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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

map of the river Niger
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Pronunciation guide


There are some words in Zarma that can only be distinguished by the proper tone when pronouncing them. Some words said in isolation have a different one from what they have in sentences. Only practice in hearing and saying them and making foolish mistakes will teach these details. They will laugh at your mistakes, but they will laugh with you for trying to learn.

Four tone are distinghuised, high, low, rise and fall. Rise and fall means that a syllable has two tones. This might occur in some words of single syllable, and some initial and final syllables.

This Zarma course uses the following indications in the vocabulary lists:

  • a low tone of voice by an underlined syllable;
  • a high tone of voice by a syllable in italic;
  • a syllable with a rising or falling tone, the underline or italic in the proper place.

Examples of
tone and meanings

bi (low tone) wound
bi (high tone) to spin
bi (falling tone) (to be) black
bi (rising tone) yesterday
do (low tone) locust
do (high tone) to go down hill
do (falling tone) at the place of ('chez')
In Songhai-Kaado (Ducroz and Charles, 1978) there is no difference in tone between:
wound and yesterday, in both cases bi has a low tone.
locust and to go down hill, in both cases do has a low tone.


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      Dico Fraters, the Netherlands © 2004-2016      
Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016