Table of contents
- Linguistic classificiation
- Tone System
- Noun Class System3
- Pronominal System
- Word Order
- Verb System
- Question Formation
- Mabia East
- Mabia East
There are seven dialects in Sisaali.1
Changes in tone can lead to grammatical differences, such that tone differences are responsible for aspect changes. Thus, depending on the tones, a clause is either in perfective or imperfective form. The tonal pattern for imperfectives and perfectives is given in the table below, whereby * indicates an harmonizing vowel. While the imperfective form serves as a basic form, the perfective form involves an harmonizing final vowel and may be subject to lengthening of the final vowel as well2 .
Additionally, the examples in (1a) and (1b) compare the tonal pattern for imperfective and perfective aspect. Note that the exclamation mark indicates a downstep tone.
Noun Class System3
|Class||Singular Marker||Plural Marker||Singular Noun||Plural Noun||Gloss|
|1||-+V/-∅||+Vowel (+ATR)/-ATR)||gaal-ɩ, hↄ́l, suwoŋ, nɛl||gaal-a, hↄl-ↄ, suwon-o, nɛl-ɛ||thief, charcoal, bean, person|
|2||-+V/-∅||-hi/hɩ||gbaɲ-a, bↄgↄ, bie, kuori||gbaɲ-hɩ, bↄgↄ-hɩ, bii-hi, kuori-hi||calabash, farm, child, chief|
|3||-∅||-ni/nɩ||kpaha, vaha, nyu, fo||kpahɩ-nɩ, vahɩ-nɩ, nyu-ni, fo-ni||chair, dog, head, river|
|4||+consonant (l)||-lɩ||kↄlaa, sↄmpↄlaa, hakila, fↄkↄlↄ||kↄↄl-lɩ, sↄmpↄↄl-lɩ, hakil-lɩ, fↄkↄl-lɩ||mouse, toad, mind, streams|
|5||-∅||-ma||kuwo, naa, yila, hila||kuwo-ma, naa-ma, yila-ma, hila-ma||father, mother, aunt, In-law|
The personal pronouns in Sisaali have the same morphological form regardless of whether they are used as subjects or objects. There is only one exception. The first person plural pronoun changes if it is used as an object and interestingly has the same morphological form as the second person plural pronoun, which contrastingly has the same form for subject or object pronouns. The only option to disambiguate between the first person plural object pronoun and the second person plural pronouns relies on the given context.3
|Person||Subject Pronoun||Object Pronoun|
|1st SG||ŋ 'I'||ŋ 'me'|
|2nd SG||ɩ 'you'||ɩ 'you'|
|3rd SG||ʋ‘he, she, it’||ʋ‘him, her, it’|
|1st PL||à ‘we’||mà ‘us’|
|2nd PL||mà 'you'||mà 'you'|
|3rd PL||ba 'they'||ba 'them'|
In order to express possessives in Sisaali, no additional pronoun form is required, but juxtaposing the possessor and the possessum. The possessor is a pre-nominal element modifying the possessum, which in turn is the head of the NP.
'Their house.’3 |
'Amina's food.’3 |
Reflexive pronouns are formed by a personal pronoun and the morphem tɩɩ ('self').3
|3rd SG||ʋtɩɩ||himself, herself, itself|
|1st PL||atɩɩ (*matɩɩ)||ourselves|
Reciprocal pronouns in Sisaali have the same morphological form as the reflexive pronouns and are thus ambiguous with respect to their interpretation either as a reflexive or reciprocal pronoun. Reciprocal pronouns however always need a plural antecedent, while this is not the case for reflexive pronouns.3
'Issah and Amina like each other/themselves.’3 |
'They helped each other/themselves.’3 |
Demonstratives in Sisaali are mainly postnominal elements, that have deictic features and appear in two forms. The proximal form is used when the referent is close to the speaker, as in (6a), while the distal form is used in cases in which the referent is far away from the speaker, as in (6b). The demonstratives nʋ and hʋ in the following example are from the Kpatolie dialect.
'This man is my father’s friend.’|
'That dog barks a lot.’3 |
In the Kpatolie dialect the demonstratives are not sensitive to number, thus they have the same morphological form regardless of singular or plural referents. A similar pattern can be observed in the Paasaal and Gbieni dialects, in which the demonstratives also have the same form independent of number. This is illustrated in the following examples.
'This woman sells rice at the market.'|
'These women sell rice at the market.'3 |
In the Bʋwaalɩ dialect on the other hand, demonstratives do inflect for number, such that there is a singular morphological form as well as a plural morphological form for demonstratives, which is shown in the example below.
'This woman is my aunt.’|
These women are my aunts.'3 |
The relative pronoun in Sisaali is àà and there is no distinction between human vs. non-human or in terms of animacy, the relative pronoun always has the same morphological form. This is similar to Dagaare, that also has only one relative pronoun for all relativized elements.
'The boy who killed that cat came here.’3 |
In (10), the affirmative as well as the negative forms of some indefinite pronouns are given.
Similar to the other Mabia languages, Sisaali has a strict SVO word order. This can be seen in an intransitive clause involving an adverb as in (11), in a transitive clause involving a PP as in (12), and in a ditransitive clause as in (13).
'Luki worked today.’|
'We built a house in our village.’|
'Haluki gave Hamua a pot’|
Sisaali makes use of aspectual particles in order to express tense relations. The particle jaŋ is the aspectual particle encoding future as in (14a), the particle fa corresponds to the perfective form, as in (14b), and the imperfective is expressed by the particle faa. If the future particle and the perfective particle co-occur, they express a conditional, as in (14c).
'I will come.’|
'I had come. '|
'I would have come.'2|
In imperfective contexts, if a pronoun precedes the verb, the pronoun is lengthened and the particle “nɛ” is attached phrase-finally as a stress marker or focus marker, respectively.2 This is illustrated in the contrast between the perfective form in (15a) and the imperfective form in (15b).
'He went to the market.’|
'He is going to the market.'2|
In imperfective contexts, in which there is no pronoun preceding the verb, there are two different aspectual imperfective markers, nɩɩ or ka, which is accompanied by the focus marker nɛ. These are used in positive contexts, as the following example illustrates.
'The woman is going to the market.’|
'The woman is going to the market.'2|
In negative imperfective contexts, the negation particle bɩ precedes the object, which in turn precedes the verb. Interestingly, in negative imperfective context the word order changes from SVO to subject > negation > object > verb, thus to SOV. The example in (17) demonstrates the changed word order and that the imperfective marker ka is optionally accompanied by the focus marker.
'The woman is not going to the market.’|
'The woman is not going to the market.'2|
Other particles that occur preverbally in Sisaali correspond to temporal and adverbial particles, respectively. The table below provides an overview of the most common particles.
In positive contexts, the particle occurs between the subject and the verb, while in negative contexts it follows the subject, but precedes the negation, which in turn changes the word order to SOV. Thus, in negative contexts, the particle precedes both the negation and the verb. This is shown in the example in (18)
'He always goes home.’|
'He never goes home.'2|
There is the option to have a sequence consisting of two motion verbs, as in the example below. One motion verb immediately precedes the other motion verb, such that there can be no additional element intervening between both verbs.
'He is walking home slowly.’2|
There are three auxiliary verbs kɛŋ ('have') in (20), joŋ ('take') in (21) and (22), and kʋ ('come'), that obligatorily precede the verb. According to Frempong (2015), auxiliaries can also precede the complement of the verb.
'He took his friend home.’2|
'He put the pot on the ground.’2|
'He gave food to his friend.’2|
It is possible in Sisaali to have a range of verbs in a serial verb construction, in which no other particle can intervene.2
'Run and give it to him.’2 |
Negation in Sisaali is expressed by the particle bɩ, which occurs in general between the subject and the predicate, but after Tense and Aspect particles.
There exist several intransitive verbs in Sisaali that do not take the perfective form, when they are negated as in (24). Instead, these verbs take the infinitive form.
Negation of a declarative
Negation is marked by the particle bɪ. The word order in a negated declarative clause is S-NEG-OV. The particle can co-occur with other preverbal particles like tense and aspectual markers, whereby the negative particle immediately follows a tense particle giving rise to the order of Tense-Negation-Aspect for preverbal particles.
Negation of an imperative
In order to negate an imperative, the particle sí is used instead of the particle bɪ. Importantly, the particle sí is used in imperatives only. In some dialects of Sisaali, the particle ta is the negative particle used in imperatives, as in (27).
'Don't write the letter!’2 |
'Don't eat fufu!'|
Due to the word order being SVO, most of the questions in Sisaali are built by an ex situ strategy. The question word occurs clause-initially and replaces the object in (28a) and the subject in (29a), respectively.
'What did Haluki give to Hamua?’|
'Haluki gave Hamua a pot.'|
'Who did Haluki give a pot?’|
'Hamua gave Haluki a pot.'|
A declarative clause can be transformed into a question by lengthening of the final vowel, such that no additional question word is required. This case corresponds to echo-questions.
'He went home.’|
'Did he go home?'4|
The question word can also be embedded in a subordinated clause, where it appears clause-finally as in (31).
'Haluki said that Baluki slaughtered what?’|
'Pita said that John slaughtered a fowl.'|
Questions with more than one question word are theoretically possible, but not very acceptable by native speakers.
'Who bought what?’|
'Who bought what?'|
Long distance extraction
The question word in Sisaali can occupy several different positions within the clause, such that long distance extraction is possible. It can stay in its base position as in (33a), move to the edge of the embedded clause in (33b) or raise to the clause-initial position as in (33c).
'Haluki said that Baluki slaughtered what?’|
'Haluki asked: What did Baluki slaughter?'|
'What did Haluki say that Baluki slaughtered?'|
- 1. Moran, Steven Paul (2006): A grammatical sketch of Isaalo (Western Sisaala). MA Thesis. Master´s thesis: Eastern Michigan University, https://commons.emich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://en.wikipedia.org/&httpsredir=1&article=1072&context=theses
- 2. Margrit Frempong (2015): Grammar Analysis - Sisaaliŋ Tumuluŋ. Ghana: SILDEP/GILLBT, 1-29
- 3. Mustapha, Nuuratu (2018): The morpho-syntax of the noun phrase in Sisaali. MA Thesis. Accra: University of Ghana, Legon
- 4. missing bibliography definition
- 5. Blass, Regina (1989): Baa in Sissala—truth-conditonal or non—truth-conditonal particle?. In: Harald Weydt (ed.), Sprechen mit Partikeln. Berlin: De Gruyter
- 6. Blass, Regina (1989): Grammaticalisation of interpretive use: The case of rɛ in Sissala.: Lingua, 79. 299-326
- 7. Blass, Regina (1990): Relevance relations in discourse: a study with special reference to Sissala. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
- 8. Fembeti, Samuel, Stuart McGill and Michael Toupin (1999): A grammar of Sisaala-Pasaale. Accra: Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon