Fulfulde Noun Classes

Fulfulde has a robust list of noun classes which can act as definite articles and emphasize the nouns they modify (in which case they follow the noun), or can be used to signify or replace a subject (come before or replace the noun entirely). Fulfulde has between 22 – 26 noun classes, depending on the dialect. Maasinankoore has approximately 22 but it varies based on the area.

Noun classes are sometimes related to what they are describing; other times, they are too abstract to define criteria for membership. Becoming familiar with the list of noun classes can provide a foundation, but listening for how and when these classes are used in conversation is the best way to learn them.

Noun Class Description Example Possessive Pronoun Form Emphatic Pronoun
Relative Form Referential Form
o (1) Words related to singular humans
(2) Borrowed words (from French, Arabic, Bambara)
(1) Oon debbo ana wiye Bolo – That woman’s (previously referenced) name is Bolo
(2) Biki o yo bula bula – The pen is blue
makko kanko oo oon
Plural Noun Classes        
ɓe Plurals for humans Yimɓe ɓe ngala kaalisi – Those people do not have money maɓɓe kamɓe ɓee ɓeen
ɗe Plural nouns ending in e and augmentative
*Note: When using the class marker to replace a subject, need to add an “e” before the ɗe. 
Eɗee dewte min jey – These are my books majje kanje ɗee ɗeen
ɗi Plural nouns ending in i
*Note: When using the class marker to replace a subject, need to add an “e” before the ɗi. 
Eɗii lebbi ana ngooli – These months are hot majji kanji ɗii ɗiin
koy Plural diminutive ɓikoy faa heewi – Many small children
*Note that bikoy is a contraction of bingel (children) + koy. Noun classes are frequently contracted with verbs. 
makkoy kankoy koy koy
Size (Diminutive and Augmentative) Classes        
ngel Singular diminutive
*Note: All nouns have diminutive forms
**When using the class marker to replace a subject, need to add an “e” before the ngel. 
Engel binngel ana weeli haakilde – This small child is very intelligent maggel kangel ngel ngel
ngal (1) Singular augmentative
(2) Words ending in -al
*Note: When using the class marker to replace a subject, need to add an “e” before the ngal. 
(1) Mi yihi goral ngal – I saw a big man  (gorko –> goral)
(2) Cofal ngal an jey – That chicken is yours
maggal kanngal ngal ngal
ɗum Quantity or adjective Eɗe hunde belɗum – These things are very good
*This example has two class markers; Eɗe which acts as demonstrative for “things” and ɗum, which emphasizes good
majjum kanɲum ɗum ɗum
nge Cow class. Also includes fire and sun.
*Note: When using the class marker to replace a subject, need to add an “e” before the nge. 
Nagge ngeen yari ndiyum – That cow (specific one previously referenced) drank water
Enge yaari ndiyum – They drank water
magge kannge ngee ngeen
ɗam (1) Liquid class (incl. blood and salt)
(2) Some emotions and behaviors (rare to use class markers for these)
(1) Ndiyum ɗam ana boobi – This water is cold
(2) ɗam puyɗam mawni sanne – That laziness is very big
majjam kanjam ɗam ɗam
ki Tree class ɓokki ki yo huɗo hecco – The baobab is green makki kanki kii kiin
ba / nga / mba
*Note: Ba is used in the Maasina floodplain, but in northern Mali it becomes nga.
Working animal class (goats, donkeys, camels) Baa mbeewa kanko jey – That goat is hers magga/mabba kannga/kannba baa/ngaa baan/ngaan
ndi Singular nouns ending in i Hoto woni leydi ndi?  – Where is the country/ territory? mayri kayri ndii ndiin
nde Singular nouns ending in e, de, re Dewterre nde ana mawni – The book is big mayre kayre ndee ndeen
ngo Singular nouns ending in go Ngoo daago ana ŋarɗi sanne – That mat is very beautiful maggo kanngo ngoo ngoon
ngol Singular nouns ending in ol Jokku laawol ngol  – Follow the road maggol kanngol ngol ngol
ka Singular nouns ending in a Laana ka an jey? – Is that boat yours? makka kanka kaa kaan
ko Singular nouns ending in ko, o Na’i ana yidi durude koo huɗo  – Cows like to eat that grass makko kanko koo koon
ndu Singular nouns ending in u (but this class is less consistent) Nduu bunnɗu ana woɗɗi – That well is far (away) mayru kayru nduu nduun
ngu Singular nouns ending in u (this class is also less consistent and is not commonly used in the Maasina) Nduŋngu ngu tidi – The rainy season was difficult maggu kanngu nguu nguun


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