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man, for the man. The article, as a distinct part of speech, is perhaps wanting in all the dialects of Western Africa.



Prepositions in the Grebo are not numerous. It has none to correspond with to when reference to place is made; thus they say, á mu Bligi, he is gone Bligi, and never to Bligi; the language wants a word to correspond with our preposition with; thus they say, â hla âdui fă, he cut himself knife, instead of with a knife.

Many prepositions in Grebo are compound words, one part of which goes before, the other follows the noun which they govern; thus, ko ná máh, for him to, ko-máh being one word. A simple uncompounded preposition almost always follows the noun it governs. Another peculiarity about the Grebo preposition is, that a large number of them are verbalized and inflected like any other verbs; thus, wo is used in the sense of from or come from, as the case may be; and in the past tense becomes woda, came from; and so hi, by, when verbalized, means to go by; so kwa, near, when inflected, kwada, near to or came near.

The Mandingo prepositions like those of the Grebo, are but few, and with one exception, like them, follow the noun which they govern. Many of them are incorporated with the noun as affixes, but none of them are verbalized, like many in the Grebo.

The Mpongwe has a much larger number of prepositions than either of the others; and what forms a marked difference between it and the other two dialects, is, that its prepositions invariably go before the nouns which they govern.

Adverbs and Conjunctions.

There is nothing of special importance to be noticed in connection with these parts of speech in either language. The adverb ye in the Grebo frequently assumes the inflections of the verb it qualifies, whilst the verb itself remains uninflected. It sometimes incorporates itself with the personal pronoun, as tâ mu for tě â mu, where is he gone? There are a large number of particles in all these languages, that are indiscriminately used as prepositions, conjunctions and adverbs, so that these parts of speech are not very distinctly marked, and cannot therefore be very important in showing the analogies existing among these dialects.


There are no inflections in either of these languages, to distinguish gender or case; but each has an inflection to distinguish the singular from the plural number.

The gender in every case is made by coupling the word for man and woman with the noun; thus nyare nomi, man-cow for bull; idâmbe nyanto, woman-sheep for ewe. The nominative and the objective cases are always of the same form, and can be distinguished from each other by their relative position to the verb. The possessive case is formed in the Mandingo and Grebo by inserting the personal pronoun his between the nominative and the possessive, the nominative case always occupying the second place, Duě-a-yu,1 Dwě, his son, for Dwe's, son. In Mpongwe, the definite pronoun, of which we shall have occasion to speak presently, is the connecting link, but the arrangement of the two cases is directly the reverse, thus, Onwa-wa-Dwě, i. e. the child it of Dwě, the definite pronoun always agreeing with the nominative case. This is a point of important distinction between the Mpongwe and the other two dialects, the more so, as the usage on both sides is uniform and invariable.

In Grebo, the plural is formed from the singular, generally, by a change in the final vowel; thus, hya, child, pl. hyě, children; blli, cow, pl. blle, cows, etc. Sometimes there is not only a change of the final vowel, but an additional syllable so suffixed, thus, kai, house, in the plural, keyě, houses; the plural of yu, child, is iru. Both these examples must be considered exceptions, of which however there are very few. In general, the distinction between the singular and plural of Grebo nouns, is very slight, and many nouns are the same in both numbers; thus, blablě a sheep, pl. blable, sheep; and so wudi, goat, pl. wudě, goats, etc.

In Mandingo, the plural is derived from the singular by suffixing lu, when the termination of the singular is in o; thus,

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When the final letter of the singular is not o, it is changed into it; thus,

Mansa (king)

1 In Grebo a is the same as â, his, but modified for the sake of euphony.



Grebo and Mandingo Nouns.

In some cases the adjective takes the inflection of the plural, whilst the noun to which it belongs remains in the singular number; thus,

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This is a peculiarity that does not belong to either of the other dialects.

do, work
muta, hold


This dialect forms verbal nouns in several ways; the noun of instrument is formed by suffixing rango to the verb; thus,

dorango, a working instrument
muterango, a holder, peg, etc.

The noun of agency or office is formed from the verb by suffixing possessive pronouns for his or he; thus, from kanta, to keep, comes kantala, a keeper.

There is another verbal noun formed by suffixing ro; thus, from sunya, to steal, comes sunyaro, theft.

The points of resemblance between Grebo and Mandingo nouns, are, 1st, that the inflections to form the plural are always on the last syllable; and 2d, that both of them can form a noun of agency by suffixing the personal pronoun to the verb. The points in which they differ are, 1st, that Mandingo nouns, generally, terminate in o, whereas those of the Grebo are variable; 2d, that Mandingo nouns, generally, have one well marked mode of forming the plural, and that by affixing a separate syllable; whereas in Grebo, the plural, with few exceptions, is made by changing the final vowel into another vowel, and in many cases the distinction between the two numbers is scarcely perceptible; and 3d, that the Mandingo has a much greater variety and number of derivative or verbal nouns than the Grebo. These facts in connection with those already mentioned, viz. that there are no nouns common to both, and that the greater part of the Grebo nouns are monosyllables, whilst those of the Mandingo, with scarcely a single exception, are words of two, three, four and five syllables, show that there can be little or no affinity between these two dialects.

But the Mpongwe branches off still farther, and shows conclusively, not only in relation to her nouns, but also in reference to her adjectives, pronouns, verbs and grammatical construction, as

The Grebo does form a noun of agency in this way; thus, from nu, did, comes nud, the doer; but this is not muci used in the language.

will appear from the sequel, that it possesses no affinity with either.

All the changes which take place in Mpongwe nouns, except such as result from the laws of contraction and coalescence, are invariably on the incipient syllable.

An abstract verbal noun is derived from the verb by prefixing the letter i; thus,

noka, to lie
jufu, to steal
sunginla, to save

The noun of agency is formed by prefixing the letter o, which may be regarded as a sort of a relative pronoun; thus,

noka, to lie
sunginla, to save

inoka, a lie

ijufa, theft
isunginla, salvation.

onoka, or onoki, a liar
osunginla, or ozunginla.

There are some exceptions and variations from the above rules, not important to be mentioned.

In Mpongwe there are four modes of forming the plural from the singular, which furnish the basis for a classification of its nouns, as well marked and as complete as a similar classification of Latin and Greek nouns.

For the sake of convenience, these classes are called declen sions, although this term is not strictly and philosophically correct.

The first declension embraces all those nouns which commence their singular number with one or more consonants; and the plural is formed from the singular by prefixing i or si; thus,


egara, chest ezama, thing ezango, book


nago, house

inago or sinago
inyare or sinyare.

nyare, cow

Derivative nouns which begin with i, belong to the plural only of this declension.

The second declension comprises all those nouns which commence with the letter e, and form their plurals by dropping e. If the first consonant should be z, e is not only dropped, but z is changed into y; thus,


gara, chests
yama, things
yango, books.

The third declension embraces all nouns whose incipient letter is i; (except the derivative nouns, which commence with i, and


Mpongwe Declensions.


belong to the plural of the first declension), and forms its plurals by changing

into a; thus,


idâmbe, a sheep
ikânda, plantain

adambe, sheep
akânda, plantains.

If the first consonant should be v, it is changed into mp; thus,


ampanga, laws.

Singular. ivanga, law

The fourth declension embraces such nouns as have o for their incipient letter, and form their plurals by changing o into i; thus,

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The fifth declension embraces such nouns as commence with a, and have both numbers of the same form; thus,

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This declension may belong to the plural of the third.

The only irregularities which occur are in relation to the words oma (person) and onwana (child), and such words as are compounded with these; as, omanto (woman), the plural of which is anto; and onwȧgiam, the plural of which is anwâgiam. The plural of oma is aulaga, and the plural of onwana is anwana; so it would seem that the singular of these nouns belong to the fourth, and the plural to the Fifth declension. These, however, are the only irregularities which occur in Mpongwe nouns.

This classification of Mpongwe nouns does not rest, however, entirely or chiefly on their different modes of deriving the plural from the singular number; but it is rendered much more conspicuous and necessary from the different modes in which they receive their adjectives, as will be seen presently.

Some changes take place on the final syllable of nouns, as has already been mentioned, in obedience to the laws of contraction or for the sake of euphony; the following are some of these changes, viz. a final followed by y incipient, is changed into i; thus swaka yam (my knife) becomes swaki yam; the same change takes place before w incipient; thus, olambi wam, and not olamba wam; o final before y are both superseded by w; thus, ndego wam is used for ndego yam, etc., etc.

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