1. Morphology:

  • Inflection: suffixes are predominant
  • Derivation: suffixes only
  • Compounding: right headed noun-noun and noun-adjective
  • Nouns: Six genres with inflectional classes for number marking: each genre has a pair of suffixes for singular and plural (classes 1 to 12); two additional classes have only a singular (classes 13 & 14), no semantic classes.
  • Verbs:
  • Preverbal tense marking
  • Aspect marking by suffixes and tone
  • No subject-verb or other grammatical agreement.
  • Reduplication: complete reduplication; many ideophones and adverbials
  • Juncture feature: When two words or clitics come together within a phonological word such that the first ends in a consonant and the second begins with a consonant, a transition vowel of central indeterminate quality [ə] is inserted between the two words or clitics. The inserted vowel is non-phonemic.

 2. Syntax:


  • Categories :
  • Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, auxiliaries, adverbs, postpositions. Adjectives have nominal character. Most postpositions are nouns.
  • Word order
  • Subject – TAMP - Verb - Object (unmarked declarative sentence order), though direct objects or location/temporal elements may be fronted for emphasis.
  • Adpositions, determiners, adjectives are all post nominal
  • Negation is preverbal.
  • TAM:
  • Tense: distinction between present, past and future. The distinction between past and present is not always marked.
  • Aspect: Perfective versus imperfective (Perfective aspect covers an action which is viewed as a whole or carries the idea of completion; imperfective aspect covers continuous and (usually) habitual actions.
  • Mood: Realis versus irrealis (Realis mode is used in main clauses which are declarative in nature; irrealis mode is used for the future tense, in imperative and optative clauses, and for certain specific purposes in discourse.) Mood is marked by preverbs and by tone patterns.

Other aspects:

  • No overt case marking.
  • Serial verb constructions are very common.
  • Movement of constituents: focus and Wh-questions are fronted
  • Passive: only impersonal passive.
  • Clauses may be joined by the coordinating conjunctions ka “and, sequential”, ne “and, additive”, amaa “but” or bee “or”. In a of multi-sentence discourse ka ‘ and ‘very often begins a sentence.

 3. Orthography

Kusaal, like other Burkina languages, uses the Latin alphabet with the addition of some phonetic symbols approved by the Burkina Faso government: ɛ, ɩ, ŋ, ɔ, ʋ, and the tilde for nasalisation.

In most cases, the relation between the sounds of Kusaal and their respective orthographic representations is one-to-one. Some exceptions exist, especially for the double sounds that are represented by the digraphs kp and gb in the orthography, but which are pronounced by many speakers as [kw] and [gw].

Up to 2011 the Kusaasi people in Burkina Faso attended literacy classes in Moore, which is a closely related language. But in 2012 several organisations worked together to develop a Burkina Kusaal orthography guide. The Burkina spelling for Kusaal differs in some ways from the Ghanaian orthography which has had more Eastern Kusaal influence and does not use the tilde to signal nasalised vowels, but inserts an n after a vowel to indicate nasalisation.

Representation of tone is deemed unnecessary in the Kusaal orthography. Tonal representations would make the orthography rather cumbersome, and the tones on words change according to their context in a sentence.

Official approval of the orthography guide is pending. The National Sub-Committee for Kusaal was created in 2013, and is responsible for reviewing and approving such documents.

Below, a few additional features of Kusaal orthography are highlighted.

  • Long vowels are written as digraphs in the orthography: aa, ee, ɛɛ, ii, ɩɩ, etc.
  • Nasalised vowels are marked by a tilde on top of them: ã, ẽ, ĩ, õ, ũ. In the case of long vowels, only the first one is marked by a tilde: ãa, ẽe, ĩi, etc.
  • The vowels can be interrupted by a glottal stop. The glottal stop is marked by an apostrophe ‘: a'a, e'e, ɛ̃'ɛ, etc. All words beginning with a vowel are preceded by a glottal stop, but this is not marked, whereas words ending in a glottal stop are marked by an apostrophe: da' ‘to buy’, bʋ' ‘to hit’ etc., since words ending with a vowel do not automatically have a glottal stop after the vowel.