Region of the Gurene language
Region of the Gurene language
Guren​ɛ is a Mabia language and is spoken in Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso. Guren​ɛ is spoken by one million speakers. In Ghana, it is spoken in the north west around the town of Bolga. Gurenɛ is one dialect of the Farefari language besides four other dialects, which are Taln, Nabt, Boone and Nankani. All dialects show variation at the phonological, lexical and morphosyntactic level.1

Linguistic classificiation

  • Niger-Congo
    • Atlantic-Congo
      • Mabia
        • Mabia Central
          • Mabia Mid-Central
            • Guren​ɛ

Tone System

Guren​ɛ marks two level tones, High and Low. Tone changes in this language have both an lexical and an grammatical impact on the semantics of a particular word.1

Lexical Function

(1)   a.   vàlèŋà
'waist bead.’
b.   váléŋá

Grammatical Function

In the following example, all elements are the same segmentally, but the tone difference of the preverbal particle wa is responsible for different meanings. With a low tone the particle expresses future tense, and with a high tone it expresses aspect.2

(2)   a.   Átáŋá   wà   nyù   kò'òm   lá.
Ataŋa   FUT   drink   water   DEF
'Ataŋa will drink the water.’
b.   Átáŋá  wá   nyù   kò'òm   lá.
Ataŋa ASP   drink water DEF
'Ataŋa definitely drank the water.’2

Noun Class System1

Gender Classes Suffixes Examples Gloss
i 1/2 a/-ba pɔɤa/pɔɤəba "wife/wives"
ii 3/4 -ka/-sı pɔka/pɔɤəsı "woman/women"
iii 5/6 -di/-a yire/yɛa "house(s)"
iv 7/8 -kʊ/-tʊ dʊkɔ/dʊɤərɔ "pot(s)"
v 9/10 -bʊ/-i laɤahɔ/liɤəri "money"
vi 3/2 -ka/-ba nayiga/nayigəba "thieves"
vii 7/4 -kʊ/-si nŭʔo/nŭʔŭsi "hand(s)"
v/iv 9/8 -bʊ/-tʊ kaam/katɔ "oil(s)"
vi/iv 11/8 -la/-tʊ pugula/pugəto "girl(s)"
iv/v 7/10 -kʊ/i kʊʔʊŋɔ/kĩ?ĩnĩ "gu"

Pronominal System1

Personal Pronouns

Person Subject/Possessor Object Emphatic
1st ma/n tu ma tu mam tumam
2nd fu ya fu ya fum yamam
3rd a ba e ba eŋa bamam

Emphatic Pronouns

Emphatic pronouns in Guren​ɛ are allowed in focus positions, while the other personal pronouns are not. In (3a) the emphatic pronoun is followed by the focus marker ti and in (3b) by the focus marker n. Emphatic pronouns are used in an exclusiveness context, such that speakers use these to indicate that only one thing is true and not the other.

(3)   a.   Mam   ti   a   dikɛ   bo.
1SG.EMPH   FOC   1SG   take   give
'It is me that he gave it to.’
b. Yamam n sagum loore lá.
2PL.EMPH   FOC   destroy lorry DEF
'It is you guys (not us) who destroyed the lorry. '1

Reciprocal Pronouns

To express reciprocity, the lexical marker taaba is used, which occurs after clausal constructions.

(4)   Budaa   lá   pɔka   lá   nɔŋɛ   taaba   mɛ.
man   DEF   woman   DEF   love   RECP   FOC
'The man and the woman love each other.’1

Reflexive Pronouns

The reflexive pronouns in Gurenɛ are formed by a personal pronoun to which the reflexive morphem -miŋa in singular and -misi in plural attach. In contrast to other Mabia languages, the reflexive markers in Gurenɛ are sensitive to number, such that there exist two forms for each number singular and plural, while in Buli and Dagbani for instance there is only one reflexive morphem for both numbers. The example in (5) shows both reflexive morphems.

Person Reflexive Marker SG Reflexive Pronoun Reflexive Marker PL Reflexive Pronoun
1st -miŋa n nmiŋa -misi tu tumisi
2nd -miŋa fu fumiŋa -misi ya yamisi
3rd -miŋa a amiŋa -misi ba bamisi

(5)  a.   Amaa   mami   daa   guri   nmiŋa.
but   1SG   PST   hold.PST   1SG.REFL
'But I restrained myself.’
b.   Ba   ka   le   ŋmɛ   bamisi.
3PL   NEG   again   beat   3PL.REFL
'They will not beat themselves again.'1

Relative Pronouns

There exist two relative pronouns, which are ti and the particle n. In contrast to other Mabia languages like Dagbani, the relative pronouns in Guren​ɛ are not sensitive to number and do not make a distinction with regard to animacy. The relative pronoun n relativizes subject elements, whereas the particle ti relativizes objects. This is illustrated in (6).

(6)   a.   Budaa   lá   n   wa'am   kalam   de   là   ma   sɔ.
man   DEF   REL   come   here   COP   FOC   1SG   father
'The man who came here is my father.’
  b.   Budaa lá   ti   fu   nyɛ   là   de   là   ma   sɔ.
man DEF   REL   2SG   see FOC   COP   FOC   1SG   father
'The man that you saw is my father .'1

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative Pronouns in Guren​ɛ can appear either ex situ or in situ. In (7) and (9), the interrogative pronoun appears ex situ, while in (8) and (10) the interrogative occurs in situ.

(7)   Ani   n   di   dia   lá?
who   FOC   eat.PFV   food   DEF
'Who ate the food?’1

(8)   Sukuu   kɔma   lá   siŋɛ     là ?
school   children   DEF   go   FOC   where
'Where did the students go?’1

(9)   Beni   dia   ti   ba   kɔɔsa   da'a?
what   food   that   3PL   sell   market
'What food are they selling at the market?’1

(10)   Naafu   lá   de   là   alɛ?
cow   DEF   COP   FOC   how.much
'How much is the price of the cow?’1

Demonstrative Pronouns

In Guren​ɛ the demonstrative pronouns reflect the noun class system, such that each demonstrative pronoun refers to a single noun class.

Number Guren​ɛ Gloss
SG ina(CL1) that/this
kana (CL4) that/this
dina (CL5) that/this
kuna (CL7) that/this
PL bana (CL2) these/those
sina (CL4) these/those
tuna (CL8) these/those
buna (CL9) these/those

Word Order

Guren​ɛ has a SVO word order. In (11), an intransitive clause is shown, in (12) a transitive and in (13) a ditransitive clause, each demonstrating the strict word order SVO.

(11)   N   wan   kule   beere.
1SG   FUT   go.home   tomorrow
'I will go home tomorrow.’1

(12)   Dɔgeta   lá   wan   lu   ma.
doctor   DEF   FUT   inject   1SG
'The doctor will inject me.’1

(13)   À   bo   ma   ligeri   lá.
3SG   give   1SG   money   DEF
'S/he gave me the money.'1

Verb System

The VP in Gurenɛ consists of preverbal particles encoding aspect, tense, negation, imperative and conditional, the main verb, and postverbal particles, which also encode aspect and tense, but also focus.

Following Atintono (2011), the order of particles within the VP is strictly organized and can be described as in (14). Note that the second postverbal particle not only marks focus, but can also be used in order to mark aspect such as affirmative, completive and directional, respectively.

(14) Order of particles within the VP
Time > Tense > Conditional > Aspectual > Future > Negation > Emphatic > Epistemic > Purpose > Verb > Tense > Focus/Affirmative/Completive/Directional

In Gurenɛ, it is possible to have more than one aspectual preverbal particle in the clause and in these cases the order of aspectual particles is not fixed. On the other hand, it is not possible to have a combination of pre- and postverbal particles from every category listed in (14) in one clause. According to Atintono (2011), the maximum number of preverbal particles is five, while the maximum number of postverbal particles is even lower, namely two. The example in (15) illustrates a clause with the maximum number of preverbal and postverbal particles. Note that gaŋɛ is not a particle.

(15)   Nɛreba   lá   zaamtext1   nyaa2   k​ɔ'​ɔm3   sirum4   ta5   iŋɛ   ba'asum1   gaŋɛ  2.
people   DEF   yesterday   then   just   surely   in order   do   certainly   more   AFF
'The people yesterday certainly did more than what was just expected.’2

Preverbal Particles

Temporal particles

(16)   a.   L​ɛ​ɛba   lá   zaam   ki​​ŋɛ   da'a.
trader   DEF   yesterday   go   market
'The trader went to the market yesterday.’
b.   À   daar​ɛ   di   p​ɔga.
3SG   two days ago       eat   wife
'He married a wife two days ago.'
c.   Ba   dayita   ny​ɔ   kuurɛ   lá.
3PL   three days ago       burn   funeral   DEF
'They performed the funeral three days ago.'
d.   Yidaana   lá   dɛ   ki   la   unnɛ.
landlord   DEF   last year     die   FOC   dry.season
'The owner of the house died last year in the dry season.'
e.   Kɔm   dɛtaarɛ   lui   Gureŋɔ.
famine   three years ago       fall   Gureŋɔ
'There was famine three years ago in Gureŋɔ.'
f.   À   beere   wa'am   bulika.
3SG   tomorrow   come   morning
'S/he should come tomorrow in the morning.'
g.   À   ziirɛ   kɔ'   kulega   lá.
3SG   next year     weed   river   DEF
'S/he should farm in the river valley next year.'2

Tense particles

Preverbal tense particles mark either past or future tense. There is no preverbal particle expressing present tense. Within the VP, it is not possible to have a particle expressing time in a combination with a particle expressing tense, because particles refering to temporal adverbials measure definite time, while particles expressing tense measure time indefinitely.2


Dáá is a past tense particle, that is used in order to express contexts that are at least a week ago. Therefore, temporal particles are used for events and actions that happened within two to four days ago, meaning in less than a week ago.

(17)   a.   Bà   dáá   yèlè   bá.
3PL.NOM     PST   tell   3PL.ACC
'They told them.’
b.   Mam   dáá   ze'   là   bilam   gee   nyɛ   ŋwana.
1SG   PST   stand   FOC   there   CONJ   see   this
'I stood there and saw this.'
c.   Kaareba   lá   dáá   le   p​ɔsɛ   tuuma.
farmers   DEF   PST   again   start   work
'The farmers started work again.'2


The tense partcile yùùm also marks tense, but it denotes time that is at least one year ago. This particle is used often to describe situations or conditions that no longer exist.

(18)   a.   Naba   lá   yùùm   di   là   p​ɔgesi   pia.
chief   DEF   PST   eat   FOC   wives   ten
'The chief once married ten wives.’
b.   Baga   daana   lá   yùùm   di   là   s​ũuba   tiim.
shrine   owner   DEF   PST   eat   FOC   witches   medicine
'The native doctor once acquired witchcraft medicine.'
c.   Asɔ'ɔŋa   n   yùùm   boi   tara   a   p​ɔga   la   a.
Mr.Hare   FOC   PST   exist   have   3SG   wife   CONJ   3SG   children
'Once upon a time there lived a rabbit with his wife and children ..'2
Ná (wán)

The future particle is mostly used in the Bongo dialect, while wán is used in Bolga and Nankani dialects. Note that the future particle is homophone with the aspectual particle . They are distinguished semantically by the form of the verb they precede. The future particle occurs before the perfective verb, while the aspectual particle occurs before habitual imperfective verbs.2

(19)   a.   Kaareba   ná   kiŋɛ   kulega   ta   kɔ   kamantuusi.
farmers   FUT   go   river   PURP   farm   tomatoes
'The farmers will go to the river side to farm tomatoes.’
b.   Kuuma   lá   wán   kule   wuntɛɛŋa.
mourners   DEF   FUT   go.home   aftenoon
'The mourners will go home in the afternoon.'2

Following Atintono (2011), the future particle is the grammaticalized form of the verb wa'am ('come'). Some dialects as Bolga and Ninkani use and wán alternatively in order to mark the future. The particle wán also indicates focus in order to corroborate that the expression will definitely happen in the future.

(20)   a.   Tindaana   lá   wà   ká'ɛ   ko'om   lá   beere.
Land.Priest   DEF   FUT   pour   water   DEF   tomorrow
'The land priest will offer the sacrifice tomorrow.’
b.   Kaareba   lá   wán   kɔ   naba   kua   lá.
labourers   DEF   FUT   weed   chief   farm   DEF
'The labours will weed the chief's farm.'2

Conditional particle

In Gurenɛ, the conditional particle sán is embedded immediately after the subject in a subordinated clause.

(21)   a.   Fu   sán   tar-a   lagefɔ   fu   da'   naafu   lá.
2SG   COND   has.IPFV   money   2SG   buy   cow   DEF
'If you have money you buy the cow.’
b.   Fu   sán   nyɛ   nyuurɛ   fu   ku   duŋa   bo   fu   sɔ.
2SG   COND   see   life   2SG   kill   animal   give   2SG   father
'If you become healthy you sacrifice an animal four your father.'
c.   Eŋa   sán   pugum   nyu   daam   bugi   g​ɑ̃   gɔta   ba   basɛ   ti   a   g​ɑ̃   bilam.
3SG   COND   even   drink   alcohol   intoxicate   lie   gutter   3PL   leave   that   3SG   lie   there
'If he even get drunk lying in the gutter they should leave him to be lying there.'2

Aspectual particles


This preverbal particle is used to emphasize that an event or action was performed with ease, thus there are no complications or difficulties concomitant with that event or action. Moreover, the particle can also be combined with the habitual form of a verb, which is formed by the addition of the suffix -a as in (23).

(22)   a.   Kusebego   lá   kɔ'ɔm   vige   tiisi   lá.
wind   DEF   ASP   uproot   trees   DEF
'The wind just uprooted the trees.’
b.   Zankaŋa   kɔ'ɔm   zɔkɛ   tiŋa.
cobra   ASP   drop   ground
'The cobra simply dropped on the ground.'2

(23)   Kaara   lá   kɔ'ɔm   kɔɔr-a   là   si   gee   kɔ'ɔm   uge_ra   nɔɔsi.
farmer   DEF   ASP   farm-HAB   FOC   millet   CONJ   ASP   rear-HAB   fowls
'The farmer just cultivates millet and just rears fowls.’2


This particle indicates that an event or action is completely achieved and can be best translated by even.

(24)   a.   Pɔká   lá   púgúm   lé   tárá   là   púúrɛ
woman   DEF   ASP   ASP   have   FOC   stomach
'The woman is even pregnant again.’
b.   Ma   púgúm   soke   ni   pɔgesi   lá   yele.
1SG   ASP   ask   PST   woman.PL   DEF   case
'I have even asked about the women's case.'2


This particle marks that an event or action was completed before the expected time and can be transalted with already.

(25)   a.   Pɔge-saaŋa   lá   pílúm   tar-a   là   púúrɛ.
woman-new   DEF   ASP   has.IPFV   FOC   stomach
'The bride is already pregnant earlier than expected.’
b.   Asɔ'ɔŋa   pílúm   nyɔ   yoko   paɛ   naba   poyua   lá   bo   ka   púúrɛ   gee   naba   ka   baŋɛ.
Rabbit   ASP   bore   hole   reach   chief   daughter   DEF   give   3SG   stomach   CONJ   chief   NEG   know
'Mr Rabbit had already dug a hole and got to the chief's daughter and made her pregnant without the chief's knowledge.'2


The particle nán indicates that an action or event was just moments ago.

(26)   a.   A   nán   yésè   là   yíŋá.
3SG   ASP   go.out   FOC   outside
'S/he .’has just gone out.'
b.   Ba   nán   síŋɛ   là   da'a.
3PL   ASP   go   FOC   market
'They have left for the market a moment ago.'2

Yèèm (wèèm)

The particle yèèm is used in Bolga, while the particle wèèm is used in Bongo and Nankani dialects. Both particles emphasize that the speaker just makes an expression or performs an action without any intent or purpose.

(27)   À   yèèm   soke   fu   yele.
3SG   ASP   ask   2SG   case
'S/he only asked about you.'2


This particle indicates that an event or action is still continuing and thus can be best transalted with still.

(28)   a.   Bayaasi   lá   kèlùm   tu'u-ra   yɔɔ   lá.
pall.bearers   DEF   ASP   dig-HAB   grave   DEF
'The pall bearers are still digging the grave.’

b.   Ba   kèlùm   kɔɔs-a   daam   naba   yire.
3PL   ASP   sell-HAB   alcohol   chief   house
'They still sell alcoholic drinks at the chief's palace.'2


This particle is semantically similar to kèlùm in that both mark the continuation of an action or event, but nán is mostly used to mark the continuation of a certain condition rather than an activity.

(29)   Tiŋa   lá   nàn   ma'ɛ   mɛ   ti   ba   but-a.
Land DEF   ASP   be.wet   AFF   and   3PL   sow.HAB
'The land is still wet and they are sowing.’2


The particle tábélɛ indicates that an event or action occured as a historical fact, meaning that the event is special in not occuring

(30)   Pɔka   lá   tábélɛ   dɔgɛ   bia.
woman DEF   ASP   give.birth   child
'The woman indeed gave birth.’2

This particle emphasizes that an event or action happened a long time ago, at least a year ago or even after more time.

(31)   Budaa   lá   wá   sulɛ   a   pɔga   lá   dee   ki.
man   DEF   ASP   pay.bride.price   3SG   wife   DEF   CONJ   die
'The man did pay the wife's bride price and died.’2

This particle is a grammaticalized form of the verb lebe ('return') and indicates the repetition of an action or event. Thus, it can be best translated with again.

(32)   a.   Ba   lé   pɔsɛ   kua.
3SG   ASP   start   farming
'They started to farm again.’
b.   Ba   daa   lé   lebe   sige   boko   lá   puan.
3SG   PST   ASP   return   enter   hole   DEF   inside
'They returned and entered into the grave again.'2


This particle also marks repetition of an action or event. In some dialects as Bongo, the form of the particle is malegum. In combination with the preverbal particle the particle mààn indicates that an event or action is performed repetitively, as in (33b).

(33)   a.   Ataŋa   mààn   kɔ   va'am   lá.
Ataŋa   ASP   weed   farm   DEF
'Ataŋa weeded the farm once more.’
b.   À   lé   mààn   dugɛ   dia   lá.
3SG   ASP   ASP   cook   food   DEF
'S/he again deliberately cooked the food.'2

This particle gives a habitual reading of an event or action expressed by the verb. Whereas the Bongo dialect uses frequently, Bolga and Nankani on the other hand use more frequently.

(34)   a.   Bà   ná   dít-á   tá'ámà   lá.
3PL   HAB   eat.HAB   shea.HAB   DEF
'They always eat the shea nuts fruits.’
b.   À   ná   kin-a   dítá   ságebɔ   tumam   yire.
3SG   ASP   come-HAB   eat.HAB   tz   1PL   house
'S/he has been coming to our house to eat tz.'
c.   Wàsimááni   lá   ná   kin-a   yú'úŋɔ   gúr-a   sùkúú   lá.
watchman   DEF   ASP   come.HAB   night   wait.HAB   school   DEF
'The watchman has been coming to keep watch over the school in the night.'2

The particle is a habitual marker indicating that an action or event occurs regularly.

(35)   a.   Dúnsíímà   lá   ní   lóe   là   sí   yo'e   níí   lá.
shepherds   DEF   ASP   choose   FOC   millet   open   cows   DEF
'The shepherds always take millet to drive the cattle to the field.’
b.   Tù   ní   bùr​ɛ   là   si   déé   nyàà   bùr​ɛ   sùkáám.
1PL   ASP   sow   FOC   millet   CONJ   ASP   sow   peanuts
'We always sow millet and then sow groundnuts.'
c.   Dúnsiimà   lá   ní   l​ɔ​ɔs-a   là   sí   y​ɔ​'​ɔs-a   nii   lá.
shepherds   DEF   ASP   take-HAB   FOC   millet   open-HAB   cows   DEF
'The shepherds always take millet and drive the cows to the field.'
d.   Tù   ní   bùt-a   là   si   déé   nyàà   bùt-à   sùkáám.
1PL   ASP   sow-HAB   FOC   millet   CONJ   ASP   sow-HAB   peanut
'We always sow millet and then sow groudnuts'2


This particle is also a habitual marker and refers to events that a certain person practicses regularly. Moreover, the particle is used frequently in order to denote negative habits of particular people.

(36)   Nayiga   lá   yà'àm   zú   là   bua.
thief   DEF   ASP   steal   FOC   goat
'The thief as usual has stolen the goat.’2

The particle nyàà marks the sequence of events and can be translated to then.

(37)   E   pa'al​ɛ​   ba'as​ɛ​   là   ti   ko'om   lá   ma'​ɛ​   m​ɛ​   ti   a   nyàà   nyu   bu.
3SG   show   finish   FOC   and   water   DEF   cool   AFF   and   3SG   ASP   drink   it
'By the time he had finished showing the water, it was cold and he then drank it.’


This particle also indicates that an event occurs after another even had happened, but in contrast to the particle nyàà above, the particle lèèm does not indicate that an event is immediately following another event, but rather implies a particular amount of time between the events.

(38)   a.   Bia   lá   s​ɔ   n   si​ŋ​ɛ   va'am   là   ka   lèèm   daam   ka   ma   m​ɛ.
child   DEF   father   FOC   go   farm   DEF   3SG   ASP   disturb   his   mother   FOC
'When the child's father left for the farm she later disturbed her mother.’
b.   Bia   lá   san   di   ba'as​ɛ   a   lèèm   gura   dusi.
child   DEF   COND   eat   finish   3SG   ASP   watch   animals
'If the child finishes eating he should keep watching over the animals.'2

This aspectual particle expresses rather and indicates that something had happened against previous expectations.

(39)   a.   Tíndááná   lá   túgúm   kááb​ɛ   là   nááfú   gee   dagi   pesego   lá.
land.priest   DEF   ASP   sacrifice   FOC   cow   CONJ   not   sheep   DEF
'The land priest rather sacrificed a cow but not the sheep.’
b.   Budaa   lá   tugum   ŋm​ɛ​'​ɛ​ra   là   a   p​ɔgesarega   lá   gee   dagi   kiima   lá.
man   DEF   ASP   beat.HAB   FOC   3SG   wife.junior   DEF   but   not   senior   DEF
'The man unexpectedly beat his junior wife but no the senior wife.'


This particle indicates that an action is necessarily performed due to the lack of alternatives.

(40)   Budaa   lá   yɛrúm   di   là   p​ɔgebalorego   lá.
man   DEF   ASP   eat   FOC   woman.ugly   DEF
'The man married the ugly woman (necesarily).’2

This particle expresses that an action, which was expected not to happen, indeed or surprisingly happened.

(41)   Pugela   lá   ti   ba   yeti   ka   kan   ele   là   ka   yí   ele   yá.
girl   DEF   COMP   3PL   say   3SG   NEG   marry   FOC   3SG   ASP   marry   COMPL
'The girl that they said she will not marry, she instead got married.’2

Negation particles

This particle is a negative past marker that occurs immediately before the finite verb. The following example illustrates this position by comparing a positive clause with its negated counterpart.

(42)   a.   Budibela   lá   ki​ŋ​ɛ   da'a.
boy   DEF   go   market
'The boy went to the market.’
b.   Budibela   lá   kà   ki​ŋ​ɛ   da'a.
boy   DEF   NEG.PST   go   market
'The boy did not go to the market.'2


This particle is the counterpart to and indicates negation in the future.

(43)   a.   Ba   kán   bóbé   na'am   lá   zina.
3PL   NEG.FUT   tie   chief DEF   today
'They will not install the chief today.’
b.   À   kán   i​ŋ​​ɛ.
3SG   NEG.FUT   do
'S/he will not do it.'2

This negative particle is used for negation in imperatives.

(44)   a.   Dá   kíŋ​​é   búgúm   lá.
NEG.IMP   put.off   fire   DEF
'Do not quench the fire!'
b.   Bà   dá   kíŋ​​é   búgúm   lá.
3PL   NEG.IMP   put.off   fire   DEF
'They should not quench the fire.'2

The particle dagi denotes the absence of a relation between two entities.

(45)   a.   À   de   là   mam   s​ɔ.
3SG   COP   FOC   1SG   father
'He is my father.’
b.   À   dagi   1SG   father.
3SG   NEG   1SG   father
'He is not my father.'2

Emphatic particle

The emphatic particle in Guren​ɛ​ is sìrùm and is used to emphasize that something actually had happened as in (28a) or will happen, if it is combined with the future tense particle wán as in (38b).

(46)   a.   Tata   lá   sìrùm   da'   yire.
rich.person   DEF   EMPF   buy   house
'The wealthy person actually bought a house.’
b.   Kaareba   lá   wán   sìrùm   k​ɔ   naba   kua   lá.
farmers   DEF   FUT   EMPH   weed   chief   farm  DEF
'The farmers will certainly weed the chief's farm.'2

Epistemic particles

Epistemic particles in Guren​ɛ indicate whether a given expression is true or not, whether it is probably true or not and whether it is speculated or not.


This particle is used in cases in which the occurence of an event is proposed, but not verified.

(47)   Kpáná   lá   zí'ím   kí​​ŋɛ   là   nayire.
Linguist   DEF   EPIST   go   FOC   palace
'The chief's linguist is probably gone to the palace.’


This particle is similar to zí'ím and can be translated to may or might in English.

(48)   Fu   nà'àm   ti'is​ɛ   ti   mam   di   m​ɛ.
2SG   EPIST   think   COMP   1SG   eat   AFF
'You might think that I have eaten.’2


This particle is used in order to express the certainty of an event or action.

(49)   Saana   lá   bà'àsum   kule   là   yire.
visitor   DEF   EPIST   go.home   FOC   house
'The visitor certainly have gone home.’2

Purpose particle

This particle indicates that an action or event is performed intentionally.

(50)   Bia   lá   kíŋ​​​ɛ   ta   di   sageb​ɔ.
child   DEF   go   PURP   eat   tz
'The child went to eat tz.’

Main Verb

The verb in Gurenɛ expresses state, activity and process. It consists of an obligatory stem or root, which may take one or more suffixes. 2
Each verb has two forms, a perfective and an imperfective form. The perfective form has the suffix -ri and the imperfective form the suffix -ra. The imperfective form is used if something lasts or happened in the past, while the perfective form is used for expressions in the present. Both suffixes can vary in its consonant, but the vowel is specifically encoding aspect. The following table gives an overview of the most frequent verbs and its conjugation in Gurenɛ.3

Root/Stem/Infinitive Perfective -ri Imperfective -ra
(single) closed event open event
Gurenɛ Gloss follows Object/Adverb follows Pronominal
nyu drink nyuuri nyuura
da' buy da'ari da'ara
lebe return leberi lebera
dikɛ take dikɛri dikɛra
pagesɛ imitate pagaesɛri pagaesra
pa'alɛ teach pa'ali pa'ala
di eat diti dita
darɛ disturb dati data
parɛ be a lot pati pata
kiŋɛ go kini kina
siŋɛ walk sini sina
sigum come down sigeni sigena

Postverbal Particles

In general, there are five particles that occur postverbally, one particle each for tense, focus, affirmative, completive and directional aspect. They are ordered relatively simple as compared to the bunch of preverbal particles, also shown in (14). The maximum number of postverbal particles is constrained to two, thus similarly to the preverbal particles it is not possible to have a combination of all postverbal particles within one clause.

Tense particle

This particle is also a tense particle, but the only one that occurs postverbally. It denotes events and actions that happened not that long ago prior to the speech time.

(43)   a.   Mám   pà​ɛ   nì   là   tì   á   dì-ti   m​ɛ.
1SG   arrive   PST   FOC   COMP   3SG   eat.IPFV   AFF
'When I arrived he was eating.’
b.   Sáámà   lá   wá'àm   nì   là   bùlìkà.
visitors   DEF   come   PST   FOC   morning
'The visitors came in the morning.'
c .   À   kíŋ​​​ɛ   nì.
3SG   go   PST
'S/he had gone.'2

Focus particle

This particle is possibly one of the most interesting particles in Guren​ɛ, since it realizes a number of grammatical functions. Its main function is to mark focus on elements it immediately follows, i.e. the verb. Note that there are further focus markers such as ti as in (3a), n as in (3b) and m​ɛ as in the following subpart of this section. According to Atintono (2011), these other focus marker need further investigation, since their difference to is still an open issue.

(52)   a.   À   yè'èsè   là   zí'an.
3SG   go.IPFV   FOC   place
'S/he is going to some place.’
b.   N   ​​ŋmɛ   là   é​ŋá.
1.SG   beat   FOC   3SG.ACC
'I beat him.'2

Another function is to mark definiteness as a number of present examples illustrate, so this particle can either be a marker of definiteness or function as a demonstrative pronoun or determiner, respectively. Outside of the VP the particle can additionally function as a coordination between two NPs, as shown in the following example. Depending on its grammatical function the tone on the particle changes, such that as a definite marker it has a high tone, whereas it has a low tone if it is used as a focus marker.

(53)   a.   B​ʊráa   la   p​ɔka.
man   CONJ   woman
'A Man and a woman.’
b.   Bʊráasi   bàta   la   p​ɔka.
man.PL   three   CONJ   woman
'Three men and a woman.'
c.   Bʊráasi   bàta   lá   la   p​ɔka.
man.Pl   three   DEF   CONJ   woman
'The three men and a woman.'4

Aspectual particles


This particle marks affirmatives, but can also be used to mark focus, mainly contrastive focus.

(54)   a.   À   di   m​ɛ.
3SG   eat   AFF/FOC
'S/he ate.’
b.   Ba   kule   m​ɛ.
3PL   go.home   AFF/FOC
'They have gone home.'
c.   Bua   lá   ki   m​ɛ.
goat   DEF   die   AFF/FOC
'The goat is dead.'2

The particle denotes completion and is the only postverbal particle that cannot cooccur with imperfective verbs.

(55)   a.   À   dí   yá.
3SG   eat.PFV   COMPL
'S/he ate.’
b.   *À   dí-tí   yá.
3SG   eat.IPFV   COMPL
'*S/he was eating.'
c.   À   wá'   yá.
3SG   dance.PFV   COMPL
'S/he danced.'
d.   *À   wá'a-rì   yá.
3SG   dance.IPFV   COMPL
'*S/he was dancing.'2

This final particle is used as a directional marker and can be used in addition to local adverbials such as kalam in (56).

(56)   a.   À   wá'àm   nà   kalam.
3SG   come.PFV   DIR   here
'S/he should come here.’
b.   Saana   lá   páám   nà   mam   yire.
stranger   DEF   reach.PFV   DIR   1SG   house
'The visitor arrived in my house.'
c.   Pugela   lá   wá'àm   nà   ele   là   mam   dayua.
girl   DEF   come.PFV   DIR   marry   FOC   1SG   son
'The girl came and married my son.'2

Question Formation

Questions can be formed by either an ex situ or an in situ strategy, they can be embedded or extracted and multiple questions are also possible depending on certain conditions.

Main Question words3

Gurenɛ Gloss
-lɛ, se-, ŋwani, ŋwana how much
ŋwani, ŋwana how
.. isn't it?
bíi, kóo or
bem, bini, bɛ, bɛsa where
bem, bem sɔi, bem basɛ why
daandina, ŋwani, ŋwana when
-na which
se- which one
bem, beni, bɛ, ŋwani, ŋwana what is it that ..
-ni, -na who
-ni, -na, beni, bem, bɛ what

Ex situ

Ex situ questions are formed in cases in which the question word represents the subject or functions as the agent of the clause, respectively. Thereby the strict SVO order in Gurenɛ is obeyed.

(57)   a.   Ani   n   tum?
who   FOC   work.PFV
'Who worked?’
b.   Ani   n   tun-i?
who   FOC   work-IPFV
'Who is working?'

In situ

Mostly, questions in Gurenɛ are formed by a raising intonation of the final tone, such that a high-low contour is generated as in (58a).

(58)   a.   Fʊ   nyɛ ʔí-ì?
2SG   see 3SG-Q
'Did you see him?’
b.   Fʊ   n   nyɛ   ʔí.
2SG   FOC   see   3SG
'You saw him.'3


In embedded contexts, the question is preceded by the complementizer and depending on whether a question word is present, the order is CQVO or CSVO, respectively.

(59)   a.   Má   m sokè   ʔì   tí   3SG   nyɛ   Ádʊŋɔ.
1SG   FOC   ask   3SG   C   3SG   see   Adongo
'I asked him whether he had seen Adongo.’
b.   Má   m   sokè ʔì   lá-à   ánɪ   tì   à   nyɛ-ɛ`.
1SG   FOC   ask   3SG   TOP-Q   whom   C   3SG   see-Q
'I asked him whom he saw.'3

Multiple Questions

It is possible to form a question with more than one question word, such that one question word occurs ex situ in subject position and the other one(s) in situ. (60b) is marked as ungrammatical, because the question word beni does not represent the subject of the clause, but occurs in subject position and because the second question word occurs preverbally, whereas it could only occur postverbally due to the strict SVO word order.

(60)   a.   Ani   n   da   (*là)   beni?
who   FOC   buy.PFV   FOC   what
'Who bought what?’
b.   *Beni   ti   ani   da?
what   FOC   who   buy.PFV
'*What bought who?'
c.   Napari   *(n)   da   yire.
Napari   FOC   buy.PFV   house
'Napari bought a house.'

Long distance extraction

In Gurenɛ the question word can occur in several different positions within the clause, such that it can also cross clause boundaries. The following examples illustrate different positions, in which the question word can appear.

(61)   a.   Ama   n   soke   ni   ti   beni   ti   John   k​õregɛ.
Ama   FOC   ask.PFV   ASP   COMP   what   FOC   John   slaughter
'Ama asked what John slaughtered.’
b.   Ama   soke   ti   John   k​õregɛ   là   beni.
Ama   ask.PFV   COMP   John   slaughter   FOC   what
'Ama asked what John slaughtered.'
c.   Ama   n   soke   sɛla   ti   John   k​õregɛ   *(là)   (yele).
Ama   FOC   say.PFV   something   COMP   John   slaughter.PFV   FOC   case
'Ama asked what John slaughtered.'
d.   Peter   yeli   John   k​õregɛ   là   nua.
Peter   say.PFV   John   slaughter.PFV   FOC   fowl
'Peter said John slaughtered fowl.'

(62)   a.   Beni   ti   Ama   soke   ti   John   k​õregɛ   ya   *(là).
what   FOC   Ama   ask   COMP   John   slaughter   COMPL   FOC
'What did Ama ask that John slaughtered?’
b.   Beni   ti   Ama   spoke   ti   John   k​õregɛ-ri/-*ra   ya   *(là)?
what   FOC   Ama   ask   COMP   John   slaughter-IPFV   COMPL   FOC
'What did Ama ask that John is slaughtering?'
c.   Beni   ti   Ama   bɔta   ti   John   k​õregɛ ?
what   FOC   Ama   want   COMP   John   slaughter
'What did Ama ask that John slaughtered?'


  • 1. Bodomo, Adams, Hasiyatu Abubakari & Samuel Alhassan Issah (2020): Handbook of the Mabia Languages of West Africa. Glienicke: Galda Verlag 
  • 2. Atintono, Samuel (2011): Verb Morphology: Phrase structure in a Gur Language (Gurenɛ). Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing 
  • 3. M. E. Kropp-Dakubu (2009): Parlons farefari (gurenè): langue et culture de Bolgatanga (Ghana) et ses environs. Paris: L`Harmattan 
  • 4. M. E. Kropp-Dakubu (2000): The particle la in Gurene.: Cahiers Voltaïques / Gur Papers 5, 59-65 
  • 5. A. Samuel Atintono (2004): The Gurene verb.: MA Thesis 
  • 6. A. Samuel Atintono (2006): Gurene verbal suffixes: their nature and function.: Cahiers du Cerleshs 25 
  • 7. A. Samuel Atintono (2013): The semantics and grammar of positional verbs in Gurene: a typological perspective. Ph. D. thesis. Manchester: University of Manchester 
  • 8. M. E. Kropp-Dakubu (1991): Notes on the particle la in northwestern oti-volta.: Linguistics Association of Ghana 
  • 9. M. E. Kropp-Dakubu (1996): A Grammar of Gurene . Legon: Language Centre 
  • 10. M. E. Kropp-Dakubu (2003): Aspect agreement constraints in Gurene multi-verb constructions. In: Dorothee Beermann and Lars Hellan (eds.) Proceedings of the workshop on Multi-Verb constructions,Trondheim Summer School 2003. Trondheim: Norwegian University of Science and Technology 
  • 11. M. E. Kropp-Dakubu (2003): Interrogative structures in Farefare.: Cahiers Voltaïques / Gur Papers 5, 59-65 
  • 12. A. E. Nsoh (1997): Some Aspects of Gurene (Farefare) Word Structure. MA Thesis. Legon: University of Ghana 
  • 13. Nancy A. Schaefer (1975): Gurene clause structure. In: Joseph E. Grimes (ed.) Network grammars. Norman: Summer Institute of Linguistics of the University of Oklahoma 

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