HHC's O'otham Language Lesson: How many are there?
Huhugam Heritage Center
Gila River Indian Community
Say you wanted to ask a friend how old they are. One way to ask this in O’otham is to say He’ekia ap vud ‘i aithag? This question makes use of the O’otham word he’ekia which the word that corresponds to the English word “how many” and the phrase vud ahithag “to be a certain number of years (old)”.
One way to respond to this question is to use the phrase Thañ ________ahithag which says “I am ________ old” and add in your age using the O’otham number. For example you could say Thañ gokko vesthma:m ahithag if you are twenty or Thañ hethaspo vesthma:m gami hethasp ahithag if you are fifty-five.
The O’otham word he’ekia is used in different situations when you are asking how many people or things are being counted. It is also used when you want to ask how much something costs or is worth. This is accomplished in O’otham by using the question He’ekia namkig?
Very often speakers will shorten he’ekia to he’eki in everyday speech by dropping the final vowel. There are many possible answers to the question He’ekia namkig? that range from I:vo ‘o s-namkig “It’s real expensive” to Bi ‘o shai namkig “it’s not that expensive” to giving an actual price using pi:sh and lial ‘dollars and cents” like Tho vaik pish ch heg hemako lial if it costs $3.25.
He’ekia can also be used if you want to ask someone how many children they have. Asking this question will be different depending on if you are talking to a man or a woman. For a man their children are referred to as alithag or if you’re talking about many children you use the plural form a’alithag. For a woman, children are referred to as maḍ or if you’re talking about many ma:maḍ.
So if you wanted to ask a man how many children they have you would say He’ekia ap ‘i a’alithag? The word a’alithag refers to children from a man. If you want to ask a woman the same question you would say He’ekia ap ‘i ma:maḍ? this time using the word ma:maḍ that refers to children from a woman. Replying to this question uses the same words depending on whether you are a man or woman with men using alithag/a’alithag and women using maḍ/ma:maḍ.
So for example if you are a woman and want to say you only have one child, one way you can answer this is by saying Thovai hemako heg eñ maḍ. But if you had three children you would say Tho vaik heg eñ ma:maḍ. If you are a man and wanted to say that you only had one child the phrase is the same as the woman except you change the child term to alithag and say Thovai hemako heg eñ alithag. But if you had four children you would say Tho gi’ik heg eñ a’alithag making sure to use the right term for children that is specific for males.
One last example for counting how many is asking how many pets somebody has. This can be done with he’ekia by using the general term for pets shoshiga or by asking specifically using the animal name. For example if you wanted to ask in general how many pets somebody has you can say He’ekia ap ‘i shoshiga?. Keep in mind that the pet word shoiga/shoshiga (plural) while in a general sense refers to all pets it also refers specifically to horses so you might get an answer that is more specific if you’re asking someone who owns horses.
You can also be specific with your question by naming the animal and using the word ending –ga which denotes ownership. For example you can ask He’ekia ap ‘i mimitholga? If you wanted to know how many cats someone owns. In the same manner, to ask how many dogs someone owns you would ask He’ekia ap ‘i gogoksga?
You can also ask about other animals like kaviyo “horse” or haivañ “cows” and come up with the questions He’ekia ap ‘i kakaviyoga? or He’ekia ap ‘i hahaivañga? Answering these questions also make use of the name for the animal along with the O’otham number for how many you own.
For example you can say Thovai hemako heg eñ goksga if you only have one dog or Tho chu:thp heg eñ mimitholga if you have six cats or you can say Thovai hemako heg eñ uvigga shaba eñ kakaviyoga o vud vaik if you only have one bird but have three horses.
The O’otham word he’ekia is very useful and used when you want to find out how many people or things there are in a group. This month’s word match will test your understanding of this question word as well as your numbers in O’otham. We encourage you to ask one another these and other questions using the word he’ekia and encourage you to speak O’otham with one another.