Noun Classes

Noun Classes

1    

Swahili is one of many hundreds of languages in the BANTU language family. One of the identifying characteristics of Bantu languages is a system of NOUN CLASSES. These classes have been designated in various ways. The system used in this book was devised by Carl Meinhof in his study of a large number of Bantu languages. The system proves useful for the Swahili learner as it is quite precise. It also provides a framework for comparison with other Bantu languages which the learner will encounter after finishing formal language study and continuing to learn at one's place of work.

A   

Meinhof found 22 noun classes in the Bantu languages he studied. No language was demonstrated to have all 22, but some classes are shared by all, e.g. Classes 1 to 10, in which the odd numbers denote singular nouns and even numbers the plurals. For example, in Class 1 mtu = person; in Class 2, watu = people. Swahili has a total of 15 noun classes.

B   

There are no definite or indefinite articles in Swahili. Mtu may mean "person", "a person", or "the person". There are several means for expressing the idea carried by the definite article: by using a demonstrative pronoun (i.e. "this", "that"), or an object prefix in the verb, or simply by context.

2   

The noun classes require a system of "agreements"; i.e. all other words in a sentence which refer to a given noun (i.e. adjectives, possessives, verb subjects or objects, etc.) must be made to agree with that noun. This is done by use of the appropriate prefix for that noun class. There are two basic prefixes for each class: the NOMINAL PREFIX and the PRONOMIAL PREFIX.

A   

The NOMINAL, or "noun" prefix determines to which class a noun belongs. This identical prefix occurs on adjectives which refer to that noun:

 

Class 6: matunda mazuri nice fruit

The prefix is used only with adjectives of Bantu origin. In this book, it will be referred to as the "adjectival" prefix: that is the agreement which the student must master and apply to adjective stems.

 

B   

The PRONOMIAL, or "pronoun" prefix is used in all other constructions: verb subjects and objects, possessive and demonstrative pronouns, the interrogative -pi?, the A of relationship and the O of reference, as well as with the forms -enye and -ote:

Class 6: matunda yetu haya yote yatakwisha leo this fruit of ours will all be finished today

Phonological changes occur (note yetu not yaetu), but the basic form of the pronominal prefix is encountered in the subject prefix for each class.

3   

No tidy demonstrations of meaning can be attributed to the noun prefixes of the various classes, but some observations have been made regarding the type of items included in each class. These will be mentioned as each class is considered.

4   

Nouns in Class 1-2 are always animate, i.e. living beings of the animal kingdom. As a matter of fact, they identify human beings, with very few exceptions: mdudu insect; mnyama animal.

A   

The Bantu Class 1 noun prefix is mu, heard in Swahili as m before consonants. Before vowels, the u in this prefix is activated: mu > mw, with the exception of before u where it is increasingly these days heard as mu.

The Class 2 noun prefix is wa in Swahili. When it precedes a vowel, certain changes take place: wa + a > wa; wa + e > we; wa + i > we. Note that the two vowels merge into one. Before o and u this shortening does not take place in nouns: wa + o > wao; wa + u > wau. Note how this is demonstrated in nouns in the list below:

 

Class 1 Class 2  
m geni wa geni guest
mwana wana child
mwalimu walimu teacher
mwizi wezi thief
mwoga waoga coward, fearful person
muuguzi wauguzi nurse

Note the plural forms of the following compound nouns:

 

mwanamke wanawake woman
mwanamume wanaume man
mja mzito waja wazito pregnant woman
mwenyekiti wenyeviti chairperson

B  
Class 1 and 2 with the Adjectival Prefix:

 

m msichana mzuri a nice girl
mtoto mkubwa a large child
mnyama mrefu a tall animal
mtu mwema a good person
     
wa wageni wachache a few guests
walimu wakali strict teachers
wadudu wabaya bad insects
wachungaji wengi many pastors/ herdsmen



  C
Class 1 and 2 with the Pronominal Prefix

In Class 1, the pronominal prefix is irregular; the two forms shown below reflect current (A) and ancient (YU) usage with verbs. For all other classes, beginning with Class 2, there is only one pronominal prefix, used in all constructions mentioned in paragraph 2B.

a

Muuguzi amenipiga sindano. The nurse has given me an injection.




yu

Muuguzi yupi? Huyu. Which nurse? This one.




wa

Wageni wamesharudi. The guests have already returned.

Wageni hawa These guests

Wazazi wangu My parents

Waliokuja They who came

As the last example demonstrates, these prefixes need not refer back to a specific noun, they also stand independently as 3rd person singular and plural "bound" pronouns, i.e. they are bound to the verb and cannot stand alone.

First and second persons singular and plural, have their own distinct prefixes for verb subject and object only. These will be presented in paragraphs 14 and 15.

D

There are a number of animate nouns belonging to other classes. Being animate, they take their adjectival and pronominal agreements from Class 1 - 2:

Class 5 - 6:

Daktari mpya amefika. A new doctor has arrived.

Mafundi wamemaliza kujenga. The craftsmen have finished building.

Class 7 - 8:

Kijana wetu amemaliza darasa la saba. Our youngster has finished Standard 7.

Vibarua walifanya kazi mchana kutwa. The workers worked the whole day.

Class 9 -10:

Seremala anatengeneza mlango. The carpenter is repairing the door.

Nguruwe wote wamechinjwa. All the pigs have been slaughtered.

5

In Class 3 - 4, several categories of inanimate things that seem in some sense animated have been identified as shown in the examples listed below. Polome (in Swahili Language Handbook, p. 97) suggest "traces of an animistic conception of the world" in these categories. but many Class 3 - 4 nouns cannot be categorized in this way.

A

The Class 3 Bantu prefix MU is again produced in Swahili as M, becoming MW before most vowels. Before a noun stem beginning with O, the U most commonly (not always) coalesces with O; note the examples below. The Class 4 prefix is MI.

Class 3 Class 4  
M KATE MI KATE  
Trees and things that spread:
mti miti tree/ trees
mwanzi mianzi bamboo shoot/ bamboo clusters
mwembe miembe mango tree/ mango trees
mji miji town/ towns
moto [mioto is archaic] fire
moshi [mioshi is archaic] smoke
mlima milima mountain/ mountains
mto mito river/ rivers
Certain body parts as well as the body itself:
moyo mioyo heart/ hearts
mdomo midomo lip/ lips
mgongo migongo back/ backs
mguu miguu foot, leg/ feet, legs
mkono mikono hand, arm/ hands, arms
mwili miili body/ bodies
Beings who act as instruments of a higher power:
mungu miungu god/ gods
mtume mitume apostle/ apostles
Nouns related to verbs:
mtego mitego trap/ traps
mkate mikate bread, loaf/ loaves
msaada misaada help
mkasi mikasi scissors
mpango mipango plan/ arrangements
muundo miundo shape, form/ shapes
muungano miungano a joining, federation(s)
No identifiable category:
mchuzi michuzi gravy, sauce
mfuko mifuko bag, pocket/ bags, pockets
mlango milango door/ doors
mshahara mishahara wage, salary/ wages
msingi misingi foundation/ foundations
mwaka miaka year/ years
mwezi miezi month, moon/ months
mwiko miiko large wooden spoon, taboo

 

B
Class 3 and 4 with Adjectival Prefix:

M

mti mrefu a tall tree



moyo mwema a good heart

moshi mwingi much smoke

mkasi mkali sharp scissors

mwili mwembamba a slender body



MI

milango mipya new doors

mifuko myekundu red bags

miaka mingi many years

mizigo mizito heavy loads

miguu michafu dirty feet

C
Class 3 and 4 with Pronominal Prefix:

U

Mti umeanguka. The tree has fallen.



Mzigo wake umepotea. His baggage is lost.

Kula mkate huu wote. Eat all this bread.

Mwaka uliopita Last year

Mwezi ujao Next month

Mti wenye matunda A tree with fruit



I

Mikate imekwisha. The bread is finished.



Mizigo iliyopotea The lost loads

Mikono yangu My hands/ arms

Miti ipi itakatwa? Which trees are to be cut?

Mitego ya panya Rat traps

6

Classes 5 - 6 incorporate a number of categories of items, as indicated in the lists below. The class has acquired a large number of foreign words, many of which designate persons -- either as terms of relationship or titles of rank or profession.

A

Class 5 nouns have either a JI prefix or no prefix at all. All mono-syllabic stems must have the JI prefix, which then takes the stress. Stems that begin with a vowel are all prefixed with JI but in this case the I disappears, leaving only J.

One of the functions of Class 5 is to signify augmentative meaning; stems from other noun classes, either without a prefix or prefixed with JI are thus made augmentative: mtu, a person (Class 1) becomes jitu, a giant (Class 5). When so used, the JI is retained in the plural, with Class 6 MA prefix not replacing, but preceding JI: majitu, giants.

The Class 6 prefix MA makes the plurals of Class 5 nouns. In addition, it is the prefix of mass, uncountable nouns where the singular-plural concept does not apply and there is no Class 5 counterpart. Nouns indicating totality are also found in Class 6 with no Class 5 counterparts, e.g.: marafiki, a circle of friends, from Class 9 - 10 rafiki, a friend/ friends. Sound changes occurring in the MA prefix are like those for Class 2 WA: MA + A > MA; MA + E or I > ME; MA + O > MAO; MA + U > MAU.

Examples below are grouped according to the various categories that have been identified.

Class 5 Class 6    
JINA MA JINA    
JI WE MA WE    
Things occurring in pairs or sets, e.g. body parts:
jicho macho eye/ eyes  
sikio masikio ear/ ears  
jino meno tooth/ teeth (ma + ino = meno)
Parts of trees and bushes:
tawi matawi branch/ branches  
jani majani leaf/ leaves, grass  
ua maua flower/ flowers  
tunda matunda fruit/ fruits  
Augmentative or amplifications:
lango malango gate/ gates (from mlango)
jiji majiji large city/ cities (from mji)
jitu majitu giant/ giants (from mtu)
jiti majiti large tree/ trees (from mti)
jumba majumba palace/ mansions (from nyumba)
joka majoka large snake/ snakes (from nyoka)
Mass nouns, uncountables:
  maji water  
  maziwa milk  
  mafuta oil  
Nouns indicating totality:
  marafiki circle of friends  
  majirani neighborhood  
Nouns related to verbs:
jambo mambo matter, affair/ things  
pigo mapigo blow/ blows  
agano maagano agreement, pact/ pacts  
maisha life  
mashindano competition  
maandamano procession, parade  
maumivu pain  
Words of foreign origin indicating relationship or title:
shangazi mashangazi aunt (father's sister)  
waziri mawaziri minister (in government)  
seremala maseremala carpenter  

 

B
Class 5 and 6 with the Adjectival Prefix

Adjective stems with more than one syllable of Bantu origin take no prefix when agreeing with Class 5, except those beginning with a vowel, which will take J of the JI prefix. All monosyllabic stems require the JI prefix. Class 6 agreement is MA, with sound changes outlined for nouns, paragraph 6A.

--
papai dogo a small papaya
jani bichi a green leaf
tunda bivu a ripe fruit
JI
gari jipya a new car
shuka jeupe a white sheet
joto jingi much heat
MA
meneno machache a few words
maziwa mengi much milk
mashauri mema good advice

 

C Class 5 and 6 with the Pronominal Prefix

The pronominal forms for Class 5 and 6 are LI and YA, respectively. Examples of their various uses follow:

LI
Gari lile limeharibika. That car has broken down.
Jino langu liliuma. My tooth ached.
Tawi lililokauka The dried branch
YA
Majani yote yamekatwa. All the grass is cut.
Mafuta yana harufu mbaya. The oil has a bad smell.
Maziwa yaliyochemshwa Boiled milk

 

7

Classes 7 - 8 contain chiefly names of inanimate objects, but two other categories are prominent in these classes: diminutives, and terms for people with physical defects, commonly taken to have a derogative connotation.

A

The Class 7 noun prefix is KI, modified to CH before all vowels except I; the Class 8 prefix is VI, modified to VY before vowels other than I.

Nouns of other classes are made diminutive by prefixing KI to the noun stem: kitoto, an infant. In the case of monosyllabic stems, JI is inserted: kijitu, a dwarf; if the stem begins with a vowel, J is inserted: kijoka, a little snake.

Class 7 Class 8    
KI TABU VI TABU    
Inanimate Objects:
kitu vitu thing/ things  
kisu visu knife/ knives  
chombo vyombo vessel, tool/ tools  
kitanda vitanda bed/ beds  
People with physical defects:
kipofu vipofu blind person/ blind people  
kiziwi viziwi deaf person/ deaf people  
kilema vilema cripple/ handicapped people  
Diminutives from other noun classes:
kitoto vitoto infant/ infants (from mtoto)
kijiji vijiji village/ villages (from mji)
kijiti vijiti stick/ sticks (from mti)
kijitu vijitu dwarf/ dwarfs (from mtu)
kijiko vijiko spoon/ spoons (from mwiko)
kijoka vijoka small snake/ snakes (from nyoka)
Nouns related to verbs:
kizibo vizibo stopper, plug (kuziba)
kifuniko vifuniko cover, lid (kufunika)
kifungo vifungo button (kufunga)
kipimo vipimo measurement (kupima)

 

B

Class 7 - 8 with Adjectival Prefixes

The prefixes by which adjectives agree with Class 7 and 8 are KI/ CH and VI/ VY respectively, the form depending on whether the adjective stem begins with a consonant or a vowel, as stated in paragraph 7A, above.

KI
kitabu chema a good book
chakula kingi much food
choo kipya a new toilet
VI
vijiti virefu long sticks
visu vikali sharp knives
vitambaa vyeupe white cloths

 

C
Class 7 - 8 with the Pronominal Prefixes

In Classes 7 - 8, the prefixes for all pronominal forms are like the noun/ adjective prefixes: Class 7 takes KI/ CH; Class 8 takes VI/ VY, as pointed out in paragraph 7A.

KI
Kikombe changu kimevunjika. My cup is broken.
Ulifikia kilele cha mlima? Did you reach the top of the mountain?
Hiki ndicho kikapu nilichokitengeneza. This is the very basket I made.
VI
Vitambaa vyote vimefuliwa. All the cloths have been washed.
Vitu tulivyoviuza... The things which we sold...
Vyombo hivi ni vya nani? Whose tools are these?

 

8

Classes 9 - 10 have the largest number of foreign words of any noun class in Swahili, thus making the total vocabulary very large and very diverse as to content. The nouns of Bantu origin are also quite diverse, designating among other things various kinds of fruit, names of animals, and objects in everyday use.

A

There is no singular-plural distinction in the Class 9 - 10 noun prefix: basically it is a nasal (hence the name "N Class" by which it is sometimes designated), but its actual form depends on the first sound of the noun stem. This can only be demonstrated in nouns of Bantu origin; foreign words do not reflect the Bantu phonology because they have been taken into the language more or less in their original form.

The following phonological categories are seen in nouns of Bantu origin:

1. Noun stems beginning with a voiced non-nasal consonant -- b, v, d, z, j, g:

These are preceded by "pre-nasalization" -- i.e., a nasal made with tongue and/ or lips in the same position as for the initial consonant of the noun stem, resulting in these variations:

M before b and v mbegu seed mvua rain
N before d and z ndizi banana nzige locust
NY before j njia path, way  
NG' before g ngozi skin, hide ngoma drum, dance

Please note: nouns of the last three groups are all written with N, not with the symbols shown, but the appropriate distinctions must be made when speaking.

2. Noun stems beginning with a nasal -- m, n, ng':

These have no prefix before the noun stem: mama, mother; mende, cockroach; nazi, coconut, nundu, hump (on cattle); ng'ombe, ox or cow.

3. Noun stems beginning with voiceless consonants -- p, f, t, s, sh, ch, k:

These have no prefix before the noun stem, but stronger aspiration is heard in the speech of some areas, particularly in p, t, ch, k. Examples: pete, ring; fagio, brooms; tembo, elephant; simba, lion; shingo, neck; chupa, bottle; kuni, firewood; kiu, thirst.

monosyllabic stems beginning with these consonants must have a prefix to take the stress; the prefix is a nasal made with tongue and/ or lips in the same position as the initial consonant: nta, beeswax; nso, kidney (an old word); nchi, country.

4. Noun stems beginning with a vowel -- a, e, i, o, u:

These are prefixed with NY: nyama, meat; nyegere, honey badger; nyimbo, songs; nyongo, bile; nyumba, house, building.

5. Noun stems beginning with l or r:

The l or r changes to d and is then prefixed with N: ndimi, tongues (plural of Class 11 ulimi).

6. Noun stems beginning with w:

The w changes to b and is then prefixed with M: mbati, building poles (plural of Class 11 uwati).

Following are a few words of foreign origin in Class 9 - 10. Notice that they do not necessarily conform to the phonology outlined above. Plural forms are not listed since they are identical to the singular. The source language is given for each:

lugha language safari journey Arabic
baraza verandah, court damu blood Arabic
zabibu grape   Arabic
chandalua mosquito net gundi gum paste, glue Hindi
ghala storeroom/ house   Persian
gereza prison meza table Portuguese
motokaa automobile chaki chalk English

 

B
Classes 9 - 10 with the Adjectival Prefixes

The phonological variations with adjective stems of Bantu origin are identical to those found with nouns, but since there is a limited number of adjective stems, not all possible variations are realized. The 9 examples below illustrate the adjective variations that correlate with the noun groupings in paragraph 8A.

mbaya

Before b: M (see paragraph 8A.1)

mbovu, mbichi




nzuri

Before other voiced non-nasal consonants: N

ndogo, nzima, nzito, ngumu (8A.1)




moja

Before nasals: No prefix (8A.2)

nne, nane, ngapi?, mojawapo




kubwa

Before voiceless consonants: No prefix (8A.3)

pana, fupi, tatu, tupu, chache, chafu, kali




mpya

monosyllabic stems beginning with voiceless consonant: one example only -- M before p (8A.3)




nyingi

Before a vowel: NY (8A.4)




njema

Njema is an exception




ndefu

Adjective stem beginning with r: (-refu)

r changes to d and N is prefixed (8A.5)




mbili

Adjective stem beginning with w: (-wili)

w changes to b and M is prefixed (8A.6)

C
Classes 9 and 10 with Pronominal Prefixes

For all verb subjects and objects and pronoun forms mentioned in paragraph 2B, the Class 9 prefix is I, realized as Y before vowels; the Class 10 prefix is ZI, realized as Z before vowels.

I

Mvua ilinyesha mchana kutwa. It rained the whole day.



Haraka haraka haina baraka. Haste has no blessing.

Nipanguse meza ipi? Which table shall I dust?



ZI

Ndizi tulizozila The bananas which we ate

Sababu zako hazitoshi. Your reasons are inadequate.


Nguo hizi hazijafuliwa bado. These clothes have not been washed yet.

D
Special features of Classes 9 and 10

1. Nouns in these classes which denote personal relationships need special attention. Because they are animate nouns, they are treated as Class 1 - 2 nouns for all agreements except possessive, which have normal Class 9 -10 agreements:

mama yangu my mother

dada zangu my sisters

rafiki zetu our friends

jirani zao wazuri their nice neighbors

Note also:

marafiki zetu our friends (i.e. circle of friends)

majirani zao their neighbors (neighborhood)

2. Place names alone take Class 9 prefixes:

Moshi ipo sehemu ya kaskazini ya Tanzania. Moshi is in the northern part of Tanzania.

Uganda ipo kaskazini-magharabi ya Tanzania. Uganda is northwest of Tanzania.

But if the place name is used together with a noun, the class prefix agreeing with that noun is used:

Mji wa Moshi upo sehemu ya kaskazini ya Tanzania. The town of Moshi is in the northern part of Tanzania.

Ziwa Nyanza lipo sehemu ya kaskazini-magharibi ya Tanzania. Lake Victoria Nyanza is in the northwest part of Tanzania.

Nchi ya Ufaransa ipo Ulaya. The country France is in Europe.

3. Peke is a Class 9 noun meaning "the condition of being alone". It is always used with the possessive:

peke yangu I alone, by myself

peke yetu we alone, by ourselves

9

Swahili Class 11/ 14 is a combination of two Bantu noun classes. Historically, Bantu Class 11 nouns have their plural in Class 10, while Class 14 are abstract nouns lacking a plural. Others included in this class are mass nouns which also lack a plural, and names of a few countries which, although Class 11 in form, take Class 9 and 10 agreements (see paragraph 8D.2 regarding place names).

A

The noun prefix is U, this being a singular form. Nouns which have plurals most commonly form them in Class 10, but a few in Class 6, and all Class 10 or Class 6 agreements apply to the plurals thus formed; these will not be repeated here. Notice how the Class 10 plural forms reflect the noun formations exemplified in paragraph 8A.

U
SIKU    
Class 11/ 14 Class 10  
ubao mbao board, plank/ boards
ubavu mbavu rib/ ribs
udara ndara thong sandal/ sandal
umio mio throat/ throat
upande pande side, direction/ sides
ufagio fagio broom/ broom
utambi tambi wick/ wicks
uchale chale cut, incision, gash/ cuts
ukuta kuta wall/ walls
usu nyuso face/ faces
uzi nyuzi thread/ threads
uma nyuma fork/ forks
wakati nyakati time, season, opportunity/ times
wimbo nyimbo song/ songs
ulimi ndimi tongue/ tongues
uwati mbati building pole/ poles
  Class 6  
ugonjwa magonjwa disease/ diseases
ulimwengu malimwengu world, universe/ worlds
ugomvi magomvi quarrelling/ arguments
Abstract nouns, no plural:
uzuri   beauty
ugumu   difficulty
umoja   unity
ukombozi   liberation
Mass nouns, no plural:
uji   gruel
ugali   stiff porridge
unga   flour
wali   cooked rice
udongo   earth, soil, clay
Names of countries:
Uganda   Uganda
Ufaransa   France
Ulaya   Europe

 

B
Class 11/ 14 with the Adjectival Prefix:

Class 11/ 14 is the sole exception to a rule cited earlier: that noun and adjectival prefixes are identical. Adjectives agreeing with Class 11/ 14 nouns, instead of taking the Class 11/ 14 noun prefix, take an adjectival prefix identical with that of Class 3: i.e., M(U).

M

udongo mgumu hard soil

wimbo mzuri a nice song

uji mzito thick gruel

usiku mwema a good night

C
Class 11/ 14 with the Pronominal Prefix:

The Class 11/ 14 pronominal prefix is U, realized as W before vowels (again, identical to Class 3).

U

Uwindaji haramu ukomeshwe. Illegal hunting should be stopped.

Ua ulizunguka nyumba. A fence surrounded the house.

Ugonjwa huu ndio tunaoogopa. This is the disease we fear.

Uzito wa mzigo ulitushinda. The load's weight was too much for us.

10

Class 15 is composed of the infinitive form of verbs. Singular-plural distinctions do not apply, but there is a negative form of the infinitive.

A

The prefix for Class 15 is KU. The negative infinitive is most commonly formed by prefixing KUTO to the verb stem (from the verb kutoa), i.e., kutosoma not to read. Other forms are possible but less usual: kutoasoma, kutokusoma.

Class 15

KU
SOMA
KUTO
SOMA

kuimba to sing, singing



kuingia to enter, entering

kufagia to sweep, sweeping

B Class 15 with the Adjectival Prefix:

The prefix KU becomes KW before vowels.

KU

kuimba kuzuri nice singing

kuishi kwema good living

Kuishi kwingi ni kuona mengi. To live much (long) is to see much. (a proverb)

Kusema ni kuzuri lakini kutosema ni kuzuri zaidi. Speaking is good but not speaking is better.

C Class 15 with the Pronominal Prefix:

The prefix KU becomes KW before vowels.

KU

Kushona kulikuwa kazi yake. Sewing was his job.



Kushona kwake kunapendeza. His sewing is nice (it pleases).

Kunyesha kumezidi. Raining has increased.


Kuwapo ama kutokuwapo, ndilo suala. To be or not to be, that is the question.

11

Class 16, 17, and 18 are the so-called Locative Nouns, or Adverbial Nouns signifying location. Only one noun belongs to this group in its basic form: that is the Class 16 word mahali, place. The older form pahali can still occasionally be heard. That form reflects the Class 16 prefix PA.

In addition to that one vocabulary item, virtually any noun in the language can be transferred into one of these classes by addition of the suffix NI signifying location: nyumbani, at/ by/ near the house. The precise location (i.e. whether at/ in/ by/ on, etc. is meant) is designated by the choice of agreements:

Class 16 agreements indicate a specific location.

Class 17 agreements indicate a general area, or motion to or from.

Class 18 agreements indicate inside-ness.

See the examples below:

Class 16, PA:

kichwani pangu on my head (specific place)

nyumbani pangu at my home

Class 17, KU:

nchini kwangu somewhere in (or to/ from) my country

nyumbani kwangu in the general vicinity of my home: a loosely specified place

Class 18, M(U):

moyoni mwangu in my heart

mwilini mwangu in my body

nyumbani mwangu inside my house

A

When any noun is given a NI suffix, it no longer belongs to its original class. Thus in these classes the noun prefixes are irrelevant; the relevant item is the suffix NI. Nouns from any class with this suffix would qualify for a vocabulary list here. But there is one noun which belongs exclusively to Class 16: mahali.

Class 16

MAHALI



Class 16, 17, or 18

MEZA
NI
MJI
NI
MWILI
NI

Any noun + NI

B
Classes 16, 17, and 18 with Adjectival Prefixes:

The Class 16 prefix is PA, merging with vowels in the way described for the Class 2 prefix in paragraph 4A. The Class 17 prefix is KU, becoming KW before vowels. The Class 18 prefix is M(U), sounded M before consonants and MW before vowels.

Class 16: PA + adjective stem:

PA

mahali pazuri a nice place

mahali pengi many places

mahali pakubwa a large place

nyumbani pazuri (it is) nice at the house

Class 17: KU + adjective stem:

Adjectives are not much used, except -zuri and -ema.

KU

nyumbani kwema (it is) good at home

mlimani kuzuri (it is) nice on the mountain

Class 18: M + adjective stem:

Adjectives are seldom used with this class.

M

nyumbani mzuri (it is) nice inside the house

C
Classes 16, 17, and 18 with Pronominal Prefixes:

The pronominal prefixes are: Class 16, PA; Class 17, KU; Class 18, M(U). Modifications before vowels are the same as those described above for adjective prefixes.

Class 16:

PA

Mahali hapa panatosha. This place is adequate (will do).

Mahali pazuri, napapenda. The place is nice, I like it.

Mezani hapa pana vitu vingi. Here on the table there are many things.

Vitabu vipo kichwani pa mtoto. The books are on the child's head.

Vipo kichwani pake. They are on her head.

Class 17:

KU

Nyumbani kwetu kwapendeza. It is nice at our house.

Mjini kote kumejaa watu. The whole town is full of people.

Shambani kwa baba kuna migomba mingi. On my father's farm there are many banana trees.

Class 18:

M

Mwilini mwangu mna damu. There is blood in my body.



Mfukono mle hamna kitu. There is nothing in that bag.


Sijaona kitu kama hiki maishani mwangu mwote. I have not seen such a thing in my whole life.

Kamusi Project

Kamusi is the Swahili word for "Dictionary", and dictionaries are what we do. Our goal is to provide every word in every language, for free to everyone, everywhere

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