To describe nouns and verbs, we use words tacked on to the right of a head word (the root or main content word, either noun or verb), these words are called modifiers. Read this guide to learn more about how modifiers can be understood and also how to make use of two helpful prepositional markers je and wa.

You can use any word as a modifier and when it's tacked onto a head word, it means that the modifier word is an attribute of the head word. In other words, the head word now has some kind of relation to the modifier. 

All content words can be used as modifiers. Check out our Word Derivations guide for more info.

Modifiers can affect other modified phrases, connecting together to form modifier chains. When modifiers are chained, each modifier affects the head noun/verb and all of the modifiers that have already been associated with that head noun/verb. The combination of the head noun/verb plus all chained modifiers is known as a phrase (noun phrase or a verb phrase).

pawo cenpo mi le tope - "My big dog is good"

❬❬pawo cenpo mi le tope

Noun phrase: pawo cenpo mi

in makan satu canu niju le makan - "A large ice cream is eaten"

in ❬❬❬makan satu canu niju le makan

Noun phrase: makan satu canu niju

Modifiers chain together and are attributes for the entire preceding phrase, not just the previous modifier. satu applies to makan, canu applies to makan satu, so now niju applies to the entire phrase makan satu canu, not just to canu.

So how would you instead say "a very cold candy"? For that, we need to regroup the modifiers using the genitive preposition marker je.

Genitive Preposition

The preposition marker je is used for genitive relationships. Think of the genitive as relating one thing as an attribute to another. The best equivalence in English is the word "of". The words that are directly after the marker are a new noun phrase that is some kind of attribute of the noun phrase directly preceding the marker.  For this reason, the genitive preposition marker is also considered a regrouping marker.

nin tope niju - "many good people"

nin je tope niju - literally "person (or people) of much goodness", or "a very good person"

By using je, the word tope becomes a head noun meaning goodness which now begins a new noun phrase which is further modified by niju. This new noun phrase (much goodness) is now an attribute of the preceding noun phrase (person).


Kinds of Genitive Attribution

Using the genitive preposition marker is also good for creating many different relationships between two noun phrases. What these relationships are differs depending on the context and the words chosen. All of the below genitive relationships were gathered from various forms of genitive attribution from around the world. Not every example is directly translated into English and often English makes use of alternative prepositions like "with", "by", and "for". Kokanu only has those kinds of prepositions attached to a main or subordinate clause of a sentence (essentially, they must be tied to a verb). But equipped with the simple je preposition, context and supporting word choices, you can effectively communicate all of these genitive relations. If after all of that, your listener/reader still does not understand, you can make use of clarifying words to clarify the specific meaning you were trying to achieve.

Descriptive Genitive

Specifies some detail of the preceding phrase. "described by" or "characterized by" are equivalent English expressions. This is a catch-all genitive for when the attribution is ambiguous.

pata je pa enteken hunsi "book characterized by a red cover" (lit. document of red cover)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is descriptive by using kun:

pata je kun je pa enteken hunsi (lit. document of quality of red cover)

Possessive Genitive

Specifies the preceding phrase as being owned or possessed by the attached genitive phrase. "belonging to" or "possessed by" are English equivalents.

mu tenkin je canwa "ear belonging to an animal" (lit. ear of animal)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is descriptive by using junja:

mu tenkin je junja je canwa (lit. ear of possession of animal)

Familial Genitive

Specifies the preceding phrase as having a familial relationship with the attached genitive phrase. "related to" is an equivalent English expression. This is considered a subset of Possessive Genitive.

matuwa je matuwa mi "mother related to my mother" (lit. mother of my mother)

You can clarify a genitive relationship is familial by using sanpanti:

matuwa je sanpanti je matuwa mi (lit. mother of relation of my mother)

Partitive Genitive

Specifies the preceding phrase as being part of some larger whole or set. "Which is part of" is an equivalent expression in English. Sometimes the preceding phrase only contains a quantity word or osa.

jati je makan "some which is part of the food" (lit. some of food)

osa wan je toso "first part which is part of two" (lit. first part of two)

You can clarify a genitive relationship is partitive by using osa:

jati (je) osa je makan (lit. some of parts of food)

Attributive Genitive

Specifies the attached genitive phrase as being an attribute or innate quality of the preceding phrase. Semantically similar to regular modifier usage but more emphatic in its attribution.

insu je hela "sacred building" (lit. building of sacredness) 

You can clarify a genitive relationship is attributive by using kun alone or junja and kun:

insu je junja je kun je hela (lit. building of possession of quality of sacredness)

Attributed Genitive

Specifies the preceding phrase as being an attribute or innate quality of the attached genitive phrase. "attributed to" or "is an attribute of" are equivalent English expressions. The opposite of Attributive Genitive. The preceding phrase must be a concept that can be considered an attribute and the attached genitive phrase must be a thing that can be attributed (and specifically can be attributed the thing that is the preceding phrase).

one je niku "weakness attributed to muscles" (lit. weakness of muscles)

You could clarify this genitive relationship using sanpanti again although some directional ambiguity would remain:

one je sanpanti je niku (lit. weakness of relation of muscles)

You could clarify this genitive relationship using kun again although some directional ambiguity would remain:

one je kun je niku (lit. weakness of quality of muscles)

You could clarify this genitive relationship using si limijen:

one je si limijen je niku (lit. weakness of inner existence of muscles)

Genitive of Material

Specifies the preceding phrase as being made of a material. "made out of" or "consisting of" are equivalent English expressions.

ato je namu kijata "vehicle made out of hard wood" (lit. vehicle of hard wood)

You can clarify a genitive relationship is material by using mata:

ato je mata je namu kijata (lit. vehicle of material of hard wood)

Genitive of Content

Specifies the preceding phrase as containing within itself the attached genitive phrase. "full of" or "containing" or equivalent English expressions. Similar to the Material Genitive but the contents are a separate entity from the material of the container.

non pani je micin "lake containing fish" (lit. water body of fish)

You can clarify a genitive relationship is material by using junja limijen:

non pani je junja limijen je micin (lit. water body of inner possession of fish)

Epexegetical Genitive

Specifies the attached genitive phrase as being another separate way to to explain the preceding phrase. "which is", "that is", "namely", "who is" are equivalent English expressions.

tene je makan "gift which is food" (lit. gift of food)

You can clarify this genitive relationship by using a subordinate clause in the attached genitive phrase:

nin Alese je te nin suki je mi "Alice, which is a friend of mine" (lit. person Alice of which they are a likable person of me)

Genitive of Destination/Purpose

Specifies the destination or purpose that the preceding phrase is leading to. "for the purpose of", "destined for", "towards", "into" are equivalent English expressions.

pata je nin neso "children's books" (lit. documents of young people)

You can clarify this genitive relationship by using a subordinate clause with an inner po clause:

pata je te po nin neso (lit. document that is existing for young people)

Genitive of Production

Specifies that the preceding phrase is made by the attached genitive phrase. "produced by" is an equivalent English expression.

umo je makan tuko "steam produced by the hot food" (lit. smoke/cloud of hot food)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is production by using pon:

umo je pon je makan tuko (lit. smoke/cloud of result of hot food)

Genitive of Product

Specifies that the preceding phrase is a producer of the attached genitive phrase. "which produces" is an equivalent English expression.

tasuwi lo je osole "movie which produces fear" (lit. moving picture of fear)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is Product by using mu pon:

tasuwi lo je mu pon je osole (lit. moving picture of causer of fear)

Genitive of Separation

Specifies that the preceding phrase is separate from the attached genitive phrase. "out of", "away from" ,or simply "from" are equivalent English expressions.

tula tula je ja "far from them" (lit. far distance of them)

lipan je ukama honja "clear from wild plants" (lit. absence of wild plants)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is Separation by using a subordinate clause with pi and sun:

lipan je te pi sun ukama honja (lit. absence of which is becoming from wild plants)

Genitive of Source

Specifies the origin of the preceding phrase. "out of", "derived from", "dependent on" are equivalent English expressions. This genitive can often be bettered expressed using the sun thematic role marker.

pani nase hunsi je pumi Chanpen "wine out of Champagne" (lit. red intoxicated liquid of land Champagne)

namu je insu cune "wood derived from the old building" (lit. wood of old building)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is Source by using a subordinate clause with si and sun:

namu je te sun insu cune (lit. wood of which is from old building)

Genitive of Price/Value

Specifies the price or value of the preceding phrase. "for", "worth" are an equivalent English expressions. The attached genitive phrase must contain concepts of money, value or amount.

makan satu je toso mani "candy for two dollars" (lit. sweet food of two monies)

san neje je tiju jone "three horses worth ten goats" (lit. three horses of ten goats)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is Price/Value by using mita:

san neje je mita je tiju jone (lit. three horses of value of ten goats)

Genitive of Time

Specifies the time or duration of the preceding phrase. "during", "at", "within", "for" are equivalent English expressions. The attached genitive phrase must contain concepts of time or duration.

tun je etu osa lana "work for eight hours" (lit. action of eight day parts)

ten te makan, je osa setan "breakfast at seven o'clock" (lit. time of eating of the seventh hour)

lo je nelo osa je lana "movement during the night" (lit. movement of the dark part of the day)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is Time by using ten:

tun je ten je etu osa lana (lit. action of time of eight day parts)

You can also clarify this relationship using a subordinate clause and an:

lo je te an nelo osa je lana (lit. movement of which is at the dark part of day)

Genitive of Place

Specifies a vague local relation to the preceding phrase. "in", "at", "through", "over" are equivalent English expressions. The attached genitive phrase must contain concepts of location. Often uses the words opotu or sekano.

niwa je honja "cabin in the woods" (lit. residence of the wilderness)

mi le lo je pumi pani ke sinsi "I travel through the marsh to the city" (lit. I am moving of wet land to the city)

You can clarify that a genitive relationship is Place by using jan:

niwa je jan je honja (lit. residence of place of wilderness)

You can also clarify this relationship using a subordinate clause and an:

niwa je te an honja (lit. residence of which is at the wilderness)

Genitive of Means

Specifies the manner of the preceding phrase. "by", "by means of" are equivalent English expressions. This genitive can often be better expressed using the wija thematic role marker.

pilu je tun katin "achievement by hard work" (lit. victory of hard work)

You can clarify this relationship using a subordinate clause and wija:

pilu je te wija tun katin (lit. victory of which is by means of hard work)

Genitive of Agency

Specifies the agent that is engaged with the preceding phrase. "by", "by means of" are equivalent English expressions. The attached genitive phrase must contain a person or other active entity to be seen as this type of genitive and often can be easily misconstrued as a Possessive Genitive.

tun takaha je hoton cenpo nelo "attack by means of a black bear" (lit. violent action of a black large mammal)

You can clarify this relationship using a subordinate clause and wija:

tun takaha je te wija hoton cenpo nelo (lit. violent action of which is by means of black large mammal)

Genitive of Reference

Specifies a reference entity that helps better explain the preceding phrase. "with reference to" or "with respect to" are equivalent English expressions. This genitive can often be bettered expressed using the so thematic role marker.

mese ten je tun mi te pi te pen "more time with respect to my studies" (lit. more time of my work of coming to understand)

You can clarify this relationship using a subordinate clause and so:

mese ten te pen so ten je tun sone (lit. more studying time compared to time of other actions)

Subjective Genitive

Specifies or describes the subject of the preceding phrase when the preceding phrase is a verb phrase or a noun phrase that contains an action.  This genitive can always be converted into a sentence where the genitive noun phrase is the subject of the action. Some constructions could either be subjective or objective genitive but context can help identify the appropriate type.

kota je nin mu hapijo "speech of the announcer" (lit. speech of the announcer person)

lo je micin cenpo "movement of whales" (lit. movement of big sea creatures)

You can clarify this genitive relationship by replacing the whole relation with a subordinate noun clause while describing the subject:

ta micin cenpo le lo, ... (lit. big sea creatures which are moving)

You can also clarify this genitive relationship with pon:

lo je pon je micin cenpo (lit. movement of result of big sea creatures)

Objective Genitive

Specifies or describes the object of the preceding phrase when the preceding phrase is a transitive verb phrase or a noun phrase that contains a transitive action. "for", "about", "concerning", "towards", "against" are English equivalent expressions. This genitive can always be converted into a sentence where the genitive noun phrase is the object of the action.

mi le kota je meja "we talked about cats" (lit. we talked of cats)

sinsi mi le kela je sinsi sone "my city played against the other city" (lit. my city played of different city)

You can clarify this genitive relationship by replacing the whole relation with a subordinate noun clause while describing the object:

mi le kota in sin je meja (lit. we said things of cats)

sinsi mi le kela in te kela wija sinsi sone (lit. my city played a playing by means of different city)

Plenary Genitive

Specifies or describes the subject and object of the preceding phrase when the preceding phrase is a verb phrase or a noun phrase that contains an action. Both subjective and objective genitive forms fit and the meanings should not contract but instead complement each other.

te amo, je Ocota "love of God" (lit. loving of God)

You can clarify this genitive relationship by replacing the whole relation with a subordinate noun clause and usen:

mi un Ocota le amo in usen (lit. I and God love each other)


Chains of je

Unlike modifiers, a noun phrase containing multiple genitive prepositional markers do not chain onto each other from left to right. It is considered an immediate relationship between the two noun phrases on either side of the marker and so chaining occurs from right to left with each successive completed je-phrase being attached to the noun or je within the outer phrase (to the left).

niwa je matuwa je matuwa mi - "My grandparent's house", grouped as "(house of (the parent of my parent))"

pawo je wala je matuwa je matuwa mi - "My great-aunt's dog", grouped as "(dog of (the sibling of (the parent of my parent)))"

jan je insu je makan - "restaurant location", grouped as "(place of (the house of food))"

When using je after a verb, the je-phrase acts like an adverbial phrase, just like any other modifier would on a verb. Adverbial phrases can be used to describe several different genitive relationships.

mi le kota je tenkin niju - "I talk loudly", literally "I talk of much volume"

Due to context playing a major part in our understanding of Kokanu sentences, this sentence wouldn't be perceived as saying "I talk about much volume". The phrase "of much volume" describes the manner in which the talking occurs. This attached genitive phrase describes something that would typically be construed as being a detail of manner (Genitive of Means) instead of discussion material (Objective Genitive). If you want to clarify that you are talking "about" something, you can use the verb husu:

mi le kota je husu je tenkin niju (lit. I talk of concern of much volume)

Collapsing Noun Phrases

The way je chains isn't an issue for the statement niwa je matuwa je matuwa mi, as it still translates to a phrase that roughly means "my grandparent's house", however there are some cases where it can cause issues.

insu je makan - "restaurant"

jan je kawa - "bathroom"

jan je kawa je insu je makan - "place of restaurant garbage"...?

Grouped as "place of (dirtiness of (building of food))"

There's another preposition marker called the noun phrase collapsing preposition marker ( wa ). It can be used to resolve this problem. wa collapses the part of a noun phrase before it and treats it as if it is one complete noun phrase.

There are a few rules that you must understand to make proper usage of wa:

  • A content word directly after wa is to be interpreted as a modifier, not a noun.
  • A ta / te clause directly after wa is to be interpreted as a relative clause, not a subordinate clause.
  • It causes the modifier (or chain) or relative clause after it to act on all of the previous elements of the chain before it.
  • The two markers can be combined as wa je and be used to have a content word in its noun form act on the whole of the chain before it.
  • This marker does not regroup like the genitive preposition marker.
  • You cannot negate a wa particle just as you cannot insert negations inside of a modifier chain.

jan je kawa wa je insu je makan - "restaurant bathroom" ((place of dirtiness) of (building of food))

Here's a larger example of this interplay between the two particles.

insu je makan wa cenpo hunsi je tope niju wa ta mi le suki inja ]

Can be broken into these parts:

  1. insu je makan 'restaurant' (lit. place of food)
  2. insu je makan wa, for the sake of the words after it, can be thought of as insu-je-makan-wa
  3. insu je makan wa cenpo 'big restaurant', as cenpo sees insu-je-makan-wa
    Note: insu je makan cenpo is 'place of big food', which is not the same
  4. insu je makan wa cenpo hunsi 'red big restaurant', as hunsi sees insu-je-makan-wa cenpo
  5. insu je makan wa cenpo hunsi je tope niju 'very-good red big restaurant', as je tope niju sees insu-je-makan-wa cenpo hunsi and acts on all of it because from its perspective, it's only acting on one chain (like how je tope niju would also act on meja cenpo hunsi as that is only one chain)
  6. insu je makan wa cenpo hunsi je tope niju wa, for the sake of the words after it, can be thought of as insu-je-makan-wa-cenpo-hunsi-je-tope-niju-wa
  7. insu je makan wa cenpo hunsi je tope niju wa ta mi le suki in [ ja ] 'very-good red big restaurant that I like', as ta mi le suki in [ ja ] sees insu-je-makan-wa-cenpo-hunsi-je-tope-niju-wa