Akan Teleteaching Course

Unit 3.6: Notes on grammar 2


The negative prefix

The Akan sentence is negated by prefixing a low-toned nasal prefix m-, n-to the verb stem (cf. Optative in Unit 6). While the nasal prefix has a low tone, the last syllable of the verb stem has always a high tone. The negative nasal prefix is homorganic with the initial consonant of the verb stem: the place of articulation of the nasal assimilates to the (bilabial, post-dental or velar) place of articulation of the following consonant (cf. Nasal 'n' in final position in Unit 1).

The form of the negative

The negative prefix is
written pronounced before… (initial consonant of the verb)
m- m- m, p, b, f
n- n- n, w, t, d, s, h, y, ky, tw, gy, dw, hy, hw
n- - k, g, h, w

If the initial consonant of the verb is a voiced plosive (i.e. b, d, g, dw, gy), it is assimilated to the nasal, i.e. it is itself pronounced as the corresponding nasal consonant:
sequence written pronounced example
m+b mm- mm- m+ba -> mma [mma]
n+d nn- nn- n+d -> nni [nn]
n+g ng- - n+gu -> ngu [u]
n+gy nny- nny- n+gya -> nnya [nnya]
n+dw ndw- nnw- n+dwo -> ndwo [nnwo]

The use of the negative

The simple negative form serves to negate the present habitual, the stative, the progressive, the future and the imperative. The degree to which a statement is true will be expressed by different adverbs in the affirmative (e.g. paa 'very much', yie 'well', kakra 'a little') and in the negative koraa "(not) at all".

For illustration: A list of verbs in the affirmative and in the negative forms

Affirmative Negative
ba to come mma not to come
bo to beat mmo not to beat
da to sleep nna not to sleep
da ase to give thanks nna ase not to give thanks
de to be called nne not to be called
di to eat nni not to eat
d to love nn not to love
dware to bath, shower ndware not to bath, shower
fa to take mfa not to take
fr to come from mfiri not to come from
fr to call mfr not to call
goro to play ngoro not to play
gye to receive nnye not to receive
gu to pour ngu not to pour
h to see nhu not to see
hw to look at nhw not to look
hy to put on nhy not to put on
ka to say, speak nka not to say, speak
k to go nk not to go
ky to give freely nky not to give freely
kyre to stay long, delay nkyre not to stay long, delay
kyer to teach, show nkyer not to teach, show
ma to give mma not to give
mee to be full, satisfied mmee not to be full, satisfied
noa to cook nnoa not to cook
nom to drink nnom not to drink
nya to get nnya not to get
p to like mp not to like
pra to sweep mpra not to sweep
sa to dance nsa not to dance
so to be big, large nso not to be big, large
su to cry nsu not to cry
te to pluck nte not to pluck
te to live (at a place) nte not to live (at a place)
te to hear nte not to hear
to to throw nto not to throw
twa to cut ntwa not to cut
twe to pull ntwe not to pull
twer to write ntwer not to write
y to do ny not to do
y to be ny not to be
w 1. to be; 2. to have nni 1. not to be, 2. not to have

Go on to Notes on grammar 3 (List of tenses)

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