Afrihili Notes

Afrihili is an auxlang invented by the Ghanaian civil engineer K. A. Kumi Attobrah in the late 1960s and published in the early 1970s (Wikipedia and Afrihili: an African Interlanguage). It's pretty hard to find information about it, but thanks to a friend at one of the two Universities in the U.S. that has a library with a copy of Ni Afrihili Oluga: The African Continental Language, I have been able to see more.

The book is very brief — fewer than 40 narrow and very full pages. And the language itself shows some signs of having been through revision. A few bits of grammar differ in different parts of the book, adposition syntax especially. But it's still interesting enough that I wanted to share a few notes about it that go beyond what's in the Wikipedia article. There are no page numbers in the book, so I give citations by lessons, L3 for information from Lesson Three.

There are number of morphemes which are linked to the rest of the word with a vowel which repeats the immediately following (in prefixes) or preceding (in suffixes) vowel. I call these "echo" prefixes and suffixes. For an example, the inceptive is marked with the echo-prefix b-, giving bojo from jo.

The Verb

The Afrihili verb system is an interesting mix of English and Swahili semantics. It's likely Akan languages, and Ewe, play their part, too, but I don't really know anything about those. The basic template is,

Person - Tense/Aspect/Mood - Verb Stem - Negation.

The negation is sometimes written as part of the word, sometimes not.

The infinitive is marked with the suffix -de.

Conjugation. Personal agreement is marked with prefixes. No marking is used when there is an overt nominal subject. L1.

mi-, "I" nu-, "we"
wu-, "you" ku-, "you"
lɛ-, "he" fu-, "they"
ta-, "she"
yo-, "it"

There is also an indefinite 3rd person form, kɛ-, used in certain impersonal expressions.

Kɛfara nu jode koni
kɛ-fara nu jo-de koni
3indef-be.good we go-INF now
"We had better go now."
The kɛ- series also has tensed, independent copula forms which are a bit irregular, ka mi "it will be I," ki mi wɛna lijo "it was I who went." L2.

Tense, aspect and mood are all mixed together. L1, L3, L5, L6.

simple present -
present (progressive) -re-
present habitual, "am used to" -yɛɛ-
present participle -mɛ-
future -ta-
future continuous -ra-
future habitual, "will be used to" -taa-
past -li-
past consecutive -la-
past habitual, "used to" -liɔ-
past habitual 2 -lii-
past continuous -ri-
perfect -lo-
perfect continuous -ro-
past perfect -lu-
past perfect continuous -ru-
future perfect -tɔ-
present conditional -nge-
past conditional -ngi-
present subjunctive -ke-
past subjunctive -ki-

These bare markers may be used as the copula, with just de for the infinitive and for the simple present, lɛlo anche apapan "he has been a good father."

The past consecutive is used after an initial use of -li- for sequencing events, milijo ita, milabona Issa, milafe lɛ iwe, miladu te lɛ "I went home and saw Issa and give him a book and ate with him."

There is an "immediate future" which can be marked two ways. First, using the normal future -ta- and reduplicating the stem, or with the normal future -ta- and the suffix -di, as in mitazi lɛ I will call him, mitazizi lɛ I am going to call him (immediately) or mitazidi lɛ I am going to call him. In one weather example, -di is used alone, ade ngawadi "it's going to rain."

The inceptive is marked with the echo-prefix b-, nji "sleep" > binji "go to sleep," jo "go" > bojo "leave, go away." L6.

The prefix taka- means "get ready to, be just about to," jo "go" > miretakajo "I am getting ready to go."

A continuative sense, "keep on," is marked with the suffix -re, lɛlijore "he kept (on) going" (jo- "go"). L6

The versative, "again" or "renewal of action" is marked with the suffix -ati, soma "read" > somaati "read again, re-read." L6.

An example of the conditionals (kama "if"),

Kama mingebona lɛ, mingejua lɛ. If I saw him, I would know him.
Kama mingibona lɛ, mingijua lɛ. If I had seen him, I would have known him. L4.

Transitivity. The passive is marked with the echo-suffix -bw-, bona "see" > bonabwa "be seen," memezela "publish" > memezelabwa "be published," kabe "advise" > kabebwe "be published." L3.

The middle is marked with the suffix -se; chika "fill" > chikase "be full." It appears to be use often with experiential states, too.

Ni iko lochikase. The cup is (has become) full. L6.
Miberanuwise. I am warm.
Mitutuwise. I am cold.
The middle also fulfills part of the passive role, and is used to "denote state where no particular agent is denoted" (du- "eat"),
Ni ejibi lodubwu tan amola. The food is eaten by the children.
Ni ejibi loduse. The food has been eaten.

There appears also to be some sort of inceptive or inchoative suffix -wi, which can also alter the argument structure, sana "drink" > sanawi "get drunk," tuhu "lose" > tuhuwi "get lost."

The reflexive is marked with the suffix -ke, wanka "wash" > wankake "wash oneself." L6. There are also things called "reflexive pronouns" in L2, but these reduplicated forms appear to be intensives.

The reciprocal is marked with the suffix -ante, sopa "love" > sopaante "love each other." L6.

There appears to be a causative suffix -lɔ usable with both adjectives and nouns, beranu "warm" (eberani "warmth") > beranilɔ "to warm." Also seen in the de ka pe "be in a state of" idiom,

Mi yɛ ka pe utajiri. I am in a state of richness.
Mitakalɔ wu pe utajiri. I will put you in a state of richness.

Negation. The negative suffix is -ko, which is sometimes written attached to the verb, sometimes not. The suffix -koja means "not yet." L7.

Mibelako iduani. I do not want meals.
Taleko yo. She does not know it.

Derivational Morphology

As one would expect from an auxlang, Afrihili has a robust system of word-creation processes, which includes prefixes, suffixes and at least one infix.

Adjectives of possibility are derived from verbs with the echo-suffix -t-, du "eat" > dutu "edible," bona "see" > bonata "visible."

Gerunds, verbal action nouns, take the prefix ɔ- and the infinitive suffix -de, karati "harvest" > ɔkaratide; used as in ɔsomade yɛ papa "reading is good." This should be distinguished from object nouns, which take the "Hili triangle" vowel prefix, ukarati "a harvest," yomo "bathe" ayomo "bath." L3.

Nouns of profession take the infix -ma- in the penultimate syllable, isabatu "shoe" > isabamatu "shoemaker," adu "tooth" > amadu "dentist."

An agent noun is derived from other nouns with the echo prefix -m-, ɔlopa "police" > ɔmɔlopa "policeman," okola "work" > omokola "workman."

Diminutives take the echo-suffix -nd-, uruzi "river" > uruzindi "stream", oluga "language" > oluganda "dialect." It may also be used on verbs, du "eat" > dundu "eat little."

Augmentatives take the echo-suffix -m-, osikola "school" > osikolama "university."

Collective nouns take the echo-suffix -sin-, emeli "boat" > emelisini "fleet," ature "flower" > aturesine "bouquet."

A noun of people encompassing both sexes is created with the echo-suffix -n- on a plural noun, imao "brother" > omaono "brothers and sisters."

A noun of place is created with the echo-suffix -l- and a Hili triangle vowel prefix if the root is a verb (all nouns start with vowels), nyi "sleep" > unyili "dormitory," sua "study" > osuala "institution." Such words can also be derived from nouns, iwe "book" > iwele "library."

Nouns for offspring or descendants take the echo-suffix -v-, omukama "king" > omukamava "prince," akando "hen" > akandovo "chick."

The suffix -ndo marks a collective, either in action or affectedness, sema "speak" > semando "discuss," bolo "throw" > bolondo "scatter."

The echo-prefix pa- indicates "social status, profession or post abandoned," omukama "king" > opamukama "ex-king." As a separate word, pa before a human means "late, deceased."

A noun for a thing having a quality is derived from adjectives with the echo-suffix -nt-, papa "good" > ɛpapanta "a good thing." Normally one would expect the Hili triangle vowel o- as a prefix, but when all the other vowels in the word are identical, ɛ- is used.

An adjective noun for persons takes the echo-prefix -m-, laju "civil" > umulaji "civilized person," makaho "blind" > omomakaha "blind man."

Nouns for containers are created with the echo-suffix -id- (from iduo "container"), ipuga "hat" > ipugida "hat-box."

The prefix ne- marks something which has "contrary meaning," and with nouns is an echo-prefix, yite "ascend" > neyite "descend," esendu "health" > enesendu "disease."

Step-family terms are created with the echo-prefix -sepe-, amai "mother" > asepemai "step-mother." Just -se- means "co-", ijamura "president" > isejamura "co-president."

The suffix -antu encodes the idea of "passing one's time", sana "drink" > sanaantu "pass one's time drinking," as in milisanaantu kalu "I spent the (whole) day drinking."

The suffix -ri, with the Hili triangle prefix u- creates nouns of manner from verbs, du "eat" > uduri "manner of eating," gɛnda > ugɛndari "manner of walking."

The suffix -ga "indicates action taken together in several groups," pade "meet" > padega "meet together in several groups."

The sufix -ani means "into pieces," bajiri "break" > bajiriani "break into tiny pieces."

The suffix -tile means "never to do again," sanawi "get drunk" > sanawitile "never to get drunk again."

The suffix -te indicates repetition with interruption, ladi "ask" > ladite "interrogate," wa "come" > wate "come back."

The suffix -ne marks "habitual repetition or by profession," binda "write" > bindane "write by profession."

The suffi -andi indicates that one is occupied with something while waiting for another, soma "read" > somaandi "occupy oneself reading meanwhile."

The suffix -lu on a reduplicated verb stem marks pretence, nji "sleep" > njinjilu "pretend to sleep."

The suffix -si means "come to do," du "eat" > dusi "come to eat."

The suffix -atu indicates "the frequency of an act by passion or interest," fale "look" > faleatu "look with interest," sopa "love" > sopaatu "love with passion, very much."

A noun for a member of a collective takes the prefix ɛn-, epata "family", ɛnepata "member of the family."

The echo-suffix -gun- encodes the idea of ugliness, unseemliness or a derogatory sense, sali "laugh" > saliguni "sneer." L9.

The echo-suffix -sh- indicates doctrine, study or career, or abstract state, omukama "king" > omukamasha "kingship," anu "animal" > anushu "zoology." This can further take the echo-prefix -m- for follower or professional, amanushu "zoologist."

The echo-suffix -ts- marks a higher or superior position or degree, ishule "school" > ishuletse "high school."

The echo-suffix -s- means "every, every whatsoever," omuntu "boy" > omuntusu "every boy."

An inclination to do something is marked with the prefix su-. The example is a little puzzling in terms of spelling, which might be a typesetting error, mi su binda winki "I am inclined to write a lot." I would expect misubinda.

Copyright (c) 2006-2021 William S. Annis