A Handbook of Kyrgyz Grammar/Nouns

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Introduction to the Case System[edit | edit source]

Like many other languages, Kyrgyz has a case system. This means that the form of the noun is altered in various ways to carry grammatical meaning. (In English, the vestiges of such a system may be seen in the permutations of the word “who”: we have “who,” “whose,” and “whom,” each of which has a separate grammatical function.) In Kyrgyz, these alterations (called “cases“) are formed by means of various suffixes.

Nouns in Kyrgyz are considered to have six cases, the Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Locative, and Ablative. Each case performs a different role. For example, a noun in the nominative case acts as a subject, a noun in the genitive is a possessor, and, as we have seen, a noun in the ablative can translate the English “from.”

If you have already studied any of the “inflected” languages, such as Latin or Russian, don’t let prior bitter experience daunt you: The system of Kyrgyz is generally very straightforward and regular.

There are only three persistent difficulties:
1) Case suffixes, like almost all Kyrgyz suffixes require the application of vowel harmony rules. Whether a given suffix takes a left or right vowel will have to be memorized and learned by practice.
2) Case markers can be changed slightly by suffixes that precede them, most especially the possessive suffixes. Again, the rules regarding this are very regular, and require only practice.
3) Consonants that begin certain suffixes (including case suffixes) sometimes change, depending on the last letter in the stem. For example, if the noun ends in an “unvoiced” consonant (the consonants ч, т, п, к, ш, с, and in loan words ц, щ, х, and ф), then the suffix will also begin with a unvoiced consonant. If the stem ends in another consonant or in a vowel, then the suffix will begin with a voiced consonant. (While making a voiced consonant or vowel, a person’s vocal cords vibrate; in the making of an unvoiced consonant they are still. An easy way to tell the difference is to make the consonant while blocking your ears—If there is a buzzing or rumbling sound, then the consonant is voiced, if there is not then the consonant is unvoiced.) This difficulty is chiefly one of orthography—In actual speech, these things usually tend to take care of themselves.

Here is a table of the case suffixes, in the forms that they take when appended to noun stems of various types:

Noun Declension
Case After Voiced Consonants After Unvoiced Consonants After Vowels
Nominative None None None
Genitive --д→н --т→н --н→н
Dative --г← --к← --г←
Accusative --д→ --т→ --н→
Locative --д← --т← --д←
Ablative --д←н --т←н --д←н

As mentioned before, the arrows indicate whether a suffix takes a right or a left vowel. So, if a word ends with “ы,” and you want to put it in the ablative, then the left vowel of the vowel pair “а-ы” is required. Since the word ends in a vowel, the suffix used is “--дан.”

Here are some examples:

Noun Declension
Case After Voiced Consonants After Unvoiced Consonants After Vowels
Nominative кой --“sheep” конок --“guest” суу -- “water”
Genitive койдyн ("of the sheep") коноктун ("of the guest") суунун ("of the water")
Dative койго ("to the sheep") конокко ("to the guest") сууга ("to the water")
Accusative койду ("sheep") конокту ("guest") сууну ("water")
Locative койдо ("on the sheep") конокто ("on the guest") сууда ("on the water")
Ablative койдон ("from the sheep") коноктон ("from the guest") суудан ("from the water")

Noun Declension
Case After Voiced Consonants After Unvoiced Consonants After Vowels
Nominative гүл-- “flower” мектеп --“school” бака --“frog”
Genitive гүлдүн мектептин баканын
Dative гүлгө мектепке бакага
Accusative гүлдү мектепти баканы
Locative гүлдө мектепте бакада
Ablative гүлдөн мектептен бакадан

These endings change a bit when they follow some possessive suffixes. That will all be dealt with later, when possessive suffixes are presented.

Meaning of Cases[edit | edit source]

The various cases carry different grammatical meanings, depending to some degree on the contexts in which they are used. However, many of these uses are actually quite intuitive to English speakers.

Nominative[edit | edit source]

As in the inflected languages (e.g. Russian), the nominative is the subject case and the dictionary form of the word.
Жылкы секирет.   “The horse jumps.”
horse   jumps

Нан   жакшы.   “The bread is good.”
bread good

Also, if the object of a transitive verb (that is, a verb that requires a direct object) is not definite or specific—that is, if it is just a general member of a category, and in English would not take the word “the” before it—then it also is in the nominative case.

Мен алма жедим.     “I ate an apple”
I   apple ate

Again, this is in the case of a direct object that is indefinite. It might be useful to compare the accusative case and the section on definite and indefinite.

Also, so-called “predicate nominatives” are in the nominative case. This means that, in English, a simple “to be” construction would be used, such as “John is a doctor.”

Адам жумушчуу.   “The man is a worker.”
man worker

In order to properly use these sorts of sentences in situations other than the third person, it is necessary to use personal endings, which are dealt with in the section on short sentences.

Genitive Case[edit | edit source]

The genitive case is usually used to indicate possession, along with the possessive suffixes.
Алманын    териси     “The apple‘s skin.”
apple(gen) skin (possessed)

Менин      гүлүм    “My flower”
(1st pers.gen.) flower

In this sense, the genitive may also be used to translate the English “to have.” More on this and on the necessary suffixes is in the possessive suffixes section.
The genitive is also used with postpositions of location.
Стулдун    астында “Under the chair”
chair(gen) under

These also are more thoroughly dealt with in their own section.

Dative case[edit | edit source]

The dative indicates indirect object and motion toward.

Мен дүкөнгө   барам .    “I go to the store.”
I   store(dat)    go

It is often used in the sense of “for” or “to.”
Нaзгүл бир алма жылкыга берди.   “Nazgul gave an apple to the horse.”
Nazgul one apple horse(dat) gave

The dative is also used with the verb жаз-- (write), for the surface on which the writing is being done.
Ал    кагазга    жазат.    “(S)he writes on paper.”
(s)he paper(dat) writes

Accusative Case[edit | edit source]

The accusative indicates the direct object of a verb, that is, the thing that the verb directs its action upon. (In English, the direct object of a verb never has a preposition in front of it.) However, the accusative is only used for a direct object if the object is definite. This means that you should put the object of a verb into the accusative if it is a direct object AND:
1) It is preceded by words that mean “this” or “that.” (e.g., бул, ошол, ал, тигил)
2) It has a possessive suffix.
3) You can imagine the word “the” placed before it in English.

Мен бул алманы жейм.    “I eat this apple.”
I this apple(acc) eat

Мен алмаӊды жейм.   “I eat your apple.”
I apple(“your,“acc) eat

Мен алманы жейм.    “I eat the apple.”
I apple(acc) eat

Мен алма жейм.    “I eat an apple.”
I     apple eat

The only exception to this rule comes with the construction жакшы көр-- , which means “like, love,” and its opposite жаман көр-- (dislike, loathe). These forms always take accusative objects, regardless of whether those objects are definite.

Мен алманы жакшы көрөм.   “I like apples.”
I      apple(acc) good see

Locative Case[edit | edit source]

The locative indicates location.
Мен шаарда жашайм.    “I live in a city.”
I     city(loc) live

Like the genitive, it can be used in certain constructions to translate the verb “to have.” This is covered in the section on possession.

Ablative Case[edit | edit source]

The ablative case can be used to indicate motion from someplace:
Мен Америкадан келдим.    “I came from America.”
I    America(abl) came

It can also work in a partitive sense, that is, it indicates a piece of something from a larger whole. In this it is like the Russian genitive.

Наандан    же.     “Eat some bread.”
bread(abl) eat

The ablative indicates the material by which a thing is made:

Колбаса   эттен жасалат. “Sausage is made from meat.”
sausage meat(abl) is made

It is also used as the object of verbs or fearing and of questioning.

Мен Чолпондон сурайм.     “I‘ll ask Cholpon.”
I      Cholpon(abl) ask

Мен Чолпондон корком.    “I fear Cholpon.”
I     Cholpon(abl) fear

Plural[edit | edit source]

The plural is formed by adding the suffixes л←р, д←р, or т←р. The first suffix is used for stems ending in a vowel or in the consonants р or й:

окуучу -------- окуучулар үй - үйлөр
student ------ students house houses

д←р is used for stems that end in voiced consonant:

көз ----- көздөр
eye ----- eyes

The suffix т←р is used for noun stems that end in voiceless consonants.
таш ----- таштар
stone ---- stones

Case endings are then simply appended to the plural suffix:

таштар -- “stones” таштарга—stones(dat) -- “to the stones.”

Pronouns[edit | edit source]

Personal and Demonstrative Pronouns[edit | edit source]

The Kyrgyz personal pronouns are мен (“I”), сен (“you,”single, informal), сиз (“you,”single, formal), биз (“we”), силер (“you,”plural informal), and сиздер (“you,”plural formal). The formal second-person pronouns are generally used for elders and social superiors (such as a school director or father). It is probably best to simply use the formal pronouns if there is any doubt (particularly in southern Kyrgyzstan, where the influence of Uzbek makes them the pronoun of choice.)

In addition to these are the demonstrative pronouns, (like the English “this one, that one”), which also work as third person personal pronouns. These are бул (“this one, this”), ошол (“that, that one (just mentioned)”), ал (“that, that one”),and тигил (“that one over there”).

None of the pronouns make any changes with regard to the gender of the person indicated. Thus, ал (the demonstrative by far the most commonly used as a personal pronoun) can mean “he,” “she,” or “it.”

Each of the demonstratives can also be used as an adjective. So, while бул by itself means “this one,” бул наан means “this bread.” The big difference is that these words do not change cases when they are used as adjectives, but when used as pronouns they take the full range.

Pronoun Declension
Case First Person Singular Second Person Singular Informal Second Person Singular Formal
Nominative мен ("I") сен ("you") сиз ("you")
Genitive менин ("of me;""my") сенин ("of you;" "your") сиздин ("of you;" "your")
Dative мага "to me";"for me") сага ("to you";"for you") сизге ("to you";"for you")
Accusative мени ("me") сени ("you") сизди ("you")
Locative менде ("on me") сенде ("on you") сизде ("on you")
Ablative менден ("from me") сенден ("from you") сизден ("from you")

Pronoun Declension
Case First Person Plural Second Person Plural Informal Second Person Plural Formal
Nominative биз ("We") силер ("you"plur.) сиздер ("you" plur.)
Genitive биздин ("of us;""our") силердин ("of you;" "your") сиздердин ("of you;" "your")
Dative бизге ("to us";"for us") силерге ("to you";"for you") сиздерге ("to you";"for you")
Accusative бизди ("us") силерди ("you") сиздерди ("you")
Locative бизде ("on us") силерде ("on you") сиздерде ("on you")
Ablative бизден ("from us") силерден ("from you") сиздерден ("from you")

Demonstrative pronouns/third person personal pronouns:

This (one)/(s)he, it
Case Singular Plural
Nominative бул ("This one") буллар ("These ones")
Genitive мунун ("this one’s") буллардын ("of these ones")
Dative буга ("to/for this one") булларга ("to/for these")
Accusative муну ("this one") булларды ("these")
Locative мында ("on this one") булларда ("on these ones")
Ablative мындан ("from this one") буллардан ("from these")

That (one)/(s)he, it
Case Singular Plural
Nominative ал ("That one") алар ("Those ones")
Genitive анын ("that one’s") алардын ("of those ones")
Dative ага ("to/for that one") аларга ("to/for those")
Accusative аны ("that one") аларды ("those")
Locative анда ("on that one") аларда ("on those ones")
Ablative андан ("from that one") алардан ("from those")

This (one)/(s)he, it
Case Singular Plural
Nominative ошол ("This one") ошолор ("These ones")
Genitive ошонун ("this one’s") ошолордун ("of these ones")
Dative ошого ("to/for this one") ошолорго ("to/for these")
Accusative ошону ("this one") ошолорду ("these")
Locative ошондо ("on this one") ошолордо ("on these ones")
Ablative ошондон ("from this one") ошолордон ("from these")

That (one)/(s)he, it (far away)
Case Singular Plural
Nominative тигил ("That one") тигилер ("Those ones")
Genitive тигинин ("that one’s") тигилердин ("of those ones")
Dative тигиге ("to/for that one") тигилерге ("to/for those")
Accusative тигини ("that one") тигилерди ("those")
Locative тигинде ("on that one") тигилерде ("on those ones")
Ablative тигинден ("from that one") тигилерден ("from those")

In addition to тигил, there is another demonstrative pronoun adjective, “тетигил,” which means “that one way over there.” It is declined (put through its system of cases) just like тигил.

The Reflexive Pronoun[edit | edit source]

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns that refer back to the subject of a sentence, like the English word “myself”. The Kyrgyz equivalent (in first, second and third person) is өз (“self”). It is usually used for emphasis, as the reflexive sense of the verb (e.g., the English “I wash myself.”) is carried in Kyrgyz by a special verbal form (see “verb suffixes”).

Often, өз is used with possessive suffixes (compare English myself, yourself, etc.). Since it takes some sort of possessive suffix when put in any case other than the nominative (and typically, even then), its declination is presented below, in the section dealing with possessive suffixes.