Wolof Grammar Notes: Stative versus Active Verbs
Wolof does not have adjectives and few adverbs of manner. Instead verbs and verb phrases are used to modify nounsand verbs. Thus there are two kinds of verbs in Wolof.Active verbs are those which indicate an action or process.e.g.lekkto eatStative verbs are usually verbs which indicate being in a particular state or static condition.e.g.baaxto be goodA small number of verbs can take either sense depending on the context. In the case where a verb carries both an activeand a passive sense, the “di” indicates the active incomplete sense.e.g toogto sit down (active), to be seated (stative)Mu ngi toog.He is sitting down.Mu ngiy toog.He is in the process of sitting down.Maa ngi toog.I am seated.Maa ngiy toog.I am in the process of sitting down.The difference in meaning can sometimes be subtle. For instance: “xalaat” means to think about, ponder, an active process of an active verb. Whereas “foog” means to think, or believe, a state of being of a stative verb.One of the most concrete differences between these two kinds of Wolof verbs has to do with the use of the presentative-angi. Active verbs can be modified by -angi, while stative verbs ordinarily cannot. This provides the quickest way totell where a Wolof verb is active or stative: Simply ask a native speaker whether one can say “Mu ngi x” where “x” isthe verb in question.
Peace Corps Course: pp 39, 49J'Apprends le Wolof:pp 213, 2150PhD Thesis of Eric Church:pp 26 Notes on Wolof Grammar (Stewart)pp 4-6Grammaire Wolof (Dial)pp 33 Revised 6 August, 1999
Wolof Grammar Notes: General Comments on the Wolof Verb
1.Often it is only the context (verbal pronouns or articles) which permits one to distinguish between a verb and anoun.e.g. the word
could be a verb or a noun.Damay liggéey.I am working.Liggéey bi metti na.The work is hard.2.The Wolof verbal system is more concerned with aspect than time. Even if one can distinguish the past, presentor future, the verbal structures work around completed or uncompleted actions. It reveals whether an action ismomentaneous or habitual; at its start or at its end; single or multiple; recent or far away; accomplished or unaccomplished.3.There are three voices in Wolof: active; semi-active; passive.a.The passive and semi-active are formed by adding the suffix -u.e.g.Aali tëj na bunt ba.Ali closed the door.Bunt bi tëju na.The door is closed.Aali gaañu na.Ali is injured. b.The passive can also be formed by using the 3
person plural form with an active form. In this case itindicates the equivalent of the English structure “one ...”.e.g.Ñoo ngi may gisOne has seen me. OR I have been seen.c.The passive can also be indicated by the structure -ees/-eef.See Samb p 109-113 for more details.