Kɛ (light-verb constructions; e.g., "to do greeting" etc.)

I am interested in understanding more about how is used in Bambara.

I know it’s used to mark the action of something.

For example ka dumuni kɛ means to do the act of eating or ka kalan kɛ means to do the act of studying.
I am wondering if is also used to show emphasis to do something or maybe it is more grammatical.

For example when someone wants another person to dance they would say dɔn kɛ! because dɔn means dance and then dɔn kɛ would mean the action of dancing, or more so emphasizing the need of the action. Whereas the example of dumuni kɛ is different because dumuni just means food. So here it would mean the action of food which is to eat…

I am wondering if you can use for any word or are there only some words you can use it with. For example it doesn’t sound right to say n ye taa kɛ for I went or n ye da kɛ for I went to bed…

Does it have to do with some words being nouns and others verbs or just irregular?

You can say n bɛ taa but not n bɛ taa kɛ. Which makes taa a verb already with an action so you don’t add . You can say n bɛna duau kɛ but not n bɛna duau for I will make prayers. Therefore duau is a noun.

I was told to say once ne jaabi kɛ and not ne jaabi for answer me, therefore jaabi is a noun turned to action by . I was told to say n ye seli and not n ye seli kɛ for saying that I prayed already which makes seli a verb already.

So it seems that has the job of making words into actions, but cannot be used for verbs as they are already action words.

Feel free to correct me. Thanks

Hi Malik! That’s a lot, but here’s a short answer.

Some verbs require a direct object (that is, they are “transitive”) to be used correctly for a specific meaning. For instance, k’à fo (‘to greet someone’)

N bɛ Malik fo

‘I greet Malik’

If you want to simply say “I greet” (with no direct object) then you have use the verb k’à kɛ (‘to do something’) as a “light-verb” or helper verb:

N bɛ foli kɛ

‘I greet’
(lit. “I do greeting”)

The reason this is the case is because if you simply drop the direct object then your sentence becomes passive:

N bɛ fo

‘I am/get greeted’
(as in, ‘People greet me’)

So the issue is not the verb “kɛ” or the nouns that precede it, but rather knowing which verbs can be used transitively and intransitively. In the dictionary you can assess this need by reading the labels that I have used “vt” (transitive verb) and “vi” (intransitive verb), etc.

As for nouns, verbs can turn into nouns rather fluidly. In some cases you need to add a suffix (fo ‘greet’ → foli ‘greeting’), but in other cases you don’t need to do anything (jaabi ‘answer’ → *jaabi ‘answer’).

As for the specific case of “jaabi” and “kɛ”, I think you or your friend are likely mixing two things. You can definitely say N jaabi for “Answer me”. If you say “N jaabi ” than you are probably using the particle , which is completely different than than the verb and gives a different meaning:

N jaabi
‘Answer me’

N jaabi kɛ
‘Answer me, man’

(So if there’s a question about that particle, then think about making another topic so that we keep to the one question - one thread principle.)


Thank you so much @coleman ! Your explanations are always so helpful. They allow me to progress so fast because they allow me to really understand the concepts and meanings behind many things in Mandenkan !