Monday, November 21, 2011


Introductory Grammar of Ngoni Language Part 6

  • Monday, November 21, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
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  • continued from part 5 which deals with ngoni adjective and adverb



    I. The simple form of the ngoni verb contains the root and root idea unmodified. Verbs usually end in a, but some (three as in isiZulu and Kaffir) end in i and o. The second person singular, imperative mood, presents the root of the verb. To this is prefixed uku to form the infinitive mood.


    Ukuthanda, to love, from (u) ku, to, and thanda, love.

    From the simple form other forms are derived by means of changes in the ending of the root. There are primary, secondary, and tertiary derived forms, as noted below, but very few verbs are used in all these forms. It is also to be noted that many verbs have ceased to be used in the simple form, and are only used in the objective form, which has the force of the simple form as well. The derived forms are conjugated like simple verbs.

    1. Simple form, Uku thanda, to love.
    2. Subjective form Ukuthandeka, to be loveable, or beloved.
    3. Objective form Uku thandela, to love for,or on account of.
    4. Causative form Uku thandisa, to cause to love.
    5. Reflective form Uku zithanda, to love oneself.
    6. Reciprocal form Uku thandana, to love one another.
    7. Frequentative form Uku thandathanda, to love on, or frequently.

    Secondary derived forms may be used thus-

    Uku thandisela, to cause to love for.
    Uku thandanisa, to cause one another to love.

    2. Uses of the various forms of the verb :—

    (1). Simple. Expresses the bare affirmation of the action signified by the verb.


    Niyahamba, I am going.

    (2). Subjective. This form is derived from the simple form by inserting ek before the final vowel of the root. It expresses the state of being which is the result of the action of the verb in the simple form.


    Ngi thandekile, I am beloved.
    It also means that the state is possible.

    NOTE 1.—This form of the verb is variously termed neuter passive, intransitive, and its meaning is closely allied to the passive voice. In the passive voice, however, the state signified refers the action to some agent.

    NOTE 2.—Some verbs add kala to the root, thus forming an intransitive verb.

    Bona, see; bonakala, be visible.

    Such modifications are treated as distinct verbs when conjugated, and denote various ideas.

    Bona, see; bonisa, cause to see.
    Bonakala, be visible; Bonakalisa, cause to be, or make visible.

    In these examples bona—simple form of verb.
    bonisa bonakala—primary derived forms.
    bonakalisa=secondary derived form.

    (1). Objective. Derived from the simple form by inserting el before the final vowel of the root.


    Uku thandela, to love for.

    Its more frequent use is with nouns and pronouns in the locative case, or governed by the preposition ku; and before adverbs of place.


    Ngilinda, I wait ; ngimlindela, I wait for him.
    Wafela ekhaya, he died at home.
    Wafela lapho, he died there.

    It is used to express "for," "on account of," &c.


    Watshithengela ni na? for what (or why) did he buy it ?

    NOTE 1.—Tsho, forms the objective in lo=tsholo.

    (4). Causative. Derived from the simple form by inserting is before the final vowel.

    It is used, 
    1. In extending the action to a second agent.
    2. It implies helping to do a thing.
    3. It implies energy, thoroughness, in the action.


    Zwa, feel, &c.; zwisa, cause to feel.
    Bema, snuff; bemisa, cause to (give, help to) snuff.
    Bopha, bind ; bophisa, cause to bind ; bophisisa, bind thoroughly.

    NOTE 1. —The causative form of verb may constitute a true translation of, or stand for a word quite different from, that denoted by the simple form.


    Goduka, go home ; godusa, send home. Suka, go away ; susa, take away.

    NOTE 2.—Simple verbs ending in la form their causatives in za.
    Some ending in ka make their causative ending in sa (vt sup.)


    Vela, come from ; veza, bring forth, &c.
    Sondela, come near ; sondeza, bring near.

    (5). Reflective. Derived from the simple form by inserting zi (see Pronoun) before the root. It denotes that the action of the verb is upon the subject.

    Wazibulala, he killed himself.

    (6). Reciprocal. Derived from the simple form by adding na to the root. It may be used with either a singular or plural pronoun.


    Nilinga naye, or tilingana, we are equals.

    (7). Frequentative. The root is reduplicated to imply frequent or continuous action.


    The active voice is seen in the foregoing examples, and the passive voice is formed by inserting w—(o) before the final vowel of the root. in the active voice.


    Uku thanda, to love ; uku thandwa, to be loved.

    NOTE 1.—Monosyllabic verbs form the passive in iw, as tsho, speak ; tshiwo, spoken.
    NOTE 2.—Those verbs which were originally (in Zulu) vowel verbs (see chap. II. 3. (21.), but are disyllabic in Ngoni, also insert iw to form the passive.
    EXAMPLE. Uku yiba, to steal ; uku yibiwa, to be stolen. „
    NOTE 3.—The reflective, reciprocal, and subjective forms, from the nature of their signification, can have no passive voice.
    NOTE 4.—Refer to 2. (2) Note 1. ante.


    There are five moods, or modes in which the action of the verb may take place, viz.:-

    1. Imperative. The 2nd person singular of the verb in this mood exhibits the root of the verb. To form the plural, add ni to the singular. If the verb is monosyllabic yi is prefixed to the root for both singular and plural.


    Bopha, bind thou ; bophani, bind ye.
    Yizwa, hear thou ; yizwani, hear ye (from zwa).

    2. Infinitive. The root preceded by uku. Uku thanda, to love. Krapf says "The sign or particle of the infinitive is [uku]. It appears to us very improper to write [ukuthanda] as if it were one word, but [uku thanda], as in English " to love." At all events the lexicographer and grammarian must separate the particle from the verb when writing, for foreigners who wish to learn [Ngoni], whereas the natives know how to pronounce their mother-tongue, and may write and read [ukutanda] as one word if they choose. We must never forget the difference between a grammar and a translation."....(Swahili-English Dictionary).

    3. Indicative. This mood is used in making any unconditional statement, or in describing any unconditional action. Ex. Ngibona, I see.

    4. Subjunctive. This mood is used in making conditional statements. It expresses also, uncertainty, and is used as a polite imperative.

    Ngihambe, that I may go.
    Ngihambe, let me go.

    5. Potential. This mood is expressive of permission, possibility, conditionality, liberty, and obligation. There is no real potential mood, but the idea of mental ability to do anything is commonly expressed by means of uku yazi, to know, followed by the infinitive of the principal verb ; and physical ability may be expressed by uku ba, to be, and na, with, followed by amandhla, to be with strength, and the infinitive of the principal verb.

    Ngiyazi uku lemba, I know to write—I can write.
    Nginamandhla ukugamula, I have strength (am able) to hew (trees).

    Nga and nge in this mood are derivatives of the same verb uku nga, to wish. Nga, denotes the possibility or probability ; and nge the propriety and expediency of the action taking place.—(Colenso).


    There are three tenses to denote the time in which an action takes place, viz. :—present, past, and future ; and there are three forms for each of these to denote the state of the action, viz. :— indefinite or incomplete, progressive and perfect or complete.

    The indicative mood may contain these nine forms, but general usage does not require that each mood should possess that number. Compound tense forms may readily be formed, but such a full statement of the verb has not been found to be in common use, and so only those forms found in general use are noted. Attention to the subject has not enabled us to give a fuller statement of the verb.

    1. Present indefinite. It expresses what is true at all times, and also a present act only.
    2. Present progressive. It denotes that the action continues.
    3. Present perfect. It denotes an action just completed, or one whose consequences still remain. Hence this form is frequently used in the formation cf adjectives.
    4. Past indefinite. Expresses what was formerly true, but is no longer so. In this it differs from the present perfect.
    5. Past progressive. Like the present it affirms continuance.
    6. Past perfect. It denotes that the action was completed at a definite past time.
    7. Future immediate.
    8. Future indefinite.-
    These two forms 7 and 8 are used promiscuously.

    A future progressive and future perfect may be formed by using an auxiliary verb, but are not in general use.

    NOTE I.—It is to be noted that we do not find in the native tongue equivalents for all the English tenses of a verb. Take for instance the past progressive indicitive mood, " I was going," there is a proper tense form which makes use of an adverb and either a present or a past tense. Kadi ngihamba, I was going —then (long. ago) I going. Kadi nihambile, then I have gone—I had gone. In like manner other tenses are formed, but it is not to be regarded as a distinct tense form.


    The formation of participles is the same as in Zulu, but frequently the ordinary tense forms are used as participles. The infinitive (verbal) noun is very frequently used, corresponding to English infinitives ending in ing.


    There are two conjugations, viz., positive and negative. The negative is indicated by various changes in the positive which may readily be observed on referring to the scheme of verb.



    1. Ukuba, to be. This is the most important auxiliary verb, as by its use the compound tenses of the verb are constructed.This verb is irregular in its conjugation, and is only used in the following forms :—

    1. Present indicative. The root does not appear at all, and the pronouns subjective designate "I am," "He is," &c., &c. It may be used with nouns, pronouns, or adjectives and adverbs, thus :—


    Ngingumuntu, I am a person.
    Unguye, he is he.
    -ng is the copula or verb substantive used with nouns and pronoun

    Ngifile, I am dead.
    Ngimnyama, I am black.
    used with adjectives.

    Ngiphezulu, I am high up.
    Ngikhona, I am present.
    used with adverbs.

    NOTE.—By using the verb "to be" in this way many verbs may be formed.

    2. Perfect indicative. Used in forming compound tenses of verb.

    1st person
    2nd person
    3rd person
    Wabe, ube

    NOTE. —Waba may be heard ; it is probably a past tense form.

    2. Ukuya, to go. The present and past (or perfect) tenses are used as auxiliaries.


    1st Person
    2nd Person
    3rd Person
    Waya (uya)
    1st Person
    2nd Person
    3rd Person

    NOTE.—Waye is frequently supplanted in speech by wae.

    3. Ukuza, to come. It is used in constructing one of the forms- of the future indicative, and has the force of an imminent or immediate tense. "I am about to," &c.

    4. The auxiliary ukuba, to be, is used with the preposition na, with, to construct a verb "to have," and this verb is used to form adjectives.


    Ngina-, I have ; Nginembuzi, I have a goat.
    Una, thou hast; Unomusa, thou hast mercy— thou art merciful.

    In like manner other tenses may be used.

    5. Ng- the substantive verb "it is" is used as the copula with - nouns and pronouns. It is also used after passive, or subjective verbs, active voice, with the agent of the verb, but it may be omitted in the latter case




    Ngimi  It is I
    Ngithi  It is we,

    Nguwe It is thou
    Ngilina,  It is ye
    Ngumuntu , It is a person.

    Ngabantu it is people.

    It is it;
    It is they

    Ngumuti it is a tree.

    Ngimiti it is  trees

    Ngimbuzi it is a goat

    Ngizimbuzi it is goats

    Ngitshihlangu it is a shield

    Ngivihlangu it is shields

    Ngilizwi it is a word.

    Ngamazwi it is words
    Ngiwo or ngawo

    Nguluti it is a rod.

    Ngizinti It is rods

    Ngukudhla it is food.

    NOTE 1.—The copula ng- is to be noted as differing from the preposition nga which denotes the instrument, while ng- denotes the agent.


    Wabulawa ngumuti, he was killed by a tree.
    Watshibulala ngomuti, he killed it with a tree.

    NOTE 2.—If the copula is used in such a sentence as, It is he who came, nguye owabuya is the correct form ; but, He is the person who came, the personal pronoun subjective is required before the copula as, Ungumuntu owabuya or unguye umuntu owabuya.


    Ungubani? Who art thou ?
    Lingilizwi, it is a voice.
    Tshingukudhla, it (the thing) is food. But the personal pronoun is frequently omitted.

    NOTE 3. -The negative of the above is formed by prefixing asi, it is not.=asinguye asiye}It is not he.


    There are certain particles which are used with verbs and modify their meaning and serve instead of some English adverbs. They are derived from verbs.
    The following are in use :-

    1. Sa, is used before the verb root, and means,

    (1) In positive conjugation, still, yet, then, while, &c., according to the context. Continuance of action is expressed by it. It is generally used with the present tense and present participle.


    Ngisakhuluma, I still speak.
    Wamuka, ngisadhla, he went away while I was eating (I still eating).

    (2). In negative conjugation, no more, any longer, again, &c.


    Angisayikubuya, I will come no more.
    Angisathandi, I do not any longer love.

    1. Se, is used before the pronominal verbal prefix, and has a variety of meanings.

    (1). Already, now, then, &c., marking the commencement or completion of the action of the verb.

    (2). At this time, at that time, when, &c. It is used before pronouns whose initial letter is not the vowel u.

    3. So, signifies the same things as se, but is used with pronouns which have u. It is merely a euphonic difference, and not a difference of derivation or meaning.


    Sengiyahamba, now I am going.
    Souhambile na ? or Sohambile na ? has he now gone
    Mungadhla inyama setifikile ekhaya, you can eat flesh when we arrive at home.

    4. Ka, is used in the negative forms of tenses, and expresses that the action is not now, or was not then completed, at the time Of speaking. It may be translated by not yet.


    Ungakafiki, he has not yet arrived.
    Ngafika, bengakafiki, I arrived, they not having yet arrived = I arrived before them.

    5. Ake, is used with the subjunctive mood, and may be spoken. where in English we would say " please," as in making apology for troubling one in moving to another position.


    Ake ngiphume, excuse my going out, or please let me go out, &c.

    6. Ke, is used in commencing or ending a sentence, meaning, and so, and then, so, then, &c.


    Ngafikake, so I arrived, or and then I arrived.

    7. Phela, is used like ke, and may mean indeed, quite so, &c.


    Nitsho phela, I indeed say.

    8. Buya, from the verb, to return (Ngoni=come) means " then," &c.


    Wafika, wabuya walala, he arrived and then he slept.

    9. Funa, means to be on the point of doing anything. It means also "lest" (with subjective mood).


    Ufuna kufa, he is just dying.
    Bamba funa uwe, grasp lest you fall.

    10. Ukuthi, means to be so, or to do so, as is afterwards explained in the context.


    Kwathi, ngolunye usuku wawa pansi, it was so, one day he fell clown.
    Wathi, wabulala umuntu, and he killed a man.

    Ukuthi is also used in describing sounds, &c., as Kwathi go ! it sounded go. It is also used in counting, e.g., Izinkomo zami zithi (holding up so many fingers), my cattle are so many.

    Ukuthi is the verb to say, and is used for " to wit," " that," &c.
    Wakhuluma, wathi, lie spoke and said.
    Watsho ukuthi, he said, to wit (or that).



    1. Au! wonder, sympathy, anger, according to tone of voice.

    2. Hau! strong displeasure.

    3. Maye ! grief.

    4. Erere yehe! sympathy.

    Each clan has a war cry of its own; and each district has a set of interjections common, in great measure, only there.

    The native swears by some ancestral spirit, or very commonly by " tshibaya" (the cattle fold—i.e., where the last chief is buried) ; women swear by their husbands names or those of some male relation.Thanks are expressed by saying, "Yebo, Jele," if, the chief is addressed, Jele being his clan name, or name of praise (tshibongo). In like manner any one is thanked by saying yebo together with his name of praise.

    (Europeans are thanked in this way—Yebo satshira. We were asked for our name of praise, and on telling them that we had none, we were asked how we thanked any one. By saying "thank you," we replied, so they caught the words thank you and satshira is what they make of them).

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