Word Order and the Principles of Modification
One of the major principles of Chuvash structure is that modifying elements precede the modified, the group thus formed then even modifying still another group, and so proceeding to the end of the clause or sentence. The essential order of the Chuvash sentence begins with the subject, or with a subject group (in which the subject is preceded by some words which it governs), concludes with the predicate or the predicate verb, or a group of words in which the predicate concludes and governs the preceding. All other elements of time, manner and circumstance are arrayed in between.
pirĕn pattăr pogranichniksem kunĕn-şĕrĕn tĕrlĕ tăshmansenchen granitsăsene syhlaşşĕ Our reknowned border guards protect the border day and night from various enemies.
anlă Atăl hăjĕn tulăh shyvne tinĕse vaskasa hăvalat The Volga hurriedly drives its abundant waters to the sea.
pirĕn hăvatlă Sovet şarĕ fashistla Germanija şĕnterse tăkrĕ Our valiant Soviet army scored the victory over Fascist Germany.
The subject does not need to be expressed with any special word:
temĕn chuhlĕ vak vyljăh pulnă There was such a number of small cattle.
şapla păhnă chuh suhaltan jană tytnă When he was watching thus (at such a watched time‘) he pulled (him) by the beard.
untan vara şavsene pallama kĕrshnĕ Thereupon he then hired himself out for the purpose of knowing them.
In folktales especially, but also in the literary language, one will find instances in which the verb does not occupy absolute-final position, this being usurped for the nonce by some other word.
tepĕr kun kalleh kajăka jană kĕrüne Another day he sent his son-in-law to hunt game.
epĕ ilse kĕrĕp attene I‘ll go bring father in
şavah jaman arămĕ Then his wife did not let him loose.
In most instances, however, the customary order is as follows:
pĕrre amăshĕ shyva kajma hushnă Once his mother sent him to to fetch water.
arămĕ tepĕr kaş şyvarmasăr syhlasa vyrtnă His wife the next evening lay and watched without sleeping.
ulăm şine purttăne hună He placed his axe on the hay.
Compound sentences are constructed exactly like simple clauses or sentences: any subordinate clause clarifying or modifying the main clause, or a combination of words modifying any part of the sentence, comes before that main clause.
epĕ unăn kandidaturine tăratsan, puhu havassăn unshăn sasălarĕ When I proposed his candidacy, the entire assembly readily voted for him
konferentsija hupănnă hyşşăn delegatsem rajonsene salanchĕş After adjourning the conference, the delegates departed to their own regions.
Certain word groups between junctures cannot be separated in Chuvash: these include substantives with their postpositions, or nouns juxtaposed in nominal groups (izafet).
Words in Chuvash may be joined by coordination or by subordination. In the former case, the words need not depend on each other, and all identical parts of the sentence which have equal weight or are of the same type maybe connected by such coordinates as: tata, ta, te, anchah, şapah, je‚ te, etc.
epir numaj şĕnĕ zavodsem, fabriksem tăvatpăr We are building many new factories and plants.
hulara ta, jalta ta, inşetri şurşĕrte te sujlava hatĕrlenetpĕr We are preparing for the elections in the town, in the country, and in the far north.
văl pitĕ tărăsat, anchah ilemlĕ şyrajmast-ha He tries very hard, but still cannot write nicely.
In joining words by subordination, there is agreement, government and juxtaposition. Agreement in Chuvash is limited to verbs agreeing with their subjects in person and number (epĕ vĕrenetĕp - I study, epir vĕrenetpĕr - we study), as agreement of nouns or pronouns with the noun modified is found only in a few isolated expressions (esĕ şĕlĕkne attenne tăhănăn - you put on papa‘s hat, lit. “the hat, the papa one“). Appositives agree with the word modified in case and number, e.g.,
pirĕn, komsomoletssen, naukăna şavărsa ilmelleh We Komsomols must master science. (Science must be mastered by us Komsomols)
epir, şamrăksem, naukăna şavărsa ilmelleh We, youth, must master science.
Government is when the subordinating word requires the subordinated word to be in some definite oblique case. Almost any word (verbs, participles, converbs, postpositions, nominals) may act as a governing word.
Ivanăn keneki John‘s book
kĕneke vulichchen until reading a book
şile hirĕş against the wind
Juxtaposition is that type of subordinate liaison in which the word so subordinated is immediately next to the subordinating word, forming a nominal group with it, and preceded and followed by some type of juncture. Almost any type of word may be juxtaposed to any other.
hĕrlĕ jalav red banner
vişĕ pilĕkşullăh three five year plans
pĕtĕm halăh the entire nation
tumalli ĕş work to be done
vulama tytăntăm I began reading, I set about reading
ăshă şantalăk warm weather
văjlă şil strong wind
vişĕ brigada three teams
Muskav uramĕ a Moscow street
vulakan kĕneke a book which is being read
jurlakansen sassi singers‘ voices
Quite a large number of such nominal groups employ the izafet relation, in which the modified noun is in the possessive form, thus denoting its particular connection with the preceding.
kolhoz ujĕ a kolkhoz field
sujlav komissi electoral commission
pereket kassi savings bank
kolhoz pravlenijĕ kolkhoz management
şutĕş Ministerstvi Ministry of Education
vărman huşalăhĕ forestry (‘forest economy‘)
We have previously noted nominal groups composed of nouns without any suffix.
şul şurt stone house
kĕmĕl sehet a silver watch
chugun şul railroad (‘iron road‘)
The genitive case suffix distinguishes some phrases from each other.
lasha puşĕ a horsehead
ku lashan puşĕ the head of this horse, this horse‘s head
student ĕşĕ student work, work performed by students
ku studentĕn ĕşĕ this student‘s work, the work of this student
Use of Cases
We shall briefly recapitulate here the chief uses of the Chuvash cases. The Nominative (Absolute) functions both as subject and as predicate nominative, as well as being an attribute to a following noun by forming a nominal group.
Ivanov vĕrenet Ivanov studies
Ivanov student Ivanov is a student
chugun şul railroad (iron road)
The Genitive is used to express possession, regardless of whether a verb is present or not.
Ivanăn avtomat-ruchka pur John has a fountain pen.
ku kĕneke Ivanăn This book is John‘s.
epĕ Petĕrĕn kĕnekine iltĕm, sanănne mar I took Peter‘s book, not yours
Ivan kĕneki parta şincheh John‘s book is on the desk
The Dative-Accusative denotes direction, the indirect object and the direct object as well.
brigadira premi pachĕş They awarded a prize to the teamleader
Ivan vĕrenme Instituta kĕnĕ John began to study at the Institute
Ivan kĕnekene vulat John reads the book
Ivan kĕneke vulat John reads books
The Locative denotes the place where an action occurs.
sanra shanchak pur You can be depended on (there is hope in you)
epĕ kolhozra ĕşlerĕm I worked on the kolkhoz.
The Ablative is widely used in the function of a comparative degree, and also is a case denoting the place from which movement takes place.
uchitel achasenchen sochineni puştarchĕ
The teacher collected the compositions from the students.
direktor Muskavran tavrănă
The director returned from Moscow
Kazah SSR-ĕ Ukrainăran pysăk
The Kazakh SSR is larger than Ukrainia.
The instrumental case arises from the postposition –palan/-pelen, now surviving as the ending -pa/-pe, and denotes the means or method.
epĕ muzykăpa intereslenetĕp I am interested in music
esĕ kaşpa kil Come in the evening
Setner pyrat vărmanpa Setner goes by way of the woods
epĕ părahutpa kiltĕm I arrived on the steamer
Types of Subordinate Clauses
Before taking tip he structure of compound and complex sentences, we shall briefly survey the chief types of subordinate clauses, as given by Dmitriyev and Gorskii.
epir hulana kajakan avtobus kilchĕ
the bus in which we were going to town arrived
(the us to town taking bus came‘).
epĕ shahmat kruzhokpe kĕni jultashsene pitĕ hĕpĕrtetterchĕ
My joining the chess club greatly heartened the members.
achasem ekskursije kajnine epĕ pĕletĕp
I know the children went on the outing
(I know the children a having gone on an outing).
pirĕn tĕp zadacha - nauka nikĕsĕsene şavărsa ilessi
Our basic task is to master the fundamentals of science.
hĕvel ansan, epir ĕşĕ pĕtertĕmĕr
When the sun went down, we finished work.
konferentsi hupănnă hyşşăn delegatsem rajonsene salanchĕş
After closing the conference, the delegates set out for their region.
mĕn vĕrennine şirĕpletme epir kalaşu tusa irttertĕmĕr
In order to confirm what had taken place, we conducted a talk.
şĕr nürlĕren tyrăsem chasah shătrĕş
Since the ground was moist, the grain quickly sprouted.
văhăt numaja kajnă pirki, purte salanchĕş
In view of the fact that it was late, everyone went his way.
kolhozniksem, agrotehnikăna vĕrene-vĕrene, tyrpul tuhăshne numaj üsterchĕş
The kolkhoz workers, studying agrotechnics, increased the crop yield considerably.
stahanovla ĕşlesen, epir srokchen plana tultaratpăr
If we work in a Stakhanovits manner, we shall fulfill the plan ahead of schedule.
autobus avan pyrsan ta, epir pojezda ĕlkĕres şuk
Even if the bus runs all right, we won‘t make it to the train.
Types of Complex Sentences
The Chuvash grammarians attempt to explain sentences with subordinate clauses mostly in terms of Russian grammar and syntax, and distinguish four types, of which the first represents essentially a Russian borrowing, as:
kam ekskursije kajas tet, văl yran kiltĕr
Whoever wishes to go on the outing is to come tomorrow
(who, saying to go on the trip, let him come tomorrow‘).
Subordinate clauses may also be marked by such concluding words as tese, tesen, pulsan, pulsan ta, and pulin te. With the first of these, tese, lit. ‘saying‘, the 3rd p. imperative or the nomen futuri is usually used.
şumăr tumtire an jĕpettĕr tese, storozh hăj şine nakidka tăhănna
So that the ram would not wet his garments, the watchman put on a cloak.
(Saying, ‘let the ram not wet the clothes,‘ the watchman. ..)
haşat-zhurnasene văhătra vulas tese, epir chital‘năna jalanah şüretpĕr
In order to keep up with newspapers and magazines, visit the reading room regularly
(lit. ‘saying, ‘to read on time newspapers, we visit the reading room")
The word tesen (lit. "when one says‘) may also be used with the obligatory noun in -malla to indicate purpose.
haşat-zhurnalesene văhătra vulasa tăras tesen, jalanah chital‘năna şüremelle
In order to keep abreast of newspapers and magazines, one must visit the reading
Instead of şüremelle, one may also find şüre ‘one will go,‘ or şüres pulat ‘there will be a going.‘
The word pulsan (lit. ‘when it becomes, when it comes to pass that‘) is also used to mean “if“ and indicate the conditions under which something may be performed, and the subjunctive pulin te ("let it be that, although it be") is used for “although, even though, in spite of the fact that“ ideas.
kĕrtemestĕn pulsan, văl văjpa kĕret
If you don‘t let him in, he‘ll come in by force
(lit. ‘when your not letting him in comes to pass, he will enter with force‘).
şĕr tĕttĕm pulin te, jal kurănat-ha
Although the night is ("be!") dark, the village is visible.
Sentences of consequence or result, using words like “because, owing to, on account of,“ employ the Chuvash w6rds mĕnshĕn tensen (‘when one says for what‘ = because), şavănpa or şavănpa vara (since by this, by virtue of this‘).
chul shyvra putat, mĕnshĕn tensen văl shyvran jyvăr
A stone sinks in water because it is heavier than water
(a stone sinks in water; if we say for what reason, it is heavy from water).
pirĕn patra shartlama sivĕsem pulchĕş. şavănpa vara vyrănĕ-vyrănĕpe ulmuşşisem hărchĕş
We had heavy frosts, for the appletrees were destroyed by frost in places.
Some sentences are composed of clauses which may also be used independently, thus, note the first clauses of these sentences.
kam ĕşlemest, văl şimest
Who doesn‘t work, doesn‘t eat.
chul shyvra putat, mĕnshĕn tesen văl shyvran jyvăr
A stone sinks in water because it is heavier than water.
zanjatisem pĕtne hyşşănah, achasem vyljama puşlarĕş
As soon as classes let out, the children began to play.
However, in the following sentence, the first words cannot be used independently.
hĕvel tuhichcheneh, brigada ĕşe tytănchĕ
Before the sun got up, the team set out to work.
In speech, there are junctural features sometimes setting off clauses, often corresponding to marks of punctuation.
epĕ, pichche Instituta vĕrenme kĕnĕrenpe, ăna pĕrre te kurman-ha
After my elder brother began to study at the Institute, I never saw him again.
pichche Instituta vĕrenme kĕnĕrenpe epĕ ăna pĕrre te kurman-ha
does not contain punctuation.