Lesson 24: Akan (Twi) Prefixes (Nsianimu) | Twi Grammar

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In our last lesson, we were introduced to Twi affixes. We said an affix is a word element that can be attached to a word’s root to form a new word. We mentioned that if an affix is attached to the beginning of the root, we call it a prefix (nsianimu). If it is attached at the end of the root, it is known as the suffix (nsiakyire). In today’s lesson, we are looking at the first type of Twi affixes: nsianimu (prefix).

Our main aim will be to familiarise ourselves with the various prefixes we have in Twi.

 

What is a prefix?

Need we define it again? Well, a prefix, known in Twi as nsianimu, is a type of affix that is attached to the beginning of a word’s root to form a new word with a new meaning.

 

Examples of Twi prefixes

Nsianimu (prefix) Example Breakdown
 

a

ako (fight/war)

asa (dance, noun)

ayera (has disappeared)

a + ko (fight, verb)

a + sa (dance, verb)

(perfect marker) + yera (disappear)

 

o

Okristoni (Christian)

osuani (learner)

osukuuni (student)

O + Kristo (Christ) + ni (performer suffix)

o + sua (learn) + ni (performer suffix)

o + sukuu (school) + ni (performer suffix)

 

ɔ

ɔdɔ (love, noun)

ɔsom (worship, noun)

ɔkɛseɛ (the big fellow)

ɔ + dɔ (love, verb)

ɔ + som (worship, verb)

ɔ + kɛseɛ (big, adjective)

 

m

mmadwoa (lumps)

mma (don’t give)

mfa (don’t take)

m + badwoa (lump)

m + ma (give)

m + fa (take)

 

n

ntɛfrɛ (cockroaches)

nsafoa (keys)

ntakra (feathers)

n + tɛfrɛ (cockroach)

n + safoa (key)

n + takra (feather)

 

ɛ

ɛdɔm (crowd)

ɛkɔm (hunger)

ɛse (teeth)

ɛ + dɔm

ɛ + kɔm

ɛ + se

 

e

edin (name, noun)

esum (darkness)

ehu (fear)

e + din

e + sum

e + hu

 

am

ampɛbrɛ (a lazy person)

ampesie (a kind of dish)

ampe (a kind of game)

am + pɛ (like) + brɛ (tiredness)

am + pɛ (find) + sie (hide)

am + pe

 

an

Antobam (an Akan name)

Antoa (name of a river/town)

Ankaa (orange)

An + to + bam

An + toa

An + kaa

 

re 

(the progressive tense marker)

renom (is drinking)

resere (is laughing)

redwene (is thinking)

re + nom (drink)

re + sere (laugh)

re + dwene (think)

 

(future tense marker)

nom (will drink)

sere (will laugh)

dwene (will think)

bɛ + nom (drink)

bɛ + sere (laugh)

bɛ + dwene (think)

 

Notes

1. In some words, the removal of some of the prefixes above does not change their meanings. This is typically so with words that come with the o, ɛ and e For example, you can use either of the pairs below to mean the same thing.

  • Okristoni (Christian) or Kristoni (Christian)
  • Osukuuni (student) or Sukuuni (Christian)

 

  • Ɛdɔm (crowd) or Dɔm (crowd)
  • Ɛdwoada (Monday) or Dwoada (Monday)

 

  • Esum (darkness) or Sum (darkness)
  • Edin (name, noun) or Din (name, noun)

 

2. When the m and n prefixes are attached to verbs, they typically negate them. On the other hand, if m or n is prefixed to a noun, it is most likely being used to form its plural. For example:

  • n+kraman (dog) = nkraman (dogs)
  • m+paneɛ (needle) = mpaneɛ (needles)

 

  • n+tɔ (buy) = ntɔ (don’t buy)
  • m+pra (sweep) = mpra (don’t sweep)

 

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