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Adpositions indicate the semantic relationship between two nouns in a construction. Cross-linguistically, adpositions are primarily used to encode spatial relationships. In Sereer, most adpositions are used to inidicate spatial relationships, through there are also temporal adpositions, and adpositions that license additional arguments without spatial reference. In all cases, adpositions are preposed to the noun that they modify, and they are morphologically free particles.


Spatial Prepositions

There are two classes of spatial prepositions: those that function verbally and therefore take verbal morphology, and those that cannot take verbal morphology. The non-verbal adpositions are indicated in Table 1, while those that have verbal characteristics are shown in Table 2.

1. Non-verbal Prepositions
Gloss Adposition Source Notes, Example Sentences
at/to no= VW_054 eg. no oɓox ole [noɓox ole]"at the dog"
with fo VW_054 fo japil "with the knife", fo oteo "with the woman"
in/inside kam JM_021, VW_040
near/by/next to pam pam JM_021, VW_040 pam ndaxarne "by the tree"
over/above/on/up tok JM_021, VW_040 used also as adv. "up"
under ɗoxang ɗoxang, ɗoxaŋ JM_021 ɗoxang mbaj ne "under the blanket"
amidst/between/surrounded by/inside ndeer VW_024 ndeer taxarke "amidst the trees", alternates with andeer, plural
in front of mbaambir JM_021, VW_054
behind/after acinj JM_021, VW_040 acinj mbine "behind the house"
behind kataa VW_040
outside tafil VW_040 also N "outside"

2. Verbal Markers
Gloss Adposition Verbal Root Meaning Source Notes, Example Sentences
around widna, mbidna twist around wid VW_040
toward jofna go toward ɟof VW_024
near (to) matna be near mat VW_024
far from goƭna be far goƭ VW_024
from xatna come from xat VW_068
from inoorna come from inoor VW_068
in front of adox be first dox VW_038 (JH_039) derived from "leader" N
above yooroox be above yooroox VW_097
facing faam often appears with -ir
toward jasnoor go toward jasnoor VW_135

Structure of PPs

Spatial prepositions are indicated by particles that appear preposed to the noun phrase. Because noun phrases are head initial, i.e all nominal modifiers (determiners, adjectives, numerals) appear following the noun, the preposition always appears directly adjacent to the noun, as shown in (1)-(3).

  1. fo japil
    fo japil with knife
    'with the knife (026)'

  1. na pamb ake
    na pamb ake at drums DET
    'at the drums (086)'

  1. ɗoxang ndaxar yaxgu ne
    ɗoxang ndaxar yaxgu ne under tree red DET
    'under the red tree (110)'

Prepositions treat pronouns in the same manner as full nouns, as shown in Examples (4) and (5).

  1. adega ndawal ne fo ten
    a- deg -a ndawal ne fo ten 3S- cut -NPT meat DET with 3PRO
    'He cut the meat with it. (123)'

  1. ndiiƭ ne axe pam den
    ndiiƭ ne a- xe pam den bird DET 3S- PROG near 3PRO.PL
    'The bird is near them. (123)'

Embedding PPs

Prepositions can be used to to introduce PPs that modify core arguments as well as add arguments. Word order in Sereer is relatively strict; when a PP directly follows a subject, it must be interpreted as modifying that argument, as shown in Examples (6) and (7). However, as shown in (8), a PP that is clause-finally can be understood as modifying either the subject or object. PPs that modify the action of the verb, specifying its spatial position, appear post-verbally, as shown in (9). It is also possible to place PPs that modify verbs sentence-initially, as shown in (10). These are translated with a fronted PP in English, as well, and presumably are licensed by focus.

  1. fañiik fe kam foofi' le axaasa
    fañiik fe kam foofi' le a- xaas -a elephant DET in water DET 3S- fart -NPT
    'The elephant in the water farted. (110)'

  1. muus ne kam mbine a- ñaam -a ndiiƭ ne
    muus ne kam mbine a- ñaam -a ndiiƭ ne cat DET inside house.DET 3S- eat -NPT bird DET
    'The cat in the house ate the bird. (123)'

  1. okoor oxe añaama ɓaak le tok atabla le
    okoor oxe a- ñaam -a ɓaak le tok atabla le man DET 3S- eat -NPT baobab.fruit DET on table DET
    'The man eats the baobab fruit on the table (110)'

  1. ɗaanam pam aqoƥ ale
    ɗaan -a -um pam aqoƥ ale sleep -NPT -1S near forest DET
    'I sleep near the forest (110)'

  1. pam aqoƥ ale ɗaanum
    pam aqoƥ ale ɗaan -um near forest DET sleep -1S
    'Near the forest I slept. (110)'

Co-occurrence Restrictions

Verbal and non-verbal prepositions can co-occur, as shown in (11) and (12). However, non-verbal prepositions can only co-occur if they are indicating two different locations, as shown in (13).

  1. ɗufam mbaamir ɗoxang mbine
    ɗuf -a -m mbaamir ɗoxang mbind ne run -NPT -1S in.front.of under house DET
    'I ran toward under the house. (110)'

  1.  loolam jofaa ndeer suk ne
    lool -a -m jof -a -a ndeer suk ne cry -NPT -1S go.toward -NPT -?? amidst boat DET
    'I cry going to the middle of the boat. (135)'

  1.  arefa kam wala mbaamir
    a- ref -a kam wala mbaamir 3s- be -NPT in or in.front.of
    'It can be in or in front. (135)'


Reduplication is a productive process in Sereer, which can encode various semantic content. Some prepositions can be reduplicated, which indicates intensification. Bi-syllabic prepositions do not get reduplicated, such as tafil "outside" and doxang "underneath". Further examples of reduplication are given in the section on Reduplication.

Gloss Adposition Root Form Source Notes, Example Sentences
tip-top tok e tok tok VW_135
very inside kam e kam kam VW_135
right next to pam e pam pam VW_143
right in the middle ndeender ndeer VW_024

Temporal Adpositions

Temporal adpositions can be used to license additional arguments as well as combine clauses. The clause-linking functionality is discussed under Adverbial Clauses. However, these markers , shown in the Table below, can be used to license a noun phrase or other modifier. Examples are given in (14) and (15).

Tempora Clause-linkers
Gloss Adposition Source Notes, Example Sentences
before bala ~ balaa VW_054, VW_167
after acinj VW_068 also locative "behind"
after ye VW_167
when, while ye, yaa VW_167
until bo VW_167
during na VW_068 also locative "in"

  1. na 'und ae
    na 'und ale in storm DET
    'during the storm (068)'
  1. bo faak jir'am ajir
    bo faak jir ' -am a- jir until yesterday be.sick -PST -1S  ?- RED
    'Until yesterday I was sick. (167)'
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