Plurals in Bambara: where to place "w" with adjectives

I always get confused on where to add ‘w’ in cases like ‘cɛ wɛrɛ’ or ‘denmisɛn cɛman bɛɛ’… I want to write ‘cɛw wɛrɛ’ but it is in fact ‘cɛ wɛrɛw’?

And ‘denmisɛn cɛman bɛɛ’… I would write ‘denmisɛnw cɛman bɛɛ’ but is it in fact ‘denmisɛn cɛmanw bɛɛ’?

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I ni ce, Christy! Thanks for posting your question in the forum! :slight_smile: I ni se!

So the short answer is that in noun phrases that have an adjective (e.g., belebele) or a determiner (e.g., wɛrɛ) than the plural marker appears not on the noun, but rather on the adjective/determiner:

Cɛ wɛrɛCɛ wɛrɛw

‘Another man’ → ‘Other men’

As for “denmisɛn cɛman bɛɛ” (‘all the male children’), it is complicated by the fact that bɛɛ as a determiner frequently doesn’t require a plural (but sometimes we see people apply it in writing, perhaps under the influence of French pluralization practices). For instance:

Dugu belebele bɛɛ bɛ ji kɛrɛ fɛ.

‘All (the) big towns are next to water’

So there and in your question/example, you typically don’t need to add any -w!

That said, in some cases, the plural marker -w is added to determiners related to quantity; when that happens, it generally adds a degree of specificity. For instance, something like this sentence from a 1974 issue of Kibaru:

[…] npogotigi ka kan ka di jɔnni ma , cɛ sabaw ni ɲɔgɔn cɛ ?

'[…] the girl has to be given to whom, amongst these three men?

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