Akan Teleteaching Course

Unit 7.5: Notes on grammar 1

Nominalisation

Agentive and abstract nouns are derived from verbs or verb phrases. The processes involved in nominalisation are:

(a) prefixation of a nominal prefix (singular or plural) to the verb stem.

(b) suffixation of an agentive or abstract suffix to the verb stem;

(c) verb stem reduplication;

(d) inversion of word order in the verb phrase: the complement precedes the verb instead of following it;

(e) tonal changes; 

(f) application of vowel harmony rules: from right to left if the final suffix is agentive -n, from left to right if the final suffix is vocalic.

(Prefixes: compare with Akan noun classes in Unit 4). 

1. Nouns derived from simple verbs with the help of nominalising affixes (abstract derivatives in broken lines):
 

Root
Meaning
Prefix
Suffix
Nom. noun
Meaning
boa
help
-
-fo
boafo
helper
a-
aboafo
helpers
m-
mmoa
help, helping
. . . . . .
ha
need
-
-n
hani
poor person
a-
-fo
ahafo
poor people
-
ha
poverty
. . . . . .
hw
look after
-
-fo
hwfo
caretaker
a-
ahwfo
caretakers
n-
nhw
looking after, caring for
. . . . . .
wo
give birth
-
-fo
wofo
woman giving birth
a-
-fo
awofo
women giving birth
a-
-
awo
birth
Table 1

Comments on Table 1

(i) The agentive noun is formed with a prefix and a suffix. 
  • Agentive prefix:
In the singular, the - (o-) prefix is used, in the plural form the a- prefix and sometimes N- (m, n), depending on the verb stem.
  • Agentive suffix:
The suffix -fo is added to either singular or plural.

Agentive nouns that spell out character traits or identifying features or specify professions often have the singular suffix -n and the plural suffix -fo. -n is derived from onii 'person'; e.g., obibin is a person whose skin is black, i.e. an African.
 

(ii) Abstract nouns always take a prefix, but take a suffix only under certain conditions.

  • Abstract noun prefix:
The prefix is a-, - (o-) or N- (m, n) depending on the verb stem. See a-wo, hi, nhw and mmoa above. In the case of the N-prefix, the normal assimilation rules take place (-> description of N-assimilation).
  • Abstract noun suffix:
A suffix (-e, -, -o, -) will be added to the abstract noun only if it ends in an open syllable with one of the following vowel qualities: i, e [], u, o []. Thus we get the following combinations: ie, e [], uo, o []. Example (above): awo 'birth'. 
 

2. Nouns formed from reduplicated verbs:
 

Root
Meaning
Prefix
Suffix
Nom. noun
Meaning
daadaa
deceive
-
-fo
daadaafo
deceiver
n-/a-
-fo
adaadaafo/
nnaadaafo
deceivers
n-
nnaadaa
deceit
. . . . . .
kyerkyer
teach
-
-n/-fo
kyerkyerni [okyrkyren]/kyerkyerfo
teacher
a-
-fo
akyerkyerfo
teachers
n-
nkyerkyer
instruction, teaching
Table 2

Nouns formed from reduplicated verb stems have nominal prefixes and suffixes like nouns from simple verbs 


3. Nouns derived from verb phrases

Prefixes and suffixes are used in the same way as with nominalisations derived from simple verbs.

Inversion takes place between the verb and its complement: the latter precedes the former.

Tones: there is a tendency for all lexical constituents involved in the process to loose their inherent lexical tones except the last syllable which is High.

Unfortunately, this characteristic pattern does not always apply. Therefore we still have to learn when it does apply, and in which cases the inherent tones are maintained. In the examples below, it applies consistently to agentive nouns. As to abstract nouns, the tone loss applies to 'learning' and 'thanking' but not to 'journey' and 'trading'.
 

Root
Inversion
Meaning
Prefix
Suffix
Nom. noun
Meaning
s ade
ade s
learn, study
ades
learning, lesson
-n
adesn
learner, apprentice
-fo
adesfo
learners, apprentices
. . . . . . .
tu kwan
kwan tu
travel
a-
-o
akwantuo
journey
-
-n
kwantun
traveller, tourist
a-
-fo
akwantufo
travellers, tourists
. . . . . . .
d dwa
dwa d
trade, go shopping
a-
-e
adwade
trading
-
-n
dwadin
trader
a-
-fo
adwadifo
traders
. . . . . . .
da ase
ase da
sit down
aseda
thanks(giving)
Table 3
  • Inverted noun morphology:
(i) Abstract nouns: The a- or N- prefixes of the inverted noun are always retained (cf. ase in aseda and ade in ades). In all other cases, the prefix a- is prefixed to the inverted noun, like in akwantuo or adwade

Inverted nouns loose their suffixes: -e, -, -o or - (cf. ade). But the nominalised expression as a whole will be suffixed (e, , o, ), if the stem ends in an open syllable i, e [], u, o [], cf. akwantu-o, adwad-e - as stated above for action verbs derived from simple verbs.

(ii) Agentive nouns: the rules of affixation are exactly those spelled out above for agentives derived from simple stems. Both prefix and suffix are obligatory. In the singular, the - prefix is used, in the plural form the a- prefix and sometimes N- (m, n), depending on the verb stem. The suffix -fo is added to either singular or plural. Agentive nouns that spell out character or identifying traits or specify professions often have the singular suffix -n and the plural suffix -fo.
 

4. Nouns derived from so-called phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs owe their specific meaning to the lexically fixed combination of a core verb and a postposition. Postpositions typically express spatial relationships: 

Additional learning material: The English prepositions: 'under', 'on', 'behind', 'in front of', 'in(side)' are postpositions in Akan. These, again, are in fact nouns: ase [as] 'under'; so [s] 'on'; anm [nm] 'in front of'; aky [ky] 'behind'; emu 'in, inside'. 

Their -/e- resp. -/o- prefixes are dropped when they function as postpositions: 

- akonnwa so "on a chair"

- dan no mu "in the house/room", etc.

Complements of phrasal verbs are placed between the core verb and the postposition.
 

Root
Meaning
N-prefix
Suffix
Nom. noun
Meaning
k … so
continue, progress, develop
n- [-]
-
nkso
progress, development
hw … so
oversee, look after
n-
-
nhwso
overseeing, looking after
-n
nhwson
overseer, caretaker
-fo
nhwsofo
overseers, caretakers
fiti/firi … ase
begin
m-
mfitiase
beginning
te … ase
understand
n-
ntease
understanding
Table 4

Nouns derived from phrasal verbs retain the inherent order of the latter: contrary to other complements the postposition follows the verb in the nominalised form. 

Phrasal verb derivates may only take the prefix N-. Suffixes are added, as usual (see above), provided the final vowel is either i, e [], u, or o [] , cf. nkso-. It is mostly abstract nouns that are formed like this, but where it is semantically possible, agentive nouns can be formed as well.
 
 

Word-formation is continued in:
-> Derivation (Notes on grammar 2),
-> Compounds (Notes on grammar 3)

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