Page images


In relation to this part of speech, there are a few particulars in which there is some general resemblance among these dialects, not such however as would be so likely to arise from any existing affinity, as from the uncultivated state of these languages.

In the first place, this class of words are not numerous in either, but much less so in the Grebo and the Mandingo than in the Mpongwe; 2, neither have degrees of comparison; and 3, neither have inflections for number, except the Mpongwe.

The deficiency of adjectives in these languages is made up by the use of a substantive and verb; thus in Grebo, kanu ni nâ, hunger works him, for hungry; á ka te plande, he has many things, for rich; and so in Mpongwe e jâgâ njana, he is sick with hunger, for he is hungry; are nániva, he has money, for rich, etc. A similar usage prevails in all three to express the relative qualities of things; thus in Grebo, to say "his knife is better than my knife," they would say a fa hio na fa, i. e. excels or passes my knife. To express the superlative degree, they would connect with the word hio another, viz. pěpě which means "all" so as to make the phraseology hio pěpě, i. e. excel all.

Their modes of counting differ. The Grebo counts up to five, and then there is a reduplicative up to ten, and then another up to twenty; after which they count by twenties up to ten twenties, which is huba, or two hundred. The Mpongwe and Mandingo have what may strictly be called a decimal system; each counts to ten, where there is a reduplication; eleven is ten and one, twenty is two tens; ten tens is one hundred, for which each language has a word.

The Grebo has no ordinals; the Mandingo forms its ordinals by a suffix, the Mpongwe by a prefix. In all three, the derivatives are formed simply by repeating the numerals.

Having noticed the points of difference and resemblance between these dialects, as far as they go, we proceed now, to point out some very remarkable peculiarities of the Mpongwe adjective, which are entirely unknown to the others, and perhaps are unknown to any other the world.

Mpongwe Adjectives.

Under this head are included adjectives of every description, viz. possessive, demonstrative, distributive, numeral and a species


Adjectives and Definite Pronouns.


of pronominal adjective, that is denominated for the sake of convenience, the definite pronoun. All of these are included under one head, because they are all governed by the same general rules of inflection.

Though they have no inflection to indicate gender or case, they have a singular and plural, and a species of declensional inflection by which they accommodate themselves to nouns of all declensions; thus, the same adjective has one form for a noun of the first declension, another for a noun of the second declension, etc. This will be better understood by an example; thus,

[blocks in formation]

Here then, without anything that can be denominated case or gender, we have as many as seven different forms for the adjective large, viz. mpolu, impolu, evolu, volu, ivolu, ampolu, and ompolu, in the use of which the natives are governed by the strictest and most uniform principles of grammar.

Adjectives again are to be divided into three distinct classes, not according to the classification of our grammars, into demonstrative, possessive, distributive, etc., but according to the peculiar mode which each adopts of being inflected through the declensions. Before entering into a description of these different classes, it is necessary to give some explanation of the definite pro


Definite Pronoun. This particle, yi, ya, or yo (it assumes these different vowels according to rules that will be mentioned presently), is a part of speech peculiar to the Mpongwe, but is so intimately interwoven with the whole structure of the language, and is used for such a variety of purposes, that it is difficult to assign it a place under any of the established divisions of speech. It partakes of the nature of the personal pronoun; is used as a relative pronoun and points out its antecedent with admirable precision; and serves as a connecting link between the nominative and the possessive cases. These different forms of it incorporate themselves with the initial vowel of all verbs of the past tense; they serve as an auxiliary in forming the infinitive mood; someVOL. IV. No. 16. 65

times they exercise the function of a preposition; they serve to indicate the nominative to the verb when it is preceded by more than one; they incorporate themselves with all adjectives whose incipient syllable commences with a vowel, and are indispensable to the inflection of the great mass of adjectives in the language; they form the incipient syllable of all ordinal numbers and are used in various other ways, too numerous to be mentioned. This pronoun is inflected through the different declensions like any other adjective; indeed it is the basis of the two principal classes of adjectives, without which, they cannot be inflected. This may be better understood by an example; thus,

[blocks in formation]

All the parts, singular and plural, being yi, si, zi, nyi, mi, wi. If it is united to a word, no matter whether it be a noun, adjective, or verb, that commences with a vowel, it drops its own vowel, and incorporates itself with the following word, in the same manner as the French article with a noun which commences with a vowel or a silent h. The vowel is superseded by a before certain consonants, but under what particular circumstances is not known. When it takes o it is either in the objective case, or it is a nominative possessing something of a demonstrative character; thus, ininla nyi denda mpani mbe, nyo be juwa, i. e. " the soul that sins, it (the very same) shall die," etc. It differs from adjectives and nouns, but agrees with personal pronouns in having an objective


Having now explained the nature and office of this somewhat anomalous particle, which makes a marked, if not a radical difference between this and the other two dialects, we may complete the classification of adjectives.

The first class of adjectives embraces all those which receive the definite pronoun as a prefix, which they may do in two ways, 1. when the ground-form commencing with a vowel, incorporates the prefix with itself without forming an additional syllable; thus, 'am is the ground-form for my but is never used by itself; by receiving the prefix it becomes y'am, s'am, z'am, etc.; and 2. when


Personal Pronouns.


the ground-form commences with a consonant and receives the prefix as an additional syllable; thus, ngulu, strong; yingula, singulu, according to the number and declension of the noun to which it belongs. Before the word tenatena, red, and some other words, the vowel of the prefix is a, as yatenatena, etc.

The second class embraces those adjectives whose initial changes are analogous to those that are produced on the incipient syllables of so many nouns in the different declensions successively; i. e. they assume, reject or change their initial vowel according as nouns of the different declensions would. The word mpolu belongs to this class; and the example already given under the head of the inflection of adjectives generally, will explain the characteristic just mentioned.

The third class embrace such adjectives as combine both of the above peculiarities in their own inflections; this occurs in the words enge, much, and ango, little; neither of which is ever used by itself. With nouns of the first declension it is nyenge, pl. sinyenge; in the second declension it is ezenge, pl. yenge; in the third, inyenge, pl. amange; and in the fourth it is onyenge, pl.

imienge, etc.

The ordinal numbers are derived from the cardinal, by simply prefixing the definite pronoun, all of which, as well as the cardinal numbers themselves, are to be arranged under the different classes of adjectives according to their incipient syllables respect. ively.


Personal Pronouns. All three of these dialects have a large number of personal pronouns, resulting from contracted forms of the same word, forms to express objects of importance or diminutiveness, emphasis, etc., in which there are some peculiarities for each one. Neither has any forms to express gender; and, with the exception of an objective form of the first person singular in the Grebo, they have no case.

The Grebo has a form of the third person singular and plural for insignificant objects.

The following is a list of the personal pronouns in each.


Singular. 1st Pers. mâ, I

2d Pers. môh, you

3d Pers. â, ná, dim. ě and ně, he, she, it


ǎ or ǎmu, we

ǎh or ahmu, ye

oh, no, eh and ne, thy.

They are declined thus:

First Pers. singular.
Nom. mâ, I
Poss. nă and mâ, my

Obj. mâ, mu, mli, me

Second Pers. singular.

Nom. mah, you
Poss. nah and mâh, your
Obj. mâh, mlâ, you

Third Pers. singular.

Nom. ȧ and nå, he, she, or it
Poss. â, na, his, her, its
Obj. na, him, her, it

Third Pers. dim. Sing.

Nom. ěh and ně, he, she, or it
Poss. ěh, his, her, its
Obj. ně, him, her, it

[ocr errors]

NOTE. The first and second persons, both singular and plural, are not distinguished from each other except by intonation, which is marked in writing by h final.

The following are the pronouns personal of the Mandingo, viz.

1. Pers. singular, nte (cont. forms), n, m, I, me




66 i, thou

ite ate


[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]


1. Pers. plural, ntolu, ntelu (sometimes n), we, us
altolu, or altelu, cont. al, ye, you





itolu, or itelu,


y, thy, them.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

The nominative and objective cases are always the same; the possessive case, which belongs properly to possessive pronouns, is formed by suffixing la to the personal pronouns; thus,

First Pers. plural.

ǎ and amu, we

ă, our

am and amu, us.

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

Second Pers. plural.
ǎh and ahmu, ye

ǎh, your
ahmu, you.

1. Pers. plural, azuwě, az'wě, ‘zuwe,





wao, wa,

Third Pers. plural.

oh and no, thy

oh and no, their
no, them.

[ocr errors]

The following are Mpongwe personal pronouns :

1. Pers. singular, mie, mi, m' (emphatic) miě, I, me




awě, you

o, à,
e, ě (in combination a), yě, ayě, he, she, it, him.


Third Pers. plural.

eh and ne,

eh and ne, their

ne, them.

1. ntela (cont. forms), na, my



ila, thy

2. itela
3. atela

ala, his, her, etc.

a, he, she it.

we, us

ye, you
they, them.

« PreviousContinue »