How to say, “What does it taste like?” in the O’odham language
September 15, 2017
Huhugam Heritage Center
Gila River Indian Community
When you want to ask in O’otham what a certain food tastes like you can say Sha: ka:k? This question is made up of the question word Sha: which is one of the two words in O’otham that corresponds to the English word ‘what’ (the other word being Sha:chu) and the verb ka:k, which is the word that is used to describe how something tastes like.
There are many words in O’otham that describe how something tastes. These include s-io’ov (sweet), s-he’ek (sour), s-onk (salty), s-ko’ok (chile hot) and siv (bitter). You can also use the phrases sap ap ka:k (to taste good) or bi ap ap ka:k (to not taste good) to describe how things taste. As we learned a few months back O’otham has a specific word s-ko’ok that is used for spicy hot foods like kokol hithoḍ.
If you wanted to ask if the chile stew is chile hot you can ask someone No s-ko’ok heg kokol hithoḍ? The person that was asked can answer in many different ways, by simply stating Ha’o/No:, or using a phrase like Ha’o, i:vo s-ko’ok if it’s really chile hot or Bi ‘o shai s-ko’ok if it’s not that chile hot.
To state if a food has a particular taste you make a simple sentence using the verb together with the auxiliary verb ‘o and the food you are describing. For example if you want to say that the beans are salty you can say S-onk ‘o heg mu:ñ. It is very common for speakers to leave out the ‘o auxiliary and to shorten the sentence to S-onk heg mu:ñ. To say that the coffee is bitter you would say Siv ‘o heg kovhi:/Siv heg kovhi:.
If you wanted to say that the orange is sour you can say S-he’ek ‘o heg nalash/S-he’ek heg nalash. And if you wanted to complement someone’s cooking you can tell them Si sap ap ka:k heg em hithoḍ!/I:vo’o sap ap ka:k heg em hithoḍ!
To state that a food does not have the particular taste you make up a different type of sentence that uses the negation word bi along with the verb you are using and the food you are describing. Using the negation word bi with the verb causes all of the taste words (except siv ‘bitter’) to lose their initial s sound.
These types of words are usually written with a prefix to show that they lose this sound when the word is said after the negation word bi. For example if you wanted to say that the beans are not salty you say Bi ‘o onk heg mu:ñ/Bi onk heg mu:ñ.
Notice that you do not say the word s-onk in this sentence but take off the initial s sound to say onk. If you want to say that the orange is not sour you could say Bi ‘o he’ek heg nalash/Bi he’ek heg nalash. Notice again that you do not say the intial s sound that you used in the positive statement S-he’ek ‘o heg nalash. But if you wanted to say that the coffee isn’t bitter you would say Bi ‘o siv heg kovhi:/Bi siv heg kovhi:. Notice that siv is different in that you do say the initial s sound that is dropped with the other taste words.
Another verb that works in this same manner is the O’otham word s-na:k, which is the words used to describe food that you like to eat or that you like the taste of. For example if you wanted to tell someone that you like to eat potatoes you can say S-na:k ‘añ heg ba:bas.
Notice that in this sentence you don’t use the ‘o auxiliary but use the ‘añ auxiliary instead. This is because you are talking about yourself (a:ñi) and are stating what you like to eat. If you wanted to say that you like to eat tortillas (chechmaith) you would say S-na:k ‘añ heg chechmaith. And if you wanted to say that you like to eat spicy (chile hot) food you can say S-na:k ‘añ math ‘o s-ko’ok heg hithoḍ.
But let’s say that you wanted to say that you didn’t like to eat something or didn’t like the taste of something. In this case you use the negation word bi and change the word s-na:k by dropping the initial s and use the word na:k instead.
For example, if you wanted to say that you didn’t like to eat onions you can say Bi ‘añ na:k heg sivol. Or if you wanted to say that you do not like the taste of bitter coffee you can say Bi ‘añ na:k heg siv kovhi:. And finally if you wanted to say that you do not like the taste of sour foods you can say Bi ‘añ na:k math ‘o s-he’ek heg hithoḍ.
S-na:k is also used as a question when you want to ask someone if they like to eat a certain type of food or like the taste of a certain type of food.
You can ask someone Nap s-na:k heg chuchul nonna ch heg ko:ji? if you want to know if they like to eat eggs and bacon Nap s-na:k heg ha:l if you want to know if they like to eat squash and Nap s-na:k heg s-onk hithoḍ? if you want to know if the person you’re talking to likes salty food.
This month’s word match will test your knowledge of the words to taste in O’otham. Remember the different words for tasting and how they are used and ask each other Sha: ka:k? next time you’re eating together.