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Adpositions in Ewe

Adpositions in Ewe

Prepositions and postpositions in Ewe: empirical and theoretical considerations  
Type Book chapter
Author(s) Felix K. Ameka
Editor(s) A. Zibri-Hetz & P. Sauzet
Publication title Typologie des langues d'Afrique et universaux de la grammaire
Publisher L'Harmattan: Paris
Publication date 2003
Pages 43-66
Annotator Theresa
Corpus Link Adpositions in Ewe

By: Theresa Sedzro

General Information

This article belongs to the TC Category Interlinear Glossed Text from Linguistic Research.

In this category we collect TCwiki pages that feature Interlinear Glossed Text (IGT) from linguistic publications.

IGT are normally demarcated through indenting, numbering and a space above and under the example. One line of text is followed by one line of glosses and a line with free translation completes the pattern. IGTs from linguistic publications are of particular interest, since they represent a unique alignment of language data and linguistic theory. Example sentences from seminal articles are not rarely quoted in linguistic publications for decades which is another good reason why they need our attention.

In an effort to make IGT more accessible to linguistic research, we try to extract original IGT from linguistic publications and in same cases we provide additional linguistic glosses through a subsequent layer of annotation using the TypeCraft Glosser. In this way we hope to contribute to the re-usability of this data.

On each of the our pages that feature IGT from secondary sources, we also provide a short annotated bibliography, sometimes combined with a list of key-terms which can help to gain a perspective on the research questions raised in the original article. The 'Infobox' may contain further information about the linguistic framework used in the original article, as well as additional classifications of the phenomena treated, whenever that is possible.


  • Adposition
  • Preposition
  • Postposition
  • Serial Verb Construction
  • Complements


In this article, the author argues that adposition classes; preposition and postposition exist in Ewe, a Niger-Congo language of the Kwa sub-branch spoken mainly in some parts of West Africa. It was written as a response to claims by other linguists that there can exist, only one of such categories in a language. This is shown in the table below (Example 1).

The article notes that prepositions in Ewe evolved from verbs in the context of serial verb constructions, and that, their distribution vary from their verbal sources:

• Complements of prepositions can be fronted (in focusing) leaving the preposition stranded (Example 2)

• Prepositions with their complements can be preposed and marked as scene-setting topics (Example 3)

• Verbs in series share the same aspect; prepositions are not marked for aspects (Example 4)

Postpositions on the other hand evolved from nouns, especially body part nouns and some landmark terms.

• Postpositions can neither occur as clausal arguments on their own (Example 5)

• Postpositions do not require the connective ‘fe’ in possessive constructions (Example 6)

• Postpositional phrases do not take dative prepositional arguments (Example 8)

However, like nouns, postpositional phrases can function as both subjects and objects (Example 7) and can be direct arguments of verbs (Example 9).

Glossed texts in the article

The following are glossed examples extracted from the article. They are linked to suggested annotations in the TC-wiki page by the writer of this page.

(a) Siká mlɔ́ abatí-á dzí
NAME lie bed-DEF upper-surface

‘Sika lay on the bed’

(b) Siká tá ɖé abatí-á
NAME lean ALL bed-DEF 

‘Sika leaned against the bed’

(c) Siká mlɔ́ anyi ɖé abatí-á dzí
NAME lie ground ALL bed-DEF upper_surface

‘Sika lay on the bed’

(a) Mɔ́-á dzí-é me-fɔ-e le
road-DEF upper_surface-aFOC 1SG-find-3SG at

‘ON THE ROAD I found it’

(b) *le mɔ́-á dzí-é me-fɔ-e
at road-DEF upper_surface-aFOC 1SG-find-3SG


(c) Mefɔe le mɔ́á dzí
1SG-find-3SG at road-DEF upper_surface

‘I found it on the road’

(a) Le anyigbá blíbo lá me lá,...
LOC country whole DEF IN TP 

‘In the whole country,...'

(a) ...Agbeko-é nyé ame si té-á nú ɖe-a vɔwɔlá-wó ɖé go
NAME-aFOC COP person REL press-HAB skin take-HAB criminal-PL ALL out

'...Agbeko is the one who can expose criminals’

(b) tó é-sia-wó káta me hã lá, me-ga-fɔ vi-nye
PERL 3SG-DEM-PL all IN also TP 1SG-REP-find child-1SG

'through all these things, I found my child back’ (Agbezuge 2607)

(a) Kofǐ tá-ná tsó-ná xɔ-a me
NAME crawl-HAB come_from-HAB room-DEF IN

'Kofi crawls from the room'

(a) Wò-é le ø-dzí
2SG-aFOC be_at:PRES 3SG upper_surface

lit: ‘You are on (it) (a greeting to someone at work)

(a) agbalẽ-a le TV-a (*ƒé) ta.me
book-DEF be_at:PRES TV-DEF poss upper part

‘The book is on top of the television’

(b) Kofǐ tá-ná tsó xɔ-a me
NAME crawl-HAB come_from room-DEF IN

'Kofi crawls from the room'

(b) dzinú le dzǐ
moon be_at:PRES sky 

'The moon is in the sky’

(b) ɖevi-á *(ƒé) ta me ƒo ɖi
child-DEF poss head containing_region strike dirt

‘The child’s head is dirty’

(a) Ze-a me nyó
pot –DEF containing region become_good

‘The (inside of the) pot is clean’

(a) * Áma klɔ́ nkú.me ná aƒé-á
NAME wash front DAT house-DEF

‘Ama washed the front of the house’

(a) É-vá xɔ-a gbɔ
3SG-come building-DEF place

‘S/he came near the building’

(b) Áma tútú ze-a me
NAME wipe pot-DEF containing region

‘Ama cleaned the (inside of the) pot’

(b) Áma klɔ́ nkú.me ná ɖevi-á
NAME wash face DAT child-DEF

‘Ama washed the face of the child’

(b) É-vá etsɔ
3SG-come one_day_from_today

‘S/he came yesterday’

Related Articles

Dryer, Matthew S.. 2011. Order of Adposition and Noun Phrase. In: Dryer, Matthew S. & Haspelmath, Martin (eds.) The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Munich: Max Planck Digital Library, chapter 85. Available online at http://wals.info/chapter/85 Accessed on 2012-05-12.