How are hayu- and hayas- alike?


(Image credit: Childrens Book Review)

How are hayu- (from háyú ‘much, many’) and hayas(h)- (from háyás(h) ‘big’) alike? 

Um, hardly at all.

So this does get fun.

These two prefixes (or “clitics”, or “light verbs”, it doesn’t matter here), when used in their grammaticalized functions, are pretty much in complementary distribution with each other.

  • (h)ayas- as an Intensifier attaches to Adjectives and Adverbs more than to anything else. (Ex. hayas-tlush ‘excellent; beautiful’.)
  • hayu- as Progressive aspect attaches primarily to Verbs. (Ex. hayu-komtaks ‘(actively) listening’.)


  1. Neither of the two has much of a non-lexical, i.e. grammaticalized, meaning when occurring with Nouns. In that environment, they still have the literal meanings ‘big’ and ‘much’.
  2. The “opposite” of both is tənəs-, in all usages.

What’s interesting is the grey area where hayas- and hayu- overlap, to wit:

Certain Verbs are known to frequently take hayas-; the result is indeed still Intensification. A fascinating case is hayas-makuk ‘expensive’. Also reallly common is hayas-tiki ‘love’. Neither of these has what you might take as its literal meaning, ‘big-buy’ or ‘big-want’. That fact provides some of the best proof that we’re looking at a grammaticalized Intensifier usage when hayas- directly precedes a non-Noun predicate.

Now, sometimes we find Adjectives or Adverbs preceded by hayu(-), but all instances I know of are best analyzed as the lexical word hayu ‘much, many’. An example is Father St. Onge’s 1892 hayu-x̣luyma ‘assortment’. St. Onge used hyphens similarly to Melville Jacobs decades later, to glue together all members of a meaningful Jargon expression of any length. So we should not be fooled by how this expression is written above. It doesn’t contain the prefixal hayu-, but instead the full word háyú, and literally means ‘many different; lots different’, with x̣luyma in a rather (pro)nominalized usage as ‘different ones, different things’.

(Which perhaps is influenced by priestly acquaintance with Latin as the model for describing all languages’ grammars. This procrusteanism is encountered over and over in missionary grammars prior to the influence of the modern scientific discipline of linguistics, circa 1900 onward. To say ‘many ADJ’ in isolation, without a following Noun, is odd Chinuk Wawa; the exceptional proof is when an Adjective has developed an additional Noun sense, e.g. tənás ‘child(ren)’.)

What do you think?