Asking “What do you like?” in the O’odham language

November 17, 2017


Huhugam Heritage Center

Gila River Indian Community


What do you like?

When thinking about buying gifts for the Holidays and what to get your loved ones you can always ask someone in O’otham Sha:chu ap s-ho:hith? This question literally asks someone what is it that they enjoy (as an activity) or what sort of thing do they like.


It is a useful question to use when you want to indirectly ask someone what they like without giving away that you’re thinking of buying them a gift. This question makes use of the word s-ho:hith, which is an action word that is used when describing something that is liked or enjoyed by a person.


For example if you want to say you like dogs you can say Mañ s-ho:hith heg gogoks, or if you want to say that you enjoy the rain you could say Mañ s-ho:hith heg ju:k. Both of these sentences consist of a sentence introducing prefix m-, a first person auxiliary word ‘añ, the action word s-ho:hith, an article heg, and the object that is being liked (gogoks, ju:k). The auxiliary word ‘añ in these sentences corresponds to the English word “I” and specifies who is doing the liking in the sentence.


If you wanted to change the statement to say that the person being addressed likes dogs you would change the auxiliary from ‘añ “I” to ‘ap “you” and say Map s-ho:hith heg gogoks meaning “you like dogs.” Normally auxiliary words like ‘añ and ‘ap can’t appear by themselves at the beginning of a sentence and need a “helper” prefix that comes before them. In this case the helper prefix is the m- prefix which is used when someone is providing a general statement.


Another way to say the first sentence is S-ho:hith ‘añ heg gogoks. This sentence, which is equivalent in meaning to the first statement, starts with the action word S-ho:hith which is then followed by the auxiliary ‘añ. This example shows that the auxiliary ‘añ, that corresponds to the English word “I”, can be said by itself when it is not at the start of the sentence. 


The word s-ho:hith is one of the initial “s” words in O’otham that loses its “s” sound when you negate the sentence (say that something isn’t liked or enjoyed). This mirrors some of the other “s” type words (s-io’ov “sweet”, s-he’ek “sour”, s-onk “salty”, s-ko’ok “chile hot”) that we described a few months ago. For example if you wanted to say that you didn’t like cats you could say Bi añ shai ho:hith heg mimithol. This sentence uses the negation word bi which is followed by the auxiliary ‘añ.


In this example we can see that the action word s-ho:hith “to like” drops its initial “s” sound and is pronounced only as ho:hith. Another example that shows this same pattern is Bi ‘añ shai ho:hith heg vaila “I don’t really like to dance.”


When you want to talk about an action that you enjoy doing, you use a slightly longer sentence that is made up of two parts. The first part consists of the two words Mañ s-ho:hith that we saw in our first two examples and basically states that “I like (something).” The second part consists of a phrase that starts off with the word mantho which means something like “when I” followed by another action word and then an object.


For example if you want to say that you enjoy playing guitar you would say Mañ s-ho:hith mantho hukshañ heg githal. This example literally says something like “I like/enjoy when I am strumming the guitar.” It starts with the phrase Mañ s-ho:hith followed by the word mantho and then followed by the word hukshañ “to play guitar” and finally ends with the word githal “guitar.” Incidentally, the word hukshañ that in this example means to strum or play guitar also means to scratch using ones fingernails.


Another example of this type of sentence is Mañ s-ho:hith mantho ñeithath heg vep’gi or “I like to watch movies.” This example makes use the words ñeithath “to watch something” and the word vep’gi which in this example means movies (but can also mean lightning or electricity depending on the context in which you use it). 


And if you wanted to be more specific in your original reply about liking dogs and say you like playing with your pet dogs you can change the original sentence to say Mañ s-ho:hith mantho chichvith heg eñ gogoks shoshiga. This sentence makes use of the word chichvith “to play with” as well as the word eñ “my” and shoshiga “pets.” 


Learning to speak O’otham can be intimidating at first, but once you start learning small phrases and get the idea of how sentences are put together you can make use of the regular patterns in O’otham grammar to create new sentences.


Sometimes it is just a matter of thinking about different ways you can answer a question like Sha:chud ap s-ho:hith? This is something that you can practice to yourself and be ready when someone asks you what you like. Hopefully someday one of the phrases that you’ll respond with is something along the lines of Mañ s-ho:hith mantho ve:m-ñeñeok O’othamach! This month’s word match will challenge you to think about different activities that you may like to do. We encourage you to keep speaking with each other in O’otham and to have a S-he:kig Thova Thash!