Description of the semantic potential of the si-construction in Basse Mandinka

  • Alexander Andrason Department of Ancient Studies University of Stellenbosch
Keywords: African linguistics, Mande family, Manding, Mandinka, verbal system, semantics


The present paper provides a detailed description of the semantic potential offered by the si-construction in Basse Mandinka (a regional variety of the Gambian Mandinka language), by enumerating all temporal, aspectual, taxis and modal values which this verbal form may convey. The study demonstrates that the si-construction offers a wide range of senses. Most commonly, the construction introduces the idea of futurity, regularly accompanied by modal tones of necessity and obligation. More specifically, in the first person, it expresses desires and promises, obligation and necessity, as well as, permission and deliberation; in the second person, it functions as an imperative; and in the third person, it approximates the category of a jussive. The si-construction also introduces modal ideas of obligation and necessity situated in a past time frame, being additionally able to function as a future in the past category. The si-construction can likewise convey the sense of epistemic possibility with no evident future undertones. Finally, it can denote present habitual and customary activities. A profoundly modal nature of the si-construction additionally justifies its common use with the verb noo "be able, can". In such cases, it introduces various modal nuances, typically bereaved of any future sense.


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