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I'm confused at the difference between "woman" and "women" – the translations do not seem to follow the same rules as the other M/WA words.
The stem of the singular word seems to be "-anamke" (for mwanamke), while the stem of the plural seems to be "-nawake" (for wanawake).
Can someone help explain why there are different stems for singular and plural? Thanks!
It may be easiest to think of wanawake as simply an irregular plural (and thankfully, there are very few irregular anythings in Swahili!). But the deeper grammatical answer is that mwanamke is actually a contraction of two words: mwana + mke (denoting female). When it changes to plural, both halves change from m- to wa-. So in this case, there are actually TWO stems and both stay the same.
(Note, if you're confused by the change from mwana- to wana-: a "w" is inserted after the m- prefix in "mwana" because it is followed by a vowel.)