Category Archives: Grammar

Basic Wolof Phrases

See original list here: Some Essential Wolof Phrases
For help with pronunciation see: Pronunciation Guide


↓ scroll down for more resources ↓


Essentials | sólo

English
Wolof / Français
pro·nun·ci·a·tion
[Pulaar / Mandinka]

 

Hello.
Salaam aleekum. / Bonjour.
sa·laam a·ley·kum / bon·zhoor
[P: No ngoolu daa. / M: I be ñaading.]

Goodbye.
Mangi dem. / Au revoir.
maan·gee dem / o·rer·vwar
[P: Ñalleen e jamm. / M: Fo tuma doo.]

Please.
Bu la neexee. / S’il vous plaît.
boo la ney·khey / seel voo pley
[P: Njaafodaa. / M: Dukare.]

Thank you.
Jërejëf. / Merci.
je·re·jef / mair·see
[P: A jaaraamah. / M: I ning bara.]

You’re welcome.
Amul sólo. / Je vous en prie.
uh·mool so·lo / zher voo zom pree
[P: Enen ndendidum. / M: Mbee le dentaala.]

Yes.
Waaw. / Oui.
wow / wee
[P: Eey. / M: Haa.]

No.
Déedéet. / Non.
dey·deyt / non
[P: Alaa. / M: Hani.]

Sorry. (Excuse me.)
Baal ma. (Jéggël ma.) / Pardon. (Excusez-moi.)
baal ma (jey·guhl mah) / par·don (ek·skew·zay·mwa)
[P: Achanam hakke. (Yaafo.) / M: Hakko tuñe.]

Do you speak English?
Ndax dégg nga angale? / Parlez-vous anglais?
ndakh deg nguh an·ga·ley / par·ley·voo ong·ley
[P: Ada faama engale? / M: Ye angkale kango moyle?]

Do you understand? (Do you speak … ?)
Dégg nga? / Comprenez-vous?
deg nguh / kom·pre·ney·voo
[P: (Ada nana … ?) / M: (Ye … kango moyle?)]

I understand.
Dégg naa. / Je comprends.
deg na / zher kom·pron
[P: Mi faami. / M: Ngaa kalamuta le.]

I don’t understand.
Dégguma. / Je ne comprends pas.
deg·goo·ma / zher ner kom·pron pa
[P: Mi faamaani / M: Mma kalamuta.]

Help!
Wóoy! / Au secours!
wohy / o·skoor
[P: Ballal! / M: Nso orangzola!]

Continue reading Basic Wolof Phrases

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Wolof Grammar: Conjunctions

 

The coordinating conjunctions in English are: and, but, or, yet, for, nor & so.

 

In this post we will be dealing specifically with the and conjunction which in Wolof is ak/ag when connecting nouns and pronouns or te when connecting verbs and phrases.

 

Below are examples of ak in use:

 

ak kan? – and who?
man ak yow – me and you
ndey ak baay – mother and father
bile ak bale – this and that
suma xaalis ak sa xaalis – my money and your money

 

Ak also means with:

 

mu tase fa ak bukkihe encountered there a hyena
ak jamma – with peace, in peace
kaay ak ñun – come with us
pañe bi dafa fees ak dojthe basket is full of stones
dox na ñaar i fan ak fas am – he went for two days with his horse
mu rendi ko ak paaka – he cut its throat with a knife
kaay lekka ak ñun – come eat with us

 

When used with numbers ak is used like plus:

 

fukk ak benn – eleven
fukk ak ñaar – twelve
fukk ak ñett – thirteen

 

Source: Gambian Wolof – English Dictionary, David P. Gamble.

Wolof Grammar: Describing People and Things

 

Mouse over individual Wolof words for definitions.

 

Naka la mel?What is he/she/it like?

This question can refer to both physical and moral descriptions.

 

The term dafa is usually used to answer this question:

Dafa njool.He/she is tall.
Suma xarit bi dafa em.My friend is medium sized.
Kër gi dafa réy.The compound (home) is big.

 

For plurality you can use deñu:

Deñu gaata.They/we are short.

 

You can also substitute dafa with a relative pronoun:

Dafa njool./Ku njool la.He/she is tall./He is a tall person.

 

For deñu:

Deñu gaata./Ñu gaata leñu.They are short.

 

Source: Wollof Grammar Manual, Peace Corps, The Gambia.

Wolof Grammar: Suffixes

-a : indicates distance from the speaker (usually on def. art.); fas wi – this horse here; fas wathat horse there

-aale : indicates ‘somewhat’; ‘-ish’; ‘with’; soreyaalesomewhat far; weexaale – whitish; yobbuwaale – to take with one

-aan : indicates habitual or professional action; woyaan to sing as a profession; nooraanto spend the dry season (habitual)

-aat : indicates ‘again’; ñowaat – to come again

-aay : indicates abstraction; rafetaay – beauty (rafet = beautiful)

-adi : implies diminution;  dofadi – to be slightly crazy

-agul : indicates ‘not yet’; ñowagul – he has not yet come

 

source: David P. Gamble, Gambian Wolof-English Dictionary

Wolof Grammar: Definite Article

An article (abbreviated art.) is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are ‘the’ and ‘a/an’, and (in some contexts) ‘some’. – Wikipedia

In this post we will be dealing with the definite article. In English the definite article is ‘the’. In Wolof the definite article changes depending on the word type as well as the relation of the noun to the speaker. Definite articles indicate something specific or familiar to the listener. For example, if I was to say “the dog”, you would understand that I was talking about a particular dog. If I was to say “a dog” it could mean any dog.

In Wolof, the initial letter of the definite article varies:

bunta bi  –  the door
ganaar gi  –  the fowl
jigeen ji  –  the woman
nit ki  –  the person
nda li  –  the water pot
muus mi  –  the cat
suuf si  –  the earth
ween wi  –  the breast

Also note that the def. art. always follows the noun rather than precede it as in English.

The plural form of each def. art. is yi, with the exception of ki which is ñi.

xale yi  –  the children

Other than the plural form, there are three forms of the def. art. -i indicates nearness to the speaker, -a indicates distance from the speaker and -u is a relative form.

xale bi  –  the child (right here)
xale ba  –  the child (over there)

xale bu bon  –  the bad child (the child who is bad)

The -i form is also sort of the default form. Use this form when unsure which form to use. Also, bi, is the most common def. art. Use this one when the def. art. is not known. You can also sometimes get away with using the def. art. whose first letter matches the first letter of the noun if there is one, for example, gennax gi.

These rules generally apply across the board but some regions, or even some individual speakers, may switch them around.

The following list is a description of each definite article and when they are used. The list is ordered in frequency of use from the most common to the least common.

b-

  • found with nearly all nouns beginning with b, except for the names of trees, which use g-.
  • most nouns relating to persons, except for nit ki and terms of relationship which use j-.
  • most words borrowed from French, English and Mandinka, etc.
  • the names of fruits.
  • many parts of the body.
  • where a verbal root and a noun have the same form the article is most commonly bi.

g-

  • used with many words beginning with g and k and all tree names.
  • if a word ends in ŋ there is a tendency to follow it with g-.

j-

  • used with many words beginning with j.
  • most words borrowed from Arabic.
  • many words involving kinship.

m-

  • found with some words beginning with m and some beginning with p. The latter were probably nasalized mp in old Wolof.
  • used primarily where the initial consonant is nasalized, mb, etc.
  • a number of liquids have the article m-.

w-

  • found with words beginning with a vowel, y, w and x.
  • most insects have the w- article.

l-

  • used with only a few words beginning with l but commonly with words beginning with nd, ng and c.

s-

  • used with fewer words beginning with s than might be expected.
  • powdery substances usually have the article s-.
  • s- is also a diminutive form, the initial consonant of the noun being changed – nd, ng, etc.

k-

  • rarely used except for nit ki.

In some cases the article changes the definition of the word.

ndaw si  –  the girlfriend
ndaw li  –  the messenger

doom ji  –  the child
doom bi  –  the fruit

The contents of this post is from my personal notes as well as a considerable portion from the research of anthropologist David P. Gamble.

 

Simple Greeting Dialog with Breakdown

Bert: Asalaa maalekum.
Ernie: Maalekum salaam.
Bert: Nanga def?
Ernie: Mangi fii rekk.
Bert: Ana waa ker ga?
Ernie: Nunga fa.
Bert: Alhamdulilaay!

Asalaa maalekum
Malekum salaam

Greetings / Hello

from Arabic: Peace to you, and to you peace.

USE when entering or arriving at a place or when approaching an already established group.

Naka nga def?
Na nga def?

How are you doing?
(literally: How you do?)

na = naka — how
nga — you
def — verb: to do

An informal greeting. DON’T USE to initiate greetings with a person to whom you want to show respect.

Maa ngi fi rekk.

I am fine
(lit: I am here only.)

maa ngi — here I am
maa — presentative pronoun first person singular
fi — here
rekk — only

Ana waa ker ga?

How’s the family?

ana — how is / how are / where is / where are

waa ker ga — the people of the house, “the family”
waa — the people of / the inhabitants of
ker — house
ker gi — this house
ker ga — the house (distance)

Nu nga fa.

They are fine.
(lit: They are there.)

nu nga — they are
fa — there

nu ngi fi — they are here
nu nga fa — they are there

Alhamdulilay.

Thank God.
(from Arabic)

J’apprends le Wolof #3

Translated from J’apprends le Wolof by Jean-Leopold Diouf et Marina Yaguello. This is the introduction to the book.

Introduction

1. Design Manual / Conception du manuel

This book is a method of learning wolof, a language foreign to francophones. It is intended for residents, the cooperating, businessmen and tourists. It could also be useful for teachers in national languages, or any other person wishing to have a better knowledge of the language wolof.

The method is especially designed for a learning guide. However, it is possible to use individually. In one case as in others, can not be overemphasized recommend a learner’s most total immersion in environments requiring a practice wolof.

To accommodate the manifold needs of learners, we chose themes as diverse as family relationships, professional, social, friendly, commercial, civil, etc.., Containing an elementary lexicon, but enough to face a different situations communication.

In addition, we sought to ensure a balance between learning wolof by a communicative approach and learning wolof by an analytical approach.

The points of grammar that may fall in the manual have been carefully selected and should allow the learner to acquire the basic structures of wolof. All these points are explained in the units or they appear.

The written exercises are planned at the end of each unit. Their number varies from one unit to another depending on the difficulty of the grammar has acquired.

All exercises should be made and, as many times as a learning experience need.

For each exercise, a model is given. The learner must study the structure therein is made, before formulating are shown next to each segment of the year. A system cache that the learner is confectionnera prevent him throwing a glance the answer before he made the effort necessary.

2. The place of wolof in Senegal / La place du wolof au Sénégal

The wolof is part of the language group called west-Atlantic. It is mainly spoken in Senegal and Gambia, but also in Mauritania.

There are, in Senegal, six languages that have received the status of national languages: wolof, Serer, Pulaar, the Mandingo, soninke and Diola.

These languages were officially selected for communication in the media, and education. Moreover, the French remains the official language.

Of the six national languages, wolof is most spoken. It is the language of ethnic wolof who figure 2,285,000 people, representing 40% of the population of Senegal. The traditional Wolof area extends from north to south, from the delta of the atlantic coast of the desert Ferlo.

But it is also wolof language vehicle. About 80% of the population on the practice throughout the territory and this, mainly in urban areas.

The advantage that the wolof had on other national languages can not be explained both by the number of native wolof or by their geographical distribution (Walo, Cayor, Diolof, Baol, Saloum) and by the fact that the first contacts s’effectuèrent colonial powers with the Wolof and made the area wolof the pole of attraction for other ethnic groups. In mid wolof, the day saw the first counters and, with them, groundnut basin or develop a flourishing trade, crowned by the installation of railway Dakar – St. Louis.

In brief remarks on the language wolof / Brèves remarques sur la langue wolof

The wolof, as many African languages, is a language classes nominal. These classes (eight in number two in the singular and plural) play a role comparable to that grammatical gender in the Indo-European languages. Each class is marked by a [index class] is by a consonant. This consonant serves as a base for training all determinants and substitutes name (defined and indefinite articles concerning, interrogative, indefinite). These determinants or substitutes therefore differ for each class, the initial consonant, désinence remaining the same.

The city of Dakar is a melting pot or just blend all ethnic groups in Senegal and even neighbouring countries: wolof it undergoes a simplification because it is talking more and more by non-native speakers for whom it is a second or a third language. Thus, in its manifold vehicular and urban, a distinction of class indices is not always respected. The class – b (most productive) tends to absorb the other. In particular, it is in this class that fit all the words and borrowing new words needed presenter asked whether a learner is likely to hear in the streets. We opted ultimately for some sort of compromise, which reflects fairly well through the use wolophones native urbanized. The class indices are complied except for the numeral benn (one), serving also indefinite article, which tends to be used alone, regardless of class.

The identification in space and in particular the opposition near / distant plays a very important role in language. Where a great variability of adverbs of place. The notion of near / distant also in nominal determination (and, as defined in article owns several forms).

The system can record divert even more francophones. The integrate personal pronouns mode and the appearance of the verb. So the pronoun that varies and not the basis of the word, which remains unchanged. In addition, there is no [time] Strictly speaking, the tracking time out from a context and situation of enunciation. The different conjugations (by varying the pronoun) are introduced gradually in the units. For an overview of the system, we see a grammatical annex at the end of volume.

J’apprends le Wolof #2

Self Test – Can You Translate These Phrases? (A, 1-10)

These are from the book Junniy Leebuy Wolof by Mànsóor Xumma.

  1. Aat yaa ngi woy géwél yi.
  2. Ab jatang, loo bàcc bàcc mu xasawum saw.
  3. Ab loot, tàbbi na ba tàyyi bàyyi fa rew bu nyor.
  4. Ab sàmm a waral béy deewul.
  5. Ab ndóol, ku mu yàqal nyakk nga.
  6. Ag bóli, mbedd la; waaye kenn du ca wetal i béy.
  7. Alal du faj dee, gàcce lay faj.
  8. Alali golo, ca lex ba.
  9. Alali jàmbur, ba fa la sant.
  10. Alali jàmbur, ku ca banya kasara, leneen nga ca begg.

P.S. – I don’t have the answers for these…You’ll have to figure them out for yourself!

J’apprends le Wolof #2

This post is the second in my weekly series of translating the book “J’apprends le Wolof” by Jean-Léopold Diouf & Marina Yaguello (published by Karthala) from French into English. For the original post click ICI. Following are the pages leading up to the introduction.

I’m learning wolof

© Editions Karthala, 1991
ISBN : 2-86537-287-1

Jean-Leopold Diouf and Marina Yaguello

I’m Learning Wolof

Damay Jàng Wolof (I’m Learning Wolof)

Editions KARTHALA
22-24, boulevard Arago
75013 Paris

WORKS OF MARINA YAGUELLO

Les mots et les femmes, Payot, 1978. (Words and women, Payot, 1978.)
Alice au pays du langage, Le Seuil, 1981. (Alice in language, Le Seuil, 1981.)
Les Fous du langage, Le Seuil, 1981. (Les Fous language, Le Seuil, 1981.)
Catalogue des idées reçues sur la langue, Le Seuil, 1988. (Catalogue of ideas about language, Le Seuil, 1988.)
Le sexe des mots, Belfond, 1989. (The words sex, Belfond, 1989.)
Histoire des lettres, Le Seuil, 1990. (History letters, Le Seuil, 1990.)
T’ar ta gueule à la récré !, Le Seuil, 1991. (T’ar your mouth to the playground!, Le Seuil, 1991.)
Grammaire exploratoire de l’anglais, Hachette, 1991. (Grammar exploratory English, Hachette, 1991.)
En écoutant parler la langue, Le Seuil, 1991. (Listening to speak the language, Le Seuil, 1991.)

THANKS

We wish to thank all those who contributed to the achievement of this method of learning wolof. We are indebted in particular the Ministry of Cooperation french who kindly to finance the achievement.

Our thanks also go to Mr Jean-Charles Trorobas, an engineer with the language laboratory of the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at the University of Dakar, for its technical collaboration, Ms. Martha Coly Diédhiou of Computing Center at the University of Dakar who served before the first manuscript, and the director of CLAD for his willingness unreservedly.

J’apprends le Wolof / I’m Learning Wolof

I am in the process of translating the Wolof lesson book “J’apprends le Wolof” by Jean-Léopold Diouf & Marina Yaguello (published by Karthala) from French into English. I will try to post a page here every week. I am leaving for Senegal in a few weeks so I don’t know how often I will be able to post while I am gone. I will start here with the cover. Note: I am not a French speaker so many of my translations may not be perfect, however I am using the many materials I have at my disposal to make the best translations possible.

FROM THE BACK COVER: The wolof is a language spoken mainly in Senegal and Gambia, but also in Mauritania. This is one of the six languages used officially in Senegal for communication in the media and education.

About 40% of Senegalese speak wolof as their mother language and 40% use wolof as a lingua franca. Hence the importance for anyone who wants to know Senegal, whether resident, cooperating, businessman or tourist, to learn wolof.

The book may also be useful for teachers in national languages, which will find many exercises drafted on the basis of official spelling.

This method allows learning to acquire alone or with a guide a variety of wolof which reflects fairly well through the use wolophones native urbanized.

Jean-Leopold Diouf holds a Ph. D. in African linguistics. He is a researcher at the Center of Applied Linguistics of Dakar and professor of wolof at the Alliance Francaise.

Marina Yaguello is an aggregate Doctor of Letters and lecturer at the University of Paris VII. She has taught linguistics at the University of Dakar and is the author of numerous books.

men and societies

Cover: Photo Vivant Univers “Living Universe”

General Greetings / Salutations Général (Dialog)

Omar: Salaamaaleekum. Peace be upon you.
Moodu: Maaleekum salaam. Peace return to you.
Omar: Jaama ngaam? Do you have peace?
Moodu: Jaama rek. Peace only. (I’m fine.)
Omar: Naka nga def? How are you?
Moodu: Maangi fi rek. I am here only. (I’m fine.)
Omar: Sa yaram jaama? Is your body in peace? (How is your health?)
Moodu: Jaama rek. Peace only.
Omar: Ana waa ker gi? Where are the people of the house? (How is your family?)
Moodu: Nunga fa. They are there. (They’re fine.)
Omar: Mbaa defunu dara. I hope nothing is wrong with them.
Moodu: Deedeet, defunu dara. No, nothing is wrong with them.
Omar: Naka ligeey bi? How is the work? (How is work?)
Moodu: Maangi si kowam ndanka, ndanka. I am on it slowly, slowly. (I’m taking it easy.)

French Vocabulary – A

Vocabulaire Français – A

abbreviations abréviations
adjective adjectif
adverb adverbe
agriculture agriculture
anatomy anatomie
and et
architecture architecture
astrology astrologie
astronomy astronomie
attributive devant le nom
auxiliary auxiliare
aviation aviation

Wolof mots de vocabulaire

Wolof vocabulary words

bennen, benen – another
bennen u xarit am – another of his friends

doonte – if it were
doonte man … – if it were me …

garab g (garap) – tree; medicine
ci kow garab gi – up the tree

jappa – to seize, catch ; to suit
jappa biir – to become pregnant

lu – whatever
lu dul – unless

munga, munge, mungi – he is …
munga fa – he is over there (remote)

ñeppa – all
ñun ñeppa xam nañu – we all know them

raxas – to wash (clothes, utensils, etc.)
mu raxas leket bi be mu set – she washed the calabash until it was clean

suma – my
suma xaalis ak sa xaalis – my money and your money

tollo – to measure height
tollo ak … – to be the same size as …

waññi – to lower a price, reduce
waññi ko waay – please lower it

yobbu – to carry, to take away
soo demee, yobbaale ma – when you go, take me with you