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The possessive pronouns are formed by prefixing the definite pronouns; which see under the head of Adjectives.

â and è are used both as nominative and objective cases, only however when they are incorporated with the final syllable of the verb.


Relative Pronouns.

The Grebo has a relative pronoun, singular and plural; as, nya (who), pl. nyo (who), which neither of the others has; but both these have more than one word for this purpose. O is the ordinary relative pronoun in Mpongwe, mande, when a question is asked. In Mandingo, man, many, or men.

All three dialects form a reflective pronoun by suffixing a syllable; in Grebo it is dui, from which comes âdui (himself); in Mandingo, the suffix is fang or dung; as, m'fang (myself); in Mpongwe, it is me; as, miemě (myself), ayěmě (himself), etc.


There are but few points of resemblance among the verbs of these three dialects. Neither has any inflections to indicate the person or the number, i. e. the first, second and third persons, singular and plural, are of the same form.

The second person plural of the imperative mood in Mpongwe verbs, has a form different from the singular, which is almost the only exception to the above principle that is worthy of notice. Another circumstance common to all is that they use conjunctions, and other auxiliary particles, to express the various shades of meaning of the different tenses and moods; and some of these particles are the same in two or more of them, which cannot justly be regarded in any other light than an accidental circumstance.

Grebo verbs are exceedingly meagre in point of inflections. They have an indicative, an imperative, and an infinitive mood. The subjunctive mood is little else than the indicative, having the conjunction ne (if) placed before it; and the potential mood is likewise dependent upon auxiliary particles.

Tense is well defined in Grebo verbs, perhaps much more minutely than in either of the other two dialects. With the aid of auxiliary particles, there are as many as thirteen tenses; viz. the present, indefinite past, imperfect indefinite past, the past tense of to-day, the imperfect past tense of to-day, the past tense of yesterday, the imperfect past tense of yesterday, the past tense of time previous to

yesterday, the imperfect tense of time previous to yesterday, the indefinite future tense, the future tense of to-day, the future tense of to-morrow, the future tense of time subsequent to to-morrow. This remarkable minuteness in defining the precise time of an event or action, is not effected, however, by changes wrought upon the radical word, but by the use of auxiliary particles, which are seldom used except in this capacity. There is not, strictly speaking, any future tense; the only way by which they can express future action, is by employing the verb minio or mi (to go), as an auxiliary, and the infinitive mood; thus, to say, "I will do it," they say, mi ně numu, i. e. "I go it to do." And so miě ně numu, “ I am going it to do, presently, or some future part of the day." And in all these cases, the auxiliary verb receives the inflections, whilst the infinitive mood of the principal verb remains unchanged. No Grebo verb is capable, of itself, of more than twelve or fifteen different forms; for all the accessory ideas or shades of meaning, it is indebted to the use of auxiliary particles, many of which are inflected instead of itself.

It has a passive voice, which is made by affixing the letter è to the active form; but it is never used, when it can be avoided by circumlocution. Instead of saying he was killed, they would say, he or they or somebody killed him. Instead of saying, he was killed in war, they would say, war killed him. The want of passive verbs characterizes the Mandingo, the Basa, the Fantee, the Acra, and perhaps all the dialects of Northern Africa. The particles ne (is) and mâna (was) are the only parts of a substantive verb used in the Grebo. A reciprocal form is produced by a reduplication of the incipient syllable.

Mandingo Verb.

The Mandingo verb possesses but little more completeness or system than the Grebo. It seems to be equally dependent upon auxiliary particles, and, like the Grebo, but not to the same extent, it defines the time of an action with considerable minuteness. The radical or ground form is capable of but few inflections, even less than the Grebo. It has a causative form, which is made by the aid of a suffix, which the Grebo has not; but on the other hand, it wants a reciprocal form, which the Grebo has. It differs essentially from the Grebo, in its not being under the necessity of employing the verb to go or come, to aid in expressing a future tense. It is said to possess seven tenses and four moods, but strictly speaking, there are, perhaps, not more than three moods,


Mpongue Verb.

the conditional being expressed by aid of conjunctive particles. It uses a greater variety of particles in the sense of substantive verbs.


Mpongwe Verb.

The Mpongwe verb has four moods, the indicative, the imperative, the conditional or subjunctive, and what may be denominated the conjunctive mood. By the aid of auxiliary particles, it forms a potential and an infinitive mood.

The conjunctive mood has only one form, and is used as the second verb in a sentence, where the two verbs would otherwise be joined by a copulative conjunction. Although not inflected itself, it is joined with verbs of all moods, tenses, and persons.

The conditional mood has a form of its own, but uses conjunctive particles as auxiliaries at the same time. Different conjunctive particles are used with the different tenses.

The imperative mood is derived from the present of the indicative, by the change of its initial consonant into its reciprocal consonant; thus, tonda, to love; ronda, love thou; denda, to do; lenda, do thou. These changes will be noticed more fully presently.

The potential mood is made, like the subjunctive, by the aid of auxiliary particles.

The tenses in Mpongwe are a present, past or historical, perfect past, and future. The perfect past tense, which represents the completeness of an action, is formed from the present tense by prefixing a and by changing a final into i; thus, tonda, to love; atondi, did love. The past or historical tense is derived from the imperative by prefixing a and changing a final into i; thus, ronda, love; arondi, have loved, etc. The future tense is formed by the aid of the auxiliary particle be; as, mi be tõnda, 1 am going to love. It must be carefully noted, however, that this same combination of words, if the nominative follows, expresses past time; thus, ne be tonda Anyambia Ebreham, i. e. God loved Abraham. When it is future, the nominative goes before the verb in the order of construction. When an action is immediately to take place, the present tense is used as a future; thus, mi bia, I am coming immediately; but, mi be bia, I am coming after a while, or at some indefinite future time.

The passive voice is formed from the active, simply by changing a final into o; thus, mi tonda, I love; mi tõndo, I am loved. In the historical and perfect past tense, which terminate in ¿,

o is simply adjoined; thus, arondi, have loved; aròndio, to have been loved. This passive form, which is so simple in itself, may be found in every mood and tense which properly belongs to the active.

There is another feature in the Mpongwe verb, equally simple and remarkable; there is a negative for every affirmative form of the verb, and this is distinguished from the affirmative by an intonation on the first or principal vowel of the verb, which is characterized in writing by the use of an italic letter. The negative form belongs to the passive as well as the active voice; thus,


Affir. mi tonda, I love

Neg. mi tonda, I do not love.

Affir. mi I am loved

Neg. mi tondo, I am not loved.


Having now treated of the moods and tenses of Mpongwe verbs, of which there is nothing remarkable, except the very simple manner in which the passive voice is formed from the active, and the equally simple process by which the negative form is distinguished from the affirmative, we proceed now to point out another characteristic of Mpongwe verbs, which is wholly unknown to other dialects, and which certainly constitutes a most wonderful feature in this.

All the verbs in the language, with the exception, perhaps, of ten or a dozen, may be regarded as regular verbs, inasmuch as they are all governed by the same fixed principles of inflection; they are such as are of two or more syllables, the final letter of which is always a, and the incipient consonant of which must be b, d, f (which is closely allied to fw), j, k, p, s, t, and sh, each of which has its reciprocal consonant, into which it is invariably changed to form the imperative mood and such of the oblique tenses of the verb as are derived from it. Such verbs as commence with m or n, which have no reciprocal consonants, retain these two letters throughout all their inflections; but, in other respects, are perfectly regular. The following example will illustrate what we mean by the change of these consonants into their reciprocal letters; thus, the invariable reciprocal letter of b is v or w; so the imperative is derived from the present of the indicative, in all verbs which commence with b, by changing b into w or v; thus, mi bonga, I take; Imp. wõnga, take; after the same manner, and with invariable uniformity, d is changed into l, f into v or fw into vw, j into y, k into g, p into v, s into z, sh into zy, t intor; thus,

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Having now explained what a regular verb is, we proceed a step further, to explain what may be denominated the different conjugations of every regular verb.

Every regular verb in the language may be said to have as many as five simple conjugations, and as many as six compound conjugations.

These conjugations are, 1st, the radical conjugation kamba, I speak; 2d, the causative, which is derived from the radical by changing a final into iza; thus, kamba, to speak; kambiza, to cause to speak; the 3d, frequentative or habitual conjugation, which implies habitual action, is derived from the radical by suffixing ga; thus, kamba, to speak; kambaga, to speak habitually; 4th, the relative conjugation, which implies performing an action for or to some one, is derived from the radical by suffixing na; thus, from kamba, to speak, comes kambana or kambina, to speak to or with some one; and 5th, the indefinite, which is derived from the radical by suffixing the imperative to the present of the Indicative; thus, from kamba comes kambagamba, to speak at random.

By combining these simple derivative conjugations, as many as six compound conjugations may be formed. Thus, by uniting the habitual and the causative, we get kambizaga, i. e. to cause to talk habitually, etc. The following table will exhibit all these conjugations; thus,

Simple Conjugations.


mi kamba, I talk

Frequentative, kambaga, to talk habitually

kambiza, to cause to talk


kambina, to talk to, or with some one
kambagamba, to talk at random.

Compound Conjugations.

kambizaga, to cause to talk habitually

kambinaga, to talk habitually with some one
kambinaza, to cause to talk with some one

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