Akimel O’otham Verbs of Ñei & Ñeid 2024

Submitted by

Huhugam Heritage Center


Every day, we are provided opportunities, to take into perspective the activities taking place around us. The O’otham language contains verbs, or action words that we use to describe actions of objects within our sight.  The verb ñei means to (see) and can be used in many forms as we will read.  The verb ñeid means to (see, saw, look, and watched an object).  These two verbs form the basis of sentences that bring attention to what we see in the past, present and future.


Lets’ take into consideration the first form of (saw) which, is more of a general statement, as we read. “Ñeid heg nahagio u:s vaso cheḍ.”  (I saw a mouse inside the wooden box.)  In this statement, the observer relates to the listener, that he saw a mouse inside a wooden box. The statement is correct in its form and structure.


The listener had processed the statement in his mind. In our O’otham mind-set, we visualize the statement at its value of information.  This is the same process we use, when listening to stories, or when someone reads to us aloud.


 In another form of ‘ñeid’ we read of a verb/subject/action verb/object.  “Ñeid ag viappoi ‘e chesh’shach heg kwi.” (I watched a little boy as he climbed the mesquite tree.)  The sentence relates how the observer ‘watched’ (past-tense verb) a little boy (subject) as he climbed (past-tense action verb) the mesquite tree (object). 


The listener had pictured what the observer had seen some time ago. We can guess, that the observer had watched his grandchild, as he climbed the mesquite tree.


 “Eñ thom ñei Cha:ñli ap sialim.” (I’ll see you in Chandler tomorrow morning.) In this example we read about the speaker providing instructions for a future meeting to the listener. “Eñ thom ñei” (I’ll see you), “Cha:ñli ap” (geographical place) and “sialim” (time-in the morning, at sunrise). In this case, we can relate to actual events, as we had often visited the farm machinery business. Many times, we had picked up tractor parts and performed repairs to our tractor.  


“Ñap am ñeid heg gogs manth ‘o hu’hu heg ban?” (Did you see the dog as it chased after the coyote?) In this real-time form of “ñeid” we read, as the speakers asks the listener, if he had just seen the event take place before them. Today, dogs still chase after coyotes, cars and other things.


In this last example of “ñeid” we will read about another real-time event.  “Ko ñeid hegai kaviyo manth ‘o ‘etham koli tham!”  (Look at that horse, he is jumping over the fence!) In this example, we read that the speaker is speaking excitedly to the listener, as the event takes place.  In this case, the two cowboys witness a stallion as it is jumps out of the corral just after a roundup.  


We encourage you to speak these different forms of “ñei and “ñeid” in your everyday lives. Talk with a Speaker or Elder, and ask what other forms of “ñei” and “ñeid” are possible.  Sentences may be slightly different between the villages. This month’s word match will test your knowledge on the different forms of “ñei” and “ñeid.”


A special Thank You for the Community Elders for sharing their knowledge of O’otham Ñeo’ok which made this article possible.