Gonja phonological and grammatical study




Published by
Mouton & Co., The Hague Netherlands



Editor:Carleton T. Hodge

Volume 1

Copyright (c) 1970 by Indiana University
All rights reserved

standard Book Number: 87750-139-4

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:71-626566

All orders from the United States of America and from Canada should be sent
to Humanities Press, Inc., 303 Park Avenue South, New York 10010.
Orders from all other countries should be sent to Mouton & Co., Publishers,
The Hague, The Netherlands.

Printed in the United States of America.


This study examines the phonology of Gonja, a dialect of North Guang spoken in the Northern Region of Ghana
Section one includes a note on transcription, symbols, and punctuation, and an inventory of phonemes.
Section three describes the consonants, drawing on auditory impressions, spectrograms, palatograms, and
linguagram notes, with statistics based on an analysis of 205 spectrograms. Gonja has 20 consonant phonemes:
p, b, f, m; t, d, s, n, l, r; c, j, y, ny; k, g, kp, gb, w, ng, described here firstly group by group, then
consonant by consonant. 
Section four describes the vowels, beginning with an auditory vowel quadrilateral and a vowel formant 
quadrilateral, chart, and table. It then treats the vowels individually, giving their allophones with
conditioning environments. The vowel phonemes of Gonja are: i, e, ɛ, a, ɔ, o, u;
two syllable-centre tolls and four syllabel-centre nasals (word-initial only).
Section five comprises 56 selected spectrograms and section six 
-34 selected paoatograms.
words, and finally closed syllables.
Section eight with its abundant illustrations and matrices comprises over half the study and examines the
grammatical hierarchy at Morpheme. Word, Phrase, Serial-Verb, Clause, Serial-Clause, and Sentence Levels,
being the first available full study of a West African language set within a tagmemic framework.
The language has two discrete-leve base tones (often perturbed) in a register tone system, an automatic
downdrift of noncontiguous high tones, and a nonautomatic downstep juncture feature, but in spite of many
tonal minimal pairs and the not insignificant grammatical use of tone, it is seen that the functional load carried
by pitch in Gonja is not heavy-pitch usually being just one of a a number of concurrent distinctive features.
TThe study concludes with an appendix: a transcribed piece of oral literature analysed and annotated with 
reference to the foregoing description.


1. Introduction                                                                                                                                                                                        Page
A. Aims                                                                                      1
B. Gonja   -      Its distribution and classification.                                       3
                  Bibliographical References                                                 6
C. Note on Transcription, Symbols, and Punctuation.                                          7

   I     Inventory of Consonants                                                             7
   II    Inventory of Syllable Centre Contoids                                               7
   III   Inventory of Vowels                                                                 7
    IV   The Tonal System                                                                    7
     V   Other Symbols used                                                                  7
    IV   Punctuation                                                                         9
2. Minimal Pairs                           11

A. Consonants                                                                               12
B. Vowels                                                                                   18
C. Tone                                                                                     20

3.     A  Description of the Consonants                                                       23   

    General                                                                                 25

A.     The Plosives                                                                         31
B.     The Affricates                                                                       37
C.     The Fricatives                                                                       38
D.     The Non syllabic Vocoids                                                             39
E.     The Nasals                                                                           40
F.     The Lateral                                                                          50
G.     The Flap                                                                             52

4.     A Description of the Vowels         55

A.     The System                                                                           57
B.     Auditory Vowel Quadrilateral                                                         57
C.     Lip Rounding                                                                         58
  I     /i/                                                                                 65
  II    /u/                                                                                 67
  III   /a/                                                                                 70
   IV    /e/,  /ɛ/, /ɔ/                                                                     74
    V The Syllabic Nasals                                                                   74 
   VI /r/ and /ɔr/                                                                          74
F. Strong and Weak Position                                                                 86
G. Vowels Elision and Assimilation                                                          86

5. The Spectrograms                       101 

6. The Palatograms                        123
7. Phonotactics                           137

A.  Nouns                                                                                  140
B.  Verbs                                                                                  160
C.  Others                                                                                 167
D.  Closed Syllables                                                                       182
8. Tone                                   185

A. General Characteristics                187 

I  Introduction                                                                            187
      II Down drift and Down step                                                          187
      III Three Pitch Phonomena                                                            190
1. The Base Tones                                                                          190
2. The Intonation                                                                          191
3. The Juncture Feature                                                                    192

B. The Operation of Tone in the Grammatical Hierarchy                                      193
1  Morpheme Level    Code                 193
  1. Noun Prefixes                                                      M1                 194
  2. Noun Suffixes                                                      M2                 203
  3. Noun Derivation                                                    M3                 206
  4. Pronoun Affixes                                                    M4                 208
  5. The Verb                                                           M5                 208
  6. Sex                                                                M6                 209
  7. Duplication                                                        M7                 209

II   Word Level
1.  Noun Word List                                                      W1                 215
2. Pronoun Word List                                                    W2                 255
3. Verb Word List                                                       W3                 256
4. Modifier Word List                                                   W4                 265
5. Adverb Word List                                                     W5                 271
6. Question Word List                                                   W6                 273
7. Initiator Word List                                                  W7                 274
8. Exphatic Concluder Word List, Noun
   phrase Expanders and various na                                      W8                 274
9. Ideophone Word List                                                  W9                 276
10.  Clause 2 and Clause B
Introducer Word List                                                    W10                278
11. Numeral Word List                                                   W11                279
III Phrase Level                                                                                                              III  Phrase Level 
1 The Noun Phrase     P1A                 281
A Nominal Subject                                                      PIA                 281
B  Pronominal Subject                                                  PIB                 301
C  Nominal Object                                                      PIC                 307
D  Pronominal Object                                                   PID                 314
E  Other remarks on the noun phrase                                    PIE                 319
2 The Verb Phrase
A The High Tone Verb                                                   P2A                 321
B The Low Tone Verb                                                    P2B                 335
3 Introducers

A Adverbial Introducers                                               P3A                  340
B Question Word Introducers                                           P3B                  347                                                       
C Emphatic Word na'2                                                  P3C                  350 
D Intitiator Words                                                    P3D                  352                                                                                             
4 The  Adjectival and Nominal Predicate Phrase
A   Adjectival Predicate                                              P4A                  353
B   Nominal Predicate                                                 P4B                  357        
The Adverbial Predicate Phrase                                 P5                   359
    A i     Adverbs of time                                           P5Ai                 359
    A ii    Adverbs of place                                          P5Aii                361
    A iii   Adverbs of manner                                         P5Aiii               366
    A iv    Adverbs of cause                                          P5Aiv                368
    Av      Intrumentals                                              P5Av                 369
6 Concluders                              370
A Comparative                                                         P6A                  370           
B Question Words                                                      P6B                  373
C Emphatics                                                           P6C                  374

IV  Serial  Verb-LevelSV1                  380
 1. ba’and y'a                                                        SV2                  382
  V Clause Level                          384 
1.Transitive Clause                                                   C1                   386
2. Ditransitive Clause                                                C2                   396
3. Intransitive  Clause                                               C3                   398  
4. Stative Clause                                                     C4                   407
5. Predicative Clause                                                 C5                   419

VI  Serial-Clause Level                   426
1. Introduced by n'a 1                                               SC1                   428
2. Introduced by N' 2                                                SC2                   430
3. Introduced by a’                                                  SC3                   435
VII  Sentence  Level                      437                               
1   Unrestricted Coordinate Clause S1     438
  SIA Clause 2 Introducer na’ 3                                                            438
   B Clause 2 Introducer Ń 2                                                               441
   C Clause 2 Introducer n'i                                                               442
   D Clause 2 Introducer a’  c ɔ’ or ‘a cɔ́ ngk’                                            442
   E Clause 2 Introducer .ámá                                                              443
   F Clause 2 Introducer ‘amá na’                                                          443
   G Clause 2 Introducer hálé na’                                                          443
   H Clause 2   Introducer ńgkɛ’                                                           444
   I Clause 2 Introducer ńgko’ or ko’                                                      444
   J Clause 2 Introducer ńgkáll                                                            444
   K Clause 2 Introducer pówéńg or pówéng ná                                               444
   L Clause 2 Introducer ná…….pówéng……                                                     445

     2   Restricted Coordinate Clause  S2 445
              S 2A Clause 2 Introducer ńsá! Á                                              445
                 B Clause 2 Introducer ńsá Ń                                               445
                 C Clause 2 Introducer ńgká! á                                             446
                 D Clause 2 Introducer ńgká N                                              446
                 E Clause 2 Introducer ńgkó! Á                                             446
                 F Clause 2 Introducer ńgkó! Ń                                             446
     3       Clause 2 as object of Clause 1                            S3                     450
             S4 A Clause 2 Introducer ńsá! Á                                               450
                B Reported Speech                                                          450
     4     Clause 2 modifying a noun in Clause 1                       S4                     456
                S4A Clause 2 Introduced by relative wó                                     456
                B Clause 2 Introduced by relative other than wó                            457
                C Clause 2 Relative Introducer wó is optional                              457 
    5      No Clause 2 Introducer                                     S5                    458      
    6      Clause I and Clause 2 have Different                         S6                    459
    7      An Object in Clause 2                                       S7                    459
           S7A Coordinate Clauses                                                          459
             B Serial-Clauses                                                              460
    8      Minor Sentence Types                                       S8                    461

   VIII   Summary of the operation of tone in the
          grammatical hierarchy                                                             462

   APPENDIX   Gonja story: The wolf, the baboon and the wasp                               469
   Grid for Spectrogram Measurements                                                       525