Did you notice : fish(es) is as a foreign word deriving from Arabic part of the n/n class. It should therefore use yetu and zetu but it doesn't. It behaves instead as a m/wa noun.”
I am not really sure, but perhaps this noun is treated accordingly as an animate (m/wa) or else, as a food dish. There are different grammar rules for the same nouns (for some animals, and borrowings from Arabic used for people.)
Look at this Type 'samaki yangu' in Google and choose this link: Loan Words and Their Effect on the Classification of Swahili Nominals
Wow! This is a really helpful work. I think this not only helps to clarify some confusing terms, but also to open our minds to see more practical aspects over the structure and theory of a language. I remember the word "mababu" for grandfathers, and "mabibi" for grandmothers but some texts show "babu" as singular and plural. Perhaps, some students will prefer to learn one translation, and it would be convenient for a short-time learning process. The above text can also help to understand the social process, the communication within a family relationship. Now, I really want to know more about social and historical aspects, and not to learn only languages (perhaps I am more interested in Austronesian languages but also Bantu languages since I started to learn capoeira many years ago) just from a distance but in an intimate level. So, all these "special things" are always relevant and very useful. :)
Really interesting - thanks dieprinzessin!
I hoped it might also shed some light on why some dictionaries state that "dada" (sister) is in the N class (9/10) while others say it is JI/MA (class 5/6), with the plural "madada".
I asked my Tanzanian tutor and he was sure that you would only use "madada" to label women as undesirable, since class 5/6 contains undesirable things. But maybe it has changed over time. Do Kenyans refer to their sisters as "madada"? Is there 'contamination' from a related language?
And in the spirit of "samaki wangu", should I say "dada zangu" (as my tutor told me) or "dada wangu" (to be at least as humane to my sisters as others are to their fish)?
An update: I asked a Kenyan whether he would say "madada yangu" (i.e. putting "dada" in the JI/MA class, 5/6) and he replied absolutely not.
Then my Tanzanian tutor said that 2nd language speakers often add "ma-" when they are not sure of the noun class (and maybe instinctively feel that there ought to be a plural prefix). He said Swahili children do it too. That is a pattern you also see in native English-speaking children and adults learning English, when they say "sheeps" as the plural of "sheep". (Both singular and plural should be "sheep".)
I think it is a problem with Swahili that so many people speak it as a lingua franca, allowing many grammatical errors to become so widespread that they end up in a few online Swahili dictionaries. Like "sheeps", they are not so widespread that you would say that this is now a correct usage.
Etymology of سَمَك (samak) ["fish"]: From the root س م ك (s-m-k), meaning “to be elevated or lofty”, “to be supported or held up”, “to sustain”; hence the meaning of “a source of sustenance”, “a mainstay or staple-food”. Cognate with Hebrew סָמַך (samak, “to lean, lay, rest, support”) attested in the Bible with the similar semantic sense “to sustain” or “to nourish”.