Hdi (gwáɗ-á xdí ‘language of Hdi’ or simply xdí in Hdi) is a Central Chadic language spoken in the Far North Province of Cameroon. The name hidé has been used in administrative documents in reference to the people who speak the language. The main town where the language is spoken is Tourou, located at 10° 55' 25" N latitude and 13° 44' 05" E longitude, right on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, about one hour’s drive north from Mokolo. The estimates of the number of speakers of Hdi range between 10,000 and 25,000. Some speakers of Hdi have migrated to Nigeria, specifically to Mubi and Yola, where the Hdi communities may number several thousand speakers.
Some Hdi speakers (the number is not available) are bilingual or trilingual, with French and Hausa being the second and third languages. As of 2014, a substantial number of speakers have received primary education, as there are five elementary schools in Tourou. The great majority of Hdi are farmers.
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the town of Tourou was under considerable social stress, as it was the object of frequent raids by the infamous slave trader Hamman Yaji (Vaughan and Kirk-Greene 1995). The men he captured were forced to build the road between Mokolo and Tourou. The remnants of Hamman Yaji’s outpost can still be seen in Tourou. His raids had long-lasting effects on the Hdi community, as speakers were reluctant for a long time to send their children to school for fear that this was another way of depriving them of their sons and daughters.
The town is a tourist attraction, mainly because of the market it holds on Thursdays and the characteristic painted calabashes that women wear as hats. Photographs from the marketplace in Tourou are widely available on the internet.
The purpose of the grammatical sketch that follows is to present, in an abbreviated form, the main formal coding means and functions encoded in the grammatical system of the language.
For a fuller description the reader is referred to Frajzyngier with Shay 2002.
A number of modifications that incorporate the results of the more recent fieldwork and research are accompanied by minimal supporting evidence.
In the present introduction, Hdi words in the text are in italics, their translations are in inverted commas.
All Hdi material in the dictionary is marked by bold font. The usual entry consists of the lexical item followed by the indicator of its categoriality, translation into English, translation into French, and examples of its use.
For verbs, the main entries are forms ending in a vowel, so that the tone(s) of the verb can be represented. Within the entry, forms are cited in the perfective aspect, often in the third-person singular; these forms are sometimes translated into English and French as the infinitive form and sometimes as the third-person singular perfective form. No significance should be attached to whether the verb entry is translated as the third-person singular or as the infinitive in English or French. For a number of verbs, examples containing extensions are added mainly in order to attest to the possibility of such additions. Occasionally the entries include examples from natural discourse, as represented in Frajzyngier with Shay 2002. The verbs with extensions are grouped under the main entry and are also listed in their alphabetical order.
Entries for nouns indicate the ontological class of nouns, e.g. whether the term refers to fauna or flora, and even narrower specifications within the two classes. These classifications have no grammatical consequences. The botanical forms in Fula come from two sources. The first one is Roger Prafé’s identification of names of Hdi plants in Fula, obtained through a series of interviews with a Fula Bororo speaker. The second source consists of terms included in Tourneux and Daïrou 1998 and Noye 1989. The forms obtained through the interviews with the Bororo speaker are more numerous, because they include plants that are not necessarily part of agricultural practice. The identification of insects was done with the help of Boorman 1981, and the identification of birds with the help of Serle and Morel 1993. The identification of mammals was done with the help of Halternorth and Diller 1985.
Nominal and verbal entries occasionally include an explanation of customs, ceremonies, and practices in which a given activity, as represented by a verb, or a given entity, as represented by a noun, plays a role. These descriptions derive entirely from information provided by Roger Prafé and do not necessarily carry the expected accuracy of anthropological field research.
The consonantal system is characterized by the presence of voiced, voiceless, and glottalized stops. The palatal articulation is represented only by the glide y. Underlying consonants do not include palatal continuants, affricates, and nasals.
Phonetic consonants include all of the underlying consonants plus a series of palatal continuants, the bilabial voiceless fricative, palatal nasals, the glottal stop, and glottalized glides. The following chart represents phonetic consonants:
|Prenasalized||mb||md, nd, ndz||ng|
In the dictionary proper, the lateral voiceless continuant ɬ is represented as hl, and the lateral voiced continuant ɮ is represented as zl.
Labiodental fricatives become bilabial voiceless fricatives according to the rule:
Rule 1: f → ƒ/ ___ [+round], e.g. [ƒwáɗ] ‘four’
The bilabial voiced continuant is a product of the change of v to ß between high round vowels:
Rule 2: v → ß/u___u, e.g. dzvú after optional vowel insertion → [jùßú] ‘hand’
The palatal continuants are products of palatalization rules:
Rule 3: [+alveolar] [+cont] → [+pal]/V[+front], e.g. tsí → [cí] ‘third-person singular subject’
The glottalized glides ‘w and ‘y have been recorded only when in intervocalic position, preceded by a high front or back vowel and followed by low vowel.
The alveolar nasal becomes velar in syllable-final position and may be realized as the sequence velar nasal-velar voiced stop when followed by a vowel in another word. Consider the noun /zwán/ ‘child’. The evidence that it has the underlying alveolar nasal is provided by the plural form [zwánì]. In word-final position it undergoes velarization:
Rule 4: n → ŋ/ ___ #:
A high back vowel becomes a glide after a velar, labial, or liquid consonant and before a, according to the following rule:
Rule 5: u → w/C[+velar, labial, liquid] ___ (C)a:
The glottal stop occurs only between identical vowels or between a vowel and a glide that shares with the vowel the features for height or roundness. Because its presence is predictable it is not an underlying segment:
|Voiced||b, d, g||b, d, g||b, d, g|
|Voiceless||p, t, k||p, t, k||p, k, kw||p, k, kw|
|Prenasalized||mb, nd, ŋg||mb, ng|
|Nasal||n, m||n, m, ŋ||m, ŋ||m, ŋ|
|Glottalized||ɓ, ɗ||ɓ, ɗ||ɓ, ɗ|
|Voiced||z, gh, ɮ, dz||z, gh, ɮ, dz||z|
|Voiceless||s, x, ɬ, ts||s, x, ɬ, ts||s, x, ɬ||s, x|
A voiced consonant becomes voiceless when not followed by a sonorant in the next syllable:
Rule 6: C [+voice] → [-voice]/___[-son]
Compare the behavior of the extension gá, which codes inner and downward movement:
When the extension is not followed by a vowel, the velar consonant is voiceless even when following a vowel and preceding a voiced consonant:
There are more clusters allowed in the syllabic onset than in the syllabic coda. Two-consonant clusters are common in both word-initial and intervocalic position, but there are no clusters in word-final or phrase-final position. The general principle for consonant cluster formation is that the consonants in a cluster should differ maximally, i.e., they should differ in place of articulation, manner of articulation, and syllabicity properties. The two charts that follow list allowed and disallowed consonant clusters. The first chart takes into consideration the manner of articulation, the second chart the place of articulation.
The following chart represents underlying vocalic segments:
Sporadic vowel lowering takes place when a high vowel is followed by a low vowel. The high vowel may be lowered one step:
Rule 7: V[+high] → [-high] / ___CV[+low]
The high vowel becomes round when followed by the round glide within the same morpheme or across a morpheme boundary within the same phrase:
Rule 8: V[+high] → [+round] /___w
The morpheme-final vowel is replaced by the initial vowel of the following morpheme if the two belong to the same phrase:
Rule 9: V1 → V2/ ___ #V2
A syllable in Hdi has the following properties: The onset and the coda may be absent and the syllable may consist only of the nucleus, which may be a vowel or a sonorant. The onset may consist of a consonant or a cluster of consonants, CC. The coda may consist of one consonant, which may be a sonorant (including liquids and nasals), a stop, or a fricative. The alveolar nasal becomes velar in word-final position. The only phonetic consonant cluster in coda position consists of a stop followed by a glide, a result of the labialization of the final u following a velar consonant. If a disallowed syllabic onset or coda would emerge, an epenthetic vowel must be inserted. In addition, if the absence of the tone would affect the grammatical coding realized by the tone, an epenthetic vowel is inserted. The vowel is inserted into the first position where the violation of the syllabic structure occurs. The vowel from the next syllable is copied into the disallowed position or into the first position that requires a tone realization:
The language has two tones, high and low. Tone plays an important role in both the lexicon and the syntax of the language. In the lexicon, tone distinguishes between lexical items whose segmental structure is identical. Tone also plays an important role in the coding of the semantic roles of arguments, in the reference and nominal system, in modality coding, and in virtually all constructions in the language. All high tones in phrase-final position are lowered.
Lexical categories in Hdi include: nouns (marked in the dictionary as n), verbs (v), a small class of adjectives (adj), a small class of adverbs (adv), quantifiers (quant), numerals (num) and the following classes of freestanding grammatical morphemes: prepositions (prep), complementizers and subordinators (comp), deictics and determiners (det) and copulas (cop), identical in form with determiners.
The category ‘noun’ in Hdi is defined by its inherent ability to serve as an argument of a verbal predication and as the predicate of a nominal predication. Nouns can also receive inflectional markers coding number. Among nouns there is a distinct class of proper names marked in the dictionary as npm, for names used for males, and npf, for names used for females. Since there is no grammatical gender distinction in Hdi, the distinction between names used for males and names used for females has no grammatical consequences. In the dictionary, information about the category noun is often followed in italics by information about the ontological category, such as bot (botanical), ornit (ornithological), etc. The ontological categories have no grammatical consequences of any kind. The language has also a set of independent pronouns which function as noun phrases; these are listed in the section on reference.
The category ‘verb’ is defined by its inherent ability to serve as a predicate and not as an argument. Morphologically, verbs are characterized by the ability to occur with subject and object pronouns, with verbal extensions, and with verbal plural markers that are distinct from the nominal plural markers. There are four classes of verbs, based on the number and types of arguments that can occur in the verbal clause and how these arguments are marked (‘transitivity’). These are described in the section on verbs below.
The category ‘adjective’ is defined by its inherent ability to occur as a modifier of a noun. The category ‘adverb’ is defined by its inherent ability to occur as a modifier of clause.
Hdi has the category ‘ideophone’, i.e., lexical items with a very limited distribution that usually characterize an auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, or other sensory aspect of the event. There are very few ideophones in the dictionary, but it is likely that there are more members of this class that have not been recorded.
Many nouns and verbs, and some adjectives, have been borrowed from languages with which Hdi speakers have direct or indirect contact. The most frequent are borrowings from Fula, marked F, and Hausa, marked H, followed by Arabic, marked Ar. Arabic borrowings came into Hdi indirectly, either through Fula or Hausa. There are also a number of borrowings from French, marked Fr or left unmarked, if obvious.
A noun phrase is a phrase whose head is a noun. In many cases a noun phrase can be replaced by the head alone. The modifier within the noun phrase may precede or follow the head. Quantifiers precede the head. Determiners may precede the head, follow the head, or precede and follow the head within the same phrase. Some nouns are derived from verbs.
Nouns can take a number of suffixes. The unmarked form of the noun has no number value. There are three plural suffixes: -xà, the less frequent -ì, and the rare suffix -à, which is combined with the infix -a-. The plural suffix does not have to be used if plurality is marked by some other means, e.g. by the quantifier ‘many’. This provides evidence that the unmarked form of the noun has no number value. The language has an associative plural construction consisting of the form ì preceding a noun:
Hdi also has a collective marker lá, which precedes the noun and codes the group of people designated by the noun:
A modifying construction in which another noun or pronoun modifies the head noun (‘genitive construction’) has the form Noun-á Noun/Pro, where the form á, glossed as GEN, is identical with one of the deictic-demonstrative markers:
Color terms belong to the class of nouns, and modification by a color term has the same form as modification by another noun:
Modifying pronouns (‘possessive pronouns’) follow the genitive marker:
|First||ɗá||úú||mú (incl); ŋní (excl)|
Some kinship terms, e.g. ‘mother’, ‘wife’, and ‘husband’, require the use of plural rather than singular possessive pronouns even if the intended possessor is singular. The use of plural rather than singular possessive pronouns is motivated by the roles the referents of these terms play within the family.
The modifying construction can have the order modifier-head, with the genitive marker á following the modifier. The modifiers in this construction all belong to the class of property concepts (concepts expressed by adjectives in many languages):
The construction Noun nà Noun is used only in a few fixed expressions referring to domestic animals. The form nà is related to the proximate demonstrative ná:
The modification relationship between two nominal expressions may also be coded through the preposition ngá (glossed as FOR) in the construction Noun ngá Noun. In most cases, this construction is used where the modifier is the intended owner or destination of the head:
Nouns followed by the preposition ngá must have high tone, regardless of their underlying tones. Thus hlà ‘cow’, gù ‘goat’, and krì ‘dog’ all have high tone before ngá:
The modifying construction Noun tá Noun codes an attribute of the head. The form tá functions as the comment marker in a variety of constructions, hence it is glossed COM for ‘comment marker’:
The construction Noun tá Noun can be used for ethnonyms when the head of the construction, the first noun, refers to a female. Forms with tá can be replaced in many cases by forms with the genitive -á:
There exists a construction having the form Possessum-Genitive-Pronoun mà Possessor, where the pronoun codes the features of person and number of the possessor. The form mà is identical with the preposition meaning ‘within’. The construction is used only when both components, the possessor and the possessum, are nominal. The function of the construction is different from the one involving genitive modification and different from modification through the preposition tá:
The construction is used for coding the parent-child relationship, but not the child-parent relationship or a spousal relationship:
For the child-parent relationship or spousal relationship the genitive marker -á is used:
A lexical item is an adjective in Hdi if (1) it modifies nouns and (2) it cannot be used as an argument. Terms for size, shape, and quality are adjectives in Hdi; color terms are not.
The group of adjectives includes the following (an exhaustive list of items found in our data): dágálá ‘large’, kítìkw ‘small’, kì’yá ‘small’, xɓùzá ‘big-bellied’, slùxá ‘oval’, tùmbùzlá ‘round’, tə̀ntə̀ngá ‘hard’, ìná ‘good’, ‘beautiful’, ‘pretty’. The modifying construction with adjectives has the form Noun Adjective, without any intervening marker. Inherent adjectives in the attributive function occur after the noun they modify:
Numerals behave like adjectives in that the modifying construction has the form Head Numeral, without any additional markers:
Modifying constructions with adjectives code only two degrees: the unmarked and the comparative, where the latter corresponds in scope to the English comparative and superlative. A comparative modifying construction is formed by the use of the copula yà following the head noun and preceding the adjective:
Modification through ordinal numerals has the form má Numeral-Genitive Noun:
Quantifiers include the same lexical items that function as adjectives: tùrtúkw ‘one, alone’, dágálá ‘many’, kítìkw ‘a little’, kí’yá ‘some, little’, dímdím or démdém ‘a lot’, and possibly several others. Modification by quantifiers has the form Noun Quantifier. Other material, such as a possessive pronoun, may intervene between the noun and the quantifier. Quantifiers do not occur with deictics:
The term ‘associative phrase’ refers to the structure Noun Phrase ndá Noun Phrase. These structures encompass the functions of associative and coordinating conjunctions, corresponding to “Noun and Noun” and “Noun with Noun” in English.
Nouns are conjoined in associative phrases by the associative preposition ndá. If the components of an associative phrase are human, the associative phrase must be preceded by the associative plural ì:
In a list of two or more nouns, the associative marker occurs only before the last noun:
If the first member of the associative phrase is represented by a pronoun, the pronoun is plural even if the first participant is singular. Thus, instead of the third person singular pronoun, the third-person plural must be used, and instead of the first-person singular, the first-person plural must be used.
The coding means within the reference system are: overt mention of the noun; subject and object independent and suffixed pronouns; deictics; the anaphor tsá, which is glossed in Frajzyngier with Shay 2002 as DEF but which refers to previously mentioned nouns; and several determiners which can precede, follow, or both precede and follow the noun. The following chart lists the independent pronouns:
|First||ɗá||úú||ámú (incl); áŋní (excl)|
The unspecified human object is marked by the noun m̀ndú ‘man’ preceded by the comment marker tá:
The complete range of functions of the combinations of various coding means within the system of reference has yet to be discovered.
There is a three-way distinction within the deictic system, coding three degrees of distance with respect to the speaker: á ‘remote’, yá ‘middle distance’, and ná ‘proximate’. The reduplicated deictic form can be used as an independent noun in a clause:
When deictics function as determiners they can precede and/or follow the head noun. Moreover, they can be reduplicated in the position before and/or after the noun:
If there is only one demonstrative before the noun, the distance seems to be closer than if there are two demonstratives before the noun:
Neither demonstratives nor deictic markers code a number distinction.
Previous mention is marked by the form tsá, glossed in Frajzyngier with Shay as DEF, alone or with any combination of deictic markers. The anaphor tsá can be the only component of the noun phrase:
The anaphor can also co-occur with a deictic marker that functions as the sole component of the noun phrase, or it can occur as the determiner of the noun. Both cases are illustrated in the next example:
Hdi has the functional domain of referentiality of the event, where the distinction is between referential (marked) and non-referential (unmarked) events. Referentiality of the event is marked by the suffix -ta with high or low tone, glossed as REF, added to the verb.
The marker -ta indicates that the proposition refers to real-world phenomena. The event is made referential if it affects a referential object or a referential predicate. Compare the unspecified object versus the previously mentioned object:
If the object is referential due to previous mention in discourse or presence in the environment of speech, the verb has the suffix -tá:
The term ‘verbless clause’ refers to the formal property of not having a verbal predicate. The verbless clauses include: equational predication; identificational predication; attributive predication; possessive predication; existential predication; locative stative predication; and presentative predication.
Equational clauses identify one noun phrase by another. Equational clauses in Hdi have no copula. The distinction between subject and predicate is marked through word order. The predicate is the first noun phrase and the subject is the noun phrase that follows:
An identificational clause is a clause whose subject has been mentioned in the previous discourse or has been present in the discourse environment but is not overtly marked in the clause. Such clauses have the form Noun phrase Copula, where the noun phrase is the predicate. The subject is not overtly marked. The copula could be any of the series of demonstratives, but with low rather than high tone: à, nà, or yà. The last tone of the noun must be high before the copula, regardless of the underlying tone of the noun. This is the same rule as the one that operates before subjects in verbal clauses. Thus, the low-tone hlà ‘cow’ has high tone before a copula:
Attributive predication defines the attribute of the noun. Property-concept words, like noun phrases, are marked for the predicative function by the clause-initial position. There are two types of property concept expressions: inherent adjectives and expressions derived from other lexical categories.
The order Predicate Noun is the pragmatically unmarked order. Thus the adjective kítìkw ‘small’ ends in high tone before the subject:
The term ‘possessive predication’ refers to predications where the subject owns an entity. The possessive clause has the structure ngá-Possessor (Copula) Possessum:
Existential predications are formed with the clause-initial predicate màmú ‘exist’ followed by the subject of the clause and complements, if any:
The form màmú may be reduced to màá:
In locative predicative expressions, the locative phrase precedes the subject of the clause. The locative predication has the form Preposition Noun Noun. Prepositions may include tà ‘at’, ‘in’; mà ‘inside’; and dà ‘in’; as well as the prepositional complex mìstá ‘under’, ‘together’:
The presentative predication is formed with the clause-initial deictic particle wá (PRES) followed by deictics coding the distance between the speaker and the referent. The form with the remote deictic á may be used only when the subject is not in the same location as the speaker:
The form with ná may be used only if the speaker is in the same location as the subject:
The formal means deployed in verbal clauses include: the verb with its complex inflec¬tional system; the position before and after the verb; and prepositions. The pragmatically neutral clause begins with the verb, which may be followed by a noun phrase. The posi¬tion after the verb in non-sequential clauses is the coding means for the subject role of the noun phrase. The position before the verb is one of the coding means for topicalization and focus. The categories encoded in the verbal clauses are different for pronominal and nominal constituents. For pronominal constituents, the language distinguishes between the subject, direct object, and indirect object. For nominal constituents, the language distinguishes between the subject; the non-subject (which is not the same as object); and a variety of semantic relations that include the benefactive but not the indirect object. Given the richness of semantic information coded on the verb, the description of verbal clauses has to begin with the description of the morphology of the verb.
Verbs, unlike nouns, cannot begin with a vowel. It is necessary to postulate for verbs the category ‘root’, consisting of one or more underlying consonants, a tone (or tones, for polysyllabic verbs), and the first vowel. Other vowels code specific syntactic or semantic functions of the subject, the point of view from which the event is presented, the type of clause, and the aspect. Many polysyllabic verbs with the vowel i code movement away from or separation from a source or a previously mentioned location of either the subject or the object: ɗífà ‘hide’, tsíhlà ‘husk’, xídà ‘bite’, gìgɗá ‘sift’, fìɗá ‘plane [wood]’. A verb may be simple or reduplicated. Different reduplicated forms code perfective and progressive aspects, and verbal plurality. Subject pronouns are suffixed to the simple and reduplicated forms. Object pronouns are infixed in the reduplicated forms. Both simple and reduplicated verb may have a variety of verbal extensions suffixed to the simple verb and infixed in the reduplicated verb.
There are two types of verbal nouns. One type ends in the vowel u or i. The conditions determining whether the high vowel is front rather than back are not phonological, because some verbs can have both types of nouns, one with a front vowel and the other with a back vowel. For most verbal nouns, substituting the front vowel for the back, or the back vowel for the front, results in nonsense words. The tonal pattern of the verbal noun is the same as that of the verb.
|và||'to light a fire'||vú||'fire'|
Polyconsonantal verbs that have the initial vowel i have the nominal form ending in i:
|fìdá||'to plane (wood)'||fìfí||'planing'|
Verbs in Hdi display the distinction of number. The unmarked form does not code number; the marked form codes verbal plurality, which implies plurality of the event, plurality of the subject of an intransitive verb, or plurality of the object of a transitive verb. There are three means to code the plurality of the verb: the suffix á, reduplication, and lexical suppletion. The plural marker á is used only with polyconsonantal verbs. The marker á is inserted after the first consonant of the verb. Thus the plural form of the verb xná ‘slaughter’ is x-á-ná:
Formation of the plural through reduplication for monosyllabic verbs involves leftward reduplication of the consonant and the insertion of the vowel á after the reduplicated consonant. The product of such reduplication can be reduplicated further to code the perfective aspect:
Compare the verb unmarked for number:
When the verb is transitive, the plural marker codes plurality of the object or plurality of the action. The object does not have to be marked for plural:
For bisyllabic verbs, the plural is formed by leftward repetition of the first syllable. In the perfective aspect the reduplicated theme of the verb is repeated twice:
The coding means for the relationship between the predicate and noun phrases include: the position directly after the verb; inherent properties of the verb; preposition tá; other prepositions; and verbal extensions. Several of these means may co-occur within the same clause.
The noun phrase (but not the prepositional phrase) directly following the verb in clauses other than sequential clauses is interpreted as subject:
In sequential clauses, there is no formal distinction between the nominal subject and the nominal object. In sentences containing sequential clauses, one usually expects the first clause to mention the subject, while subsequent clauses will not overtly mention the subject.. In the following example, the first clause has the subject following the verb. In the sequential clauses within the same sentence, the noun phrase that follows the verb is interpreted as object:
This section presents analyses different from the ones in Frajzyngier with Shay 2002 and includes some argumentation to support the new analyses. The form tá, qua preposition, indicates that the noun phrase that follows it is not the subject. As demonstrated throughout examples in the dictionary, this noun is very frequently the object of the clause:
Not every complement of the preposition tá, however, is the direct object. Consider the verb hlíná ‘warm up’. The verb is intransitive, as the entity that gets warmed up is always the subject. This verb cannot be used transitively, and yet this verb can have a complement marked by the preposition tá. The preposition indicates the source of heat:
One cannot say ‘the Sun warmed him up’ where the Sun is the subject and the third-person argument is the object. Similarly with the verb búkwá ‘cover’: When it occurs with the affectedness of the subject extension, the verb means that the subject is being covered:
The role of the noun phrase marked by the preposition tá must be deduced from the inherent properties of the verb and/or from the extensions added to the verb. Thus, if the verb has the associative extension ndá, this extension forces the interpretation of the noun marked by tá as an entity about which one thinks or remembers. With the verb dúkwá ‘realize, become aware’ the associative extension marks the existence of the object of awareness:
When the particle tá precedes a verb or a clause, it marks the verb or clause as a comment on the preceding constituent, which may be clausal or nominal. Here is an example where the form tá marks the comment on the element in focus:
In the following sentence, three noun phrases following the verb are preceded by the marker tá. In the first phrase the marker precedes the object, in the second it precedes the attribute of the object, and in the third it precedes the relative clause, i.e. the comment on the head of the relative clause:
Both the point of view of the subject/source and goal orientation, i.e. indication that the event has a goal, are marked by verbal extensions.
The point of view of the subject/source is marked in the perfective aspect by the extension u, which assumes the tone of the verb:
Some intransitive verbs must occur with the marker u:
In the imperfective aspect, the point of view of the subject is marked by the suffix kú, glossed as ABS (for ‘absolutive’) in Frajzyngier with Shay 2002:
When the noun that follows the verb is not preceded by a preposition, it is interpreted as the subject:
Coding the point of view of the subject is not a means of intransitivizing the verb. A verb coding the point of view of the subject can co-occur with an object marked by the preposition tá:
The goal-orientation suffix -a can be added either directly to the verbal root or to the point of view of subject marker u. In the sequence /C[labial or velar] u a/, the vowel u is reduced to the feature [round], realized as labialization of the preceding consonant. The goal-oriented marker codes the event as directed toward a goal and thereby implies that the subject is controlling:
Consider the verb ɗvà ‘like’. If the vowel u is added to the stem ending in á, the meaning of the verb involves control on the part of the subject, resulting in meanings corresponding to ‘choose’, ‘select’, ‘prefer’:
If the vowel u is added directly to the verbal root, the verbal stem means ‘to love’, a process that does not involve control:
There are four classes of verbs, based on the inclusion or exclusion of a second nominal argument (‘transitivity’): unspecified; inherently transitive; inherently intransitive; and labile, i.e. both transitive and intransitive.
An unspecified verb is a verb that does not inherently imply the presence or absence of an object. As a result, the presence of the third-person object must be overtly marked, and the absence of the object must also be overtly marked. With these verbs, the affectedness of the subject must also be overtly marked. The affectedness of the subject is marked by the point of view of subject extension -u or the affectedness of the subject extension va. Consider the verb ɗífà ‘hide’. To indicate that the subject is the participant that hides himself, the point of view of subject marker u must be used:
To indicate that the event has two participants, one controlling and the other undergoing the event, the verb must have the additional-argument marker ná (glossed as DEM). The evidence that the marker ná is not a third-person singular object pronoun is provided by the fact that it can co-occur with the verb in the plural form, implying the presence of multiple objects:
The nominal argument that follows the verb is interpreted as the subject of the transitive predication:
Consider now the verb ghúyá ‘get drunk’. To indicate that the subject got drunk, the verb must have the point of view of the subject extension u:
To indicate that there is a participant who drank as a result of the action of somebody else, the marker ná must be suffixed to the verb:
Here is an example of the use of the extension iŋ, which allows the deployment of the second argument. The verb is gúná ‘open’:
And here is an example with the verb làɓ ‘mix’:
Compare with the additional-argument marker ná:
Consider now the verb dvà ‘threaten’. Without any morphological marking, the verb does not imply the presence of the second argument:
The addition of the second nominal argument requires the insertion of the additional argument marker ná:
An inherently transitive verb takes a second argument, marked by the comment marker tá, without any changes to the verb. The third-person object is not overtly marked on the verb. Consider the verb drà ‘burn’:
To code the point of view of the subject, and to indicate that the single noun phrase has undergone the event, the verb has the subject-oriented extension u and the noun phrase follows the verb without a preposition:
The fact that the subject is undergoing the action can also be marked by the affectedness of the subject extension. The verb gìgìɗà ‘shake a tree’ is inherently transitive, as evidenced by its use with the object marked by the preposition tá (with tentative extension n):
The additional-argument marker ná with an inherently transitive verb usually codes the presence of an indirect object in the proposition:
To code coreferentiality of the subject and object, the verb must have the affectedness of the subject extension v and the object must be marked by the preposition tá, whose complement is the noun vghá ‘body’ followed by a possessive pronoun:
Here is an example with the verb bà ‘build’. The nominal object is marked by the comment marker tá:
The addition of the marker ná with an inherently transitive verb indicates the presence of an indirect object:
An intransitive verb is a verb that requires the additional-argument marker ná to indicate that there are two arguments in the proposition. Without such a marker, the noun phrase that follows the verb is interpreted as the subject. This is the case with the verb hànà ‘lie down’, ‘sleep’, ‘pass the night’:
The presence of the additional-argument marker in the verb does not necessarily indicate the presence of either a direct or indirect object. It may indicate a presence of what in some Indo-European languages would correspond to adjunct:
An inherently intransitive verb does not require any markers when it occurs with only one argument. Consider the verb gə̀má ‘meet’:
One can add an object to inherently intransitive verbs if the verb has the additional-argument marker ná:
A number of verbs are followed by cognate objects, i.e. objects linked semantically and phonologically with a specific verb. Such objects are marked by the comment marker tá. Cognate objects are often derived from the same root as the verb:
Some intransitive verbs may be followed by an object marked by the preposition tá. These are, however, cognate objects. The cognate object may be followed by another object also marked by the comment marker tá:
An example of such a verb is tsúhà ‘cough’:
Hence, the presence of the cognate object does not make the verb transitive.
There is a class of verbs (‘labile’ verbs) that are both intransitive and transitive, as evidenced by the fact that the presence of the third-person object is not overtly marked on the verb and the affectedness of the subject is not marked by the source-oriented marker u. One such verb is hà ‘close’. Here is an example of a clause with two arguments. The object is marked only by the preposition tá:
Here is an example of the clause with one argument, the subject. The affectedness of the subject is not marked by the source-orientation marker u:
The following chart represents object pronouns:
|First||í; ɗ; í-xà||úú||mú (incl); ŋní (excl)|
First- and second-person object pronouns can code the direct or indirect object, regardless of the verbs to which they are added. The form ná with an inherently transitive verb codes the third-person singular indirect object:
With other verbs, the form ná suffixed to the verb indicates the presence of an additional participant, which may be a direct object. The form ná is used even if the direct object is plural, which is the evidence that ná is not the third-person singular object marker:
Compare the intransitive:
The first-person singular object affixes are i, i-xà, and ɗa. The form ɗa is a cognate of the first-person possessive marker ɗá. The pronoun i replaces the vowel of the preceding verb and assumes its grammatical tone, i.e. the tone that the verb has before the direct object:
The form ixà is equivalent to the form i. The form ixa occurs optionally when there are no other extensions to the verb:
The form ɗ is used if the verb has the stem-formative movement-away marker í, the point-of view of the subject marker ú, or some other extension(s):
The reciprocal function is coded by the plural subject pronoun on the verb and the noun vghá ‘body’ preceded by the preposition tá. The difference between the reciprocal and the marking of coreferentiality is that in the reciprocal the noun vghá ‘body’ is not followed by a possessive pronoun coding the person and number of the subject:
Hdi has the category ‘indirect object’ which represents an entity C, often animate, such that when A acts on B it affects C or when the event has only one participant A, but the non-participant in the event C is affected. The nature of the affectedness is not indicated, and it may be benefactive, malefactive, or have no value in the moral domain. The way the indirect object is marked depends on the type of verb and the person of the indirect object. With verbs that do not inherently imply the presence of an indirect object, the pronoun is marked for the indirect object function through high tone on the last syllable of the verb:
Direct affectedness is coded by low tone on the verb and high tone on the pronoun:
Verbs that inherently involve an indirect object, which in Hdi include vlá ‘give’ and mná ‘tell’, require the indirect object marker. The unspecified indirect object is marked by the suffix n, glossed as 3 (third person) in Frajzyngier with Shay 2002:
The marker n also occurs with such verbs if the indirect object is an independent pronoun, e.g. the third-person plural pronoun xə̀n or a noun. The independent pronoun and the nouns are marked by the preposition tá:
If there is a specific indirect object in the proposition, the indirect object is coded by an object pronoun. For the third person, the marker is ná:
With all other verbs, the third-person indirect object is marked by the additional-argument marker ná. The benefactive function of the indirect object is marked by the preposition ngá preceding a noun or a pronoun:
The term ‘adjuncts’ refers to semantic roles that can be added to any predicate. Moreover, adjuncts can be added to clauses that already have either a subject or object or both. The roles of all adjuncts are marked by prepositions. As we have seen with the preposition tá, not every prepositional phrase marks an adjunct.
The preposition kà marks a semantic role that represents the result of the transformation of one entity into another:
The associative preposition ndà ‘with, by’ marks a co-participant in the event, the instrumental argument, and time:
The prepositions dá and dà mark locative arguments of the verbs of movement. The preposition with the high tone, dá, is used when the complement is a place name or an inherently locative adverb:
The form with the low tone, dà, is used when the following noun is not a place name or an inherent locative:
The preposition tà marks the locative stative complement:
The preposition mà is a spatial specifier indicating the location of an object or event within the space of the locative complement:
The preposition gà ‘inner space’ locates the event or object within the deictic center or as directed toward or from inside the deictic center:
The benefactive adjunct is marked by the preposition ngá ‘for’:
The term ‘verbal extensions’ designates suffixes to the verb that are not subject, object, or TAM markers. The full description of the functions of various extensions is to be found in Frajzyngier with Shay 2002. Verbal extensions are suffixed to the simple form of the verb or infixed between the reduplicated forms of the verb. Verbal extensions constitute the principal formal means to code the following: point of view; the affectedness of the subject function; the semantic relation of the subject; the semantic relation of the second argument marked by the preposition tá; the directionality of the event; the manner in which the event is performed; and the spatial relations with respect to the locative target. The extensions coding directionality and spatial orientation are segmentally similar to locative prepositions. There is a strict ordering of extensions: Extensions modifying the manner of event are followed by extensions coding the semantic roles of arguments, and these are followed by extensions coding the directionality of the event and spatial orientation with respect to the locative center.
Three extensions code the manner of the event: gl, the ‘do again’ extension; n or ŋ, the ‘tentative’ extension; and ndá, the ‘associative’ extension. The extension gl indicates repetition of the action after some time, as opposed to plurality of the action, which is coded by the infix á or by reduplication of the verb:
The tentative extension indicates an attempt to perform an action or partial execution of an action:
The affectedness of the subject extension v indicates that the event applies to the subject and that the subject is affected. It is different from the subject-oriented extension, as illustrated by the following examples with the transitive verb nù’á ‘fatten’:
Compare the same verb with the extension f ‘up’:
The associative extension ndá codes the presence of the associative participant in the proposition, whether the participant is present in the clause or not. When overtly present, such a participant is marked by the preposition tá:
Locative extensions consist of the following groups, arranged in the order they occupy after the verb and the way in which they can be combined. Members within a given group cannot be combined with one another. With the verb being the leftmost component, the extensions are organized as follows:
|Group 1||Group 2||Group 3|
|g ‘inner space’||gh ‘distal’||f ‘movement up’|
|dá ‘allative’||p ‘movement out’|
|xà ‘movement down’|
|m ‘movement in’|
The goal-oriented marker á (GO) must follow the verb whenever one of the spatial extensions from the set comprising f ‘movement up’, p ‘movement out’, xà ‘movement down’, dá ‘allative’, m ‘movement in’ and g ‘inner space orientation’ is added.
The distal extension gh, which indicates an event outside of the place of speech, can be combined with the source-oriented marker u or with the goal marker á. Compare the following examples, all in the prohibitive mood. The first one has no extension, and the remaining have various locative extensions:
Locative extensions can be combined with extensions from other domains as well:
One of the most important properties of locative spatial extensions is that, in addition to coding the relationship to the locative target or source, they also code the associated event, most frequently the movement associated with the event represented by the verb to which the extensions have been added. Thus the distal extension gh codes movement of the subject and or object toward the locative target. The example below contains only two verbs, lá ‘go’ and ksà ‘catch’, the latter with three extensions. The extension g indicates spatial orientation (INN), and the extension gh indicates the associated movement. As a result, the translation has three rather than two propositions:
Compare also two propositions with one verb in the following example:
The following example illustrates the functions of some locative extensions with the verb ɓlà ‘break’:
The associated-event characteristic of verbal extensions removes, to a large degree, the motivation for the existence of coordinating clausal conjunction equivalent to ‘and’, whose function would be to indicate that the two clauses are part of a single sentence.
The speaker’s assertion is the unmarked modality in Hdi. Hypothetical modality may be coded by the clause-initial particle bá and clause-final particle ɓà:
Hypothetical modality may also be marked by the form má followed by the referential past tense marker sí:
There is a class of epistemic adverbs all occurring in clause-initial position, e.g.:
The imperative verb stem is identical with the indicative stem. The language makes a morphological distinction between singular (unmarked) and plural addressees, marked by the suffix wá in the imperative:
The reduplicated form of the verb is used in the imperative to code bounded events. In the imperative mood with a non-reduplicated verb, the second argument is coded only by the position following the verb, rather than by the preposition tá:
There is a distinct subjunctive mood in Hdi, marked by the sequential marker kà and the verb ending in the vowel a:
The subjunctive mood contrasts with the indicative mood, where the verb is represented only by the consonant(s), plus epenthetic vowel as required by syllable structure conditions. The subject is overtly coded in the subjunctive mood:
The second argument is preceded by the preposition tá in the subjunctive mood, just as in the indicative mood:
There are distinct forms to code the subjunctive in perfective aspect ( cf. Frajzyngier with Shay 2002, Chapter 11, section 6).
Hdi has the prohibitive mood, marked by the particle mà preceding the verb, to which subject pronouns are suffixed:
The language makes a distinction between the perfective, imperfective, and stative aspect. With respect to the perfective and imperfective aspect, there are two systems. One occurs in affirmative indicative clauses, in yes/no questions, and in comments on topicalized constituents. These types of clauses do not require any specific presupposition for their proper semantic interpretation and are therefore pragmatically independent clauses.
The other aspectual system occurs in comment-on-focus constructions, relative clauses, content questions, and presentative constructions. All of these clauses are comments on a proposition that has been previously mentioned in discourse or require a specific discourse presupposition for their interpretation. These are pragmatically dependent clauses (Frajzyngier 2004). Table 14 shows the means of coding aspect in the two types of clauses:
|Imperfective||tà nominalized verb||tà verbal root|
Hdi also has the progressive aspect, marked by the form tà followed by the reduplicated form of the verb with the potential suffix -a:
There are only two tense categories: the referential past and the future. The referential past is marked by the particle sí at the beginning of the clause. The form designates events that happened at some well-determined point in time that is included in the clause or that can be recovered from the previous discourse:
Three constructions code future tense. In one, the verb dzà’á ‘go’ is used with the perfective aspect:
In another future tense construction, the form dzà’á ‘go’ is used with the imperfective aspect:
In the third future tense construction, the simple verb stem is used without the auxiliary verb. This construction is deployed in negative clauses:
Compare the affirmative future:
The interrogative mood is coded by (further) raising the last tone of the clause:
Another means of forming polar questions is through the clause-final particles rà, rí, rè, or r-kè. The markers rí and rà are interchangeable and do not imply the speaker’s assumptions about the truth of the proposition:
A rhetorical question about the truth may be marked by the interjection kí or ké added to the general interrogative marker rà:
Content questions differ from polar questions in the aspectual system used, the question words used, and the clause-final interrogative marker, which is nà rather than rà. The clause-final question marker nà is not obligatory. Content questions are characterized by use of the dependent perfective and imperfective aspects. The following semantic categories are coded in content questions: human participant, coded by the question word wá; non-human participant, coded by the question words nə́ in the de dicto domain and nú in the de re domain; questions about place, coded by the question word gá; questions about time coded by the question word, yà; questions about manner, coded by the question word kí; and reason, marked by the form nə́ ‘what’ followed by the copula yà, realized as ní-yà. The language also codes the grammatical role of the argument that the question is about, specifically the categories subject, object, indirect object, and associative, and questions about the heads of the modifying construction. Content questions about a non-human participant also code, through different forms of the question word, whether the event is referential or not.
In questions about the subject of equational clause, the subject precedes the predicate and the interrogative modality is marked by the clause-final particle nà:
The role of the interrogative word as subject or object of the clause is computed from the absence or presence of other subjects and objects in the clause. Thus if the verb contains information about the subject, e.g. a subject pronoun, the clause-initial question word is interpreted as the object. This is illustrated on question words about an inanimate object from the domain de dicto, marked by the form nə́, and from the domain de re, marked by the form nú:
If the verb does not contain the subject marker, the clause-initial question word is interpreted as the subject:
There is a special form for questions about human plural subjects, marked by the question word wá preceded by the associative pluralmarker ì:
Questions about the indirect object have the marker ná in the verb, followed by the form wá if the indirect object is human:
The form wá also serves as a question word for questions about manner. The interpretation that the manner is in the scope of the question word is ensured by the presence of the overt marker of the subject in the clause:
The question about reason is marked by the clause-initial particle ngú:
Negation of pragmatically independent clauses has the form a . . . wà, with the marker a following the predicate and preceding the subject, and the marker wà following the object and adjuncts, if any. The final vowel à on the negative marker may be deleted in clause-medial position and replaced by an epenthetic vowel for the syllabification purposes:
Negation in the pragmatically dependent clause is marked by the form xàɗú at the beginning of the clause and the clause-final marker wà:
Negation of possessive clauses has the form of negation of locative clauses, with the form xàɗú at the beginning of the clause and the clause-final marker wà:
There are different means of topicalization for different grammatical roles and different lexical categories.
The pronominal subject in the imperfective clause is topicalized through the use of an independent pronoun rather than a subject pronoun after the verb:
Topicalization of nominal subject in verbless clauses is marked through a variety of determiners before and after the subject:
Fronting is a coding means for topicalization of noun phrases. The fronted noun phrase is separated from the comment clause by the complementizer ná, identical with one of the demonstratives:
Topicalization of subject:
Topicalization of object:
Topicalization of adjunct:
Focus is marked by placing the element to be focused at the beginning of the clause and following it with the copula, most often yà:
Focus may also be marked by the comment marker tá preceding the comment clause:
The fronted noun phrase is interpreted as an object if the comment clause has an overtly marked subject. In the example below, the subject is marked by the unspecified human marker lù:
In the relative clause, the head precedes the comment clause. The head may be marked by a variety of determiners, depending on whether it is present in the environment of speech and whether it was mentioned in the previous discourse.
Relativization of the subject of verbal clauses obeys the same rules that apply in focus constructions. In the perfective aspect the relativized subject is followed by the comment-clause marker tá:
The relativized noun phrase is interpreted as object when the relative clause has an overt subject. In the example below, the overt subject is the suffix ì (1SG) on the verb txá-f-ì ‘I wrote’:
Focus and relative clause constructions share a number of similarities, but there are also some differences. Both focus and relativization interact with the system of reference, with the aspectual system (only the dependent aspects can be used in comment-on-focus and relative clauses), and with polarity. For the full treatment of this topic, the reader is referred to chapter 19 of Frajzyngier with Shay 2002.
Hdi does not have a coordinated clausal conjunction ( cf. the section on locative extensions). Simultaneous propositions do not have a conjunction, and simultaneity is marked by clauses following each other. The presence of sequential clauses within the same sentence is indicated by the fact that the subject (if any) occurs only once, in the first clause:
The sequential interpretation of events can be overtly marked by the conjunction mbàɗ ká ‘then’ followed by the sequential marker kà, or it may be marked only by the sequential marker kà:
The sequential marker kà is often followed by the verb là ‘go’, which has been grammaticalized as the marker of the sequential (Frajzyngier 2005):
Clausal disjunction is coded by the form á nà. The form nà is probably identical with the interrogative marker nà:
Counter-expectation is marked by the conjunction má, àmmá or àmá ‘but’ (borrowed from either Hausa or Fula but originally coming from Arabic):
The formal means used in complements of verbs of saying are used in complementation of other verbs. The verbs of saying include ná ‘say’, lmá ‘forbid’, ɗáwá ‘ask’, txá ‘expel’ [words], gwàɗá ‘talk’, and zlày ‘talk’. The complementizers occurring with these verbs are ká, ká mántsá both meaning ‘like that’, and kà zlày, consisting most probably of the sequential marker kà and the citation form of the verb zlày ‘talk’.
The complement clause of a verb of saying can precede or follow the matrix clause:
The complementizer precedes the matrix clause or may precede and follow the matrix clause:
The important characteristics of the complement of verbs of saying is that the verb of the matrix clause does not have to be present:
Interrogative complements of verbs of saying precede the matrix clause:
The complement of the verb sná ‘know’, ‘hear’ may be marked by the complementizer ká-’á or zlày following the complement clause and the background marker ná following the matrix clause. In the following example the complement clause is marked by the complementizer zlày preceding the complement clause and the complementizer ká-’á following the complement clause:
Direct perception in the complement of a verb of perception is marked by the complementizer ná mbàɗ ká or ná kà:
Complements of volitional verbs are marked by the marker tá, which otherwise is a comment and an object marker. The complement follows the matrix verb:
Temporal protasis clauses are marked by tone lowering on the verb-final morpheme before the subject:
Another means of coding the temporal protasis is through the nominalization of a clause. In such clauses, the subject is coded by possessive rather than verbal subject pronouns. Nominal subjects are also coded as possessors. The protasis clause has the form Verb(-Extensions) Possessive subject. The verb occurs in the simple, i.e. non-reduplicated, form. No temporal particles of any kind have to be used. The temporal apodosis clause can be marked by the sequential marker kà:
The temporal protasis clause may also be marked by a variety of markers coding anteriority, simultaneity, and posteriority of the protasis clause.
Purpose clauses are marked by the preposition ngá:
Reason clauses are marked by the subordinator kàbgà:
In realis conditionals, the protasis clause is marked by the sequential marker kà in clause-initial position:
Irrealis conditionals are marked by the hypothetical marker má preceding the clause:
|prep phrase||prepositional phrase|
|v.intr/tr||intransitive and transitive verb|
|v.tr.pl||transitive verb plural|
|AGAIN||Verbal extension coding repetition of action|
|ALSO||Verbal extension coding the truth of the proposition compared to a previous proposition|
|AS/INTO||result of transformation|
|AWAY||Verbal extension indicating movement away|
|COM||Comment on the focus marker|
|D:PVG||Distal extension: point of view of goal|
|D:SO||Distal extension: point of view of goal|
|FOR||preposition coding benefactive/dative|
|IN||Verbal extension coding movement inside|
|INN||Verbal extension coding movement to or from an inner space|
|OUT||Verbal extension indicating movement from inside out|
|PO||Potential object extension '-ay'|
|PVG||Point of view of goal|
|SO||Point of view of source|
|UP||Verbal extension coding movement upward|
This dictionary is based on fieldwork that started in 1991. A number of Hdi speakers have shared their knowledge of the language: Romain Siloa Mbaka, the late Patrice Douka Prafé, Abel Ndjidda Kassie, Francis Barassoua Baigoua, Sikoa Sinowa, Benjamin Ngasnou, and Roger Prafé. Without their knowledge of Hdi this dictionary would not have been possible.
The dictionary incorporates data from Paul Eguchi’s (1971) “Matériaux pour servir à l’étude de la langue hidé: Vocabulaire.” Eguchi’s entries have been checked with respect to pronunciation and translation. In an email dated May 8, 2007, the late Paul Eguchi expressed his agreement to this incorporation and to being a co-author of the dictionary, as follows: “Yes, I’m interested in your project. If you can incorporate my material into the dictionary, it will be fine. It should be used in the right way, productive way. No dictionary can be perfect. Anyway, please go ahead with my material. I’m very happy to be a co-author of the new dictionary.” The co-authors express their sadness that, because of his premature passing, Paul Eguchi was not able to see the present work.
Roger Prafé has been the principal language assistant for the grammar of Hdi (Frajzyngier with Shay 2002) and for this dictionary. He took most of the photographs accompanying the dictionary, and he recorded all of the entries and examples.
Henry Tourneux has edited the French entries, translated many examples, and, most importantly, has pointed out erroneous translations of some flora and fauna terms. His help was extremely valuable.
Erin Shay has read through the introduction to the dictionary and made many valuable editorial suggestions. Megan Schwabauer has entered all the data into the Lexus database and introduced numerous corrections. She has also compiled the first versions of the English-Hdi-French and French-Hdi-English indexes. Several students at the University of Colorado participated in the work on this dictionary, including Thea Hongdoxmai. One summer Kristin Weis, who wasn’t a student, joined in the project just for intellectual satisfaction.
Will Styler helped with separating sound recordings into individual entries.
The work on this dictionary was supported by grants from the Humboldt Research Award, National Science Foundation, the University of Colorado, and more recently, by the CorTypo project funded by the Agence National de la Recherche.
We would like to thank Mrs Susanne Remmel M.A. for her careful proofreading of the manuscript and for numerous suggestions concerning the lay-out, glosses, and terms.
We are most grateful to Martin Haspelmath for the invitation to make the Dictionary available in the Dictionary journal, and to Iren Hartmann and her team for making it possible. It was not an easy task and it has been accomplished in a very short time. Without Iren’s effort, this dictionary would not have been made available with the sound recordings and the accompanying photographs.
While we are most grateful to all who helped with this work in so many ways, I alone am responsible for any errors and infelicities.
|Full Entry||Headword||Part of Speech||Meaning Description||French||Semantic Domain||Examples|
|Primary Text||Analyzed Text||Gloss||Translation||IGT|