Introduction to Twi Question Words

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In order to be able to ask questions in Twi, you’ll need to, first, know your question words. Today’s lesson begins a series on Twi question words. I consider this series a very important one, and advise each learner to take all the lessons in the series seriously.

Video Lesson

Question words, as we have them in both English and Twi, can be used as pronouns, or as determiners.

Question Words as Pronouns

We have previously given a basic definition for pronouns as words that replace nouns and noun phrases. This means pronouns, having replaced nouns, take on the function(s) of the nouns that got replaced.

Let me explain further with an example:

  • Kofi bɔ bɔɔlo – Kofi plays football

In the sentence above, Kofi is a noun, and it functions as the subject. If we replace Kofi with a pronoun:

  • ɔbɔ bɔɔlo – he plays football

ɔ (ɔno)“, which is “he” in English takes on the subject function that Kofi played in the same spot. So the pronoun ɔno (he) becomes a subject pronoun.

We can also use a pronoun to replace football, which is acting as the object noun in the sentence above.

  • Kofi plays it, OR
  • he plays it

Now, we can also change the statement Kofi plays football into a question. We can form two types of questions out of this statement:

  1. a simple yes/no question: Kofi plays football?
  2. a wh-question: Kofi plays what?

We are interested in the second question type. As you can see, we have replaced the object noun football with the question word what? Having done this, and with the core function of pronouns in mind, the question word what is now being used as a pronoun (since it’s been used to replace a noun). It is pronouns like this one that we term as interrogative pronouns.

Question Words as Determiners

We can also ask:

  1. Kofi plays what game?

This what in the above question is not replacing any noun and is, thus, not a pronoun. This what is only soliciting specifics of the game that Kofi plays. It acts as a determiner, to determine the specific game that Kofi plays.

It is important that you note the difference between question words used as pronouns and those used as determiners because in Twi, unlike in English, some of the question words can come in different forms depending on whether they are used as pronouns or as determiners.

You will also need to know the difference between the two in order to fully grasp the lessons that will follow in the series, as they will come with both versions: interrogative pronouns and determiner question words.

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STEPHEN AWIBA, known by his students as YAW, is the founding editor of LEARNAKAN.COM and LEARNAKANDICTIONARY.COM. He was born and raised in Kumasi, the Ashanti regional capital of Ghana, where Akan (Asante Twi) is spoken as the first language. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics and Theatre Arts from the University of Ghana and an MPhil in English Linguistics and Language Acquisition from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).


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