the capable form

With the Thanksgiving week behind me, I am feeling the pressure of the imminent end of the semester.

The Thanksgiving break was okay - I was able to keep up a minimal amount of Luganda activity over the holiday. I didn't completely ignore my Luganda commitments, but I didn't put in the effort I would over a normal week, either. That matched my expectation for myself, so I am fine with where I am.

However, as I look ahead to the final weeks, I think about all the progress I still want to make. For example, there are several tenses that I have wanted to practice more of, since I can produce them but not very quickly. The more written practice I give these forms, the easier it will be more for me to use them while speaking. For example, after practicing writing the "not yet," and "still" tenses, I am increasingly able to produce them in conversation. Over the summer, I learned a raft of tenses, but without dedicated practice on each one, I often get them mixed up with one another.

One of these tenses is the capable tense. The reason that I struggle with it is because it's not really a verb tense we have in English, and it's not totally a concept we have in English, either. You see, the capable form essentially is the equivalent of adding "-able" at the end of an English verb. Is the distance drivable? Is the store walkable? Is that food edible? Clearly we do have this concept for some verbs in English. But in Luganda, this capable form is used much more broadly. For example:

  • okugemeka: to be vaccinatable
  • okusabika: to be askable
  • okufunika: to be getable
  • okutwatika: to be touchable
Certainly, all of these make sense in a way. Or, when translated to English, these aren't completely confusing. But I've found that it's hard for me to make sense of the real meaning of the word. What is it to be askable anyway?

Luckily, Simon and I had time together to review the capable form and to discuss its meanings. Having his interpretation about the meaning of verbs in the capable form is really the most useful thing for me - the construction of the verb itself is not very difficult. This is a reminder of why having language mentors is so important! 

So, to be askable is the ease with which something can be asked. His example was that in Uganda, it is not uncommon or totally socially unacceptable to see someone beg. So esabika ssente; money is askable. 

As I look towards the next couple weeks, I want to be very dedicated to really getting these verb tenses under my control. I am sick of getting them mixed up with one another! And I plan to go to Simon with more questions and more clarifications, because sometimes I get hung up on things and forget to use his knowledge as a resource. Hopefully, with more work on the capable form, as well as the causative (another confusing one) and the conditional, I can make the most out of these last few weeks.

I need to keep telling myself: This is doable! / Kikoleka!


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