Locations And Linguistic Features Of The Nzema Land

Locations And Linguistic Features Of The Nzema
Nzema map

Nzema people occupy the south-western part of the Western Region of Ghana. Nzema extends from Ahanta to the Ghana and Ivory Coast border.

The people of Nzema were part of the Ashanti Kingdom, who were moving from the Sahara desert as a result of famine and war with the nomads. The symbol of the group was a porcupine.

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That is why the Nzema have the same totem with the Ashanti and call themselves ‘Kᴐtᴐkᴐ’. On reaching the present Ashanti Kingdom, they continued with the Denkyira down south until they found a good place for independent settlement.

Till date, Nzema speakers pay allegiance to the Ashanti King and call the Ashanti people ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ whenever they meet. They share common cultural similarities such as their language, food and matrilineal inheritance.

Apart from that the people speak Nzema, a Kwa language, made up of five dialects, namely Ahomu, Ellembele, Jomoro and Eletile and Evaloe. The district traditional courts of the people are Nzema East, Ellembele and Jomoro. However, Ellembele and Jomoro dialects are used for educational and research purposes.

In addition, the grammar of the language is somewhat similar to Akan, though not the same. The Nzema language marks its plurals with {m-, n-} and a- as prefixes to the noun roots with consideration to sound assimilation.

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A word beginning with /b/ for example, prefix it with {m-} to form its plural plural. Example, bulalԑ, ‘metal’, would change to mbulalԑ, ‘metals’. But kila, ‘mouse’, singular will become ngila or ahila, ‘mice’.

Also, kale, ‘car’ becomes ahale, ‘cars’. Another plural marker is the suffixes –ma, as in maanlema, ‘citizens’, with the root word, maanle, country; and Bakuma, folks of Baku, ‘a town’ (Bakunli-singular).

The infixes in the language for plural marking are /m/ and /n/ as in sԑsԑmbia, ‘stools’ and agyandeԑ, ‘properties’, which have their singular, sԑsԑbia and agyadeԑ respectively. Nzema has compounding, borrowing, reduplication, blending and clipping as some common morphological processes.

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Nzema has the canonical structure of a sentence as SVO as shown below:

nrenyia ne hͻ dͻ -le kale ne,

man DEF go.PST buy.PST car.SG. DEF.

‘The man went to buy the car.’

Orthographically, the language joins verbs to the pronouns in subject position as in yeva, he or she has taken; ye, he or she and va, has taken. Hence, ‘Yeva ezukoa yehͻdͻ kale

Ye va ezukoa ye hͻ dͻ kale

3SG take. PERF money 3SG. go.PST buy.PST car.

‘He or she has taken money to buy a car.’

Nzema has postpositions. Example, ԑkponle zo, table on, which is ‘on a table’. The language has pre-modifiers, post-modifiers and predicators. Examples are in the following:

raalԑ kԑnlԑma,

woman beautiful.

‘Beautiful woman.’

ehyianli raalԑ

‘poor woman’

ᴐ- le kԑnlԑma

3 SG. is beautiful

‘She is beautiful.’

The language uses /s/, /kw/ and /ʤ/ for the English alphabets ‘c’, ‘q’and ‘j’ respectively. There are some few double consonants in the language that make it differ from Akan.

Example, /kp/, voiceless labio-velar plosive, in a word like kpakpa, pawpaw, /gb/ voiced labio-velar plosive, in a word like amgba, ‘true’ and /ŋ/ for ‘nr’ in a word like nrele, a type of fish and nretenrete, mosquito.

The common nasals /m/ and /n/ are syllabic only when they are followed by a plosive consonant; n-ganeԑ, scent, m-ba, negation of ba, come and n-da, negation of da, sleep but not in bane, ba-ne or sane, sa-ne where they end the words.

Other nasal diagraphs (orthographic) are ‘ny’ voiced alveo-palatal nasal affricate, ‘nw’ voiced alveolar-labial plosive, ‘nr’ and velaric-nasal. Another unique feature of the language is that the vowels sounds /i/,/ɪ/,/o/, /ʊ/ do not begin a word and consonants too do not end words except when the words are onomatopoeic or when they are imported.

SETH NRETIA ESSIEN. Contact on essentialnretia29@gmail.com


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