Tangale (language)

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Tangale , also known as taŋlɛ , is a language spoken by over 100,000 people in northeastern Nigeria . The language area lies in the region of the cities Billiri (on tangale Taŋlɛ , identical to the language name) and Kaltungo (on tangale Kaldiŋo ). The Tangale belongs to the Chadian language family and there to the subgroup of the West Chadian languages. The dominant supra-regional language in the region is Hausa , also a West Chadian language.

According to the system


Labials Dental Palatal Velare
voiceless plosives p t k
voiced plosives b d j G
Implosive ɓ ɗ
Nasals m n ɲ ŋ

In addition, there are the fricatives s and z, the sonorants r and l, the glides w and y, to a limited extent also the glottals ʔ and h, and marginally in foreign words also ʃ and gb (this almost only in the word gbɔmɔ "ten"). As can be seen from the corresponding phonetic changes, structurally j is the voiced equivalent of s. ʔ is essentially a realization of ɓ or ɗ at the end of the syllable.

At the beginning of the word, the contrast between voiced plosives and implosives is canceled, i.e. H. both coincide. Possibly it would be better to write - and ɗ- instead of b- and d- at the beginning of the word (according to the common orthography).

Only a few consonant connections can appear at the beginning of a word, e.g. B .:

  • mbába "donkey"
  • njó "where?"
  • swat "clean"
  • kwaɗɛ "stop"

It might therefore be useful to analyze these connections as separate phonemes.

Vowels and vowel harmony

The Tangale has 9 vowel phonemes, which are divided into two rows, which differ in the feature ± "advanced tongue root (ATR)":

−ATR a ɛ ɪ ɔ ʊ
+ ATR e i O u

The IPA symbols chosen here are only approximate and are intended to approximate the acoustic impression that Europeans have of these vowels.

The tangale has vowel harmony with respect to these two series: Within a word, all vowels must be either −ATR or + ATR. Therefore, all grammatical affixes have two variants, one of the form -ATR and one of the form + ATR. The vowel a is considered neutral and can be combined with any other vowel.

Words with the attribute -ATR are somewhat more common overall.

Both consonants and vowels are short and long.


The tangale is a tonal language. Most syllables have a low tone (one could also say: neutral tone) and are not marked here. Some syllables have a high tone and are marked here with an acute accent: á. Only in the last word syllables does a falling tone appear, which is marked here with a circumflex: â.

In some cases, a tweeter encroaches on a neighboring syllable (also of another word) and also causes a tweeter there. This has not yet been explored in more detail.

Contextual form

As in some other Chadian languages, vowel final words in Tangale can lose their final vowel in the sentence context, which is referred to here as the context form. In the tangal, the phenomenon is limited to certain contexts: In the context form, the noun comes before a following genitive and the verb before a following object (but not the subject before a following verb). Examples are given when dealing with the constructions concerned.

Personal and possessive pronouns

Our personal and possessive pronouns correspond to the following forms:

Possessive suffix Object suffix
1st sg. "I" n / A -nɔ / no -ʊ́nɔ / úno
1.pl. "we" mɪnɪ́́ -mʊ / mu -ámʊ / ámu
2.sg.mask. "you" -kɔ / ko -ʊ́kɔ / úko
2.sg.fem. "you" sɪ́́ -sɪ / si -ɪ́́sɪ / ísi
2.pl. "her" magá ~ máa -kʊ / ku -ákʊ / áku
3.sg.mask. "he" yi -nɪ / ni -ɪ́́nɪ / íni
3.sg.fem. "she" ta -tɔ / to -ʊ́tɔ / úto
3.pl. "she" hiní ~ yiní -wʊ / wu -áwʊ / áwu
3.sg.mask. "he"
(long form)
3.sg.fem. "she"
(long form)
3.pl. "she"
(long form)
mbíindâm ~

The independent forms are used:

  • in isolation
  • (possibly slightly changed) before the verb for the subject designation
  • after prepositions

In the 3rd person there are short forms and long forms. The use of the short forms is very limited. They come after prepositions and in certain dependent clauses in the case of co-reference with an element in the parent clause:

mbɛ́ɛndáŋ gáa yi yáà-m
er.LONG he said.Short do-not
"he said he won't do it"

(The main clause must use the pronoun of the long form, in the dependent clause the short form can then be used with reference to the same person.)

Normally, you have to fall back on the long forms, which are basically nouns.

The possessive suffixes are:

  • after nouns to denote the owner (according to our possessive pronouns)

The object suffixes that are expanded from the possessive suffixes by means of a high-pitched vowel (ʊ́ / ú or ɪ́́ / í in the singular, á in the plural) are:

  • behind transitive verbs to describe the object
  • behind intransitive verbs to denote the subject

The suffixes are available in two variants to satisfy the vowel harmony.


Definite article

The tangale has a definite article. This has the form of a suffix -ɪ / i. If the noun ends in a vowel, this vowel is either displaced or merged with the article to form a diphthong; this is unpredictable and has to be learned separately for each noun. Occasionally the article suffix has tweeters, especially when a diphthong is formed. Examples:

without article with Article
"Eye" I do idéi
"Tree" pído pídi
"Thing" waa wáɪ
"Guest" pinôn pinóni
"Hair" wɔɔk wɔɔgɪ
"House" mána manɪ
"Child" lawɔ lawɛ́ɪ
"Knee" purum purumi
"Bone" what woji
"Head" kɪɪ kɪ́́ɪ̀
"Mouth" pɔk pɔkɪ́́
"Horse" tʊʊzɛ tʊʊzɪ
"Sun" pʊda pʊdɛ́ɪ
"Water" at the amɪ


As a rule, nouns in tangals do not form a plural form. Very few lexicalized cases are an exception:

  • muu "man, man" - míye "people, people"
  • lawɔ "child" - laliin "children"


The Tangale has no grammatical gender. While the third person pronouns have a masculine / feminine distinction, their usage follows a simple rule. If reference is made to people, their natural gender is decisive. When referring to things, one generally uses the pronouns of the feminine gender, which is consequently the default.

Noun with possessive suffix

Nouns can be connected with possessive suffixes. The noun enters the context form, i.e. H. usually loses its final vowel, if any. Some of the nouns have a high tone in certain compounds. The initial consonant of the suffixes is often lenited or assimilated. Examples:

  • kɪɪ "head" - kɪɪnɔ "my head" - kɪɪgɔ "your (m) head" - kɪɪzɪ "your (f) head" - kɪɪnɪ "his head" - kɪɪdɔ "her (f) head" - kɪɪmʊ "our head" - kɪɪgʊ "your head" - kɪɪwʊ "you (pl) head"
  • mána "house" - mánɔ "my house" - mángɔ "your house" - mánɪ "his house" - mándɔ "her (f) house"
  • sʊmɔ "name" - sʊmnɔ "my name" - sʊ́mnɪ "his name"
  • tɔɔm "strength" - tɔɔmnɔ "my strength" - tɔ́ɔmnɪ "his strength"
  • yaara "arm" - yaarrɔ "my arm" - yaarrɪ "his arm"
  • pii "backside" - piino "behind me" - piigo "behind you"
  • lawɔ "child" - láʊnɔ "my child"
  • kumo "ear" - kumno "my ears"
  • agɔ "belly" - anɔ "my belly"
  • pʊbe "father" - pʊnɔ "my father"
  • sɛɛrɔ "friend" - sɛɛrrɔ "my friend"
  • dilo "voice" - dilgo "your voice"
  • ik "body" - ino "my body" - ikíì "his body" (rather irregular)

Genitive connection

In the genitive connection, the possessum and possessor are in this order. The possessum takes the form of context. The possessor normally does not show any special case (i.e. genitive) marking, but in some cases receives an initial high tone (this phenomenon has not yet been explained in more detail):

  • agɔ "belly" + káarwa "cow"> ag káarwa "belly of a cow"
  • am "water" + wɪdɪ "breast"> am wɪdɪ "(water of the breast, ie :) milk"
  • pandɪ "mountain" + kɪlaŋ (proper name)> pand kɪlaŋ "Tangale Peak (highest point in the region)"
  • lʊgma "market" + kaldiŋo (city)> lʊgʊm kaldiŋo "market of Kaltungo"

with additional tweeter:

  • sʊmɔ "name" + lawɔ "child"> sʊm láwɔ "name of a child"
  • kɪ "head" + maɪ "king"> kɪ máɪ "the head of the king"


The adjective compound has the structure noun + -m + adjective. Some of the nouns have a tweeter on the last syllable. Examples:

  • tákarda "book" + keɗe "a lot"> tákardám keɗe "many books"
  • dilo "voice" + baa "loud"> dilóm baa "loud voice"
  • tɛrɛ "moon" + pɔgyɔ "new"> tɛrɛ́m pɔgyɔ "new moon"
  • lawɔ "child" + wɔrɔp "female"> lawɔm wɔrɔp "girl"
  • mána "house" + sanaŋ "holy"> mánám sanaŋ "church"
  • baɪ "dog" + taɪ "red"> bayɪ́m taɪ "red dog"
  • labata "Elephant" + kude "large"> labatám kude "large elephant"
  • muu "human" + lakɪ́́daʊ "small"> mum lakɪ́́daʊ "small human"
  • saba "word" + nɛr "good"> sam nɛr "a good speech" (irregular)

Demonstrative pronouns

The demonstrative pronoun "this" is sɛ, after vowel and nasal jɛ. It follows the contextual form of the noun:

  • muu "human" - mu jɛ "this human"
  • ɔkɔ "way" - ɔk sɛ "this way"
  • sɔr "year" - sɔr sɛ "this year"
  • mána "house" - mán jɛ "this house"
  • pído "tree" - píd sɛ "this tree"
  • tákarda "book" - tákar sɛ "this book"


The verb forms a series of tenses, of which only the most important are shown here. The tense results from the combination of a certain form of the subject expression on the one hand and a certain form of the verbal stem on the other. Both must work together to make the tense clear.


The aorist represents a timeless statement and can partly be compared with the English simple present . If the subject is a pronoun, a form is used that is slightly reduced and also tonally changed compared to the "independent pronoun" described above. The verbal stem of the aorist can be seen as the basic form of the verb. It usually ends in -ɛ / e. The verbal root in the aorist stem is mostly low-pitched, only in some intransitive verbs it is high-pitched.


To express the perfect perfect, the most common form to denote the past, one uses the same short form of the subject pronoun as in the aorist. The perfect stem of the verb is combined from the aorist stem, which is usually shortened by its final vowel, and a syllable -gɔ / go. Perfect forms are always deep.


The progressive roughly corresponds to the English progressive form and is a common translation of our present tense. The construction is in three parts: (1) Nominal subject or subject pronoun in its full form as given in the table above. (2) A (always deep) binding element - (ʊ) ŋ (3) The progressive stem of the verb. In transitive verbs, this ends in -ɪ / i, in intransitive verbs it usually ends in -ɔ / o. In addition, the progressive stem sometimes shows an additional consonant compared to the aorist stem (such as -n- in the verb for "eat" shown in the next section) or a hardening of the last consonant.

The verbal root of some of the verbs becomes high-pitched in the progressive stem.

Overview: subject pronouns and verbal stem in three tenses

The following are the forms for three tenses of the verb "essen". In principle, the person has no influence on the verbal stem, even if (not shown here) the plural stem of the verb is often preferred (for this see below).

Aorist Perfect Progressive
1st sg. "I eat / ate" n saa n saagɔ naŋ saanɪ
2.sg.mask. "you eat / ate" ka saa ka saagɔ káŋ̀ saanɪ
2.sg.fem. "you eat / ate" sɪ saa sɪ saagɔ sɪ́́ŋ̀ saanɪ
3.sg.mask. "he eats / ate" mbɛ́ɛndám saa mbɛ́ɛndám saagɔ mbɛ́ɛndámʊŋ saanɪ
3.sg.fem. "she eats / ate" mbáastám saa mbáastám saagɔ mbáastámʊŋ saanɪ
1.pl. "we eat / ate" mɪn saa mɪn saagɔ mɪnɪ́ŋ̀ saanɪ
2.pl. "you eat / ate" ma saa ma saagɔ máŋ̀ saanɪ
3.pl. "they eat / ate" anambɛɛn saa anambɛɛn saagɔ anambɛɛnaŋ saanɪ

Future tense

A future tense is formed by adding the element wa (probably a short form of warɛ "to go") between the subject and the progressive stem :

  • na wa saanɪ (also merged to: naa saanɪ) "I'll eat"
  • ká wa saanɪ (also: káà saanɪ) "you will eat"


The imperative has an ending -ʊ / u. The root of many verbs is high-pitched:

  • kɛ́nɪ "enter" - kɛnʊ "enter!"
  • nanɛ "hit" - nánʊ "hit!"
  • ambɛ "go up" - ámbʊ "go up!"
  • ʊbɛ "show" - ʊ́pʊ "show!"

The imperative of the 2nd person. Plural is expressed either by prefixing ma "her" or by forming the imperative from the plural stem.

Plural stem

Almost any verb can form a plural stem. In principle, this refers to an action that is performed several times or repeated. The plural stem is often chosen when the subject or object of the verb has a plural meaning and therefore partly serves as compensation for the lack of plural forms in the noun. However, the use of the plural stem is not necessarily linked to the person of the subject or object. More detailed investigations into use are still necessary.

The formation of the plural stem is rather irregular. Examples can be found in the following table. For the plural stem of the aorist one can observe:

  • The last consonant can be doubled, whereby a vowel ʊ / u is inserted: kwaalɛ "to kill" - kwaalʊlɛ
  • Often a einer is used in the second place instead of a doubling: wasɛ "to go" - wasʊɗɛ
  • For trunks on Dental, instead of doubling, a b / p is used first: edi "essen" - ebude
  • A number of other irregularities occur.

On the basis of the plural stem of the aorist, the formation of the other tenses is then simple: In the perfect tense the suffix -gɔ / go is added, in the progressive the ending vowel is changed to -ɪ / i or -ɔ / o according to the general rule:

  • saaɗɛ "eat" (Pl. aorist) - saaɗgɔ (Pl. perfect) - saaɗɪ (Pl. progressive)

Overview: stem forms of some verbs

The following is an overview of the main stem forms of a number of verbs:

Aorist Perfect Progressive Aorist plural
"hanging" looge lookko loogi looguke
"enter" kɛ́nɪ kɛngɔ kɛ́nɔ kɛmbɗɛ
"detect" pɔnɪ pɔngɔ pɔndawɪ pɔmbɗɛ
"eat" saa saagɔ saanɪ saaɗɛ
"eat (meat)" haɗɛ haʔkɔ haɗɪ haptɛ
"eat (vegetable)" edi edgo edi ebude
"go" wasɛ wargɔ wárɔ wasʊɗɛ
"go down" yɛkɛ yɛkkɔ yɛkɪ yɛkʊkɛ
"to go up" ambɛ amgɔ ambɔ ambʊpɛ
"to buy" paadɛ padgɔ paadɪ paptɛ
"Cook" dibe diko dipi dibuɗe
"love" amdɛ amʊdgɔ amdɪ ?
"to like" lɔbɪ lɔkɔ lɔpɪ lɔbʊɗɛ
"to become ripe / cooked" nɪyɛ nɪɪgɔ nɪɪzɔ nɪɪɗɛ
"say" nɛɛ nɛɛgɔ nɛɛzɪ ?
"beat" nanɛ nangɔ nánɪ nanʊɗɛ
"see" wee weego weezi weeɗe
"to sing" woli wolgo wólo woluɗe
"to die" mʊdɛ mʊdgɔ mʊdɔ mʊptɛ
"bump" good tuko túgi tuguɗe
"kill" kwaalɛ kwaalgɔ kwaalɪ kwaalʊlɛ
"wear" adɪ adgɔ adgɪ kaɗɛ
"drink" ɛɛ ? ɛɛzɪ ɛɛbʊɗɛ
"to do" yaa yaagɔ yaazɪ yaaɗɛ
"turn around" pɛŋrɛ pɛŋurgɔ pɛŋrɪ ?
"to forget" moons mongo mondi mombɗe
"pass" koobe koobgo koobo koobupe
"demonstrate" ʊbɛ ʊkɔ ʊ́pɪ ʊbʊɗɛ
"be over" kwaɗɛ kwaʔkɔ kwaɗɪ kwaptɛ

Transitive verb with object suffixes

The verb can be connected with the object suffixes. In transitive verbs, this denotes a pronominal direct or indirect object; there is no formal difference between the two. The object suffix occurs between the verbal root and the perfect marking -gɔ / go.

The third person object suffixes are rarely used and tend to be replaced by the long forms of the pronouns.

Since when a morpheme begins, the previous morpheme loses its final vowel, which results in very complicated merging products. Some examples:

  • m mondúkko "I forgot you" (from monde "forgot" + -úko "you" + -go)
  • m mondízgo "I (f) forgot you"
  • m monduk mbɛ́ɛndâm "I forgot him" (monduk is the context of mongo)
  • ka ámdʊ́ngɔ "you loved me" (from amdɛ "love" + -ʊ́nɔ "me" + -gɔ)
  • ka dóngo "you called me" (from dobi "call" + -úno "me" + -go)
  • ná nɛɛd-ʊ́kɔ "that I tell you"

Intransitive verb with object suffixes

Intransitive verbs can, in principle, be constructed like transitive verbs by putting their subject before the verb. Often, however, the subject is named a second time after the verb with the same suffixes that otherwise serve as object suffixes. What difference in function is expressed in the setting or non-setting of these object suffixes is not yet known. Examples:

  • n amb-ʊ́nɔ "I'm going up"
  • ka amb-ʊ́kɔ "you (mask.) go up"
  • sɪ amb-ɪ́́sɪ "you (fem.) go up"
  • amb-ɪ́́nɪ "he goes up"
  • amb-áwʊ "they go up"
  • n yɛk-ʊ́n-gɔ "I went down"
  • naŋ tɪ́́d-ʊnɔ "I sleep" (tɪdɛ "sleep")
  • mbáastám mʊ́d-ʊ́d-gɔ "she died"
  • mʊpt-áʊ-gʊ "they died" (to the plural stem mʊpte from mʊdɛ "die"; -gʊ from -gɔ through assimilation)
  • aɪ nɪ́́tkɔ "the millet is ripe" (from nɪyɛ "be ripe" + ʊ́tɔ + gɔ)
  • amɪ kwáɗ-ʊ́r-gɔ "the water is over" (from kwaɗɛ "to be over"; -ʊ́rgɔ from ʊ́tɔ + gɔ)

When the perfect mark begins, the consonant -n- of the object suffix of the 3rd sg.mask falls. out:

  • manjɪ́ɪgɔ "he has gotten old" (instead of the expected * manjɪ́́ngɔ from manjɛ + ɪ́́nɪ + gɔ)

These suffixes can also be added to imperatives of intransitive verbs. In this way, a gender difference can be expressed in the imperative:

  • yɛkʊ or yɛk-ʊkɔ "go down!"
  • wá-kɔ "go! (mask.)"
  • wá-sɪ "go! (fem.)"


As described above, intransitive verbs have the following characteristics compared to transitive verbs:

  • In the aorist, sometimes tweeter on the root
  • Typically the ending -ɔ / o instead of -ɪ / i in the progressive

In principle, one can also create such forms of all transitive verbs, which gives them passive meaning. Apart from that, nothing changes in the construction:

  • n wee "I see" - n wéè "I am seen"
  • n lɔbɪ "I like" - n lɔ́bɪ "I am liked"
  • ɛɛ "drink (aorist)" - amɪ́́ ɛ́ɛ̀ "the water is drunk" ("the water" is called amɪ; here the high tone of the verb colors the last syllable of the preceding subject)
  • na wa ɛɛz âm "I will drink water" (ɛɛz context form of ɛɛzɪ) - am wa ɛɛzɔ "water will be drunk"

In the same way, transitive-intransitive pairs of verbs are formed like:

  • n yɛdɛ "I change" - n yɛ́dɛ "I change"

Subordinate clauses

There are special tense forms that have subordinate clauses. The connecting element is simply omitted in the progressive:

  • na-ŋ koobo "I'm passing by" - na koobo "by passing by"
  • ká-ŋ̀ koobo "you pass by" - ká koobo "by passing by"

In the perfect perfect, instead of the suffix -gɔ / go, a suffix -nʊ / nu is used, which creates a tweeter on the root syllable:

  • n saagɔ "I ate" - n sáanʊ "while I ate"
  • n ʊkɔ "I showed" - n ʊ́nʊ "by showing"


The tangale has prepositions:

  • kɪ "on" - kɪ tʊʊzɛ "on a horse"
  • tá "in" - tá kɪtɔŋ "in heaven" - tá kúmno "in the morning"

The connection of prepositions with pronouns is poorly documented. A nasal variant of the independent pronoun is used after ka "with":

  • ka "with"
  • ka na "with me"
  • ka ŋa "with you (mask.)
  • ka njɪ "with you (fem.)"
  • ka yi "with him"; ka mbɛ́ɛndâm is also possible
  • ka nda "with her"; ka mbáastâm is also possible


The normal word order in Tangal is subject - verb - object.


The object follows the verb. This loses its final vowel as it enters the context form. The object itself either has no special marking or is given a high tone at the beginning (if monosyllabic, a falling tone):

n deeruk tákarda tɔŋ
I picked up the book
"I picked up the book"
(deeruk is the context of deer-go)

na wa aŋ kɪ́́nɪ
I FUT pay money - the
"I will pay the money"
(an is the context form of anɪ; kɪna "money", here with a specific article)

wii bɪdʊk máni
fire burned house - the
"a fire burned the house"
(bɪdʊk is a context form of bɪdgɔ; mána = "house")

n eduk kɔ́ndɔ
I ate peanut
"I ate peanut"
(kɔndɔ = "peanut")

na wa ed kɔ́ndɔ
I FUT eat peanut
"I'll eat peanuts"

m pɛyʊk túrum
I shot a lion
"I shot a lion"
(turum = "lion")

n weez múù
I see man
"I see a man"
(weez is the context form of weezi; muu = "man")

ɛ âm
drinking water
drinking water
(ɛ context is the form of ɛɛ; am = "water")


A sentence is negated by adding the negation -m (sometimes high-pitched) to the verb; otherwise there are no changes:

  • naŋ saanɪ "I eat" - naŋ saanɪ́́m "I don't eat"
  • n lɔkɔ "I have agreed" - n lɔkɔ́m "I have not agreed"


Sentence questions are often marked with a final particle, e.g. -ma:

ma yaa-g wʊ́tɛn-ɪ kɔ́ŋ ma
you do-PERF work-the good QUESTION
"did you do the work well?"

The construction of verbal questions is insufficiently documented. Some examples are:

kâŋ wak njo
du.PROGRESSIVE go where
"where are you going?"

ka weegó nâŋ
you saw what
"what did you see?"
(nâŋ "what" creates a high tone on the preceding syllable)

sab-ɪ́́ nâŋ
word-the what
"what is the word" = "what is going on?"

Non-verbal sentence

If a noun functions as a predicate, unlike in German, no copula is necessary:

  • well maɪ "i am the king"
  • sɪ́́ wɔrɔp "you are a woman"
  • sʊ́m-nɪ karga "his name is Karga"
  • mbáastám kɔlɔtɪ "she is a widow"
  • ká nɔ̂ŋ "who are you?"

An element á that z. T. also makes the following vowel high-pitched, can be translated as "that is":

  • á kɔŋ "that's good"
  • á áɪ̀ "that is millet" (aɪ "millet")


Some elements from the basic vocabulary:

eye I do
three kunuŋ
one dɔk
eat saa
woman wɔrɔp
five pʊwaʔ
give oni
go wasɛ
big kude
Well kɔŋ
hand paka
Listen kʊmɛ
man wáana
mouth pɔk
Surname sʊmɔ
say káa
see wee
four sɛrɛɪ
water at the
knowledge pɔnɪ
two rap


  • Jungraithmayr, Herrmann 1991: A Dictionary of the Tangale Language, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, ISBN 3496005939 (also contains an outline of the grammar)
  • Jungraithmayr, Herrmann 2012: "Chadic", in Edzard, Lutz (ed.): Semitic and Afroasiatic: Challenges and Opportunities, Wiesbaden, 296–368, especially pp. 351–364 on Tangale


  1. In Jungraithmayr's dictionary, the nasal connections are treated as separate letters.
  2. to translate as "know"
  3. Also saabʊɗɛ.