Appendix:Old Tupi nouns

From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Nouns don't have many inflexions in Old Tupi. However, they still have some, and this page is intended to give an overview of nouns in Old Tupi.


Possessable and non-possessable[edit]

Nouns are divided into possessable nouns and non-possessable nouns. All possessable nouns can be turned into adjectives by removing -a at its end (if it has one).

  • poranga (Beauty) > porang (Beautiful)
  • nema (Bad smell) > nem (Stinky)

And as its name suggests, it can also be possessed by a possessive pronoun or another noun in a genitive clause (possessor-possession).

  • kunhã poranga (The woman's beauty)
  • xe poranga (My beauty)
  • nde nema (Thy bad smell)

However, non-possessable, which are generally natural elements, such as plants, animals, regions, objects, etc., cannot be possessed nor be turned into adjectives. Such phrases like the examples below are ungrammatical:

  • xe pindoba (My palm tree)
  • nde îagûara (Thy jaguar)
  • oré tatu (Our tatu)
  • kunumĩ itá (the boy's rock)

Also, what is affected is the genitive clause, which follows another word order:

  • so'o (animal) ybytyrixûara (mountain chain): Animal of the mountains/Animal from the mountain.

For sentences like "My tree" or "Our tatu". It would rather say a more paraphrastic clause such as pindoba xe remityma, "The tree I planted"/"The tree planted by me", or tatu oré rembîara, "the tatu we captured"/"the tatu captured by us".

Pluriform nouns[edit]

Generally, the genitive and possessive clauses are simple: the possessor precedes the possession. The possessor can be the possessive pronoun or another noun.

  • Xe ygara - my canoe.
  • Nde ygara - thy canoe.
  • I ygara - his/her/its/their canoe.
  • Oré ygara - our (excl) canoe.
  • Îandé ygara - our (incl) canoe.
  • Pe ygara - your canoe.
  • Abá ygara - the man's canoe.
  • Kunhambeba ygara - Kunhambeba's canoe.
  • Ygara - a/the canoe.

However, some words called "Pluriform nouns" change their forms according to the type of possessor. These forms are called "relational forms" and consist of the stem from the pluriform noun gaining different prefixes according to the possessor.

  1. Absolute form: this form is used whenever the noun isn't in a possessive clause. i.e., it's in a basic form.
  1. R1 form (contiguous form): used when the noun is preceded by a 1st or 2nd person possessive pronoun or a nominal group in a genitive clause.
  1. R2 form (non-contiguous form): used when 3rd person possesses the noun. Non-pluriform nouns use the pronoun of class II i, which stands for 3rd person possessive pronoun. At the same time, Pluriform nouns use the prefix that forms the R2 form.
  1. R3 form (coreferential form): used for the coreferential possessive pronoun o, i.e., the possessive pronoun which refers to the subject of the sentence and could be translated as "his/her/its/their own".

They are different classes of nouns. Class I for the non-pluriform nouns, as the word ygara, "canoe". i.e., ygara doesn't inflected as shown before. Class II are for the pluriform nouns, which are divided into sub-classes. These sub-classes differentiate from each other by their prefixes in each form.

Pluriform nouns table
Classes I IIa IIb IIc IId IIe
Absolute form ∅- t- t- ∅- ∅- s-
R1 form ∅- r- r- r- ra/re- r-
R2 form i ∅- s- t- s- sa/se- s-
R3 form o/ogû ∅- ogû ∅- ogû ∅- ogû ∅- ogû a/e- ogû ∅-
Classes I IIa IIb IIc IId IIe
Absolute form ygara tera tura u'uba kuîa / pé sapó
"canoe" "name" "comming" "arrow" "cuia" / "way" "root"
R1 form xe ygara xe rera xe rura xe ru'uba xe rekuîa / rapé xe rapó
"my canoe" "my name" "my comming" "my arrow" "my cuia" / "my way" "my root"
R2 form i ygara sera tura su'uba sekuîa / sapé sapó
"its canoe" "its name" "its coming" "its arrow" "its cuia" / "its way" "its root"
R3 form ogû ygara ogû era ogû ura ogû u'uba ogû ekuîa / ogû apé ogû apó
"its own canoe" "its own name" "its own comming" "its own arrow" "its own cuia" / "its own way" "its own root"

Some nouns in the absolute form start with the nasal m or the prenasal mb, but in the other relational forms, they start with p-. These words are (mbó) - "hand", poranduba(moranduba) - "asking", papasaba(mbapasaba) - "number", pokaba(mokaba) - fire weapon.

mb m
Absolute form mbó moranduba
"hand" "asking"
R1 form xe xe poranduba
"my hand" "my asking"
R2 form i pó i poranduba
"its hand" "its asking"
R3 form o pó o poranduba
"its own hand" "its own asking"


As was shown before, some words are non-possessible, so they never will be pluriforms. But there is also the extreme opposite: words that are obligatory possessable. Especially kinship terms. Tuba "father" and sy "mother" are some examples. We always have to specify whose father or mother is. But never say "father" and "mother" alone. Tuba, by the way, is a pluriform noun from Class IIb. So even if we say "tuba" alone, it also means "his father".

Some words, when in their absolute form, i.e., when we don't specify whose the thing is, get the implicit meaning "of human", "human ...". Generally body parts or organic things. For example, o'o (Class IIa):

îagûara ro'o (jaguar meat) so'o (his meat) to'o (meat, human flesh)

Other words that work like o'o are :

  • eté (body) > teté (human body)
  • esá (eye(s)) > tesá (human eye(s))
  • e'õmbûera (corpse) > te'õmbûera (human corpse)
  • amûĩa (grandfather) > tamûĩa (someone's grandfather)


  • tûaîa (tail)
  • ty (water)

Here the t- suffix represents the absolute form, but nothing to do with humans, for obvious reasons.


In dictionaries such as the Dicionario de Tupi Antigo by Eduardo de Almeida Navarro, you won't find this classification. You will find the word in its non-prefixed form and between brackets their prefixes. For example :

  • era (t-, s-) - name
  • uba (t-, t-) - father
  • oka (r-, s-) - house
  • (a)pé (r-, s-) - way



When modifying a noun with an adjective, the noun comes first and the adjective merges with its noun.

  • morubixaba (Chief) katu (good) > morubixakatu (good chief)

Rules for merging are: if a noun ends in an unstressed syllable, the last syllable disappears. Except if the word is a bisyllabic word. Otherwise, the adjective simply joins to the noun.

  • morubixaba + katu > morubixa- + katu > morubixakatu

For some adjectives, those who end in a consonant, we add -a, since the new word is now a noun.

  • Îagûara porang > Îagûaporanga

These adjectives can be used with a copula, to form sentences like "the chief is good": morubixaba i katu. But some adjectives in English are actually suffixes. As -(')ĩ "small" and -gûasú/-usu "big".

  • itá'ĩ (small rock)
  • îagûarĩ (small jaguar)
  • mboîusu (great snake)
  • îakaregûasu (great alligator)

They exist as adjectives: mirĩ "small" and eburusu "great". But when merging with a noun, it's more common to use their suffixes.

Nominal tenses[edit]

Old Tupi doesn't have verbal tenses but nominal tenses, which are made by adding suffixes. The main are -rama/-nama, the future suffix, and -pûera/mbûera, the past prefix.

  • -rama is employed to indicated an object in its earliest state, i.e. something that will become something else. E.g.: oka, "house"/"hut", okarama, "a future house"/"what will become a house".
  • -pûera indicates the opposite of rama, i.e. something that used to be something else. E.g.: ybyra, "tree", ybyrapûera, "what used to be/was a tree".

As Old Tupi doesn't have verbal tenses, it can use these nominal suffixes to express the idea of tense instead, mainly in relative clauses since verbs in relative clauses are nominalized anyway, as in: Îagûara xe rembîarapûera, "The jaguar I captured"/"The jaguar which was captured by me". Aîkwab se'orama, "I know he will die"/"I know his future death".

The suffixes can also be mixed:

  • -pûera + -rama > -pûerama: "what will be an ancient x". E.g.: paîe, "shaman"/"pajé"; paîepûera, "an ancient pajé (who was pajé)"; paîepûerama, "a pajé getting old (soon he'll be no more a pajé)";
  • -rama + pûera > -rambûera: "what should be x". E.g.: kysé, "knife"; kysérama, "a future knife"; kysérambûera, "what should be a knife"/"a failed knife";

However, the suffixes can be nasalized if the noun has nasal sounds:

Guarinĩ (warrior) + rama > guarinĩnama (a future warrior)

Guarinĩ + pûera > guarinĩmbûera (an ancient warrior)

Guarinĩ + rambûera > guarinĩnambûera (a warrior getting old)

Guarinĩ + pûerama > guarinĩmbûerama (a person who should be warrior)

Some nouns are derivations using this suffixes:

  • Te'õpûera-A ancient death, a corpse

Other suffixes[edit]

Other suffixes there are in Old Tupi: -ygûara serves in toponyms to describe a person from the place described :

Nheterõîa > Nheterõîygûara

Rerityba > Reritybygûara

Pindorama (Neologism for "Brazil") > Pindoramygûara

It serves for all toponyms. In the movie "Hans Staden (1999)", the main character, Hans Staden, a german man who could speak old Tupi says that he is a "Hessen-ygûara", "a person from Hesse, in german Hessen"