Keith Beavon (SIL-Cameroun)
The Parts of Speech in Nzime
Every word in the language belongs to a specific part of speech. In order for a native speaker to correctly use a given word, he must know its part of speech. The most common parts of speech are nouns, verbs and adjectives.
In Nzime, adjectives have a single form; they cannot be put in the negative or plural form.
For example, the adjective bɛmɨ [bɛ̀mɨ̂] « blanc » cannot form the plural (*bibɛmɨ) nor can it be negative (*abɛmɨ). It follows the preposition ɨ.
In order for a word to be classified as a verb, it must be able to be combined with the Class 15 prefix, the result of which is the infinitive form of the verb. Words that are considered verbs can be combined with a prefix of Class 15, making it into an infinitive.
See the Class 15 prefixes combining with verbs in the following examples:
This verb can form the present negative, as in the example below:
In the dictionary, verbs will appear in the infinitive form. Each verb entry displays the conventioanal form followed by its form with tone markings, whether high, low or descending. Next, the part of speech v for verb is indicated as an abbreviation in italics, followed by the definition, and then finally by an example sentence.
While a verb can be formed into a negative, a noun cannot. A Class 5 noun such as eto [ètó]« goutte (5) » drop is distinct from an infinitive verb, and cannot be negated. A verb is distinct from an adjective in that the verb can be in the infinitive and be negative, while the adjective cannot.
Nouns in Nzime are part of a grammatical class, and determine the prefixes which connect to it as well as to its modifiers in a noun phrase. Each noun entry may include the form with tone markings in […], the part of spech n, the noun class in parentheses for the singular and plural forms, the translation into French, the scientific name, and an example sentence.
Compare bon « colobe noir » black colobus monkey to the plural form mpon « colobes noir » black colobus monkeys. The plural form has been left out of the entry, because its form is predictable.
The identification of the noun class is shown immediately following the part of speech (n). The first number is for the singular form while the second number is for the plural.
A noun which has neither singular nor plural such as an abstract quality will have only one class number, and will normally belong to Class 9 or 11.
Some nouns refer to mass nouns that cannot be counted. They usually belong to Classes 6a or 8.
Those who will contribute to this dictionary should understand which of their words are part of the noun class system and to which singular and plural classes the noun belongs.
In Nzime, singular noun classes belong to Class: 1, 1a, 3, 5, 7, 9, or 11. Note that singular noun classes are odd numbers.
Plural nouns belong to Class 2, 2a, 4, 6, 8 or 10. Plural noun classes are even numbers.
Nominal verbs belong to Class 15 in the infinitive and to Classes 3 or 4 as participles.
Below are the pairings between singular and plural classes:
|1/2||frequent||mʉr/bʉr « personne ; gens » people|
|1/6||rare||pa/mepa « machette ; machettes »|
|1a/2a||frequent||abubum/baabubum « femme enceinte ; femmes enceintes » pregnant woman|
|3/4||frequent||mir/mimir « remède ; remèdes » remedy|
|3/6||rare||kʉ/mekʉ « pied ; pieds » foot|
|4/2||rare||mindebʉr/ boomindebʉr « le cannibale » cannibal|
|5/6||frequent||ebeŋe/mebeŋe « cloche ; cloches » bell|
|6/2||rare||menyolo/ boomenyolo « le chat ; les chats » cat|
|7/8||frequent||lɨ/bilɨ « arbre ; arbres » tree|
|7/6-10||rare||dwiʼ/mentwiʼ « forêt ; forêts » forest|
|7/6||rare||dʉ̀/medʉ̀ « cuisse ; cuisses » thigh|
|7/10||rare||bumo/mpumo « fruit ; fruits »|
|9/6||frequent||nzɨ/menzɨ « chemin ; chemins » path|
|11/6||frequent||odumo/medumo « bout ; bouts » end|
There are a few cases in which a singular noun appears to belong to several singular noun classes. These nouns may begin with the same letter as other nouns and they do not have a clearly visible prefix. In these cases, combine them with words such as pronouns that appear with them within a noun phrase; these words are part of the same noun class as the noun in question.
Consider, for example, the words dʉ « nez, nose » et dʉ̀ « cuisse, thigh ». It does not help to look at their class in the plural because these nouns belong to Class 6: mʉ « nez (pl.) noses » et mèdʉ̀ « cuisses thighs ». But, for the singular form, ask a speaker of the language “How do you say “my nose” or “my thigh”. The response should be:
Since the word lam "my" begins with "l" in the first case, the possessive belongs to Class 5 as does the word dʉ "nose" which governs the possessive. Since the word yam "my" begins with "y" in the second case, the possessive belongs to Class 7 as does the word dʉ̀ "thigh" which governs the possessive. Therefore, it can be deduced that the word dʉ "nez" belongs to Class 5 and that dʉ̀ "thigh" belongs to Class 7. This conclusion explains the notation of the two words in the Nzime lexicon:
Below are the singular personal pronouns, determined by the noun class that they represent:
|1sg « à moi »||2sg « à toi »||3sg « à elle/lui »|
|1/1a||wam [wǎm]||go [gǒ]||we [wé]|
|2/2a||bam [bâm]||bo [bô]||be [bé]|
|3/11||wam [wâm]||go [gô]||we [wé]|
|4||myam [myâm]||myo [myô]||mye [myé]|
|5||lam [lâm]||lo [lô]||le [lé]|
|6||mam [mâm]||mo [mô]||me [mé]|
|7||yam [yâm]||yo [yô]||ye [yé]|
|8||byam [byâm]||byo [byô]||bye [byé]|
|9/10||nyam [wǎm]||nyo [nyǒ]||nye [nyé]|
Below are the plural personal pronouns, determined by the noun class they they represent:
|1pl inclusif « à nous »||1pl exclusif « à nous »||2pl « à vous »||3pl « à eux »|
|1/1a||ga wɨna [gá wɨ́ná]||wɨh [wɨ́h]||wɨn [wɨ́n]||wɔɔ [wɔ́ɔ́]|
|2/2a||ga bɨna [gá bɨ́ná]||bɨh [bɨ́h]||bɨn [bɨ́n]||bɔɔ [bɔ́ɔ́]|
|3/11||ga wɨna [gá wɨ́ná]||wɨh [wɨ́h]||wɨn [wɨ́n]||wɔɔ [wɔ́ɔ́]|
|4||ga mina [gá míná]||mih [míh]||min [mín]||myɔɔ [myɔ́ɔ́]|
|5||ga lɨna [gá lɨ́ná]||lɨh [lɨ́h]||lɨn [lɨ́n]||lɔɔ [lɔ́ɔ́]|
|6||ga mɨna [gá mɨ́ná]||mɨh [mɨ́h]||mɨn [mɨ́n]||mɔɔ [mɔ́ɔ́]|
|7||ga yɨna [gá yɨ́ná]||yɨh [yɨ́h]||yɨn [yɨ́n]||yɔɔ [yɔ́ɔ́]|
|8||ga bina [gá bíná]||bih [bíh]||bin [bín]||byɔɔ [byɔ́ɔ́]|
|9/10||ga nyɨna [gá nyɨ́ná]||nyɨh [nyɨ́h]||nyɨn [nyɨ́n]||nyɔɔ [nyɔ́ɔ́]|