Research studies

Word Formation Constraints Between English and Bornou Language


Prepared by the researche : Magzoub Alsaid Ahmed Mohammad1, Salih Mohammad Ahmad2, Malikat Aldar Eissa Albakheet Abudalgader3, Mujtaba Mohamed Sallam Ahmed4 –  Department of English Language, Faculty of Arts, University of Kordoan.

Received: 09/02/2024 Accepted: 23/03/2024

Democratic Arabic Center

Journal of Social Sciences : Thirty-first Issue – March 2024

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN 2568-6739
Journal of Social Sciences

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The study was conducted in University of Kordofan during (1916-19) It aims to illustrate and compare word formation constraints between English and Bornou (Kanuri) language. It is one of Nilo-Saharan Families Language. More than ten million of populations in Africa speak Bornou language. The study followed prescriptive, comparative and analytical method. The data were collected from secondary resources which include references and web sites and primary resources include (50) Bornou native speakers who were chosen randomly out of (150) from different parts of Sudan. The data were analyzed via SPSS and content. SPSS is used to analyze the questionnaire, through which the study has come to results: 100% of the respondents agree Bornou uses Latin scripts, Affixation, borrowing, onomatopoeic, reduplication and compounding to form words.100% agree the sounds / ɍ, ɽ, ɸ/ effect in forming spoken words 46% agree tone affect forming words.98% of respondents agree conversion is a process of word formation. Content analysis is used to show the similarities and differences in the level of word formation so; the study extracted the following results: Both English and Bornou use Latin scripts expect <p. v. q. x>are not used in Bornou. The two languages use affixes to form words. English prefixes change the word meaning while in Bornou change the word class (un +happy- nem +tata) means childish. The two languages use borrowing, clipping, onomatopoeic, inversion, reduplication and compounding to form words. Acronym, abbreviation blending and word manufacture are found in English but not found in Bornou. English compounding is right headed while left headed in Bornou as in: (chair+ man- kam+ kura) The study concluded that there are many processes that constraints word formation in English and Bornou language, also there are similarities and differences in these levels. Accordingly the study recommends there should be more comparative studies in linguistics between English and other African languages for the benefits.


Allah has created human beings with a natural innate ability to innovate the tools of linguistic feeling intercourse and the ability to express their ideas and emotions both orally and linguistically. This way of expressing is called language. It was an inspiration from Allah to Adam, the father of all humans. Allah taught humans language to communicate with their future children Therefore; language can be by many ways so as to be understood. It can be written or spoken both ways depend on morphemes which are struck together to form words. Morphemes are the smallest meaningless units of language. The process of constructing words is considered to be linguistic study, which is called morphology. In another meaning, morphology is the study of word formation in a language. The process of forming words differs from language to another. The diversification was continuous process a long ages that thousands of languages came into being. Therefore, these languages were classified geographically, genetically or grammatically. The grammatical classification depends on morphological and syntactic characteristics, while the genetic classification depends on affinity relationship of languages, their dependents and branches. English is a European language and it is considered as a global language which is used by one and half to two billion of people who can understand the basic competence in its used either written or spoken. English language is well known all over the world. Bornou belongs to Nilo- Saharan Family languages and it is the domain language in West Africa especially in Nigeria, Chad, Cameron, Central African, Mali, Sudan and others. Also, Bornou has another name which is called Kanuri language. Bornou used the system of written form based on Arabic scripts named Ajami. Now day’s Latin scripts are used in writing. Among more than five thousands of languages of the world the researcher attempts to state comparison between the mentioned languages which are English and Bornou or Kanuri. The comparison compresses the word formation of the two languages and the aspects that constrains the constructing of their words.


According to the nature of the study the researcher will follow prescriptive, analytical and comparative methods .The present study was conducted at International University of Africa in Khartoum during the period 2017 – 2019. The data collection is based on both primary resources such as: questionnaire and samples of native speakers of Bornou language from different parts of Sudan, and secondary sources which depend on magazines, websites, and books or references. Descriptive statistic was used for data analysis and results presentation. The study was to investigate the similarities and differences between English and Hausa language phonology. Purposive sample was used where 50 Hausa native speakers’ students at different levels were selected from 150 students in Department of English Language.


Table (4.1) the usage of Latin script in Bornou word

Percent Frequency Opinion
%100 50 Agree
%0 0 Disagree
%0 0 Not sure
%100 50 Total

Table (4.1) deal with the scripts that are used in Bornou words. The analysis shows that the majority of the respondents (100%) agreed that scripts that are used in Bornou words are Latin scripts. This indicates that Bornou words can be written.

Table (4.2) Bornou words divided either to bound or free morpheme.

Percent Frequency Opinion
%100 50 Agree
%0 0 Disagree
%0 0 Not sure
%100 50 Total

Table (4.2) explains that Bornou words are more of one type. The analysis shows that the   agreed that the word of Bornou is divided in to types.  (%majority of the respondents (100    (%The respondents who contributed disagree and not sure were (0).

Table (4.3) Types of Bornou affixation

Percent Frequency Opinion
%100 50 Agree
%0 0 Disagree
%0 0 Not sure
%100 50 Total

Table (4.3) deal with affixes which Bornou uses in forming new word. The analysis illustrates that the majority respondents (100%) agreed that affixations are used in forming words. (0%) of the respondents disagreed and were not sure. Thus, affixation is used in Bornou word by all its types.

Table (4.4) Tonal suffixes in Bornou words.

Percent Frequency Opinion
%74 37 Agree
%0 0 Disagree
%26 13 Not sure
%100 50 Total

Table (4.4) deal with Bornou tone in forming new words. The analysis shows that the majority of the respondents (74%) agreed that tone can play an important role in the word formation process. While the minority of the respondents (26%) was not sure that tones can effects the words forming as the result tone effect only in the spoken language.

Table (4.5) the absence o some letters in Bornou.

Percent Frequency Opinion
%98 49 Agree
%0 0 Disagree
%2 1 Not sure
%100                  50 Total

Table (4.5) deal with the some morphemes or letters are not found in Bornou language. The analysis states that the majority of the respondents (98%) agreed that there are some letters seem to be absents in the word of Bornou. The minority respondents (2%) were not sure, as the result not all Latin scripts are used in Bornou language.

Table (4.6) some prefixes do not change the meaning but can change the class word.

Percent Frequency Opinion
%100 50 Agree
%0 0 Disagree
%0 0 Not sure
%100 50 Total

Table (4.6) all the respondents (100%) agreed that prefixes which come at the beginning of the word it construct new word in the language but according to the definition of the prefixes and their functions some of Bornou prefixes change the class of the word not the meaning. In numbers no one disagree or not sure (0%) as the results (nem) the prefix change the class of the word only.


The study conclude that the different types of English and Bornou morphemes and to investigate the morphological factors and rules that constraints the forming of new words in English and Bornou language. Also to find out the similarities and differences at the level of word formation between the two languages. The study has explained that the two languages use the rules of morpheme building and affixation, but Bornou uses some prefixes that do not change the meaning of the word. There are similarities between the two languages in the use of borrowing, compounding, reduplication, invention, clipping and onomatopoeia, but some of the word forming processes such as: blending. Backformation, manufacture, abbreviation and acronym are existed in English and not found in Bornou.


The study recommends that;

1/studies in morphology on comparative levels especially between English and other African languages should be done.

2/Researches should be held separately in different linguistics levels to enrich the typological dimensions.

3/Students of English and Bornou should have enough practices in word formation process


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