Grammar

The parts of speech in Badwe’e

by Keith Beavon (SIL-Cameroon)

Definition of parts of speech

Every word in the language belongs to a specific part of speech. In order for native speakers to correctly use a given word, they must know its part of speech. The most common parts of speech are nouns, verbs and adjectives.

Adjectives cannot be put in the negative form as with verbs, nor in the plural as with nouns.

An adjective like bɛmɨ [bɛ̀mɨ̂] “white” cannot be pluralized (*bɨ̂bɛmɨ). It cannot be negated (*abɛmɨ). It can, however, follow the preposition é “in” or “at”.

Verbs

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:

  1. e- (è-)    eto    “to leave”

The verb can also be in the negative present form like in the following example:

  1. a- (à-)    ato     “not leaving”

In the dictionary, the verbs appear in the infinitive form. Each verb entry displays the conventional 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.

  1. eto [ètô] v partir leave Mʉma we, nyi to peme. His wife left for the field.

While a verb can be formed into a negative, a noun cannot. A Class 5 noun such as eto [ètó] “a drop” (5) 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 negated, while the adjective cannot.

Nouns

Nouns in Badwe’e 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 speech n, the noun class in parentheses for the singular and plural forms, the translation into French, the scientific name if applicable, 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 ben left out of the entry, because its forms predictable.

  1. bon [bòn] n (7/10) black monkey Colobus satannas

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.

  1. eto [ètó] n (5/6) a drop

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.

  1. ojaa [òjàá] n (11)  beauté beauty

Some nouns refer to mass nouns that cannot be counted. They usually belong to Classes 6a or 8.

  1. modibe [mòdíbé] n (6a)  eau  water

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.

Singular nouns belong to Class 1, 1a, 3, 5, 7 or 11. Note that singular noun classes are odd numbers.

  1. tir [tír] n (1)  animal
  2. mʉr [mʉr] n (1)  person
  3. zwɨɨ [zwɨ́ɨ̀] n (1)  ax
  4. anya-ebum [ányâ-èbùm] n (1a)  pregnant woman
  5. mir [mǐr] n (3)  remedy
  6. dʉ [dʉ̂] n (5)  nose
  7. ebeŋe [èbèŋé] n (5)  bell
  8. peme [pèmé] n (7) garden; field
  9. odumo [òdùmò] n (11)  end

Plural nouns belong to Class 2, 2a, 4, 6, 8 or 10. Plural noun classes are even numbers.

  1. otir [òtír] n (2)  animals
  2. bʉr [bʉr] n (2)  people
  3. baanya-ebum [bàányâ-èbùm] n (2a)  pregnant women
  4. mɨmir [mɨ̀mǐr] n (4)  remedies
  5. mʉ [mʉ̂] n (6)  noses
  6. mobeŋe [mòbèŋé] n (6)  bells
  7. bɨpeme [bɨ̀pèmé] n (8)  gardens; fields
  8. mpumo [mpùmó] n (10)  fruits

Nominal verbs belong to Class 15 in the infinitive and to Classes 3 or 4 as participles.

  1. ndiʼa [ndíʼá] n (3) burned (sg.)
  2. mɨndiʼa [mɨ̀ndíʼá] n (4) burned (pl.)

The table below displays the pairings between singular and plural classes:

1/2 frequent mʉr/bʉr “person(s)”
1/6 rare pa/mopa “machete(s)”
zi/mozi “path(s)”
1a/2a frequent anya-ebum/baanya-ebum “pregnant woman; pregnant women”
3/4 frequent mir/mɨmir “remedy(ies)”
3/6 rare kʉ/mokʉ “foot/feet”
4/2 rare mɨnkɨŋ/boomɨnkɨŋ “three-legged pot(s)”
5/6 frequent ebeŋe/mobeŋe “bell(s)”
7/8 frequent lɨ/bɨlɨ “tree(s)”
7/6-10 rare diʼ/montiʼ “forest(s)”
7/6 rare dʉ̀/modʉ̀ “thigh(s)”
7/10 rare bumo/mpumo “fruit(s)”
11/6 frequent odumo/modumo “end(s)”

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 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” and dʉ̀ “cuisse, thigh”. It does not help to look at the noun class for the plural, because these nouns belong to Class 6: mʉ “nez (pl.) noses” and mèdʉ̀ “cuisses, thighs”. But, for the singular noun class, ask a speaker of Badwe’e how to say “my nose” and “my thigh”. The response should be:

  1. dʉ lam [dʉ̂ lâm] « mon nez » “my nose”
  2. dʉ̀ yam [dʉ̀ yâm] « ma cuisse »  “my thigh”

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 badwe’e lexicon:

  1. dʉ [dʉ̂] n (5/6) nez
  2. dʉ̀ [dʉ̀] n (7/6) cuisse

Below are the singular personal pronouns, determined by the noun class that they represent:

1sg ‘to me’ 2sg ‘to you’ 3sg ‘to him/her/it’
1/1a/10 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]

Below are the plural personal pronouns, determined by the noun class that they represent:

1pl inclusive ‘to us’ 1pl exclusive ‘to us’ 2pl ‘to you’ 3pl ‘to them’
1/1a/10 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]