Noun classes and their endings

Since Pular is a language with noun classes (there are 24), most of its words are made up of a noun class stem and suffix. Example: daa-nde "neck", ɗaɗ-ol "root", maay-o "river", ndiy-am "water" etc. Here we see the roots daa-, ɗaɗ-, maay- and diy- as well as the class suffixes -nde, ol and o. On the table we notice that each nominal class has a gradation in the form of 4 subclasses or endings. This is true for nominals as well as adjectives. We can say that the bulk of the primary adjectives are formed with the ending I, that the adjectives of color are formed with the ending II and that more rarely certain primary adjectives are formed with grade or ending IV, for example hiɗɗ- “old, old” . The participles of stative verbs (for example juutugol “to be tall”) can also be used for qualification: juutuɗo “a tall person”. They are systematically formed with ending IV. Ending III occurs seldom with adjectives.

In the dictionary, the stems of the primary adjectives are indicated with a hyphen and next to them the corresponding suffix grades which refer the user to the table below. So each adjective agrees with the nominal class of the noun it qualifies, for example: gorko ɓaleejo “a man of black complexion”, suudu ɓaleeru “a black house”, wudere ɓaleere “a black loincloth” etc.

ɓalee- {+ suffix grade II} (ɓale-) adj black

Note on ending II: if the stem of the adjective ends in a vowel, the latter is short or long depending on the noun class: ɓaleere, ɓaleeru, ɓalewol, ɓalewii, ɓalewal etc.

Chart of the nominal classes and their endings (suffixes)


The consonant mutation rules

The consonant mutation rules at stem-initials operate at three levels: fricative, plosive and prenasal. It is also linked to the nominal class:

• Fricative: classes ƁE, NGE, NGO, KO, NDE, NDU, KI

• Plosive: classes ƊE, ƊI, O, KOY,NGEL, KUN, NGOL, NGAL, NGII, ƊUN, KAL, KOL

• Prenasal: ƊAN, NGU, NDI, MBA, KA

For p, c and k there is no prenasalisation.

Examples: wujjugol "steal", gujjo "thief", wuyɓe "thieves", nguyka "thief", reedu "belly", deereero "greedy", ndeeraraaku "gluttony" etc.

This model is in principle valid for adjectives as well but in the Pular dialect of Fouta Djallon, the system is unstable and tends to simplify. Thus the prenasals are rarely used: we can hear raneeri as well as ndaneeri. In general, the prenasal series classes ƊAN, NGU, NDI etc. which normally trigger prenasalization in nominals tend to not work when it comes to adjectives. There is therefore no alternation: hecciri, hinndi, hinngu (instead of kecciri, kinndi, kinngu as in other Fulani dialects). On the other hand, for the plural classes ƊE and Ɗi (plosive series), a consonant mutation h to k occurs: kecce and kecci.

Illustration with a particularly difficult adjective stem: hiɗɗ- “ancient, old, worn out”

This adjective was chosen as an example for two reasons: its stem is considerably altered due on the one hand to the assimilation process triggered off by the nominal class suffix (linguists then speak of allomorphs) and on the other hand to the consonant mutation.

Table ici

In the dictionary the stem hiɗɗ- is the main headword. The allomorphs are indicated between parenthesis, after the main headword:

hiɗɗ- {+ Dés. IV} (hin-), (kin-), (hikk-), (kikk-), (kiɗɗ-), (hiɓɓ-), (him-) adj old; ancient ; worn out