Table of contents
- Linguistic classification
- Tone System
- Noun Class System2
- Pronominal System
- Word Order
- Verbal System
- Question Formation
- Mabia Central
- Mabia South
- Mabia South
- Mabia Central
Dagbani is a tonal language in which pitch is used to distinguish words. The tone system of Dagbani is characterised by two level tones and a downstep (a lowering effect occurring between sequences of the same phonemic tone).
In (2a) and (2b) the tone on the 3rd person is low. In the hortative form, the tone on the 3rd person is high, and the verb has an imperative suffix, as in (2c).
'S/he eats TZ.’|
'S/he ate TZ.'|
'S/he should eat TZ.'2 |
Tone changes are only possible if the subject is in 3rd person singular or plural. Tone changes are excluded if the subject is 2nd person, whereby the pronoun is simply omitted.
The last case in which grammatical tone is available concerns the marking of subjects, which the speaker does not want to identify. This is usually used in common speech, moreover in gossips or innuendos.
'You are close by.’|
'One who is close by.'2 |
Noun Class System2
|Noun Class||Example(SG)||Example(PL)||SG Suffix||PL Suffix||Gloss|
Each set of personal pronouns in Dagbani is distinguished regarding person, number and animacy. Besides the distinction between singular and plural, there is an additional distinction between [+/- animate] in the 3rd person. Moreover, Dagbani distinguishes between emphatic and non-emphatic pronouns and there are no gender distinctions. While there is no morphological differentiation between grammatical cases, pronouns can occur in different forms according to whether they appear pre- or postverbally. 3
Preverbal pronouns serve as subjects of a verb and are all monosyllabic.3
|3. [-animate]||<di>||<di>, <ŋa>|
Postverbal pronouns usually denote objects.3
|3. [-animate]||<li>||<li>, <ŋa>|
Given the fact that preverbal and postverbal pronouns do not denote two complementary sets, one could refer to them as unmarked or specifically marked for postverbal occurence.3
Emphatic pronouns in Dagbani serve as regular pronouns in that they can stand in isolation, preverbally or postverbally.3
Reciprocals are formed by the addition of the word taba after the verb.3
'We cut each other.’3 |
Reflexive pronouns are formed by the suffix -maŋa, which is attached to the non-emphatic preverbal pronoun.3
'He cuts himself.’3 |
The affix maŋa can also occur as an emphatic pronoun after nouns.3
'His friend himself.’3 |
The possessive pronouns in Dagbani exactly correspond to the preverbal non-emphatic pronouns, which always proceed the possessed constituent.
'His house.’3 |
In Dagbani the relative pronouns are ŋʊn ("who") as in (8) and ni ("which") as in (9).4
'The child who stole the dog is gone.’|
'We saw the child who stole the dog.'|
'We saw the table which you bought.’4 |
The relative pronouns in Dagbani are not obligatory present and can also be absent depending on the context, as (10) illustrates.4
'Azima visited the house which I bought.’|
'Azima visited the house which I bought.'4 |
Following Olawsky (1999) relative pronouns in Dagbani can also be complex in its nature, such that they consist of two two elements, an indefinite pronoun and an emphatic pronoun.4
'The child who stole the dog is gone.’|
'The knife which was on the table is broken.'4 |
Interrogative pronouns in Dagbani make a distinction between human and non-human. A list of interrogatives is given in the table below.
|bòn / bà||"what"|
Additionally, interrogative pronouns inflect for number, but not all of them. Those inflecting for number belong to the semantic categories [ +THING], [ +SELECTION], [ +PERSON]. An example is given in the second table below6 .
Demonstrative pronouns in Dagbani make a morphological difference between the singular and plural form. Following Issah (2018b) the demonstrative pronoun ŋɔ moves to the specifier of the functional NumP and if Num is plural, then the plural morphem -nímá attaches to the demonstrative pronoun. If Num is singular, there is a zero morphem, such that the demonstrative pronoun does not differ in its morphological form.
|Distal||ŋɔ há||ŋɔnímá há||that/those|
Dagbani distinguishes not only between singular and plural for indefinite pronouns, but also between [+/-animate]. Therefore, there are two pairs of indefinite pronouns. Indefinites are basically used in the same way as adjectives, as their morphological form is similar to that of nouns and adjectives.3 In order to express an indefinite like "something" the inanimate singular form is combined with the noun bini ("thing").
Dagbani has a rigid SVO word order. In the canonical sentence structure, the verb precedes the direct and indirect object as well as adverbials. The clause structure exhibits varying functional elements projecting various functional phrasal categories including tense, aspect, negation, mood and the conjoint/disjoint paradigm.6
'Dawuni kills the rabbits.’|
'The woman has given the children yam today.'6 |
The VP in Dagbani consists of a preverbal particle encoding tense, aspect and mood1, the main verb, and a postverbal particle which marks focus8 .
|Tense, Aspect, Modal Particles||Dagbani|
|today (also once upon a time)||də|
|one day away||sa|
|two or more days away||daa|
|still, not yet||na|
|once again, as usual||yaa|
|imperative subjunctive negative||de|
Negation is expressed by preverbal particles. Dagbani has two different preverbal particles. In the present and the past tense the particle bi is used as in (9), whereas in the future the negative particle is ku as in (10).
The preverbal future particle ni cannot co-occur with the preverbal negative particle bi, instead the preverbal negative future particle ku is used.
Each verb in Dagbani has two forms, a perfective and an imperfective form with very few exceptions. In general, the perfective form is the unmarked form, whereas the imperfective form corresponds to the progressive form, or in other words it refers to an action, which is still in progress1. The perfective is nearly syncretic with the infinitive, which in turn has an /n-/-prefix. The imperfective is formed by the suffix /-di/1.
The inflectional system in Dagbani is relatively poor as compared to other languages. There is no grammatical agreement, since number and person are not marked. Tense is marked only under certain constraints. Basically, Dagbani makes a distinction between future and non-future, however the main distinction does not concern Tense, but Aspect and occurs between perfective and imperfective.
Following Issah (2013), the postverbal particle la marks presentational focus, rather than contrastive focus. In comparison to the postverbal particle in Dagaare, the function of this Dagbani particle is also not yet fully investigated. There are native speakers, who consider the particle to indicate that what is expressed to the hearer is not shared knowledge. Issah (2013) on the other hand argues that the presence of la asserts new information, while its absence indicates old information.
'Napari has bought a lorry.'|
'Napari has bought a lorry.8' |
Conjoint / Disjoint Markers
|Imperfective|| Ò nyú-r-í kóm. |
3SG drink-IPFV-CJ water
'He is drinking water.'
| Ò nyú-r-á. |
'He is drinking.'
|Perfective|| Ò nyú-∅ kóm. |
3SG drink.PFV-CJ water
'He drank water.'
| Ò nyú-yá. |
In Dagbani questions, the question word can either appear in situ or ex situ.
The basic word order in Dagbani questions is SVO, such that the question word is fronted and followed by the focus marker ka. This is the unmarked form and accepted by many native speakers as "natural".1
'Where did you go to?’|
'What do you want?1'|
Yes-/No-question in Dagbani are formed by the disjunction bee ('or'), which either conjoints two propositions or which occurs sentence-finally to indicate that the sentence with SVO order is actually a question.
'Will you come or will you not come?’|
'Will you come or not?1' |
In addition to Yes-/No-questions, the question word can also occur in sentence-final position. This might correspond to echo questions.
'Napari bought what?’|
'Napari bought a goat.10'|
- 1. Olawsky, Knut J. (1999): Aspects of Dagbani grammar. Munich: Lincom
- 2. Bodomo, Adams, Hasiyatu Abubakari & Samuel Alhassan Issah (2020): Handbook of the Mabia Languages of West Africa. Glienicke: Galda Verlag
- 3. missing bibliography definition
- 4. Inusah, Abdul-Razak (2017): Patterns of Relative Clauses in Dagbanli.: SAGE Open, 1-9
- 5. Issah, Samuel Alhassan & Samuel Owoahene Acheampong (2021): Interrogative pronouns in Dagbani and Likpakpaanl.: Ghana Journal of Linguistics 10(2), 30-57
- 6. missing bibliography definition
- 7. Issah, Samuel Alhassan (2018b): The Form and Function of Dagbani Demonstratives. In: Augustine Agwuele &Adams Bodomo (eds). The Handbook of African Linguistics. London: Routledge, 281-296
- 8. Issah, Samuel Alhassan (2013): The function of the post verbal la in Dagbani.: Studies in African Linguistics 42(2), 153-176
- 9. The structure of Dagaare, Bodomo, Adams, Stanford, 1997, CSLI Publications
- 10. Issah, Samuel Alhassan (2020): On the structure of A-bar constructions in Dagbani: Perspectives of "wh"-questions and fragment answers.Berlin: Peter Lang
- 11. Hudu, Fusheini (2009): Focus marking in Dagbani.: Working papers of the Linguistic Circle of the University of Victoria 19, 13-31
- 12. Issah, Samuel Alhassan (2018a): On the structure of A-bar constructions in Dagbani: Perspectives of wh-questions and fragment answers. Ph. D. thesis. Frankfurt: Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität