Entry forms in this dictionary are:

Most of the nouns and adjectives are represented in the following manner:




1. Main entry

The main entry is written in bod characters. The nouns are written in their singular forms. The verbs are represented in their shortest form (infinitive which is found in the future tense or in series of verbs following one after another). The words that are spelled in the same way are classified according to their tonal pattern and marked with a small number at the right corner: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Examples :

lara 1 [à-à]   conversation

lara 2 [à-à]   long stick, pole

lara 3 [à-ā]   ritual dance

lara 4 [ā-ā]   fat bacon

lara 5 [ā-ā]   toxic tuber (kind of)


2. Indication of tonal pattern

In general, Kasem orthography doesn't show tone (relative level of voice) because that would greatly complicate the orthography and is not felt necessary by most Kasena people.

This general rule, however, has some exceptions, especially for some grammatical words where a high tone is marked to differentiate the word from another word with the same consonants and vowels. For example <á> «you pl.» is distinguished from <a> «I»).

The tonal patterns are indicated in square brackets [ ]. The following accents are used:

[à] represents a low tone      e.g.      lwe 2 [lwè] «drop»

[ǎ] represents a raising tone e.g.      lwe 4 [lwě] «needle, awl»

[ā] represents a middle tone e.g.      lwe 6 [lwē] «hatch out»

[á] represents a high tone   e.g.       lwe 7 [lwé] «clear the ground»

When two identical vowels carry the same tone, we marked the tone only on the first vowel.

Example: baarʋ   [ā-ʋ̄]   is pronounced   [bāārʋ̄] «man»

Since, in general, plural nouns carry the same tone as singular nouns, we didn't feel the necessity to mark the plurals.


3. The grammatical categories

In this dictionary we indicated the following grammatical categories:

category:                       abbreviation:         example:

3.1.    nouns                                 n.                kaanɩ              «woman»

3.2.    adjectives                           adj.              -ŋʋm              «good»

3.3.   determinants and pronouns

- definite articles                          dét.              wʋm               «the»

- demonstratives                          dém.            wʋntʋ            «this one»

- indefinites                                 ind.             bagratʋ           «some»

- interrogatives                             int.              wɔɔ                «which, what?»

- numbers                                     num.           fugə               «ten»

- relatives                                     rel.              wʋlʋ               «who, that»

- personal pronouns                     pn.              o                     «he, she»

3.4.    verbs                                  v.                lʋ                    «give birth»

- auxiliaries                                  v.aux.          sɩɩnɩ                «really do»

3.5.    adverbs                              adv.             lanyɩranɩ         «well»

3.6.    conjunctions                      cj.                dɩ                   «and, with»

3.7.    postpositions                      postp.          wʋnɩ               «in, inside of»

3.8.    interjections                       interj.          awo                «no»

3.9.    grammatical particles         pt.g.             mʋ                  «focalisation»



3.1. The nouns

The nouns (substantives) represent living beings, things /objects, sentiments, abstract ideas and so on.

After the main entry we have added the plural form (pl.) Kasem divides the nouns into different genres or classes.

Examples:   singular                    plural

genre A       baarʋ   «man»         baara      «men»

genre B       yəli      «tooth»         yələ         «teeth»

genre C       sara     «mat»         sarɩ          «mats»

genre D       vɔɔ       «leaf»          vɔɔrʋ      «leaves»

genre E      sugu      «Guinee fowl»     suni        «Guinee fowls»


3.2. The adjectives

Adjectives describe a noun, saying how it is.

They can be used as an attribute of the subject, for example:

< A tɔnɔ yɩ nadʋŋʋ > 'my book is new.', or as epithet: < A yəgi tɔn-dʋŋʋ. > "I bought a new book."

Normally the epithetic adjective is attached to the root of the name with a hyphen. The adjectives that are used only as epithet attached to the root of the name are preceded by a hyphen. The plural forms of the adjectives are located at the end of the entry.


-fɔrɔ adj. "large, wide"

sɔ-fɔrɔ "a large / big compound"


sɔ-fwaarʋ "large compounds"


3.3. The determinants and pronouns

The determinant that follows the name indicates more specifically what name they are talking about. There are several types of determinants: articles, demonstratives, numerals etc. In Kasem, all these determinants can not only accompany the names but also replace them (= pronouns).

These words which accompany or replace names differ depending on the genre / class in which the name is found. Prefixes (i.e. morphemes preceding the radical) that mark the kind and the number are as follows:

Singular: plural form:

Genre A    wʋ -           ba-

Genre B    dɩ -            ya-

Genre C    ka -            sɩ-

Genre D    kʋ -            tɩ-

Genre E    kʋ -           dɩ-

3.3.1 Articles

In Kasem there are 7 definite articles: class prefix followed by -m.


sum dɩm ' the Guinea fowl (in question, which have already been mentioned

yituŋu kʋm ' the chair (in question, which have already been mentioned

3.3.2. Demonstratives

Demonstratives are the terms used to designate, to show an object, a person, an animal... etc.


kʋntʋ            "it, this, that"

nɔɔna bantʋ   "these people"

3.3.3. Undefined

The undefined indicate noun phrases without specify them.


Nɔɔna bagratʋ tuə.    "Some people came."

Badaara maŋɩ sɔŋɔ nɩ. "Others have remained home."

3.3.4. Interrogative

Interrogatives ask specific information.


Wɔɔ mʋ tuə? "Who came? (which one?)

Sɔŋɔ kɔɔ mʋ lana kʋ dwe? "What House is the prettiest?"

3.3.5. Numerals

The form of the numerals can be simple or compound.

The simple numerals in Kasem are 1 to 10, 100 and 1000.

From 11 onwards we find compound forms of numerals.


Nɔɔna fugə mʋ tuə. "Ten people have come."

Fugə-batɔ mʋ tuə. "Thirteen came."

3.3.6 Relative marker

Relative markers indicate the subject of the action.


Wʋlʋ na tu tɩn yɩ a nabɔ. "(The one) who came is my brother."

Kakuri sɩlʋ na we tɩn yɩ a nyɩm. "The dogs that bark are mine."

3.3.7. Personal pronouns

Often the nouns or noun phrases are replaced by a personal pronoun.

Sentence with nouns:

Apiu loori Kapɛ sɩ o yagɩ co-ŋʋnnʋ tɩtɔ sɩ o pa Katiu.

«Apiu asked Kapɛ to buy three beautiful fowls for Katiu.»

Sentence with pronouns:

O loor-o sɩ o yagɩ- o pa-o.

«He requested her to buy them for her


A lagɩ a di. "I want to eat."

Ba wʋ tu. "They did not come." (< Nabiinə bam> 'the people')

wʋ tu. "They did not come." (< peeni sɩm > 'the sheep')

In Kasem, personal pronouns are used where French uses possessive pronouns.

Example: Diin a a ko dɩ a nu. "Yesterday, I have seen my father and my mother."


3.4. Verbs

The verb is a word that expresses either an

  • Action (e.g. O ve karadigə. ( "He is gone to school.") or a
  • State (e.g. Yituŋu kʋntʋ balaŋa. ( "This Chair is small.")

In Kasem, a very important concept in the verb is that of aspect i.e. the completed action or action in progress or habitual action (imperfective/progressive aspect).


< o nyɔga > "he drank" is the form of the accomplished,

< o nyɔa > "he is drinking" (or "he was drinking") is the form of imperfective, progressive or habitual.

The basic form (or the infinitive) is used in the future and in the verbal (consecutive) series. To find the form of the infinitive we can embed the verb in a verbal sequence, for example < ka lagɩ ka... > ' it is going to ... " (ka lagɩ ka vu 'go', ka lagɩ ka va 'farm', ka lagɩ ka nyɔ "drink" etc.).

There are verbs with three different forms (the basic or short form, the form of the accomplished acc. and the form of the imperfective inacc.), others have only two forms and still others have only one form.

We have noted the accomplished and imperfective forms when they are different from the basic form, which often depends on the context (in an affirmative sentence in final position).

The <-ɩ > or <-i > final of the verb can change into <-a > or <-ə >. In this document we have written forms in <-ɩ > and <-i >, which are the most common forms.


va,    acc. vagɩ, inacc. varɩ  «to farm»

The basic form is va.


O ve kara sɩ o va. "He went to the field to farm."


O jwa wʋ́ va "He will farm tomorrow."

The form of the accomplished action is < vagɩ > (or < vaga > at the end of a sentence).

O vagɩ sɔŋɔ nɩ. "He farmed at home."

O vaga "He has farmed."

The form of the imperfective (progressive or habitual) is <varɩ >

(or < vara > end of a sentence).
O yəni o varɩ sɔŋɔ nɩ. "He farms usually at home."

O wʋra o vara. "He is farming."

3.4.1. Auxiliary verbs

The auxiliary verb is invariable and stands before the verb. It is never isolated in the statement.


O yəni o ve gaa. "He is usually in the bush."

A maŋɩ a lwarɩ. "I know already."


3.5 Adverbs

An adverb specifies in what circumstance (in what manner, when , or where) an action takes place.


O tʋŋɩ lanyɩranɩ ' He works well.»

O diin karɩmɩ kʋm tɔnɔ. "Yesterday, he read the book."

O təri yo. "He is not here."


3.6. Conjunctions

A conjunction unites words, groups of words or phrases:


O lagɩ mumunə mɩna. "He wants rice and millet.»

N lagɩ n ve Poo mʋ naa Cibəli? «Do you want to go to Po or Tiébélé?»


3.7. Postpositions

Circumstantial facts /supplements are often marked by any postpositions. The most widespread postposition is < > that expresses a value of location or of time. Often <> combines with nouns to form other postpositions.


wʋnɩ 'in'    ( 'internal' plus )

wɛɛnɩ ' up' ( 'sky, high up' plus )


3.8 Interjections

An interjection is an invariable, isolated word which can form a sentence alone, often an exclamation.


Ɛhɛɛ  "Yes",    hei "Hey (exclamation)"!

Popo.  "Please"


3.9 Grammatical particles

Grammatical particles are often difficult to translate into French or English, for example tɩn marks the end of a subordinate clause. The word is a focus marker.


Spelling Guide for Kassem

The document "Spelling Guide for Kasɩm " (available only in French, sorry) can be downloaded in PDF format on the Site: