Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Chapter 4 - Ngoni Possessive Case

The want of a proper possessive case is supplied by means of the basic concord of a class of the noun possessed combined with a, which is commonly referred to as the possessive particle corresponding to the English "of." This combination has been variously designated as "possessive particle," &c. The invariable part of the particle is the vowel a, and the noun signifying the thing possessed determines the form of the particle.

The following gives, at a glance, the forms of the possessive particle according to the various classes of nouns: -

  1. For class 1 and 3 where the basic concord is u, the u becomes w thus u + a > wa.
  2. Where the basic concord of the class is i, like in class 4 and 9 the i becomes y thus i + a > ya.
  3. In the case where the basic concord is a then it is elided or deleted thus: a + a > a.
  4. Where the basic concord consists of a consonant and a vowel then the vowel bit of that basic concord is deleted as shown below:
          Class 5: li + a > la
          Class 7: si + a > sa
          Class 8: zi + a > za
          Class 10: zi + a > za

Class 11 and 15 are exceptions in the vowel gets replaced by "w" as follows:

            lu + a > lwa

            ku + a > kwa

Below is a complete list except for 


1 (1a)       wa-

2  (2a)      ba-

3             wa-

4               ya-

5                la-

6                a-

7               sa-

8               za-

9               ya-

10             za-

11            lwa-

14            ba-

15           kwa-

Note: -There is no doubt that the Bantu forms of speech are to a greater or less degree subservient to euphony, but this principle of euphonic concord, though present in all parts of speech, can scarcely be made to explain the structure of the various parts of speech; yet its power in effecting changes is clearly visible.

To say that the euphonic of the governing noun is put before the noun governed, is not and explanation of the composition of the possessive particle. In the table presented the structure of the particle is given. That this is the explanation is evident, whether we look upon the a as a preposition, "of" or denoting the relation. It is the relative pronoun in Zulu and cognate languages.

The literal translation of a passage in which the possessive particle occurs is thus: - umuntu wenkosi, a man of the chief = umuntu, a man, wa he of (u + a = wa) inkosi, chief; (the we =wa + inkosi as explained at chap. 2. 3 (3).

The possessive case is formed by following the following rules:

1. With common nouns, by placing the possessive particle belonging to the noun denoting the thing possessed, before the noun which denotes the possessor, and the "a" of the particle coalesces with the initial vowel of the prefix of the latter noun as shown below:

a + a > a
a + i > e
a + u > o


Umfazi wendoda, the man's wife (wa-indoda).

Ilizwi lomuntu, the person's word (la-umuntu).

Izinkomo zenkosi, the cattle of the chief/chief's cattle. (za + inkosi)

Abantwana benkosikazi, the children of the woman/ the woman's children. (ba + inkosikazi)

Amandla abantu, the power of people (a + abantu)

Ukudla kwamadoda, the men's food (kwa + amadoda)

Possessive Concord for Class 1a

2. If the possessor is a noun belonging to class 1a, the prefix (u) of the name is dropped and the preposition ka is placed before the name. Then one has to decide whether the possessee is a noun belongs  to a nasal class or not. If it is from a nasal class i.e. its prefix is um(u)-; imi-; ama- or in) then nothing is prefixed to ka-


Indoda kaNomusa, The husband (man) of Nomusa.
umntwana kababa, child of my father/my father's child.
Indlu kamalume, the house of my uncle/my uncle's house.
Amandla kaSizwe, the strength of Sizwe/Sizwe's strength.
Umkulumqango kaZwangendaba, the God of Zwangendaba/Zwangendaba's God.

If the possessee is in an an non-nasal class, then the subject concord for the particular noun is prefixed to -ka, thus ilizwi likaYohane, the word of John.


Abantwana bakaZwide, children of Zwide/Zwide's children.

Izinkomo zikaM'mbelwa, Cattle of M'mbelwa/M'mbelwa's cattle.

Ubuntu bukaThokozile, the human nature of Thokozile/Thokozile's human nature.

Isikhwama sikamama, the bag of mother/mother's bag.

NOTE. —In Ngoni the tendency being to revert to simpler forms of speech, the following forms are quite common and may be used.

Ilizwi la Yohane, the word of John.

Ilizwi lo Yohane, the word of John  lo = la + u (prefix of Yohane).

Possessive Concord for Class 2b Nouns

3. Where the possessor is a noun belonging to class 2b i.e. plural proper nouns the plural prefix          -awo-/abo- is used 


Ingoma yawobaba/yabobaba, Ingoma dance of the men/Men's ingoma.

Isandla sabomama/sawomama, the hand of mothers/mothers' hand.

Izinkomo zawogogo, Cattle of my grandmothers/

4. With nouns which denote family relationship, and ubani (plural abobani) one, according to Rules 1 and (or) 2 in the singular, and according to Rule 3 in the plural.

Most Ngoni kinship terms already include the possessive concept on their own and do not need to be qualified with a possessive.


ubaba - my/our father
uyihlo - your father.
uyise - his/her/their father
umama - my/our mother.
unyoko - your mother
unina - his/her/their mother
umalume - my/our uncle


There also what are known as Possessive pronouns to express for example, my dog which in Ngoni and may Bantu languages is expressed as dog of mine. Just like the possessive concords each noun has its own possessive pronoun. In this case we use what are called absolute pronouns such lona, sona etc.

It is however very important to remember that in the case of the 1st and 2nd persons as well as class 1, specific variants occur which are only used in possessive  constructions. Below are the possessive pronouns for 1st, 2nd and third persons (i.e. classes 1, 1a, 2 and 2a).

1st person sing    -mi (mine).
1st person plural thina  -(i)thu.(our)
2nd person singular wena -kho (your)
2nd person plural nina/lina -(i)nu (your)
Class 1/1a -khe (his)
Class 2/2a -bo (their)

In the formation of possessives that are based on the pronouns of the 1st and 2nd pronouns and Class 1, it is the second variant that is normally used.

Note that the possessive concord combines with the possessive pronoun and together they form a single word in ngoni.

Ilizwe lethu (la+ithu), country of ours/our country.

amandla ethu (a+ithu), our strength.

Ibizo lakho, your name.

Izinkomo zenu( za + (i)nu), your cattle

Indlu yami, my house

For the other classes the pronouns are used without the suffix -na. eg.

Ikhanda lalo, its head

Izikhwama zabo, their bags

Izandla zayo, its hands.

Please find below a table for possessive case roots  for 3rd persons for all noun classes
                     Noun Prefix      Root of Possessive
Class 1/1a    um(u)-               -khe, ikhanda lakhe,  his head (-khe, umuntu (the ma))
Class  2/2a   aba-/o-/bo-        -bo, amakhanda abo, their heads (-bo, abantwana (children)
Class 3         umu-                  -wo
Class 4         imi-                     -yo
Class 5         i(li)                      -lo
Class 6         ama-                    -wo
Class 7         isi-                        -so
Class 8         izi-                        -zo
Class 9         in-                         -yo
Class 10       izin-                       -zo
Class 11       u(lu)                      -lo
Class 14       ubu-                      -bo
Class 15       uku-                      -kho


Demonstrative pronouns can also be used by adding a possessive concord.

abantwana balabo, the children of those (referring to abafazi (women))
izithelo zalabo, the fruits of those (referring to abantu)

Below is the full list of demonstrative pronouns:

                                      This/These           That /Those              Those yonder
Class 1 um(u)-              lo/loya/loyi          lowo                          lowaya
Class 1(a) u-                  lo/loya/loyi          lowo                          lowaya
Class 2 aba-                   laba                      labo                           labaya
Class 2(a) o-                  laba                      labo                           labaya
Class 3 um(u)                lo                          lowo                          lowuya
Class 4 imi-                   leyi/le                    leyo                           leyiya
Class 5 i(li)                    leli                         lelo                           leliya
Class 6 ama-                  lawa/la                  lawo                         lawaya
Class 7 isi-                     lesi                        leso                           lesiya
Class 8 izi-                     lezi                        lezo                           leziya
Class 9 in-/im-               le/leyi                    leyo                           leyiya/leyaya
Class 10 izin-/izim-       lezi                        lezo                            leziya
Class 11 u(lu)-               lolu                        lolo                            loluya
Class 14 u(bu)                lobu                      lobo                          lobuya
Class 15 uku-                 lokhu/loku            lokho/loko                lokhuya/lokuya

Ngoni Hut 1895

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