Neuter Verbs (Statives)

Verbs that describe states appear in a single mode, with a single stem, rather than the full range of modes that other verbs have. Young & Morgan call these neuter verbs (though they have nothing to do with any kind of grammatical gender), and Reichard (1951) calls them static. Some stative verbs have neuter imperfective mode, some have neuter perfective, and some have a mode similar to a progressive (YM 1987:191), but these modes do not have the meaning usually associated with imperfective, perfective, or progressive modes. With these verbs, the modes do not seem to mean anything. Every verb must have a mode, but with neuter verbs, they simply satisfy the formal requirement.

Young, Morgan, & Midgette (1992:879) distinguish three kinds of intransitive neuter verbs: “adjectivals,” “existentials,” and “positionals.” They identify a set of transitive neuter verbs that are derived from positional intransitives with meanings that an agent is holding a patient in a certain position. These transitive neuters are not aspectually stative since they describe events that happen rather than conditions that exist.

Here are some examples of the adjectival class. These are in the Neuter Imperfective (NI) mode:

nineez it is tall/long hóneez the area is long
niteel it is wide hóteel the area is wide
nizhóní it is pretty hózhóní the area is pretty

Examples (2) and (3) are in the existential class:

Bíla’ashdla’ii nishlį́.
3-hand-five-NOM 1-be.NI
I am a five-fingered being (= a person).
Díí nanise’ hiná.
this plant 3-alive.NI
This plant is alive.

Here are two examples of the positional class of statives, which are in Si-Perfective Neuter (SPN) mode:

Naaltsoos bikáá’ na’aníshí bikáa’gi si’ą́.
book desk 3-on-at up 3-lie.SRO.SPN
The book is on the table. (Young 2000:3)


’Aghaa’ hooghan góne’ shijool.
wool house inside 3-lie.NCM.SPN
There is wool inside the house.

Transitive verbs built on positional statives are all causitivized statives (note that all have the ł-classifier that is used in forming causitives). These involve someone holding another in a particular position.

For example:

’Awéé’ dah biséłdá.
baby up 3-1-CAUS-hold.AnO.SPN
I’m holding the baby in a sitting position.

Contrast (31) with the following intransitive stative:

’Awéé’ dah sidá.
baby up 3-sit.SPN
The baby is sitting.

For a detailed discussion of neuter verbs, see Young & Morgan 1987:189-198.