Akan Teleteaching Course

Unit 5.5: Notes on grammar 1


Adjectives (cf. table 3 in Unit 2) are used in two ways:

1. As an attribute to a noun, e.g.:
onipa kse a great, important person
abfra pa a good child
kaa kk a red car

2. As a predicate:
Onipa yi y kse. This person is great/important.
Ataade yi y f. This dress is nice.
Kofi kaa no y kk. Kofi's car is red.

2a. Monosyllabic adjectives, with the exception of 'pa' (good), are only used predicatively:
d sweet, delicious
den hard, difficult
f nice, beautiful
hye hot
mmer soft, easy, weak
tan ugly
ten long, high

y d. It is sweet.
Nkwan no y d. The soup is delicious.
Ne 'bo y den. It's expensive (= its price is hard).
y f. It is nice.
Ne h y f. (S)he is beautiful (= his/her body is beautiful).
Ne h y tan. (S)he is ugly (= his/her body is ugly).

3. Many adjectives distinguish a simple, a reduplicated and a triplicated form. The simple form is only used predicatively (see above 2a.) The reduplicated form is used attributively. If used predicatively, it expresses intensity "very X". The triplicated form marks intensity, or, compared to the reduplicated form, increased intensity ("very, very X").
Simple form Reduplication Triplication Meaning
1. d dd (predicate)/dd (attribute) ddd/ddd sweet, delicious
2. den denden dendenden/dennennen hard, difficult
3. f ff (predicate)/ff (attribute) fff nice, beautiful
4. fo fofo fofoofo cheap
5. hye hyehye hyehyeehye hot
6. nwunu nwununwunu nwununwununwunu cold
7. kete(wa) ketekete(wa) keteketekete(wa) little, small
8. mmer mmermmer mmermmermmer soft, easy, weak
9. pa papa papaapa good (as to character)
10. tan tantan tantantan ugly
11. ten tenten tenteenten long, high
12. tia tiatia tiatiatia short

3.1. The four basic colour terms also dispose of an intensified form:
Simple form Meaning Intensified form Meaning
1. fitaa white fitaaa snow white
2. kk red k flaming red
3. tuntum black tumm pitch dark
4. hann bright hannn very bright

4. Plural forms: Whereas most adjectives do not change their forms in the plural, some adjectives do distinguish between singular and plural forms. A few adjectives even dispose of two plural forms, as can be seen from below. The reduplicated plural form stands for intensity
Singular Plural Meaning
. Unmarked Marked for intensity .
1. fofor afofor - new, other
2. kse akse akseakse big, important
3. ketewa nketewa nketenkete small
4. kumaa nkumaa nkumaankumaa junior
5. tenten atenten atentenatenten long
6. tia ntia ntiantia short

5. Note: A large number of English adjectives are rendered as verbs in Akan. We will distinguish two cases:
5.1. Stative verbs
5.2. Active verbs in perfect tense

5.1. Stative verbs
Stative verbs are mostly low-toned and do not take any tense or aspect markers:
Adjectival expression Akan verb English example Akan example
to be big, enough s I have much money. Me sika s.
to be small, little sua I have (only) a little money. Me sika sua.
to be tall, long ware It is far. ware.
to be sick, ill yare I am ill. Meyare.

5.1.1. Idiomatic expressions: Bodily conditions
Adjectives in expressions like "I am hungry/thirsty/cold", and the like are rendered with a noun and the stative verb 'de'. The experiencer, i.e. the one who is affected by the action is in object position:
Adjectival expression Akan expression English example Akan example
to be hungry km de EXP I am hungry. km de me.
to be thirsty sukm de EXP They are thirsty. Sukm de wn.
to be cold aw de EXP He is cold. Aw de no.
to be warm/hot ahuhuro de EXP We feel hot. Ahuhuro de yn.

5.2. Active verbs in perfect tense
Active verbs in the perfect tense often render English adjectival expressions, such as below:
Adjectival expression Akan verb Basic meaning English example Akan example
to be X years old di mfe "eat/spend years" I'm 20 years old. Madi mfe aduonu.
to be dead wu "die" He's dead. awu.
to be tired br "become tired" I am tired. Mabr.
to be old (of humans) nyni "grow (old)" (S)he is old. anyni.
to be full, satisfied mee "become satisfied" I am satisfied. Mamee.

5.2.1. Idiomatic expressions: Emotions
Adjectives in expressions like "I am happy/angry", and the like are rendered with a body-part noun and an active verb. The experiencer, i.e. the one who is affected by the action is a noun or possessive pronoun:
Adjectival expression Akan expression Basic meaning English example Akan example
to be happy EXP+ani+gye 'eye', 'receive' She is happy. N'ani agye.
to be angry EXP+bo+fu 'chest', 'raise' Kofi is angry. Kofi bo afu.
to be sad EXP+wer+ho 'heart', 'dry up' I'm sad. Me wer aho.
to be comforted EXP+h+t+EXP(Obj.) 'body', 'relieve' They are comforted. Wn h at wn.

Notes on grammar 2

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