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Kiswahili Grammar Notes: Sound Changes

Sound Changes

12

Sound changes occur where nominal or pronominal prefixes connect with adjective or pronominal stems, respectively. When a prefix vowel joins a stem vowel, it is the prefix vowel that loses its identity; the stem vowel determines the character of the end result.

Class 9/10 adjectival prefixes will not be considered here; they have been discussed in detail in paragraph 8. A and B.

The changes that can be observed are:

1. U, M(U), KU before another vowel become W, MW, KW respectively.
2. WA, MA, YA, PA + stems beginning with A, E or 0: the prefix A is assimilated into the stem vowel.
A + I merge to become E
3. JI, LI, ZI: I is assimilated by the stem vowel.
4. I (not preceded by a consonant) before a vowel becomes Y.
5. KI, VI, MI + a stem beginning with I: the two I's merge.
6. MI before vowels other than I becomes MY.
7. KI, VI before a vowel other than I become CH & VY respectively, and the I is assimilated into the stem vowel.
8. When W occurs in a midposition before 0, it is dropped.

These changes can be seen in adjectives as follows; the change in the above list that applies in each case is given to the right:

Class

Adjective
Prefix

-eupe

-ingine

Change

Cl. 1, 3, 11/ 14, 18

M(U) | MW

mweupe

mwingine

1

Cl. 15, 17

KU | KW

kweupe

kwingine

1

Cl. 2

WA | W(E)

weupe

wengine

2

Cl. 6

MA | M(E)

meupe

mengine

2

Cl. 16

PA | P(E)

peupe

pengine

2

Cl. 5

JI | J

jeupe

jingine

3

Cl. 4

MI | MY/M(I)

myeupe

mingine

5, 6

Cl. 7

KI | CH/K(I)

cheupe

kingine

5, 7

Cl. 8

VI | VY/V(I)

vyeupe

vingine

5, 7

 

The changes occurring in pronominal prefixes follow. Class 1, being irregular, is not included here.

Class

Pronomial
Prefix

A tense

-enye

-o -ote

O of
reference

Change

3, 11

U

wa

wenye

wowote

o

1, 8

18

MU

mwa

mwenye

momote

mo

1, 8

15, 17

KU

kwa

kwenye

kokote

ko

1, 8

2

WA

wa

wenye

wowote

o

2, 8

6

YA

ya

yenye

yoyote

yo

2

16

PA

pa

penye

popote

po

2

5

LI

la

lenye

lolote

lo

3

10

ZI

za

zenye

zozote

zo

3

4, 9

I

ya

yenye

yoyote

yo

4

7

KI

cha

chenye

chochote

cho

7

8

VI

vya

vyenye

vyovyote

vyo

7

These observations do not necessarily apply to the nouns themselves, as many examples will demonstrate - such as, for instance, this pair: choo, latrine; kioo, mirror. The plurals are vyoo and vioo, respectively.

/content/sound-changes

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