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Yorno So

Yorno So





Verbs table

gloss layer experiential_prf 1 sg experiential_prf2 sg experiential_prf3 sg experiential_prf1 pl experiential_prf2 pl experiential_prf3 pl experiential_prf neg1 sg experiential_prf neg2 sg experiential_prf neg3 sg experiential_prf neg1 pl experiential_prf neg2 pl experiential_prf neg3 pl ipfv1 sg ipfv2 sg ipfv3 sg ipfv1 pl ipfv2 pl ipfv3 pl ipfv neg1 sg ipfv neg2 sg ipfv neg3 sg ipfv neg1 pl ipfv neg2 pl ipfv neg3 pl pfv1 sg pfv2 sg pfv3 sg pfv1 pl pfv2 pl pfv3 pl pfv neg1 sg pfv neg2 sg pfv neg3 sg pfv neg1 pl pfv neg2 pl pfv neg3 pl prs prog1 sg prs prog2 sg prs prog3 sg prs prog1 pl prs prog2 pl prs prog3 pl prs prog neg1 sg prs prog neg2 sg prs prog neg3 sg prs prog neg1 pl prs prog neg2 pl prs prog neg3 pl recent_prf1 sg recent_prf2 sg recent_prf3 sg recent_prf1 pl recent_prf2 pl recent_prf3 pl recent_prf neg1 sg recent_prf neg2 sg recent_prf neg3 sg recent_prf neg1 pl recent_prf neg2 pl recent_prf neg3 pl unsuffed_pfv1 sg unsuffed_pfv2 sg unsuffed_pfv3 sg unsuffed_pfv1 pl unsuffed_pfv2 pl unsuffed_pfv3 pl hortative imp sg imp pl prohibitive
hit lexeme lágàjɛ̀ lágàyⁿ lágàyⁿ lágàlɛ̀m lágàlɛ̀w lágàlɛ̀ lágàỳnɛ̀ lágàlɛ̀y lágàỳnɛ̀ lágútùm lágútùw lágútì lágútɛ̀:ⁿ lágútìy lágútɛ̀:ⁿ làgàlúm làgàlúw làgǎl làgànɛ́ làgàlíy làgànɛ́ lágámɔ̀ lágá lágánɔ̀ŋ
hit suffix 1 tɛ́rɔ̀: tɛ́rɔ̀: tɛ́rɔ̀: tɛ́rɔ̀: tɛ́rɔ̀: tɛ́rɔ̀: tɛ́rú tɛ́rú tɛ́r tɛ́nɛ́ tɛ́rí tɛ́nɛ́ jɛ̀ jɛ̀ jɛ̀ zero jɛ̀ zero lɛ̀ lɛ̀ lɛ̀ zero lɛ̀ zero tù tù tì t tì t lú lú l zero lí zero ẁwɔ̀ ẁwɔ̀ ẁwɔ̀ ẁwɔ̀ ẁwɔ̀ ẁwɔ̀ ẁwɔ̀lɔ́ ẁwɔ̀lɔ́ ẁwɔ̀lɔ́ ẁwɔ̀nɛ́ ẁwɔ̀lɔ́ ẁwɔ̀nɛ́ jɛ̀: jɛ̀: jɛ̀: jɛ̀: jɛ̀: jɛ̀: jɛ̀:lú jɛ̀:lú jɛ̌:l jɛ̀:nɛ́ jɛ̀:lí jɛ̀:nɛ́ zero zero zero zero zero zero mɔ̀ zero nɔ̀ŋ
hit suffix 2 m w zero yⁿ y yⁿ m w zero zero y zero m w zero yⁿ y yⁿ m w zero ỳnɛ̀ y ỳnɛ̀ m w zero ɛ̀:ⁿ y ɛ̀:ⁿ m w zero nɛ́ y nɛ́ m w zero zero y zero m w zero zero y zero m w zero ɛ̀:ⁿ y ɛ̀:ⁿ m w zero zero y zero m w zero ɛ̀:ⁿ y ɛ̀:ⁿ zero zero zero zero
hit stem #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #bare #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining #chaining2 #chaining2 #chaining2 #chaining2 #chaining2 #chaining2 #bare #bare #bare #bare

Yorno-So notes

with comparative Dogon notes


  • The major stem alternation is between the basic and chaining stem. Heath (2003) writes 'The set of verbs that have distinct bare and chaining stems is partially definable phonologically, based on syllabic/moraic shape and vowel qualities. All heavy stems, those of three or more (vocalic) moras, have two distinct stems. All suffixally derived verbs are heavy, so they too have distinct stems. The only monomoraic stem, gɛ̌- 'say', has an irregular unsuffixed perfective gì that is distinct from the form gɛ̌: used in chains [...]. This leaves bimoraic CvCv and Cv: stems, which are divided between those that have two distinct stems and those that have a single invariant form. Within this category, +ATR vocalism favors distinct stems, while ATR favors invariance, but here there are many exceptions.'
  • The unsuffixed perfective stem always has low tone, regardless of the lexical tone; it is treated here as a distinct 3rd stem. This analysis is supported by the irregular unsuffixed perfective stem of 'say', mentioned in the preceding point.
  • About the unsuffixed perfective, Heath (2013) writes that it '...replaces the simple past and the perfective 1 in the presence of a preceding constituent that is either overtly focalized (focus clitic =y) or has some claim (however weak) to being focal. [...] It requires the presence of some preceding nonpronominal constituent (subject, object, adverb, etc.) which can count as more or less focalized.'
  • There are in fact two suffixed perfective types, in complementary distribution according to lexical semantics. Perfective 1a. As Heath (2013) characterized them:

    • Perfective 1a '... is used with motion and stance verbs ('go', 'sit down'), with deadjectival inchoatives and other non-active intransitives (e.g. 'assemble [intr]'), and with a few low-impact transitives like 'forget'.'
    • Perfective 1b '...does not occur with motion verbs, deadjectival inchoatives, and the like. It seems to be used under limited conditions where an event that has taken place has created a situation.'

    The example verb here uses perfective 1b, which is simply labelled 'perfective' here. - There are further TAM values that are marked using (inflected) clitics. - In the representation of the suffixes used here, a sequence of two identical vowels is reduced to one on the surface.


Heath, Jeffrey. 2013. A Grammar of Yorno-So. Ms, University of Michigan. Online:

Comparative Dogon notes: Subject suffixes in Dogon languages

Dogon languages mark, to a greater or lesser degree, subject person-number on verbs. There is considerable variation among the languages, both in the number of person-number values that have been incorporated into the system, and in patterns of syncretism in the plural forms. The data discussed here is taken from the materials produced by the Dogon Language Project, as well as Heath (2008). Full references are given at the end.

Heath, Moran & Prokhorov (2012) classify the Dogon languages into four major groups, plus a language whose status with respect to the others is uncertain. Languages discussed below are underlined:

  • East (ED): Toro Tegu, Tomo Kan, Togo Kan, Perge, Jamsay, Donno So, Tommo So, Yorno So
  • North-East (NED): Najamba-Kindige, Yanda, Tebul, Dogulu
  • North-West (NWD): Ben Tey, Bankan Tey, Nanga
  • West (WD): Mombo, Penange, Ampari, Bunoge
  • Tiranige

The common thread throughout all the languages is that the 3PL has a distinct termination from the 3SG. Depending on the language, 3PL marking might best be construed as a stem-final alternation, suffix or enclitic; for convenience I use here the blanket term suffix. It typically shows variant forms depending on the TAM suffix. The 3SG is typically zero-marked. The languages then differ in how the 1st and 2nd person are brought into the inflectional system. There are six major types:

1 A B B D B D B A
2 C C E C C E
3 A A A A A
  • I Suffixed plural for all persons: Togo Kan (ED)
  • II Suffixed 3PL only: Tomo Kan (ED), Mombo (WD), Penange (WD), Bunoge (WD); Toro Tegu (ED) has an overt 3SG suffix too
  • III Suffixed 3PL, 1SG and 2SG: Tiranige
  • IV Suffixed 3PL, 1SG and 2SG, and 1PL and 2PL too: Jamsay (ED), Najamba (NED), Ben Tey (NWD), Nanga (NWD)
  • V Like 'IV', but 1PL and 2PL are syncretic: Tommo So (ED), Tebul Ure (NED), Yanda Dom (NED)
  • VI Like 'IV', but 1PL and 3PL are syncretic: Yorno So (ED)

(Note that the treatment of 3SG cross-cuts this classification; overt 3SG suffixes are found at least in Toro Tegu and Ben Tey; in some contexts in Penange as well.)

It is tempting to see this typology as a diachronic cline. E.g. if we take 'II' as the starting point, one line of development would have been to extend 3PL marking to all of the plural, as in 'I'. The other line of development would have been to suffix (originally enclitic?) 1st and 2nd person pronouns in the singular, as in 'III' and then extend this strategy to the plural ('IV'-'VI'). While I imagine this to be a plausible scenario, it is striking that these patterns do not line up all that well with the genetic classification; e.g. the East Dogon languages display every pattern except 'III'. It may then be that typologically similar languages represent parallel developments, and not cognate paradigms.

Details of the individual types

Type I

In Togo Kan, the plural form generally has a distinct vowel, though in the case of the simple perfective there is a suffix. Suffix forms illustrating the variety of alternations are below. (Note that the perfect paradigms end in - , and do not alternate.)

SG ɛ̀ ~ -jú -táŋà -lí -rò
PL -sɛ̂ⁿ -jí -téŋè -lâ: -rè

Type II

Penange can be taken as representative of this type. The 3PL generally has the form -yV, sometimes added to, sometimes replacing the stem-final vowel. In negative paradigms the form is -ndV (where possibly /l/ + /d/ > /nd/). Some representative paradigms are below. The imperfective negative is striking in that the 3SG shares the same distinct suffix formative as the 3PL (not the case in closely related Bunoge). The capacitative likewise has a distinct 3rd person formative (per Heath 2011, originally a suffixed copula).

Penange cf. Bunoge
1/2 -ɛ -te: -bo -ma -l(i) -l(i) -
3SG -ma-bo -ndi
3PL - -te:-ya -bi-ya -ma-bya -nda -ndya -nda

In Toro Tegu the stem-final vowel optionally changes to -e in the 3PL, while the 3SG has an overt suffix -.

Type III

The 3PL in Tiranige is marked by -iye (or -iyɛ) in the perfective, elsewhere by -a: (additive or replacive) or lengthening of the stem-final vowel. 1SG is -yⁿ, 2SG -w, which appear to have some relationship to the free pronouns and ò.

1SG -V-yⁿ -ma-yⁿ -bo-yⁿ -wo-y --yⁿ
2SG -V-w -ma-w -bo-w -wo-w -sɛ-w
3SG/1PL/2PL -V -ma -bo: -wo -
3PL -ìyè -ma-â: -ba-a: -w-à: -sɛ:

Type IV

The languages of this type show variation both in their 3rd person forms and in their 1st/2nd person forms, and it will probably be clearer to treat these separately.

3PL marking involves essentially the same devices seen above: stem-final vowel alternation (or replacive vowel suffix) and suffixation, as illustrated by Nanga. Nanga also has a distinct 3SG form in the imperfective, involving an alternation of the stem-final consonant. In the (simple) perfective, which lacks an overt TAM suffix, the 3SG has a stem-final -ɛ or -e and the 3PL -ɔ/-o or -a, which for some verbs leads to a vowel alternation in the 3SG, not the 3PL. (In the tables below, 'base' means the form that the non-3rd person suffixes attach to.)

(some verbs)
base -só -jɛ̀ -tì -rí - -ɔ̀/-ò
3SG -só -jɛ̀ -tì -rí -ŋ̀ -ɛ̀-/è
3PL -sɛ́ -jà -tì-yà -ndú - -ɔ̀/-ò

Najamba also displays vowel alternations and suffixation. In addition, the 3SG may be distinct in lacking the stem-final vowel, as in the perfective negative.

base -e -njo -njò-ndí -li
3SG - -njò -njò-ndí -l
3PL -:, -a: -njɛ̂: -njò-ndí-yà -ndi

In Ben Tey and Jamsay the 3PL is largely formed by suffixation. In Ben Tey, the 3SG has an overt suffix in many TAM paradigms.

PFV alternative PFV stative IPFV RESULT NEG
base -V -V -V -V -sò-ló
3SG -V -V-ẁ -V-ẁ -V-m̀ -sò-ló
3PL -V-bɔ́ -V-mà -V-ẁ-bɔ́ -V yɛ̀ -sɛ̀-nɛ́

The system in Jamsay is relatively simple: there is a single suffix -ba found for multiple TAM paradigms. Vowel alternations occur only in the perfective negative (-I ~ -a]{.borderless-table} and imperfectiveze negative (-[o ~ -e). 3SG is always zero.

In their treatment of the 1st and 2nd person suffixes, the four languages split evenly into two types:

  • Najamba and Jamsay, where each person-number value has a segmentally distinct form, and the 1SG suffix is -m
  • Nanga and Beny Tey (both members of the North-West Dogon group), where the plural suffixes are distinguished from the singular intonationally (with what Heath terms the 'dying quail' intonation, indicated by ''), and the 1SG is-y.

If it is true that the suffixes derive originally from pronouns, much of this variation is explained. The tables below juxtapose the suffix forms and the preverbal pronoun forms. In all but Jamsay, the suffix forms match the prefixes fairly closely. Jamsay stands out in that this only applies to the singular, while in the plural, the suffixes and pronouns diverge in form. This appears to be due to one exceptional pronoun and one exceptional suffix (highlighted below). Thus in the 1PL, Jamsay has the same suffix as the other three languages, but the preverbal pronoun is exceptional. In fact, the form of the 1PL pronoun varies across the the Dogon languages, but the one form which is attested in multiple branches is i (found in all but West Dogon and Tiranige). Jamsay ɛ̀mɛ̀ is restricted to East Dogon (found in Togo Kan, Tommo So and Yorno So as well). So it could be that the Jamsay pronoun is a later innovation. The other discrepancy involves the 2PL suffix. No other Dogon language (of the varieties discussed here, at least) has this suffix, but Tebul does have a free 2PLpronoun , so there is probable source for this suffix out there (though note that Tebul is from the North East branch, not the East branch).


Najamba Jamsay Nanga Ben Tey
1SG -m -m -ỳ -ỳ
2SG -ɔ/-o -w -ẁ -ẁ
1PL -y -y -ỳ∴ -ỳ∴
2PL -ɛ/-e -be -ẁ∴ -ẁ∴
Preverbal pronouns

Najamba Jamsay Nanga Ben Tey
1SG -mí -mì -ǐ:ⁿ -í
2SG -ó -ú -ú
1PL -í -ɛ̀mɛ̀ -î: -î:
2PL -é -û: -û:

Type V

As with the type IV examples, it makes sense to look first at the 3PL forms, then the 1st and 2nd person forms.

Tebul has the same range of vowel alternations and suffixation seen above. The imperfective is noteworthy in that the 3SG shares a distinct formative with the 3PL.

base -ɔ/-ɛ/-i -sɔ́ -tì -yày -lí -m̀-nɛ̀
3SG -ɔ/-ɛ/-i -sɔ́ -tì -yày -l(i) -m̀-dɔ̀
3PL -a: -sɛ̂: -tì-yà -yà-dà -ndá -m̀-dɛ̀

The 3PL of Yanda appears largely to be marked by stem-final vowel alternations. The imperfective has a distinct vowel in the 3SG as well. The perfective negative has the distinct /n/ formative found in other Dogon languages. In addition, it has /y/ in place of /l/ outside of the 1SG, which presumably at one point in its history was phonologically motivated.

base -ɛ/-ye -e -zò -mì -li (1SG), -y
3SG -ɛ/-ye -e -zò -mù -li
3PL -a -o -zɛ̀: -mɛ̀ -n

For Tommo So, McPherson (2012) gives the following as representative of the range of forms:

3SG -dɛ̀ -lí -éélè -V
3PL -dìɲ -nní -énnè -V-ɛ̀ⁿ

(in the perfective, if 3SG/base V is e/ɛ, it alternates with i in the 3PL)

The 1st and 2nd person suffixes are essentially the same in all three languages, with the proviso that they are all nasalized in Tebul. They all resemble Jamsay, except that the 2PL is identical to the 1PL. In the preverbal pronoun system, the singular forms are all similar to each other, and appear to be likely sources of the suffixed forms. The plural forms, however, differ considerably from each other. The situation with the 1PL resembles that observed above with the type IV languages: Tebul í appears to be a likely source of the suffix, perhaps also Yanda , while the Tommo So form looks like an innovation. In the case of the 2PL, none of pronouns bear any particular resemblance to the suffixes. One interpretation is that the 2PL suffix has been transferred from the 1PL, rather than being a direct development from a suffixed 2PL pronoun.


Tebul Yanda Tommo So
1SG -m -m -m
2SG -wⁿ -w -w
1PL -yⁿ -y -y
2PL -yⁿ -y -y
Preverbal pronouns

Tebul Yanda Tommo So
1SG -mí --mì -mí
2SG -ú -ó
1PL -í -yè -émmé
2PL -bí -wò

Type VI

In Yorno So the 1PL is identical to the 3PL. This is particularly striking because it shares the allomorphy typical of the Dogon 3PL. Broadly speaking, there are four types of 1PL/3PL marking:

  • a. simple suffixation, the actual realization of which varies. The simple perfective (which lacks an aspect suffix) has -ɛ̀:ⁿ. Elsewhere, the form is determined by the final vowel of the aspect suffix: nasalized -yⁿ after back rounded vowel, nasalization alone after e, ɛ, y. In the case of stem-final -i, there is a vowel alternation (i ~ ɛ).
  • b. nasalized -yⁿ replaces aspect suffix
  • c. -́ replaces final negative suffix
  • d. -ynɛ́ replaces final negative suffix (present habitual negative only)
a b c d
1SG -m -jɛ̀-m -bè-lé-m -lɛ̀-m
2SG -w -jɛ-w -bè-lé-w -lɛ̀-w
3SG Ø -jɛ̀ -bè-lé -lɛ̀
1PL -ɛ̀:ⁿ -yⁿ -bè-nɛ́ -ỳ-nɛ̀
2PL -y -jɛ̀-y -bè-lé-y -lɛ̀-y
3PL -ɛ̀:ⁿ -yⁿ -bè-nɛ́ -ỳ-nɛ̀

Dogon languages, in particular the characteristic l (or r) ~ n alternation in the negative forms, seen above in Penange (Type II), Nanga, Najamba, Ben Tey (Type IV), Tebul, Yanda and Tommo So (Type V).

The clearest parallel is with Tommo So, with which Yorno So has the greatest morphological affinities. The 3PL of Tommo So is always marked by a nasal, matching the nasal marking of 1PL/3PL in Yorno So. Below,the four different 3PL allomorphs described by McPherson are compared with what look like their Yorno So equivalents. The one striking difference is that Yorno So imperfective (negative and positive) involves deletion of the aspect suffix, which does not happen in Tommo So.

Yorno So Tommo So Yorno So Tommo So Yorno So Tommo So Yorno So Tommo So
1SG -m -m -lú-m -lu-m -lɛ̀-m -éélè-m -jɛ̀-m -dɛ-m
2SG -w -w -lú-w -lu-w -lɛ̀-w -éélè-w -jɛ̀-m -dɛ-w
3SG Ø Ø -l -li -lɛ̀ -éélè -jɛ̀ -dɛ
1PL -ɛ̀:ⁿ -y -nɛ́ -li-y -ỳ-nɛ̀ -éélè-y -yⁿ -dɛ-y
2PL -y -y -lí-y -li-y -lɛ̀-y -éélè-y -jɛ̀-y -dɛ-y
3PL -ɛ̀:ⁿ -ɛ̀:ⁿ -nɛ́ -nni -ỳ-nɛ̀ -énnè -yⁿ -diɲ

(Note: the I ~ u alternation in the 1SG and 2SG is phonologically conditioned by the following segment; for Tommo So, McPherson describes it as optional. Also, the form under the 'ipfv neg' heading corresponds to the habitual negative in Yorno So.)\


In the scenario suggested here, the original Dogon system had suffixal marking of 3PL, and the 1st and 2nd person suffixes came later. In the singular, these are transparently derived from pronouns; in one language (Tiranige) this is as far as the process got.

The plural shows three different patterns. The most unproblematic is Type IV, where the 1PL, 2PL and 3PL are all distinct, and are transparently derived from pronouns. Jamsay deviates slightly in that (i) the 1PL suffix looks the pronoun found in other Dogon languages, but Jamsay now has a different one, and (ii) the 2PL suffix looks a pronoun found in another language (Tebul), but it is not currently found in Jamsay. But there are also two syncretic patterns, 1PL=2PL (Type V) and 1PL=3PL (Type VI). In neither case is there an obvious path from pronouns to the suffixation pattern.

With 1PL=3PL, it seems fairly obvious that the 1PL form derives from the 3PL form, as it systematically displays features otherwise characteristic of the 3PL in other Dogon languages. But the 1PL=2PL is more of a mystery, due to the unclear status of the suffix -y that realizes it. Recall that three of the types listed above have a suffix -y in Type IV it marks 1PL, in Type VI it marks 2PL, and in Type V it marks both 1PL and 2PL. Since -y can occur independently both in the 1PL and the 2PL, one obvious way to treat the syncretic paradigm is as the accidential confluence of two distinct but homophonous suffixes. But while 1PL -y plausibly derives from the 1[PL pronoun i, there is no equally clear source for 2PL y. Tommo So and Yorno So both have a 2PL pronoun é, and it is not entirely far-fetched to imagine suffixation of a front vowel ending up as -y. A problem with this explanation is that (i) Tebul and Yanda have different pronouns that are not plausible sources of -y, and (ii) Najamba evidently has suffixed the pronoun é, and the result is ɛ/ e. Neither of these facts disproves the scenario, but they do make it less attractive.

Tommo So Yorno So Tebul Yanda Najamba
pronoun suffix pronoun
pronoun suffix pronoun suffix pronoun suffix
1SG -m -m mí -m mì -m mí -m
2SG ú -w ú -w -wⁿ -w -ɔ/ -o
1PL émmé -y émɛ (-ɛ̀:ⁿ…) -yⁿ yè -y -y
2PL é -y é -y bí -yⁿ wò -y -ɛ/ -e

An alternative account might be that 2PL -y was borrowed from 1PL -y; if we accept the proposal that the 1PL form in Yorno So is taken from the 3PL, this may not be so unlikely. But for Yorno So this would require a contorted sequence in which 1PL -y was extended to the 2PL, and then later the 3PL forms were extended to the 1PL.


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