|Native to||Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire|
|Region||North-west corner of the Brong-Ahafo region in Ghana, east of Bondouko in Côte d'Ivoire|
Nafaanra, some neighbouring languages, and other Senufo languages.
Nafaanra (sometimes written Nafaara, pronounced [nafãːra]) is a Senufo language spoken in northwest Ghana, along the border with Côte d'Ivoire, east of Bondouko. It is spoken by approximately 61,000 people. Its speakers call themselves Nafana; others call them Banda or Mfantera. Like other Senufo languages, Nafaanra is a tonal language. It is somewhat of an outlier in the Senufo language group, with the geographically closest relatives, the Southern Senufo Tagwana–Djimini languages, approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) to the west, on the other side of Comoé National Park.
The basic word order is subject–object–verb, similar to Latin and Japanese. Like other Niger–Congo languages it has a noun class system where nouns are classified according to five different genders, which also affects pronouns, adjectives and copulas. The phonology features a distinction between the length of vowels and whether they are oral or nasal (as in French or Portuguese). There are also three distinct tones, a feature shared with the other Senufo languages. Nafaanra grammar features both tense and aspect which are marked with particles. Numbers are mainly formed by adding cardinal numbers to the number 5 and by multiplying the numbers 10, 20 and 100.
Nafaanra is bordered by Kulango languages to the west, while Deg (a Gur language) and Gonja (Kwa) are found to the north and east. The closest eastern neighbour is the Mande language Ligbi, whose speakers are also called Banda) which, like Nafaanra, is an outlier to its own family. Southeast and south of Nafaanra and Ligbi, the Akan language Abron (also Bron or Brong) is spoken.
The Nafana people live in the north-west corner of the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana, concentrated mainly in Sampa (capital of the Jaman North district) and Banda. There are two dialectal variants of Nafaanra: Pantera of Banda, and Fantera of Sampa. Bendor-Samuel gives a 79% cognate relationship on the Swadesh list between the two dialects, meaning that they have many basic words in common. The Banda dialect is considered central. The terms "Fantera" and "Pantera" come from other peoples and are considered pejorative by the Nafana.
The Nafana people relate that they come from Côte d'Ivoire, from a village called Kakala. Their oral history says that some of their people are still there, and if they go back they will not be allowed to leave again. They arrived in the Banda area after the Ligbi people, who came from Begho (Bigu, Bighu) to the area in the early 17th century.
Many Nafana are bilingual in Twi, the regional lingua franca, to some extent. According to SIL, 50% of the people are able to "satisfy routine social demands and limited requirements in other domains", while 20% are able to speak Twi "with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and occupational topics". The remaining 30% are either able to maintain only very simple face-to-face conversations on familiar topics (15%) or unable to speak Twi at all (15%). 15–25% of the Nafana people are literate in Twi, whereas only 1–5% are literate in Nafaanra.
Nafaanra is the second language of the approximately 70 Dompo people living in the close vicinity of Banda. Dompo is their first language, thought to be extinct until a field work trip of Blench in 1998 proved the contrary.
Maurice Delafosse was the first linguist to mention Nafaanra, calling it "a much dispersed Senufo tribe" in 1904. Westermann in his classification of West-African languages, also grouped Nafaanra with Senufo, apparently based on the word list found in Rapp. This classification is confirmed by Bendor-Samuel, who bases his internal Senufo classification on the comparative word lists in Swadesh et al.
It is less clear which particular Senufo branch Nafaanra is related to most closely. Bendor-Samuel gives a 60% cognate relationship on the Swadesh list with "Tenere" (a western Senari dialect), 59% with "Central Senari" (the Senari dialect spoken around Korhogo), and 43% with the non-Senufo languages Mo (or Deg), Kabre (or Kabiye), and Dogon. The relatively low scores of about 60% point to a rather distant relationship. Likewise, Mensah and Tchagbale establish an intercomprensibility factor of 38% with "Tyebaara" (Senari), concluding that Nafaanra is only distantly related to this dialect. Nafaanra has been tentatively linked to Palaka (Kpalaga) by Manessy, whereas Mills suggests a relation with the southern Tagwana–Djimini branch.
Nafaanra has seven oral and five nasalized vowels. A difference in vowel length can make a difference in meaning, as in sɛ, "to go", vs. sɛɛ, "fetish" or o, "we" vs. oo, "we will". Similarly, the phonemic contrastiveness of nasalization can be seen in sii, "to be giving birth," vs. sĩĩ, "to build". The vowel system closely resembles that of other Senufo languages. It is like the two Northern Senufo languages Supyire and Mamara in having only five nasal against seven oral vowels. In the orthography, nasalization of vowels is marked by adding the letter "n" after the vowel.
|Close||i • ĩ||u • ũ|
|Open-mid||ɛ • ɛ̃||ɔ • ɔ̃|
|Open||a • ã|
In the table below, orthographic symbols are included between brackets if they differ from the IPA symbols. Note especially the use of "j" for IPA [ɟ] and the use of "y" for IPA [j], common in African orthographies.
|stop||p b||t d||c (ch) ɟ (j)||k ɡ||kp ɡb|
|fricative||f v||s z||ç (sh)||h|
The consonant system of Nafaanra is fairly similar to that of other Senufo languages. Nafaanra has only one attested palatal fricative, /ç/, occupying an intermediate position between the Northern Senufo languages (Mamara, Supyire) that have both /ç/ and its voiced counterpart /ʝ/, and the Central and Southern Senufo languages (e.g. Karaboro, Senari, Djimini) that have no palatal fricatives at all.
Like the other Senufo languages, Nafaanra has three contrastive tones: High, Mid and Low. Tone is normally not marked in the Nafaanra orthography. Examples are:
The Mid tone sometimes has a rising feature, the High tone sometimes is subject to downstep (a tonal process resulting in a High tone being realised lower than a preceding High tone), and an upstep is also found. The "rising feature" of Mid may be related to the fact that two different Mid tones are found in some other Senufo languages (e.g. Sucite and Supyire). The High tone downstep (signified by a raised exclamation mark) occurs in the following context:
It is likely that the tonal lowering seen in this particular example is related to the low tone nasal prefix found in future tense constructions in some other Senufo languages. In fact, Supyire shows a similar phenomenon in future tense constructions with a direct object (in other future tense constructions, a low tone nasal is found). In general however, downstep is more widespread than in Supyire; a similar phenomenon is found in Palaka, Tagwana, and Djimini.
An upstep is found in the imperative tense of high tone verbs:
The Nafaanra syllable comprises a vowel and a maximum of three consonants. A nasal consonant may occur as a syllable on its own, in which case it is called a syllabic nasal. The basic syllable structure can be rendered as (C1)(C2)V(C3), with a preference for CV and CVV. Position C1 may contain any consonant, although word-initial /r/ does not occur. Position C2 may contain only trills (/r/) or approximants (/w, l, j/). Position C3 may contain only nasals (/m n ɲ ŋ/), in which case the syllable as a whole is nasalized.
Senufo languages have a typical Niger–Congo noun class (or gender) system. Suffixes on nouns mark membership of one of the five noun genders. Pronouns, adjectives and copulas reflect the noun gender of the nominal they refer to. Although none of the sources on Nafaanra provides any details, it can be inferred from a brief word list given by Jordan that the Nafaanra noun class system resembles that of other Senufo languages.
The basic word order in Nafaanra is subject–object–verb, as can be seen in the following sentence:
Jordan lists the following list of pronouns, commenting, "Although the pronoun system appears quite simple, it becomes complicated because all the tenses are shown by a combination of pronoun plus particle."
Tense and aspect in Nafaanra are generally encoded in two places: in preverbal particles and on the verb form. Nafaanra has past, recent past, and future tenses and continuative aspect. In a simple sentence, the order of the various constituents can be rendered as follows: SUBJECT • (NEGATION) • (TENSE) • (ASPECT) • VERB . When the negative suffix -n is present, no fusing of preverbal particles takes place. Nafaanra additionally expresses some tense/aspect matters by use of certain time adverbs and auxiliary verbs.
Past tense is marked by the preverbal particle ná (high tone, as opposed to the low tone continuative particle). Future tense is marked by the particle wè. Simple sentences without a preverbal tense particle are interpreted as recent past (sometimes called immediate). If aspect marking is absent, simple sentences are generally interpreted as completive.
Continuative aspect (sometimes called progressive) denotes an action that is ongoing or repetitive. Continuative aspect is usually marked both by a preverbal particle nà (low tone) and by a change of the verb form. The verb sɛ́, "go" used in the sentences below has the continuative form síé. In sentences where both past tense particle ná and continuative particle nà are present, they combine to give the fused particle náà. In sentences in the recent past tense, the preverbal continuative particle is omitted and continuative aspect is shown only on the verb.
Two classes of verbs can be differentiated on the basis of their behaviour in aspectually marked sentences. One class of verbs has two aspectually distinct forms, as seen in the above example sentences. Another class of verbs does not distinguish aspect — one and the same form shows up in both completive and continuative aspect. In sentences in the recent past tense, this gives rise to ambiguity since the preverbal continuative particle is omitted there. Thus, the sentence kòfí blú can be interpreted in the following two ways:
Considerable fusion takes place between pronominal subjects and the preverbal particles. For example, ná "PAST" fuses with pé, "they", to produce prá sɛ́ (they-PAST go-completive), "they went", and wè "FUTURE" fuses with pé in píè sɛ́ (they-FUTURE go-completive), "they will go".
Questions can be formed in several ways in Nafaanra. Basic yes/no questions are constructed by adding a sentence-final question marker rá. Constituent questions (sometimes called Wh-questions or question word questions) are doubly marked. They contain a sentence-initial question word and are marked with a sentence-final question marker hin.
The cardinal numbers without tonal marking are presented below; where possible, the tone pattern is added based on the list in Rapp. Some Supyire correlates are given for comparison. Numbers six to nine are derived by adding the numbers one to four to kɔɔ, "five", by means of the conjunction na.
|6||kɔ́ɔ̀-ná-nù||baa-nì||< 5 + 1|
|7||kɔ́ɔ̀-na-shin||baa-shùùnnì||< 5 + 2|
|8||kɔ́ɔ̀-ná-tárɛ̀||baa-tàànrè||< 5 + 3|
|9||kɔ́ɔ̀-ná-jirɛ||baa-rìcyɛ̀ɛ̀rè||< 5 + 4|
|30||fúlo na kɛ||benjaaga na kɛ||< 20 + 10|
|40||fúloe shiin||< 20 x 2|
|50||fúloe shiin na kɛ||< 20 x 2 + 10, Rapp féleshen-ná-kɛ|
|60||fuloe taarɛ||< 20 x 3, however compare Rapp félèko-a-ná-nò|
|70||fuloe taarɛ na kɛ||< 20 x 3 + 10, Rapp féleko-náshèn|
|80||fuloe jijirɛ||< 20 x 4, Rapp féleko-ná-tàrɛ|
|90||fuloe jijirɛ na kɛ||< 20 x 4 + 10, Rapp félèko-ná-nyèrɛ|
|100||lafaa||Mpre: ke-lafa (Rapp 1933)|
|1000||kagbenge nunu||Rapp láfâ-kɛĭ (< 100 x 10) or káboŋge|
The numbers 11–19 are formed by adding 1–9 to 10 by means of the conjunction mbɔ, e.g. kɛmbɔnunu, "eleven", kɛmbɔkunɔ, "fifteen". In the tens and higher, the Nafaanra and Supyire systems diverge. Multiplication of fulo, "twenty," and addition of kɛ, "ten", (by means of the conjunction ná) is used to form the 30–90 tens. Perhaps surprisingly, there are considerable differences between Rapp (1933) and Jordan (1980) here. In Rapp's 60, 70 and 80, féle seems to be used to mark ten, which conjoined with 6, 7 and 8 forms 60, 70 and 80.
Rapp (1933) compares the Nafaanra numerals for three (táárɛ) and hundred (lafaa) with eta and ke-lafa from Mpre, a hitherto unclassified language from Ghana. It should be noted however that Mpre eta is Kwa-like (cf. Brong esã, Ga etɛ), whereas the Nafaanra form táárɛ is transparently related to the forms found in the other (non-Kwa) Senufo languages (e.g. Supyire tàànrè). Nafaanra lafaa "hundred" is a typical Kwa numeral and is most probably borrowed from one of the surrounding Kwa languages (cf. Dangme làfá, Gonja kì-làfá, Ewe alafá). Rapp's implication of affinity between Mpre and Nafaanra seems therefore unwarranted at this level.
Morphophonological alternations occur here and there, most notably the reduction of kúnɔ, "five" to kɔ́ɔ̀ (preserving the tone pattern) and the change from lafaa to lafɛɛ in the hundreds.
The three basic colour words of Nafaanra are: wɔɔ, "black", finge, "white", and ɲiɛ, "red". As with adjectives in Senufo languages, the form of the colour words reflects the noun class of the noun that is modified.
The cognate forms in closely related Supyire are -ɲyɛ-, "red; warm colored", and -fyìn-, "white; light colored", in Supyire. These adjectives are related to the respective verbs fíníŋɛ́, "be white; whiten" and ɲááŋá, "be red; redden", which in turn are causative forms of the now defunct verbs fini ,"be white" and ɲana, "be red".
There is relatively little published on or in the Nafaanra language. The first linguistic publication to mention Nafaanra is Delafosse (1904), containing some notes on the Nafana people and a fairly extensive comparative Senufo word list, though it lacked any proper tonal marking. Rapp (1933) is an appendix to an article on Kulango containing a German-Nafaanra (Nafana-Sprache) word list of around 100 items, gathered during a stay of four hours at Sampa. Rapp notes in passing that special attention was paid to the marking of the tones.
After a period of silence on Nafaanra, Painter (1966) appeared, consisting of basic word lists of the Pantera and Fantera dialects. The SIL linguist Dean Jordan published an article on Nafaanra discourse in 1978, and together with his wife Carol Jordan has produced a translation of the New Testament, which appeared in 1984. Kropp-Dakubu's 1980 West African language data sheets vol II contains a few pages on Nafaanra put together in the late seventies by Dean and Carol Jordan, including a phonology, a list of nouns, a list of pronouns, a list of numbers, and some example sentences; tones are not marked. A more detailed phonology of Nafaanra by Jordan, also containing a Swadesh list, appeared in 1980. Several books of Nafana folk tales have been published by the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Mensah and Tchagbale in their 1983 linguistic atlas of Côte d'Ivoire include a comparative Senufo word list of about 120 items; Nafaanra is present under the name "Nafara of Bondoukou". An orthography of Nafaanra, lacking tonal marking, is included in Hartell (1993). The area where Nafaanra is spoken has been the subject of recent archaeological-anthropological studies (Stahl 2004).