Nominal Modifiers

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Adjectival modifiers agree with the nouns they modify in two ways: in terms of the noun class determiner and the appropriate consonant mutation. With diminutive and augmentative forms of nouns the noun class changes, and the adjective agreement follows on the basis of the new class. The following is a table sampling nouns across all noun classes and the ways in which they are modified, where the last two items on the list represent diminutive and augmentative noun classes.

Sg.Pl Class Example (sg) English Example (pl) English
ox.w okiin opaax oxe the good person wiin faax we the good people
ox.w otew omosu (o)xe the beautiful woman rew mosu we the beautiful women
al.ak aɗing aciig ale the tall fence aɗing aciig ake the tall fences
l.k leer leru le the bright light leer leru ke the bright lights
l.ak ruul magnu le the fat pig atuul amagnu ke the fat pigs
ol.xax ojaf odum ole the painful leg acaf adum ake the painful legs
ol.xax oɓox ofuuxu (o)le the angry dog xaƥox xapuuxu xe the angry dogs
f.ak fañiik fambarʄu fe the ugly elephant apañiik aparʄu ke the ugly elephants
fañiik mbarʄu fe the ugly elephant apañiik aparʄu ke the ugly elephants
n.k pis ñofu ne the fast horse pis ñofu ke the fast horses
ng.n ondew onqoƈu (o)nge the thin little woman fondew fonqoƈu ne the thin little women
gal.gak gandew anqoƈu ale the thin big woman gandew anqoƈu ake the thin big women


The adjective agrees for number in the form of initial consonant alternation for some adjectives for which this is possible (e.g, it is not possible with mosu ‘beautiful’ but possible with farʄu ‘ugly’). Whether or not an adjective which has the ability to undergo this alternation actually does so seems to be dependend on the noun class of the noun it modifies, as the items in (4) show with the adjective xoƈu ‘thin’:

otew oqoƈu oxe the thin woman rew xoƈu we the thin women
ofiɗ oxoƈu ole the thin butterfly xapiɗ xaqoƈu (a)xe the thin butterflies
nqoox nqoƈu ne the thin bull qoox qoƈu ke the thin bulls


Above, each noun belongs to a different class, and in each case the adjective stem-initial consonant engages in a different alternation pattern: q-x, x-x, and nq-q. The initial consonant on the adjective, then, is first conditioned by the noun class of the noun it modifies, determining its singula form, and then undergoes an additional mutation from singular to plural forms.

Noun Class Gloss Noun Class CM Number CM
ox.w woman x --> q q --> x
ol.xax butterfly no change x --> q
n.k bull x --> nq q --> q


From the table above, we see that the noun class can predict what kind CM an adjective will undergo. For instance, the adjective faax ‘good’ undergoes a noun class CM in okiin opaax oxe involving a similar despirantization (f-p) as occurs for the adjective xoƈu in otew oqoƈu we (x-q), and the nouns in both of these phrases are from the person class. In a change from singular to plural for this class, there is a reversal (p-f and q-x, for faak and xoƈu, respectively). Similarly, in the l-x noun class, the adjective xoƈu undegoes no CM when ‘butterfly’ is modified, and farʄu and fuuxu ‘angry’ also undego no CM when modifying onan ‘rumor’ and obox ‘dog’, respectively. But they all become despirantized in the change from singular to plural: x-q, f-p and f-p, respectively.

One clear exception to the agreement pattern whereby agreement occurs by the FV of the noun is in the f-k noun class, e.g. fañiik 'elephant'. In this class, the agreeing initial morpheme is fa whereas it should technically be Ø, since f is part of the root itself and not a classifier. We see that this happens with ataaya as well, even though the initial consonant is different. It is unclear why this noun class behaves differently. More noun-adjective elicitations are needed for more nouns in this class to see if this agreement phenomenon is ubiquitous in the class, or if we just hit upon a couple of exceptions.

From these examples, it is clear that adjective morphophonology is dependent upon noun class morphophonology.


--Oana 04:43, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

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