rich man"

coordination: iban

ista' (iban) sibuyas
fish (and) onions
"fish and onions"

subordination: bang

(Bang) dakula' in ista', bīhun ku
(If) large topic fish, buy I
"If the fish are large, I'll buy them."

1.3 Adverbs

Adverbs are particles which are non-relational and are attributive to the construction in which they occur. They include such functions as:


bakas “previously;” kaina “a while ago”


kunu' quote”


baha' pray tell;” kalu-kalu “perhaps”


tuwi' oops”


di' not”


ka “question”


na “completive;” pa “incompletive;” da “only”


subay “should”

1.4 Pronouns

Pronouns are words which have compounds of person, number, and proximity and substitute for noun phrases. They are either personal or non-personal (demonstrative). They divide into four classes according to their function on the clause and sentence level. The following charts display their relationship to the phrase sets (see section 2, Phrase Types) of the language.

Chart 2a Personal Pronouns of Tausug
Phrase Membership Phrase1 Phrase2 Phrase3 Phrase4
Pron. Class <kaw> <mu> <kaymu> <ikaw>
Speaker: sg.










Hearer: sg.










Other: sg.










Speaker-hearer: sg.











Chart 2b Demonstrative Pronouns of Tausug
Phrase Membership Phrase1 Phrase2 Phrase3 Phrase4
Pron. Class <kaw> <mu> <kaymu> <ikaw>
near or touching speaker:          this in ini sin ini ha ini ini
near to hearer: this in yan sin yan ha yan yan
away from speaker and hearer,
but within sight:   that
in yaun sin yaun ha yaun yaun
far away from both (remote)          that in yadtu sin yadtu ha yadtu yadtu

The <kaw> class of pronouns functions in the same way as Phrase1. The <mu> set functions like Phrase2, <kaymu> like Phrase3, and <ikaw> like Phrase4.

1.5 Adjectives

Adjectives, like nouns, are affixed or affixable roots which are inflected only for diminutive aspect. They contrast with nouns, however, in that they occur in attributive slots. Adjectives are of two types: simple and derived. Simple adjectives are unaffixed roots which are only inflected for diminutive aspect. Examples are dakula' "large," asibi' "small," dakula'-dakula' "somewhat large," pula "red," and baliskat "inverted."

Derived adjectives consist of the adjectival prefix ma- plus a root, e.g., ma-dayaw (phonetically marayaw) "good," ma-taud "many," ma-bahu"odorous," and ma-bagunbun "dusty."

1.6 Interjections

Interjections are exclamatory in nature. They consist of one or more words and usually occur at the first of the sentence periphery, e.g., ā! "oh," andu' kailu! "sympathy," ay kaw naa! "hey," and abā! "wow."

1.7 Verbs

1.7.1 Inflection

Verbs contrast with the other parts of speech in that they are obligatorily inflected for time-aspect, focus, and mode. Categories of time-aspect are: begun (b) or not begun (nb). Categories of focus are: originator (of), object (Obf), accessory (Af), and referent (Rf) (see section 3, Focus). Categories of mode are: purposive, abilitative ("able to/happen to,") and imperative. The following is a paradigm of these obligatory affixes with the verb duhal "to hand over," and, for object focus, kaun "to eat," since duhal does not occur with object focus.

Chart 3 Obligatory Verbal Affixes of Tausug

Verbs are also optionally inflected for causative voice and for manner-aspect. The above chart with the causative affix added is as follows:

Chart 4 Causative and Obligatory Verbal Affixes of Tausug

Categories of manner-aspect are:

Simple (mag-/nag-), use with Originator focus only.

Punctiliar (-um-/-im-), with Originator focus only. Note in the chart of obligatory affixes above that either Simple or Punctiliar is obligatory in Originator focus, Purposive mode. Punctiliar manner-aspect does not co-occur with any other affixes except Progressive and Diminutive.

Progressive, normally used with begun aspect, not with not-begun aspect. Formed by reduplicating the initial consonant and vowel of the stem, e.g., nagduruhal siya "he/she is/was in the process of handing over" and kiyakaun niya "he/she is/was in the process of eating (it)."

Diminutive, formed by reduplicating the entire stem, e.g., kimaun-kaun sila "they snacked" and langug-langugun ta "let's tease (them) a little."

Reciprocal, formed by reduplicating the entire stem, prefixing the first stem with mag-, and both infixing and suffixing the second stem with i, e.g., magduhal-diyuhali sila "they will hand things to each other."

Habituative (Frequentative). The following is a chart of the obligatory affixes with Habituative added. Note that there is no habituative form focusing the object in Abilitative Mode:

Chart 5 Habituative and Obligatory Verbal Affixes of Tausug

1.7.2 Stem Classes

Verb stems are classed according to the case relationships inherent in the verb stem and each class of verb stem has its own distinctive class meaning and pattern of affixation. About half the verb stems in this dictionary have tentative stem class identifications marked. Others are not marked since the analysis is not yet complete. For a full discussion of stem classes, see section 6, Verb Stem Classes.

2. Phrase Types

2.1 There are four phrase sets in Tausug, called phrase1, phrase2, phrase3, and phrase4. Each phrase set includes substantive phrases and pronouns. Substantive phrases are personal or non-personal. They may be further subdivided into simple and coordinate.

2.2 Substantive phrases are relator-axis phrases and differ from one another in the different relators and their different functions on the clause and sentence level. A formula for the simple phrase is as follows:

+ relator + axis
in any substantive with its modifiers

The formula for the coordinate phrase is as follows:

+ relator + head expression + connector +head expression
in any substantive with modifiers iban phrase2/any substantive with modifiers

2.3 The members of the class of connectors marked iban in the formula above are: kay "connector of personal nouns," iban "and," atawa "or." The members of the class of relators marked in are on the chart below.


Chart 6 Tausug Relators Marked in
Phrase1 Phrase2 Phrase3 Phrase4
Personal substantive phrase relator:



















 Non-personal substantive phrase relator: in sin ha (location);

pa (direction)


3. Focus

3.1 The term focus in Tausug refers to the special relationship between the topic noun phrase (phrase1) of a clause (marked by inhi, or hinda) and the clause predicate whereby that particular noun phrase is highlighted or focused. This relationship is indicated by verbal inflection. It has relevance not only at the clause and sentence level but seems to function at the paragraph level as well and perhaps at the discourse level; e.g., in the sentence,

Kiyaun sin iru' in ista'.
"The fish was eaten by the dog.",

the relator in marks ista' "fish" as being in topic focus relationship to the predicate kiyaun "eaten." The non-topic agent relationship of phrase2 sin iru' "by the dog" is marked by the relator sin.

3.2 Four focus constructions are differentiated: Originator (Of), Object (Obf), Referent (Rf) and Accessory (Af). The range of affixation in each instance is determined by the class membership of the verb stem with which the affix occurs.

3.2.1 Originator focus affixes (mag-, -um-, and others) indicate that the grammatical originator of the clause is the topic or item being focused in the clause. In the example

Naglawag siya iban.
Of=b=search topic=orig=he obj=companion
"He searched for a companion.",

the originator focus affix occurring with the verb "search" indicates that the originator he is the focused item or topic.

3.2.2 Object focus affixes (-un and others) indicate that the grammatical object of the clause is the item being focused.

Lawagun sin sundalu in iban
Obf=nb=search orig-mkr orig=soldier topic obj=companion
"The soldier will look for his companion."

The grammatical object "his companion" is the focused item or topic.


Referent affixes (-an and others) indicate that the grammatical referent of the clause is being focused.

Lawagan ta kaw manuk.
Rf=nb=search orig=pron=I ref=you=sg obj=chicken
"I'll look for a chicken for you."

The grammatical referent "you" is the focused item or topic.

3.2.4 Similarly, acessory focus affixes (hi- and others) indicate that the grammatical accessory is the focused item or topic.

Hipanglawag mu in palitaan.
Af=nb=search orig=you=sg topic acs=lamp
"Use the lamp for searching."

Here the grammatical accessory "lamp" is the focused item or topic.

For an explanation of the semantic relationships of focus affixes see Section 6, Verb Stem Classes.

3.3 The relationship of the four grammatical constructions to phrase sets 1, 2, and 3 that expound them is illustrated in the following chart involving a change of state verb. It is important to remember that the constructions permitted and the relationship of the phrase sets to those constructions depend on the stem class membership of the verb involved.

Chart 7 Relationship of Tausug Focus Constructions to Phrase Sets
Predicate Originator Object Accessory Referent
mag-CH 1 Phrase1 Phrase2 Phrase2 Phrase3
CH 1-un Phrase2 Phrase1 Phrase2 Phrase3
hi-CH 1 Phrase2 Phrase2 Phrase1 Phrase3
CH 1-an Phrase2 Phrase2 Phrase2 Phrase1

3.4 Phrase set 4 (ph4) functions as an emphatic, filling the predicate slot of a non-verbal classificational clause:

Ikaw in bagay ku.
predicate=you=(ph4) topic friend=(ph4) poss=my=(ph2)
"You are my friend."

3. Focus