Akan Teleteaching Course

Unit 1.7: Notes on grammar

Purpose of "Notes on grammar"

I. Word classes in Akan

Most words of Unit 1 belong to one of the following word classes: nouns, verbs, pronouns.
- Nouns are, e.g., agya 'father', owura 'Mister, Sir', onua 'sibling', edn 'name'. Proper names such as Kwaku, Abenaa also count as nouns.
- Verbs are, e.g., fr 'call', firi 'come from'. 

In Unit 1, we encounter the pronoun me which refers to the first person singular 'I, me,my'.

Orthography note: me occurring before a noun with the meaning 'my' is written as a separate word:
me dn
my name

Orthography note: me occurring at the beginning of a verb and meaning 'I' is written in one word together with the verb. It is called a personal prefix.
me- firi [mfr]
I- come from

II. The structure of nouns

1. Prefix + stem

Nouns consist of two parts, a nominal prefix (npr) and anominal stem (nst). For example:
o- nua 'sibling'
npr nst
a- gya 'father'
npr nst

The nominal prefix consists of one of the following vowels:
e- (or -, depending on vowel harmony)
e- dn 'name'
- m [m] 'rice'

o- (or -, depending on vowel harmony)
o- nua 'sibling'
- w 'snake'
a-: a- dwuma 'work'
n-: n- s 'alcoholic beverage'

Some nouns of this class occur without an overt prefix. The prefix in such cases may be considered to be 'zero'. These nouns may be said to have a 0=prefix.
kaa 'car'
0- nst

Very often, though not always, the prefix of the singular form and of the plural form of a noun are different

-> Singular/plural formation (4.4.)

2. Stem + suffix

A subclass of nouns denoting humans, mostly serving to identify a person's origin, his or her membership in a group, or his or her function in society, are composed of the nominal stem followed by thenominal suffix -n:
Asante- n 'Asante person'
dorba- n 'driver'

Some nouns have both a prefix and a suffix:
o- buro  -n 'white person'
a- buro- -fo() 'white persons'

Note on transcription: In the first units of this course, the boundaries between stem and prefix or suffix will be shown by hyphens.
However, in the Akan standard orthography (see Dolphyne 1988) these boundaries are never marked. For instance, the last word above appears as oburoni in the orthography.

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