A Sketch of Swahili Morphology
 9783110857597, 9783110133417

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
1. Derivation
2. Inflection
Appendix A. Noun Class Markers
Appendix B. Simple Verbal Constructions

Citation preview

Thilo C. Schadeberg

A Sketch of Swahili Morphology 2nd revised edition

¥ 1984 FORIS PUBLICATIONS Dordrecht-Holland/Cinnaminson-U.S.A.

Published by Foris Publications Holland Postbus 509 3300 AM Dordrecht, The Netherlands Sole distributor for the U.S.A. and Foris Publications U.S.A. P.O. Box C-50 Cinnaminson N.J. 08077 U.S.A.



ISBN 90 6765 086 2 ® 1984 by the Author. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the copyright owner. Printed by ICG Printing, Dordrecht.

Table of Contents



1.. :l. V e r b a 1 Derivation 1.1.1 1.1.2 1.1.3 1.1.4

Elements of the Verb Stem Simple Extensions Sequences of Extensions Reduplication

1.2 Nominal


2 2 4 4 4

1.2.1 Suffix Derivation 1.2.2 Compound Nouns

4 5

1.2.3 Shift of Gender


Chapter 2 INFLECTION 2.1 Nominal 2.1.1



Independent Nominals

6 6 Classes Noun Genders

6 7 Locative Classes


2.1.2 Dependent Nominals Adjectives Numerals Interrogative Nominals 2.1.3 Non-nominal

Concords Substituteves Demonstratives (see Appendix A) The Selective Interrogative Pronoun —pi 'which one?' The Stems —enye 'having and -enyewe 'self' The Stem - o t e 'whole (sg), all (pi)' The Stem —ingine 'other' 2. 1.3.7 F'ossessi ves Concords with Verbals 2.1.4 Breaks in Class Agreement Class 11 Animates Concord Resolution 2.1.5 Class-free Forms

8 S 8 8 8 V 9 10 10 10 10 11 12 12 12 12 13 13

2.2 Verbal 2.2.1

Constructions Constructions


2 . 2 . 1 . 1 Elements 2 . 2 . 1 . 2 N o t e s on T e n s e s Enclitics Relative Constructions

14 15 16 17


Simple Verbal


Quasi-Verbal 2.2.3

The The The The



Copula n i / s i Cd a s C o p u l a L o c a t i v e Copula P o s s e s s i v e Copula

18 18 18 19

kuwa and l i


2 . 2 . 3 . 1 R e p l a c i n g t h e " P u r e " Copula 2 . 2 . 3 . 2 R e p l a c i n g t h e L o c a t i v e Copula 2 . 2 . 3 . 3 R e p l a c i n g t h e P o s s e s s i v e Copula 2 . 2 . 3 . 4 The P e r s i s t i v e of l i 2 . 2 . 3 . 5 F i ed F o r rns 2.2.4

Compound V e r b a l


2 . 2 . 4 . 1 N o n - s u b o r d i n a t e d CVCs 2 . 2 . 4 . 2 S u b o r d i n a t e d CVCs 2 . 2 . 4 . 3 Sub j u n c t i v e CVCs

19 20 20 21 21 21 22 24 24

A p p e n d i x ft Noun C l a s s M a r k e r s




B Simple Verbal

C o n s t r u c t ! oris


This is neither a -full grammar of Swahili nor a textbook of Swahili. The purpose of this sketch is to provide the student with a handout that gives him the possibility of quick reference to the basic morphological data of this language. Some morphophonological information is also given at various points, but phonology and syntax have not been included. The general lay-out of this sketch is modelled on "Bantu grammatical reconstructions" by A.E. Meeussen (in Africans Linguistics III, Tervuren 1967). Terminology has been adapted from various sources. The Swahili grammars from which information is derived are: E.O. Ashton, Swahili



E.G. Polomi, SNahili



C. Sacleux, Grammaire

Swahili i



b p

v f

m mb



d t r 1 n nd

dh th

m z s



Paris, 1909.

is spelled with the following






j eh

g k

ny nj

ng ' ng



-fungua -endelea

untie, go on,

open proceed

Some r a d i c a l s have L as second consonant, and t h e r e , too, L has z e r o r e p r e s e n t a t i o n (.inless followed by an e x t e n s i o n . The b e h a v i o u r of L and t h e d i s t r i b u t i o n of — w - / - I w i s not entirely regular. —zaa -zaliwa -jaa -jawa

*-zaL—a *—zaL-Iw-a *—jaL—a *-jaL-w—a "The vowels I preceding vowel. I U

/ /


ie,o> o



bear (child) be born become full be f i l l e d (partially)



i u

/ /

elsewhere elsewhere

t o

t h e

DERIVATION The Causative ex te si on c: o n s f : n an t a s f ollowss p + Y > fy t + y > s or sh k + Y > sh

—Y— >


m + y > vy L + Y > z




nd + Y > nz n + y > ny

1.1.3 Sequences of Extensions A verb may have more-? than one; extension, e.g. — timi 1 izishiana 'cause to carry out tor each other's benefit' may be analysed as *-tim—IL-Iz—Ish—IL—an-a, from -timu 'be complete' (example from A f b > v or z mb > mv t > s L > z nd>nz k > sh ng > nz These changes are no longer productive; modern derivations may leave the consonant unchanged. The suffix -aji is highly productive. —y

nouns of state; mostly cl.1/2, cl.ll and adjectives: mtulivu 'gentle person', utulivu 'calmness', —tulivu 'calm' < -tulia 'be calm' Note: —y changes preceding k to -f, and preceding L to v. In some words, however, there is free variation -f/v: wokovu or wokofu 'deliverance' < -okoa 'save'

1.2.2 Compound Nouns The most productive pattern of mwana 'child (as a relational member'.

compounding involves the noun term)'; e.g. mwanachama 'party

Various types of compound nouns are found across the lexicon: mkulima farmer'; cf. —kuu 'great', —lima farm' msumeno saw'; cf. kisu 'knife', meno 'teeth' ki-fauwongo 'mimosa pudica'; cf. —fa 'die', uwongo


1.2.3 Shift of Gender Nouns may be shifted from their original gender to cl.7/8 to form diminutives, to cl.5/6 to form augmentatives, or to cl.6 to form collectives. kilima/vi- 'hill' < mlima kombe/ma'platter' < kikombe masifflba 'a pride of lions' < simba

mountain' cup' lion'

Chapter 2 Inflection

2 . 1 N o m i n a l e o n5 t r y c t i o n s 2.1.1





Independent n o m i n a l s (nouns) t h e i r p r e f i x e s (see Appendix



a r e grouped i n A, column NR) .





The vowel a of t h e NF's wa- ( c l . 2 ) , ma- ( c l . 6 ) , and pa— ( c l . 1 6 ) sometimes merges w i t h a s t e m - i n i t i a l f r o n t o r low vowel. (No such merger occurs in most stems of either foreign or deverbative o r i g i n . ) a-a a-e a—i

> a > e > e

ex amp1 e: ex amp 1 e: ex amp l e :

«Ma—ana *ma-ema •roa-ino

wan a mema meno

c h i 1 dren good teeth

The p r e f i x mu— of classes 1, 3 , and 18 becomes s y l l a b i c m— b e f o r e s t e m - i n i t i a l c o n s o n a n t except h , w, and y , and changes t o mm- b e f o r e s t e m - i n i t i a l v o w e l . (There are many e x c e p t i o n s t o this oversimplified rule.) The p r e f i x e s k i — / v i — ( c l . 7 / 8 ) of i n d e p e n d e n t n o m i n a l s change t o ch—/vy— b e f o r e a l l vowels except i ; w i t h dependent nominals t h e change t o ch—/vy— is restricted to the position before n o n - h i g h vowels; before i we f i n d k—/v—, and t h e f u l l k i — / v i — o c c u r s b e f o r e u. ( A g a i n , t h e r e a r e many e x c e p t i o n s . ) The p r e f i x vowel.



occurs often

as w—



The prefix ji— ( c l . 5 ) i s omitted before consonant initial stems w i t h two or more syllables; i t i s changed t o j - b e f o r e vowel i n i t i a l stems except i n most d e v e r b a t i v e nouns where i t i s omi t t e d .




The prefix n - (cl.9/10) takes the following


(1) n > homorganic syllabic nasal before monosyllabic stem n—p > p

n—t > t all pronounced with aspiration n-ch > ch in coastal Swahili n-k > k (3) n > 0 before m, n, ny, ng', f, s, sh, h (4) n > ny before any vowel (5) n-b/w > mb n-v rov n-d/l/r/L > nd n-z nz all nasals n-j > nj non-syl1abi c n-g > ng Senders Most noun classes can be paired into genders, one class being the singular, the other the plural. Genders are more or less vaguely connected with specific areas of meaning. 1/2 3/4 5/6 7/8 9/10 11/10 11/6

mtoto/watoto mnazi/minazi jicho/macho kitanda/vitanda ndizi/ndizi ukuni/kuni ugonj wa/magon j wa

chiId/chi1dren coconut tree(s) eye(s) bed banana(s) (stick of) firewood desease(s)

Other nouns occur in only one class; these may be described as one-class genders. 5 7 9 11 15

mchanga joto Kiswahili kiu ut oto kufi ka

sand heat Sw. language thirst chi1dhood to arrive

4 mi ayo 6 maisha B vita 10

yawn life war Locative Classes There? are three locative classes: c.1.16 pacl.17 kucl,18 mu-

indicating nearness, a definite place or a position indicating farness, an indefinite place or a direction indicating withinness

There is but one commonly used noun which intrinsically belongs to one of these classes, i.e. mahali or pahali