Table of contents
- Linguistic classificiation
- Tone System
- Noun Class System2
- Pronominal System2
- Word Order
- Verbal System
- Question Formation
- Mabia Central
- Mabia Dagaare
- Mabia Dagaare
- Mabia Central
Dagaare is a tone language with a two-level tone system with a downstep high tone. The Dagaare tone has two basic functions, namely a lexical and a grammatical function. Its lexical function concerns differences in lexical semantics, such that differing in tone but not in morphosyntactic form triggers different semantics, as illustrated in (1). Its grammatical function is responsible for cases, in which different tone markings on a segment result in different semantics of that expression. This is shown in (2).
'to go very fast' |
'to fix the ground'1 |
'S/he will not go' (negative declarative sentence) |
'S/he should not go' (negative hortative sentence)2|
Noun Class System2
|Noun Class||Singular Form||Noun Stem||Plural Form|
|Class I||Singular: [ -Vocal]||Plural: [ -bɔ']|
|(+human cl.)||pɔ'ɣɔ' 'woman'||pɔ'g-||pɔ'ɣíbɔ' 'women'|
|Class II||Singular: [ -Vocal]||Plural: [ -rí]|
|Cl. IIa||Singular: [ -é]||Plural: [ -rí]|
|bìé 'child'||bì-||bíírí 'children'|
|Cl. IIb||Singular: [ -ó]||Plural: [ - rí]|
|dùó 'pig'||dò-||dòrí 'pigs'|
|Cl. IIc||Singular: [ -í]||Plural: [ - rí]|
|síɣí 'hut'||síg-||síɣrí 'huts'|
|Class III||Singular: [ -í]||Plural: [ -Vocal]|
|Cl. IIIa||Singular: [ -í]||Plural: [ -é]|
|gyìlí 'xylophone'||gyìl-||gyìlé 'xylophones'|
|Cl. IIIb||Singular: [ -í]||Plural: [ -ɔ´]|
|pɔ`lí 'path (for rats)'||pɔ`||pɔ`lɔ´ 'paths'|
|Cl. IIIc||Singular: [ -í]||Plural: [ -á]|
|váálí 'rubbish'||váál-||váálá 'rubbish'|
|Class IV||Singular: [ -rʊʊ]||Plural: [ -rì]|
|pírʊʊ 'sheep'||pí-||píírì 'sheep'|
|Class V||Singular: [ -∅]||Plural: [ -rí]|
|túú 'forest'||tùù-||túúrí 'forest'|
|Class VI||Singular: [ -rì]||Plural: [ -Vocal]|
|Cl. VIa||Singular: [ -rì]||Plural: [ -è]|
|bírì 'seed'||bí-||bíè 'seeds'|
|Cl. VIb||Singular: [ -rí]||Plural: [ -ó]|
|tóórí 'ear'||tóó-||tòbó 'ears'|
|Cl. VIc||Singular: [ -rí]||Plural: [ -á]|
|yàgrí 'cheek'||yàg-||yàɤá 'cheeks'|
|Class VII||SG: Nasal+Vocal||Pl: Nasal+Vocal|
|Cl. VIIa||Singular: [ -ní]||Plural: [ -mà]|
|gánì 'hide/book'||gán-||gámà 'hides/books'|
|Cl. VIIb||Singular: [ -mʊ]||Plural: [ -má]|
|táamʊ 'bow'||tàn-||támá 'bows'|
|Cl. VIIc||Singular: [ -ŋé]||Plural: [ -ní]|
|bìŋé 'pen'||bìŋ-||bìnní 'pens'|
|Cl. VIId||Singular: [ -ŋó]||Plural: [ -ní]|
|bòŋó 'donkey'||bòŋ-||bònní 'donkeys'|
|Cl. VIIe||Singular: [ -∅]||Pl: [ -nɛɛ] (types of)|
|-count plurals||dãã ` 'pito'||dãã `||dãã `nɛɛ 'pito'|
|Class VIII||Singular: [ -áá]||Plural: [ -í]|
|gbíŋgbíláá 'drying spot'||gbígbíl-||gbíŋgbíllí 'drying spots'|
|Class IX||Singular: [ -ù]||(no plural)|
|(derived n.)||Dúóù 'climbing'||dó|
|Class X||(no singular)||Plural: [ -úŋ]|
|(count class)||bùùl-||búúlúŋ 'porridge'|
In Dagaare, personal pronouns do not exhibit gender differences. For subject pronouns, there is a distinction between strong and weak personal pronouns. Moreover, there is a distinction between human and non-human forms for third person plural pronouns.
|Subject (Nom)||Object (Acc)|
|Weak Form||Strong Form|
Reflexivity is expressed by the words 'mengɛ' or 'mengɛ tɔr' in singular and 'menne' or 'menne tɔr' in plural after any personal pronouns.
|Weak reflexive pronouns||Strong reflexive pronouns|
|n mengɛ (tɔr) "myself"||maa mengɛ "me, myself"|
|fo mengɛ (tɔr) "yourself"||foo mengɛ "you, yourself"|
|o mengɛ (tɔr) "him/herself"||onɔ mengɛ "s/he, him/herself"|
|te menne (tɔr) "ourselves"||tenee menne "we, ourselves"|
|yɛ menne (tɔr) "yourselves"||yɛnee menne "you, yourselves"|
|ba menne (tɔr) "themselves"||bana menne "they, themselves"|
|a menne (tɔr) "themselves"||ana menne "they, themselves"|
Reciprocal pronouns in Dagaare consist of the forms tɔ, tɔ soba, taa and taaba. The most common form is taa.
'We love each other / one another.' |
There is no distinction between human and non-human relative pronouns in Dagaare. For both the relative pronoun is nang.
'The man who came.' |
'The book that fell down.'|
Interrogative pronouns are formed by a root like [ bo- ] ('what, which') which combines with a suffix. According to Dakubu (2005), interrogative pronoun roots in Dagaare include also [ yeŋ- ] ('where'), [ ʔaŋ- ] ('who') and [ wʊla- ] ('how many').
|boo||"which one, which of them"|
|baboo, babobo||"which of them (humans)"|
|aboo, abobo||"which of them (non-human)"|
|ang||"who (singular, human)"|
|ang mine||"who (plural, human)"|
Possession is expressed by the words toɔr and den in singular and deme in plural, meaning "own", combined with any personal pronoun.
|n toɔr, den, deme||"mine, my own"|
|fo toɔr, den, deme||"yours, you own"|
|o toɔr, den, deme||"his/hers, his/her own"|
|te toɔr, den, deme||"ours, our own"|
|yɛ toɔr, den, deme||"yours, your own"|
|ba toɔr, den, deme||"theirs, their own (human)"|
|a toɔr, den, deme||"theirs, their own (non-human)"|
Similarly to the personal pronouns, there is a distinction between human and non-human forms for the third person plural pronouns.
|banang||"those (ones) - (human)"|
|anang||"those (ones) - (non-human)"|
|lɛ||"like that (one)"|
|nyɛɛ||"like this (one)"|
Dagaare does not seem to have indefinite pronouns and rather combines a noun like "person" or "body" with the element kang in order to express indefinites like "somebody" or "someone".
'Someone has come.' |
The canonical word order of Dagaare is SVO (subject-verb-object). This can be seen in the following examples showing an intransitive clause (6), a transitive clause including an adverb (7) and a ditransitive (8).
'Bayuo worked (yesterday).’|
'Dɛr is drinking the water quickly.’0|
'Ziema gave / was giving Napog a pot.’|
The VP in Dagaare consists of a preverbal particle encoding tense, the predicate, and a postverbal particle with a function yet to be fully investigated.
Daagare marks past and future tenses by the use of preverbal particles. Present tense in not marked or lexicalized in this language. These preverbal particles function like auxiliary verbs in Indo-European languages lexicalizing tense and aspectual features.
'The spider died.' |
'He will beat me.' 2|
Contrary to Indo-European languages like English, French and Norwegian, Dagaare exhibits the lexicalization of a habitual marker. While in the Indo-European languages this habitual marker is basically an adverb, in Dagaare it is realized as the preverbal particle mang. This preverbal particle can only occur after the subject, thus it is not an adverb, since adverbs are more flexible in the positions they can potentially occur in within the clause.
'S/he is always beating me a lot.' 2|
|Tense, Aspect, Modal Particles||Dagaare|
|today (also once upon a time)||da|
|one day away||zaa|
|two or more days away||daar|
|still, not yet||nang|
|once again, as usual||yaa|
|imperative subjunctive negative||ta|
These preverbal particles are difficult to classify as temporal, aspectual, modal and polar, since the relationship between polarity and tense in the Mabia languages is very tight. This means that a particular preverbal particle can express a positive or negative action in the past (da) or a positive or negative action in the future (na). The na particle for instance does not only mark tense, but also positivity of an action. Its counterpart kong is not simply the negation of an action, but also indicating the tense of this action.
The main verb in Dagaare consists of a verb stem and a suffix. This suffix encodes perfective or imperfective aspect. In this system, the speaker considers an action as either completed or not yet completed, irrespective of whether the action happens in the present or past tense.2 There is the verbal suffix form -ng in Dagaare, whose function is to affirm or emphasize the verbal action. This affix is in complementary distribution with the postverbal particle la, also shown in the subsection on this postverbal particle.
'S/he went home.' |
'S/he was going home.' |
'S/he is going home.'2|
Most verb roots in Dagaare are monosyllabic and combine with inflectional affixes. As already mentioned, the main inflectional affixes in Dagaare express aspect. There are then three distinct inflectional affix forms, one imperfective or progressive affix (-ro) and two perfective or completive affixes (-∅, -e). Imperative forms are homophonous with the perfective transitive forms.2 An interesting aspect of the Mabia verbal system is that verbs can be classified into pairs of oppositions depending on causativity, transitivity, reversivity and other derivational processes.
According to Bodomo (1997), the postverbal particle la mainly marks factivity, polarity, affirmation or even emphasis.* It usually occurs in postverbal position, but under particular pragmatic constraints it can also occur preverbally. The la particle is in complementary distribution with negative polarity particles.
'S/he will not go home.' |
'S/he will not go home.' 2|
Besides being in complementary distribution with negative polarity particles, there are four main constraints on the la particle in Dagaare. Firstly, it never occurs after adjuncts postverbally.
'Bayuo slept well.' |
'Bayuo slept well.' 2|
Secondly, it occurs before all full NP complements, but it never intervenes between any two full NPs nor follows them.
'S/he gave Dere the book.' |
'S/he gave Dere the book.' 2|
Thirdly, a pronominal complement must intervene between the verb and the postverbal particle. In this case the affixal form of the particle -ng is attached to the indirect object pronoun ma.
'S/he gave me the book.' |
'S/he gave me the book.' |
'S/he gave me the book.'2|
Lastly, under pragmatic circumstances the particle can occur in certain positions within the clause in order to emphasize the role of particular elements. In (16a), the particle occurs after the subject NP and before the verb in order to focus the subject and not the action of the sentence. In (16b) on the other hand the particle occurs postverbally in order to focus the action and not the subject of the clause.
'The spider died.' |
'The spider died.' 2|
*Note that the postverbal particle is glossed as LA, since its glossing in the literature is not consistent and therefore its syntactic nature is not so clear. We thus propose that the postverbal particle may function as a focus marker, while previous research assumed it to be a factive marker.
In addition to the preverbal particles above, negation is also expressed by preverbal particles. In Dagaare, negation is related to mood and aspect, such that choice of the negated particle varies between the perfective and the imperfective as well as with regard to clause types.
In declarative clauses, the particle bá expresses negation and occurs between the subject and the predicate. Negative preverbal particles are in complementary distribution with the focus marker lá, shown in the contrast in (17).
If negation should refer to an action or event in the future, the particle kòng is used.
'Won’t you lie down /sleep overnight?’4|
In order to express negation in an imperative, the preverbal particle tá is used instead.
Since the negative particle bá and the focus marker là are in complementary distribution, there is a special form náá that marks both, negation and focus.
This particle, however, has the identical distribution than its counterpart là with respect to focus constructions in Dagaare.
'Dakoraa did not eat the saao this morning.’4|
'Dakoraa did not eat the saao this morning.’4|
'DAKORAA did not eat the saao this morning.’ (It was not him.)4|
‘It is not the SAAO that Dakoraa ate this morning.’4|
‘It was not THIS MORNING that Dakoraa ate the saao.’|
‘Dakoraa did not EAT the saao in the morning.’4|
There are two types of questions in Dagaare. Usually, questions are formed by a question word in the sentence-initial position, but in a few cases there is either a question marker that has to occur in sentence-final position or the question word can appear in situ.2
The Dagaare bong questions correspond to wh-questions in English, but since most of the question words in Dagaare start with the letter b, it makes no sense to refer to them as wh-questions as well and therefore one can refer to them as bong questions2 . These questions exhibit the question word ex situ and vary according to its Q-element.
'Who sang / is singing?’|
In some cases, the Q-element is followed not only by the particle lá, but additionally by the complementizer kà. This might indicate that the Q-element occupies the specifier position and the complementizer appears in the head position of the CP. The particle lá occurs in between both elements and might mark focus, in this case verbal focus.
'What did you build?'|
Lastly, multiple questions are highly marked in Dagaare. In these cases, one Q-element occurs ex situ and the other one(s) in situ.
'Who bought what?'|
'Who traveled where?'|
Examples for a question that do not exhibit the question word ex situ are the so-called bee questions, which are known as yes-/no- questions in languages like English. These questions only require a yes- or no-answer instead of a more complex and informative answer. Bee is here the particular question marker, which has to appear obligatorily as the final element of the clause. These questions can express contrastive focus.
'Is Dabuo sleeping?'|
'No, Ayuo is sleeping.'|
Besides this type of question, there are cases, in which the question word can also appear in situ. These questions might correspond to echo questions.
'What did Doosaa eat?'|
In Dagaare the question word can cross a clause-boundary, which gives rise to long distance extraction. The following example illustrates the potential positions within the clause, in which the question word can occur. Note that only in (28b) a focus marker occurs, which varies from la to na. In (28a) the two complementizer indicate the clause boundaries across the question word has been moved.
'What did Ayuo ask that John slaughtered?’|
'Ayuo asks what John slaughtered.'|
'Ayuo asks what it is that John slaughters.'|
- 1. Bodomo, Adams, Hasiyatu Abubakari, Samuel Alhassan Issah (2020): Handbook of the Mabia Languages of West Africa.: Glienicke
- 2. Bodomo, Adams ( 1997 ): The structure of Dagaare. Stanford: CSLI Publications, p. 18
- 3. Kropp-Dakubu, M. E. (2005): Collected language notes on Dagaare grammar. Legon: Institue of African Studies, University of Ghana
- 4. Ali, Mark, Scott Grimm & Adams Bodomo (2021): A dictionary and grammatical sketch of Dagaare. Berlin: Language Science Press
- 5. Akinbo, S., Angsongna, A., Ozburn, A., Schellenberg, M., & Pulleyblank, D. (2022): Velar Tap in Dàgáárè. https://doi.org/10.5281/ZENODO.6393732.: Zenodo
- 6. Grimm, Scott (2016): The information packaging particle la in Dagaare .: Presentation, University of Rochester
- 7. Saanchi, J. Angkaaraba (2003): Aspect and the Dagaare verb.: Cahiers Voltaiques / Gur Papers 6, 101-106