Skip to content



East New Britain




Verbs table

gloss layer 1 sg prs 1 sg fut 1 sg pst
walk lexeme ngua tet ngua thet ngua met
turn lexeme ngu dong ngu thong ngua thong
try lexeme ngu su ngua su ngua su
walk stem #stem1 #stem2 #stem3
turn stem #stem1 #stem2 #stem2
try stem #stem #stem #stem
walk preverb series I series I series I
turn preverb series II series II series I
try preverb series II series II series I

Mali notes


  • Verb inflection is periphrastic, involving a preverbal element that agrees with the subject, and alternations of the stem-initial consonant. Since the two interact, they are represented as a single form in the database: the choice of preverbal element differs between verbs that show a three-way stem alternation and those that have just a two-way alternation, or no alternation.
  • Whether or not a verb stem alternates is not predictable from its meaning, or phonology (except that verbs with an initial /s/ all belong to the non-alternating class).
  • The general characteristics of the alternation are:
    • for verbs with a three-way alternation, the past involves nasalization and the future fricativization.
    • for verbs with a two-way alternation, the past and future typically involve some kind of fricativization, but other patterns are found as well. (e.g. thoret ~ roret 'crawl', ngim ~ ingim 'search'), while CC-initial verbs undergo deletion of the initial C (tnok ~ nok 'cry').
  • The preverbal subject-marking element occurs in two series, marking subject person and number (singular, dual, plural). Series I and series II forms are different for all values, so it suffices to show just one (here, the 1st person singular) to exemplify the overall pattern.


  • The different patterns of number marking on nouns are also reflected in gender agreement: nouns with a singualr in -ka are masculine, in -ki are feminine, and the rest are neuter. On some targets (treated as classifiers by Stebbins 2011) the neuter may further be subdivided into gender values that correspond to each of the nominal inflection patterns .
  • Most nouns are of the masculine or feminine type.


Stebbins, Tonya N. 2011. Mali (Baining) grammar. (Pacific Linguistics, 623.) Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.