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Nsenga Linguistics: Verbs

March 8, 2011

As we study our new book, Linguistic Analysis of Cinsenga by Lazarus Miti, we are learning all sorts of new things about the language in which we will soon be immersed.

To give the readers of our blog a taste of the joys of linguistics (especially analyzing and attempting to learn a mostly-undocumented new language), we will be posting some linguistic data from Nsenga, as well as some of the kinds of questions linguists seek to answer based on the data they have collected.

Have fun wrestling with this little puzzle. You can click the link at the bottom of the page for answers, but try to work through the problems first! Maybe you have more of a knack for languages than you thought.

Nsenga Verbs

  • Nikalile           ‘I will cry’
  • Nikawele        ‘I will come’
  • Mukawele      ‘You will come’
  • Simukalila     ‘You will not cry’
  • Muiwela          ‘You came’

Based on these verbs, what meaning do each of the following word-parts (morphemes) have?

  1. ni-
  2. mu-
  3. ka-
  4. si-
  5. i-
  6. lil
  7. wel

What is the difference between verbs that end in –a and verbs that end in –e ?

How would you say ‘I will not cry’?

For answers, click below:

Nsenga Verbs Answer Sheet

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Riley permalink
    March 8, 2011 11:23 am

    Did pretty well on the quiz.. only missed the ends in -a -e question, and so missed the I will not cry question.. sounds like a very interesting language..

  2. Heidi Bringhurst permalink
    March 8, 2011 12:11 pm

    Ooh, missed one! Well, half of one. I could figure out that -a and -e had something to do with tense, but couldn’t nail down the details of that. I’ll be interested to see how the research develops.

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