Region of the Likpakpaanl language
Region of the Likpakpaanl language
Likpakpaanl is a Mabia language and has 600 000 speakers. It is spoken in the North-Eastern parts of Ghana as well as in Northern Togo. Likpakpaanl has five dialects, including Likoonl (spoken in Gbintiri, Bunbon and around Gushegu), Linafeil (spoken in Wapuli), Ligbenl (spoken in Kujooni), Lichabol (spoken in Saboba, the seat of the traditional capital of Kikpakpaaŋ) and Limonkpeln (spoken in Kpassa, Kpalba and Damonko).1

Linguistic classificiation

  • Niger-Congo
    • Atlantic-Congo
      • Mabia
        • Mabia East
          • Likpakpaanl

Tone System

Likpakpaanl has two-level tones, a high and a low tone as well as a downstep.

Lexical function

(1)   a.   úpíí
b.   úpìì

Likpakpaanl has independent tense and aspectual markers, thus there is no verbal inflection. More information with respect to the verbal system in Likpakpaanl is given below.

(2)   a.   N wíí.
1SG.NOM cry
'I cry.’
b.   N wíí.
'I will cry.'
c.   N wíí.
'I cried. (in the course of the day)'
d.   N nàn wíí.
'I cried. (remote past)'
e.   N wíí
'I cried (yesterday).'

Grammatical Function

Likpakpaanl uses two-level tones; low (⸜) and high (⸝) to distinguish between perfective (3a) & (4a) and habitual aspects (3b) & (4b). The tones do not change regardless of the person specification of the noun or a pronoun.

(3)   a.   N   dàà   lòòr.
1SG   buy.PFV   car
'I have bought a car.’
b.   N   dáá   lòòr-tiib
1SG   buy.HAB   car-PL
'I buy cars regularly.’

(4)   a.   Bì   chèè   ì-mùùl.
3PL   harvest.PFV   NC-rice
'They harvested rice.’
b.   Bì   chéé   ì-mùùl.
3PL   harvest.HAB   NC-rice
'They harvest rice regularly.'

Noun Class System

The noun class system of Likpakpaanl is quite complex. There are seven concord classes, nine prefix classes and 59 suffix classes in this language. Based on their morphology, Winkelmann (2012) classified these noun classes into fifteen classes according to whether they bear singular or plural affixes or even a circumfix.

NC Example(SG) ExamplePL SG Suffix PL Suffix/Circumfix Gloss
1/2 u-ja Bi-ja-b u- bi...-b man
3/4 n-lan i-lan n- i- song
5/6 li-kuu-l ŋi-ku li- ŋi- hoe
14/*ci Bu-su-b i-su-i bu-...-b i-...-i tree
12/21 ki-saa-k ti-saa-r ki-...-k ti-...-r farm
15/22 ki-ju-k n-ju-m ki-...-k n-...-m knife
20 --- - tiwan-kaan --- generic reference
22/23 n-yaa-n --- n-...-n --- salt

Pronominal System

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns in Likpakpaanl are distinguished based on their person, number, and animacy. Besides singular and plural, there is a distinction between [+/- animate] in the third person. Pronouns in Likpakpaanl can also be classified into emphatic or non-emphatic, but gender is not marked. Although pronouns do not differ morphologically between grammatical cases, they can appear in different forms.


These pronouns occur as subjects of a verb and are all monosyllabic. The choice of either m or n as the 1st singular pronoun is phonologically conditioned by the following word.

Person SG PL Gloss
1st n/m I/we
2nd à you/you
3rd +human ù he/she/they
3rd -human ù ì it/they


These pronouns are used as objects in sentences. While the 1st and 2nd person singular postverbal pronouns are morphologically distinct, the 3rd person and the plural counterparts have he same form as the plural preverbal pronouns.

Person SG PL Gloss
1st I/we
2nd you/you
3rd +human ù he/she/they
3rd -human ù ì it/they

Emphatic Pronouns2

Likpakpaanl Emphatic pronouns occur as regular pronouns and, thus and in isolation, pre-verbally or post-verbally. There are no morphological distinctions between emphatic pronouns used in the subject (5a) and object positions (5b) but they always occur with a focus particle.

Person SG PL Gloss
1st mìn tìmì I/we
2nd sìn nìmì you/you
3rd +human ùmà bìmà he/she/they
3rd -human nìmà ìmà it/they

(5)   a.   Mìn   *(lè)   bì   ŋmɔ   ì-mùùl.
1SG.EMPH   FOC   IPFV   eat   NC-rice
‘I am eating rice.’
b.   Francis   bà   tìì   mìn   *(lè)   ì-mùùl.
Francis   PST   give   1SG.EMPH   FOC   NC-rice
'Francis gave ME the rice.'

Reciprocal pronouns2

Likpakpaanl has only one reciprocal pronoun, and that is tͻb which means ‘one another’ or ‘each other’.

(6)   a.   Bὶ   fè   mànn   tͻb   fènnà.
3PL   PST   visit   RECP   yesterday
'They visited each other yesterday.’
b.   Sula   nὶ   Nilimor   gà   tèr   tͻb.
Sula   CONJ   Nilimor   FUT   help   RECP
'Sula and Nilimor will help one another.’

Reflexive Pronouns

Likpakpaanl reflexive pronouns are composed of a suffix reflexiser –bà ‘self’ and a personal pronoun.

Personal Pronoun Suffix Reflexive Pronoun Gloss
m/n -bà 'self' m-bà myself
à -bà 'self' à-bà yourself
ù -bà 'self' ù-bà himself/herself
-bà 'self' tì-bà ourselves
-bà 'self' nì-bà yourselves
-bà 'self' bì-bà themselves (+human)
ì -bà 'self' ì-bà themselves (-human)

Possessive Pronouns

The possessive pronouns in Likpakpaanl correspond to the pre-verbal, non-emphatic pronouns, as sown in (7a). Sometimes, a possessive morpheme àà- can be used, which always prefixes the possessed constituent that immediately follows the pronoun. The circumstances when to use the form in (7b) are still an open issue to investigate.

(7)   a.   N   do.
1SG   house
'My house.’
b.   N’àà-lòòr.
'Your car.'

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns in Likpakpaanl depend on the Noun class prefix of the noun that is relativised. So there is no single lexical item that represents the relative pronoun. We see that in (8a) the relative pronoun is ù because the relativised noun is prefixed by the while in (8b) it changes to ì to reflect the noun class for pigs.

(8)   a.   Ù-bò   ù   dàà   lòòr   nà.
NC-child   REL   buy   car   REL.DET
‘The child who bought a car.’
b.   John   dàà   ì-gbéér   ì   dɔ   dòò   nà.
John   buy   NC-pig   REL   lie   here   REL.DET
'John bought pigs (that) are lying here.'

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns in Likpakpaanl are regulated by the personal pronouns and the NC system. They thus make a morphological difference between the singular and plural forms. Following Acheampong (in prep) the demonstrative pronoun comprises the suffix -mìnà which is attached to the noun class prefix for proximal demonstratives. With distal demonstratives, the personal-prefix precedes the bound morpheme .

Demonstrative Pronoun SG PL Gloss
Proximal ùmìnà ìmìnà this/these
nìmìnà tìmìnà this/these
kìmìnà mùmìnà this/these
Distal ùè íè that/those
nìè nìè that/those
kìè mùè that/those

(9)   a.   Ù-jà   ùmìnà   yè   ù-kpààl  
NC-man   PROX.DEM   COP   NC-farmer   FOC
‘This man is a farmer.’
b.   John   lè   bùn   bù-sùb   bùè.
John   FOC   plant   NC-tree   DIST.DEM
'John planted that tree.'

Interrogative Pronouns3

Interrogative Pronoun Semantic Category Gloss
​ŋ​mà person who
bà​ŋ​à reason why
place where
nìlàn selection which
ì​ŋ​à amount how much
bàdáál time when
kínyé manner how
thing what

Word Order

Likpakpaanl has a basic SVO word order. In (10) an example for an intransitive clause with an adverb is given, and (11) and (12) present examples for a transitive and ditransitive sentence, respectively. Note that the gloss for the verb in (10) and (11) stands for hesternal past.

(10)   Adam   tun fénna.
Adam   HEST.PST   work   yesterday
'Adam worked yesterday.’

(11)   Adam   k​ɔr uk​ɔla   fénna.
Adam   HEST.PST   slaughter   fowl   yesterday
'Adam slaughtered fowl yesterday.’

(12)   Konja   mèè Sam ki-gban din.
Konja   beg.PST   Sam   FOC   NC-book   today
'Konja begged a booked from Sam.’

Verb System

Preverbal Particles

Aspectual Particles

There are dedicated aspectual particles used to express tense relations in Likpakpaanl, which occur preverbally. The imperfective aspect is marked by , but the perfective is morphologically unmarked.4

(13)   Adelina   bì   ŋàr   bù-sùb   tààb.
Adelina   IPFV   sweep   NC-tree   under
‘Adelina is sweeping under the tree.’

The table below illustrates the aspectual particle in conjoint and disjoint contexts, respectively.

Conjoint Disjoint
Imperfective Ù-píí             gbààn           ŋáál-       lòòr.
CL-woman DEF     IMPF drive-CJ      car
'The woman is driving a car.'
Perfective Wáápù wìì-                        lí-búúl gbààn.
Waapu broke.PERF-CJ   CL-pot   DEF
'Wapuul broke the pot.'
M-bìm      gbààn kàrn-à.
CL-child   DEF     read.PERF-DJ
'The children have read.'

Tense Particles

Tense is also morphologically marked by particles, which are used to distinguish between immediate past (14a), remote past (14b), hesternal past (14c), future (14d) and negative future (14e).

(14)   a.   Naajo   bà   kùùr   kì-sààk   gbààn.
Naajo   PST   weed   NC-farm   DEF
'Naajo weeded the farm.’
b.   Naajo   nàn   kùùr   kì-sààk   gbààn.
Naajo   PST   weed   NC-farm   DEF
'Naajo weeded the farm.’
c.   Naajo   fè   kùùr   kì-sààk   gbààn.
Naajo   HEST.PST   weed   NC-farm   DEF
'Naajo weeded the farm (yesterday).’
d.   Naajo   gà   kùùr   kì-sààk   gbààn.
Naajo   FUT   weed   NC-farm   DEF
'Naajo will weed the farm.'
e.   Naajo   ààn   kùùr   kì-sààk   gbààn.
Naajo   NEG.FUT   weed   NC-farm   DEF
'Naajo will not weed the farm.'

Main Verb

Main verbs in Likpakpaanl are not morphologically marked, but particles are used to mark Tense, Aspect and Mood (TAM). Since main verbs do not inflect for TAM in Likpakpaanl, there is no grammatical agreement, since number and person are not marked.


Negation in Likpakpaanl is marked either by the negative particle preceding the negated phrase or by the suffix -á/-àá that attaches pronominally to the subject. There exist also verbs that have a negative meaning like kpá ('to be absent') for instance, such that these verbs can also express negation without further being marked for negation.

(15)   a.   ɲɲím   kpá.
water   be.abenst
'There is no water.’5
b.   ɲɲím   ká   bɛ.
water   NEG   be
'There is no water.'5

Negation via particle

Negation of a declarative

In order to negate a declarative clause, the particle is placed between the subject and the predicate.

(16)   a.   unìɲɟa   májí   w-a-bɔrɪ.
man   tell.IPF   3SG-POSS-things
'A man tells his secrets.’5
b.   unìɲɟa   ká   májí   w-a-bɔrɪ.
man   NEG   tell.IPF   3SG-POSS-things
'A man does not tell his secrets.’5

Negation of a relative clause

Negation of a relative clause is also marked by the negative particle immediately following the relative pronoun. Note that DP is the abbreviation for discourse particle.

(17)   a.   bì   kpa   já?
3PL.REL   own   DP
'those who own?’5
b.   bì   ká   kpa   já?
3PL.REL   NEG   own   DP
'those who do not own?’5

Negation of an imperative

In imperatives, negation is marked by the particle , which also immediately follows the subject. Note that RP in the glossing stands for resumptive pronoun.

(18)   U   tà   lí   ɟo   w-a-bɔrɪ   kɪ   májí.
3SG   NEG   HAB   take.IMP   3SG-POSS-things   RP   tell.IPF
'That he avoids telling his problems.’5

Negation via suffixation

Nominal negation

There are two suffixes marking nominal negation and -àá. The former attaches to first and second person pronouns regardless of its number, while the latter attaches to third person pronouns also regardless of its number. In (19a) the affirmative version to the negation in (19b) is given, whereby the morphological different marking on both pronouns becomes clear. In (20) two examples for second person pronouns marked for negation in each number are given, whereas (21) illustrates the same for third person pronouns in singular and plural.

(19)   a.   M   kaŋí   ubùu.
1SG   see.PFV donkey.DEF
'I saw the donkey.’5
b.   M-á   kaŋí   ubùu.
1SG-NEG   see.PFV donkey.DEF
'I did not see the donkey.’5

(20)   a.   S-á   cùŋ.
2SG-NEG   walk.IPFV
'You are not walking.’5
b.   N-á   cùŋ.
2PL-NEG   walk
'You all are not walking.'5

(21)   a.   l-àá   kpa   íféè-
3SG-NEG   have.IPFV   wings
'She (the dove) has no wings.’5
b.   B-àá   kaŋí   nlem.
3PL-NEG   see.PFV   pearls
'They (the girls) have not found their pearls.'5

Double Negation

In Likpakpaanl, it is possible to combine two negative particles like and in order to express negation with respect to tense. These two combined particles for instance correspond to the negative denotation of the future translated as 'not anymore'. Both particles occur together, such that there is no intervening element between both negative particles.

(22)   Bɪsapɔmb   ń   cà   kà   bɪnɪbɪ   ká   kɪ   weji   ɲɲím.
CL-girl.PL   FOC   let   COMP   man.PL   NEG   NEG   swim   water
'(It's the girls) who made men not swimming anymore.’5

Question Formation

Questions in Likpakpaanl can be formed by an ex situ as well as an in situ strategy.

Ex situ

In ex situ contexts, the question word appears sentence-initially obeying the word order QVO.

(23)   ​ŋmà   Konja mèè ki-gban?
who   FOC   Konja   beg.PST   NC-book
'Who did Konja beg a book from?'

(24)   Ba Konja mèè?
what   FOC   Konja   beg.PST  
'What did Konja beg for?’

In situ

In in situ contexts the question word appears sentence-finally according to the word order SVQ as in (25). There is also the option of an in situ question marker as in (26).

(25)   Konja mèè ​ŋmà ki-gban?
Konja   beg.PST   who   NC-book
'Who did Konja beg a book from?’

(26)   Adam nán dàà uk​ɔla   aa?
Adam   PST   buy.PST   fowl Q
'Did Adam buy fowl?’


In embedded questions the question word again can occur ex situ and in situ, but the question itself is embedded under the complementizer ke.

(27)   Ama   bae ke   John   k​ɔr.
Ama   ask.PST   COMP   what   John   slaughter.PFV
'Ama asked what John slaughtered.’

(28)   Peter   len ke   John   k​ɔr bà?
Peter   say.PST   COMP   John   slaughter.PFV   what
'What did Peter say that John slaughtered?’

Multiple Questions

Questions involving more than one question word can also be formed either by an in situ strategy or by an ex situ strategy. In (29a) both question words appear in situ, while in (29b) one question word occurs ex situ and the other one in situ.

(29)   a.   Konja   mèè ​ŋmà bà?
Konja   beg.PST   who what
'Who did Konja beg what from?’
b.   Konja   mèè ​ŋmà?
what FOC   Konja   beg.PST   who
'What did Konja beg from whom?'


  • 1. Acheampong, Samuel Owoahene, Samuel Awinkene Atintono and Samuel Alhassan Issah (2019): The morpho-syntax characterization of Likpakpaanl reflexive pronouns.: Journal of West African Languages, 122-141 
  • 2. Acheampong, Samuel Owoahene (2015): Reflexivisation in Likpakpaanl. MPhil Thesis. Winneba: University of Education 
  • 3. Issah, Samuel Alhassan & Samuel Owoahene Acheampong   (2021): Interrogative pronouns in Dagbani and Likpakpaanl.: Ghana Journal of Linguistics 10(2), 30-57 
  • 4. Bisilki, A. K., & Akpanglo-Nartey, R. A. (2017): Noun pluralisation as a dialect marker in Likpakpaln-’Konkomba’.: Journal of West African Languages, 44(2), 24–42 
  • 5. Gbandi Adouna (2009): Description phonologique et grammaticale du Konkomba - Langue Gur du Togo et du Ghana - Parler de Nawaré. Ph. D. thesis. Rennes : Université Rennes 2 
  • 6. Bisilki, A. K. (2022): Focus marking and dialect divergence in Līkpākpáln (Konkomba). DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.6393744.: Zenodo 
  • 7. Anne Schwarz (2007): The particles lé and lá in the grammar of Konkomba.: Interdisciplinary Studies on Information Structure 8, 115-139 
  • 8. Anne Schwarz (2009): How many focus markers are there in Konkomba?. In: Masangu Matondo (ed.) Selected Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference on African Linguistics. Sommerville: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, 182-192 
  • 9. Kerstin Winkelmann (2012): D4. Konkomba (Likpakpaln). In: G. Miehe, B. Reineke & K. Winkelmann Noun class systems in Gur languages Vol. 4: North Central Gur Languages. Cologne: Köppe, 472-486 

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Page last modified on Saturday August 19, 2023 16:31:24 CEST by Ates.