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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

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Lesson 9. Coro hinza.


  1. Intro
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Greetings
  4. Grammar
  5. Exercises (workbook, lesson 9)
  6. Answers (answer book, lesson 9)

9.A. Intro

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The text presented in this introduction is the beginning of a fable about three animals who are friends. It is a text distributed by the Mission évangélique Baptiste in Niamey, Niger, probably somewhere in the '70 of the previous century.

Read the text below and try to answer the questions at the end. Some help is provided, move the cursor to an underlined phrase and the translation appears.

Coro hinza

Ay jandi-jandi! Ay naamay-naamay! Waato coro hinza go no: Do-ize da Korboto da Sorbo mo. I ga koy nangu kulu care banda ; i ga te hay kulu care banda.

Han fo Korboto ne: “Sohõ kaŋ haro ye isa ra, hambara boro ga du fotoforo . Iri ma birji sambu ga koy ceeci.” Sorbo ne: “Oho, iri ma koy! Ay ga tabbat kaŋ iboobo go no.” Do-ize ne: “Kaa iri ma koy; iri si jaŋ ga du.”

I sobay ga koy care banda. I ne boro fo ma si afo jin, zama da ya din no, kulu i corotara ga sara. I to haro me. Korboto ne: “To, Do-ize. Dahir no iri kaa ka birji, amma ay diyaŋ ga iri hima ga guna ga di hala haro ga gusu; wodin banda hala fotoforo yaŋ go no. D ’i si no, kala iri ma koy nangu fo. Da haro gusu mo, kala iri ma koy ya haray.

picture of leaflet of fable about coro hinza
photo of fisherman throughing out his net

Questions :
 a) Mate coro hinze maa?
 b) Ifo n'i ga te nda birji?

Answers :
 a) xxx
 b) xxx


9.B. Vocabulary

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Learn these words by heart.

Move the mouse to one of the underlined words and a sentence in which the word is used will appear. Click the left mouse button and a photo will appear in a popup. When you move the pointer on the screen with your mouse over the photo the translation of the Zarma sentence will show.

Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
alfaatiya te (A) to pray (personal request) al faa ti ya te
ci to tell, rarely 'to say' ci
ga ti to be (linking verbs; identifiers) ci (sometimes ti)
jandi to tell a fable jan di
kubay to meet, to encounter ku bay $
salaŋ to speak, to utter words sa laŋ
  salaŋ … boŋ   to talk about
   (not to gossip however)
te adduwa (H) to pray (in general) te ad du wa
tun to get up, to rise, to begin (work action) tun


$ indicaties that accent and/or tone may be different, perhaps related to region and/or dialect. For 'kubay' there is no consistency between sources regarding tone :
kubay :ku bay (1), ku bay (4), ku bay (13)
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
adduwa (H) prayer (in general) ad du wa
alfaatiya (A) prayer (personal request, not recited) al faa ti ya

diraw, dirawo

walking di raw
do, dwa grasshopper, locust, cricket do, dwa
dumi, dumo kind, sort; colour; tribe du mi, du mo
fondo, fonda path, road, way (like French 'chemin') fon do
jandi, jando fable, fairy tale, riddle jan di
jingar Moslem recited "prayers"; Moslem religious holiday, by extension any holiday jin gar
jingaray, jingara mosque, Moslem place of prayer jin gar ay, jin gar a
karga chair (formerly "throne", as only chiefs had a wooden seat with a back; others had stools) kar ga
kusu, kuso pan, cooking pot ku su $
rabbi Lord or Jehovah rab bi
yaw, yawo stranger, guest, foreigner yaw, yaw o
  Yesu Almasihu
Jesus (missionary name for him)
  Jesus Christ
Ye su
zaari, zaaro ill-will zaa ri


$ indicaties that accent and/or tone may be different, perhaps related to region and/or dialect. For 'kusu' there is no consistency between sources regarding tone :ku su (1, 4), ku su (13)
Adverbs, adjectives, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
ifo (pronoun) what i fo
   ifo se (adverb)    what for, why i fo se
man (adverb) where man $
marje (pronoun or adjective) how much, how many mar je $
mate (adverb) how (rarely what) ma te $
may (pronoun) who may
wofo (pronoun or adjective) which fo


$ indicaties that accent and/or tone may be different, perhaps related to region and/or dialect. For 'man', 'marje' and 'mate' there is no consistency between sources regarding tone :
- man (1, 4), man (13)
- mar je (1), mar je (13)
- ma te (4, 13), ma te (1),

[1]  Legend for pronunciation (see Pronunciation guide for details)
italic tone is high
  under score tone is low
  vowel with ^ long vowel, e.g., ê
  vowel with ` short vowel, e.g. è
  bold syllable on which the principle emphasis falls

9.C. Greetings (fooyaŋey)

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In earlier lessons we have learned to greet an individual and a group, to greet a person at his work and to say welcome and goodbye. We also learned to thank someone and to ask pardon. We learned the initial greetings and about the greetings that may be used after the initial "hello" and the inquiry about their night or day. The previous lesson we learned about market talks. This lesson we will learn to say goodbye and to welcome someone.


When one leaves on a trip

  One person leaving
stay-behind Irikoy ma kande nin da baano. May God take you safely.
traveller Amin ! Amen !
  More than one person leaving
stay-behind Irikoy ma kande araŋ da baano. May God take you safely.
travellers Amin ! Amen !
  General use
stay-behind Irikoy m’iri cabe cere da baani. May God show us each health.
traveller(s) Amin ! Amen !


To someone who returns, or arrives from a trip

stay-behind Fonda diraw. Greeting to your walking.
traveller(s) Ngoyya ! Thank you !


Upon arrival of a welcome guest

stay-behind Kubayni! Welcome!
   Option 1 A ga kaan yaw se. It is pleasant to a guest.
   Option 2 Yaw si kubay zaari. A guest doesn’t encounter ill-will.

9.D. Grammar

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Subjects in this lesson:

  1. Interrogative
  2. Use of 'ga ti'
  3. Use of 'hay fo' and 'hay kulu'
  4. Indirect discourse

9.D.1. Interrogative

Word order
Direct questions other than those expecting 'yes' or 'no' are introduced by the interrogative word, just as they are in English. Some exapmles are given below. Note well that usually the interrogative word must be followed by the verb 'no' (to be) before the rest of the question is put.

Zarma English
Ifo no wo? What is this?
Ifo se no ni kaa Niger laabu? Why did you come to Niger?
May velo no? Whose bike is it?
May no? Who is it?
Man mota? Where is the car?
Mate ni go? How are you?
Feji nda hincin, wofo ni ga ba? Which do you prefer a sheep or a goat
Marge no? How much is it?

There are two exceptions to the interrogative word coming first. The first exceptions occurs when 'marge' and 'wofo' are used as adjectives. In that case they follow the noun they modify.

Zarma English
Dela marge ni g’ ay no? How many delas will you give me?
Boro wofo no ga ni ce? *1 Which man called you?

    *1 Use of 'ga' in the 'past tense' is discussed below

The second exception is not obligatory. In asking a person to repeat information that one has not heard correctly the first time, the proper interrogative word is sometimes placed at the end of the sentence, in order to emphasise the thing one wishes to repeat. Voice emphasis is used as well.

Zarma English
A koy man? He went where?
Ni di may? You saw whom?
I ne ifo? They said what?

Use of 'fo' for 'wofo'
The interrogative 'wofo' (which) is often shortened to 'fo', in which case you must pay particular attention to the tone to distinguish it from the shortened form of 'afo' (one), which is also 'fo'. The tone of 'which' drops down, whereas 'one' is always up.

Zarma (long) Zarma (short) English
Kusu wofo n’ a day? Kusu fo n’ a day? Which pot did she buy?
Fondo wofo no ga to Dosso? Fondo fo no ga to Dosso? Which road lead to Dosso?
Han wofo ni ga kaa? Han fo ni ga kaa? Which day you will come?
Han afo ni ga kaa. Han fo ni ga kaa. Some day you will come.

Plural forms
The interrogative pronoun 'who' (may), 'what' (ifo), 'which' (wofo) have plural forms. The plural is formed similarly to the forming of the plural of indefinite nouns by adding 'yaŋ'. The official spelling is the two-word form, though you will often see t in the one-word form as well.

Zarma English
May yaŋ no wone yaŋ kaŋ go kaa yongo? Who are those (people) who are coming yonder?
May yaŋ wone yaŋ kaŋ go yongo? Whose (plural owners) are those (things) that are yonder?
Ifo yaŋ no hayey dini kaŋ araŋ ga di ne? What are these things which you see here?
Wofo yaŋ ga ti ni berey borey din kuna? Which ones of those people are your older (brothers or sisters)?
Boro wofo yaŋ no wone yaŋ? Which men are these?
May yaŋ feji yaŋ no wone yaŋ? Whose sheep are these? (plural owners)
Sanni wofo dumi yaŋ n’a go no ga ci? What kind of words is he speaking?

Past tense
When any of the interrogative pronouns are used as a subject in the past tense, 'ga' (or ka) must be used before the principle verb. If there is a direct object before the verb, 'ga' replaces the 'na'.

Zarma English
May no g’ a neera ni se? Who sold it to you?
May no ga kaa? Who was it that came?
Ifo no ga te? What happened?
Marge no ga cindi? How much was left over?
Boro wofo no ga kaa? Which person came?
Wofo no ni ba? Which one did you want?
('ni' is the subject here)

Special use of 'man'
The Zarma word 'man' usually means 'where'. But 'man' is used idiomatically in greetings to mean 'how' sometimes.

Zarma English
Man ni fuwo go? Where is your home?
Man ni fu? How is your household?
Man ni izey go? Where are your children?
Man ni izey? How are your children?
or: Mate ni izey go? How are your children?


9.D.2. Use of 'ga ti'

'Ga ti' is translated by the present forms of the verb 'to be'. It has the effect that the predicate identifies the subject. It is a linking verb with the same function in its sentence that 'no' has at the end of the sentence; it is fully interchangeable with 'no', except for position.

The government’s regulation on how 'ga ti' is to be spelled notwithstanding, this verb is usually pronounced by Zarmas as 'kaci'.

Zarma Zarma alternative English
Rabbi Yesu ne: Ay ga ti fonda. Rabbi Yesu ne: Ay ya fonda no. The lord Jesus said,
"I am the way". *1
Ni ga ti may no? Ni ya may no? You are whom?
Idde ga ti Sanda izo. Idde Sanda izo no. Idde is Sanda’s son.
Ifo ga ti haya din? Ifo no haya din? What is that thing?

    *1 Quotation marks are not used in Zarma for simplicity’s sake


9.D.3 Use of 'hay fo' and 'hay kulu'

One may say 'nothing' in Zarma by using either 'hay fo' or 'hay kulu' with a negative construction.

Zarma English
A mana te hay kulu. He didn’t do anything. *1
A mana te hay fo. He didn’t do a thing. *1
Ifo go ni se? Hay kulu. What do you have? Nothing.
Ifo go ni se? Manti hay fo. What do you have? Nothing.

          *1 They both wind up meaning 'He did nothing'


9.D.4 Indirect discourse

Direct discourse describes the direct reporting of what someone said in another context. It is usually marked by quotes, for example: He said: "I will come". Indirect discourse consists of reporting such statements indirectly, without using quotes, involving a readjustment of the original sentence to a new point of view, for example: He said that he would come.

In Zarma in indirect quotation no connecting conjunction (that) is necessary.

Zarma English
A ne ni n’ a cabe nga se. He said that you showed it to him.
I ci i fatta ngey laabo ra, zaaro ra kaŋ iri di ey. They told that they left their country the day that we saw them.


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Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016